Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a long line of weekly tips to help erotic authors and sex bloggers promote yourself online. It's kind of hard to know where to start because there's so much to discuss - in general and in great detail.
So let's start at the beginning with websites.
But first...an announcement.
The winner is....
A big thank you to everyone who commented and emailed me with your ideas for what to call this thing we're doing (and yes, I say "we" because I'm hoping to learn as much from you as you might learn from me). I got some really good ideas. Really good ones. In the end, a new writer gave me the one I liked best:
Erotic Promo Tips (#EroticPromoTips)
As of right now, no one else is using the hashtag, so feel free to follow and use it when sharing your own marketing tips online.
Thank you, Holly! And I hope you enjoy your prize.
To Self-Host or Not aka Choosing a Sandbox to Play In
Some of you have had your website for years and some of you have had one for about 10 minutes. No matter how long you've been online, there's always the question of, "Should I self-host or not?" And everyone's got an opinion on what you should do.
I am no different.
For those of us who write about sex and sell sex in it's written form to the masses (or at least the dozens), we have to worry about something most writers and bloggers never do.
Will we be considered too pornographic for another website?
The answer is...probably.
Which is why I always recommend self-hosting if you can afford it.
All the Reasons Not To Self-Host
I would be completely disingenuous if I didn't mention that there are some damn good reasons to use a WordPress.com or Blogger website or some other free website. Let's look at them:
- Free! No cost to set-up and the templates are plug and play.
- Built-in community. People are already there, so you'll gain readers a little more quickly.
- Ease of use. Because of those plug and play templates, you don't need to have expertise or know anyone with it to get your website going.
- Minimal costs for upgrades. I know on WordPress you can pay a few dollars a year to have a URL without the .wordpress.com part.
For the beginning blogger/author, this may be the best choice for you. It's how most of us start and some people never feel the need to move away from the free option.
If you go this route, please read the terms and conditions in detail so you know what their rules are.
Reasons to Self-Host Your Website
There are some damn good reasons to self-host that those of us who write about sex need to know.
- It's yours. Okay, so technically, your website would be hosted through a hosting company, but the domain name is yours as long as you pay for it.
- No one is going to boot you for being some unspecified, not clearly defined version of "pornographic" or "offensive."
- Modify, tweak, and customize your look. Prefer red and gold instead of the blue in the free site's template? When you self-host, you can customize whatever theme you choose down to almost the last detail.
- Sell your stuff directly from your website. I don't know about other sites, but WordPress.com does not like it when authors or bloggers sell anything that could be deemed "pornographic" - not that they'll tell you what makes it pornographic, just that they know it when they see it.
Some will say "it looks more professional" to self-host. I'm on the fence about this one. I know some amazing bloggers who have .wordpress.com behind their blog title, and they get thousands of hits a day. I don't think most readers care about that part very much. For readers, it's about the content - not where your website lives.
Why I Think Self-Hosting is the Best Option
Okay, now it's time for a lecture (not a stern one, more like a cheeky, silly girl lecture) on why I think you should self-host.
Spending the money to have your own website that you control shows a commitment and an ownership for what you're doing. It's really hard to walk away from something you've sunk $100 or more into (each year). (Which also makes the argument for going the free route - if you're not sure this is really what you want to do, don't pay any money for it yet.)
But that's a minor point. I'm going to give you real world experience on this one. I've seen it happen to sex bloggers, book reviewers, and people who happen to take pictures of their boobs.
When you play in someone else's sandbox (WordPress.com, Tumblr, Facebook), you are subject to their rules. They can change their rules whenever they want. They can interpret them however they want. It's their sandbox.
So when your host decides they don't approve of your content anymore - or that you're making money from your website, and they don't like it, they can and will cut you off. Without notice. Without explanation. They don't owe you any.
Back in 2013, WordPress started purging it's rolls. Good, high-quality sex blogs were dropped. They lost everything. Some decided to rebuild and self-host, but others were lost to the internet ether. I knew that my website was going to be a long-term thing, with hopes that it would help me make my living some day.
And I self-hosted. Now, I had help. Molly (from Molly's Daily Kiss) has a wonderful man in her life (@DomSigns) who was offering a sex blogger special for those of us who wanted to make the switch to self-hosting. He got me set up, moved over, and rocking a self-hosted website in no time.
Before that purge, Google sent out emails to it's sex blogging community. If you had ads, made money from your website, or in any way profited from "the sex," you had to cease and desist or take the party elsewhere.
Just recently, Tumblr purged a bunch of blogs from it's rolls. Two reasons on that one: spammy bot accounts were wreaking havoc and anyone who'd re-blogged or followed the bot was booted to contain the virus, spammy stuff. But the other reason? There were some NSFW blogs who hadn't marked themselves NSFW in Tumblr (a big rule of theirs). The blogs had to go. Some fought back and got their blog back once they marked it correctly. Others walked away.
When you go the free route, you have to play by their rules. Unfortunately, sometimes their rules are purposefully vague using words like "pornographic" or "offensive" without defining what that means.
So, if you're determined that free is what you need or you're not ready for a self-hosted website, I'll tell you this:
Back up your data. Once a month (say, the first of the month) back it all up and save it. In WordPress, there's an "export" function. Use. It. That way, if one day you get caught up in another purge, you've only lost a month's worth of content, not years.
If you decide to self-host:
Choose a web host. I prefer HostGator (that's an affiliate link) but BlueHost and GoDaddy are both popular options. John Brownstone can affirm that GoDaddy isn't the most user-friendly, but if you've got someone to build your website for you, it may not matter. Whichever you choose, always read the terms and conditions, in case they don't allow adult websites for any reason.
Let your readers know - multiple times. Assuming you're moving from a free site to self-hosted, you'll want to let your readers know. One post won't be enough. Put it on social media and blog about it multiple times - before and after the switch.
Choose a template. For self-hosted websites, WordPress is by the far the most popular content management system (CMS). Go to WordPress.org and start combing through the templates. You can choose free templates or go to Google and search "top WordPress templates" or some version, and you'll find dozens you can purchase.
Find someone to help you - or start reading. The information is available online if you're determined to do it yourself, but I had help when I went self-hosted, and John Brownstone took care of me the last time when I switched to the current look of the website. Unless you already know how to set up websites with a hosting company and upload templates, find someone to help you.
Self-hosting isn't something that will happen over night. You'll need to plan for it, but you'll have the peace and comfort of knowing that your website and the content you create is yours for as long as you want it to be.
I hope that gives you something to think about. Whether you're self-hosted or happily using a free website, share why that works for you in the comments below! If you want to receive these tips each week in your inbox, subscribe today!