By Indie Authors for Indie Authors.

Tag: wordpress tips (Page 1 of 2)

Creating Shortcodes

 

Now it is time to dive into another technical plugin and help you understand how plugins work at an operational level. What is a shortcode? A shortcode is a symbol or marker that gets replaced by html code during the rendering of a wordpress page. Here is a typical example. At some point on your webpage, you have probably added a standard contact form. If you insert one, then switch from the “visual” to the “text” tab, you’ll see something like this:

 

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This is the shortcode for the contact me form. Not so short, you think? Then compare it to the html code that takes its place when the page renders:

 

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So you see, even though the shortcode might still look like computer code, it’s minimal compared to real computer code, it’s code you can actually type and work with. That’s the beauty of wordpress: all the complexity is hidden and a minimal amount of control is left to you to configure a working site.

If this intro hasn’t frightened you away, I strongly encourage you to stick with me as I teach you how to create your own custom shortcodes. If you’re on the fence, scroll to the bottom and see a really cool trick you’ll be able to do after wading through the geeky mumbojumbo. First, install the Shortcoder Plugin. Let’s start with something simple. There may be a page or a series of pages that you want to have a common footer, kind of like an email signature, and you’ve copy-pasted something over and over again. For example, on each of my download pages, I have the following icons & message. Looks nice, but I have over twenty download pages, and I was copy/pasting this footer each time.

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Go to Settings > Shortcoder and you will see something beautiful. It’s exactly the message you see at the bottom of each of my downloads pages. So the plugin allows me to create it once, then reference it in any page I want. Any changes I make to this centrally maintained code is reflected on every page.

 

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Here is what I put at the bottom of each download page. (Notice above where it says “your shortcode is.”)

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WordPress, as it renders each page, scans for this shortcode and replaces it with the message stored in the settings. That’s the concept. Now let me show you something truly cool. Shortcodes are more than just placeholders, they are also customizable. Take another look at my download page. See the goodreads reviews at the bottom? Wouldn’t you love to add this little widget to your book pages?? Here’s how I did it. At the bottom of each download page there appears the following shortcode:

 

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Notice that in addition to the shortcode itself, there are three parameters: the book’s goodreads id, isbn, and title. Going back to Settings > Shortcoder, here’s how the plugin manages those parameters:

 

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As wordpress renders the page, it looks out for this goodreads shortcode, and replaces each instance of it with the above code. But it also replaces each instance of %%id%% within that code with the book’s goodreads id. For those of you who don’t read html (we are writers after all, not coders), what this snippet of code does is insert a frame which goodreads fills with all the reviews for your book as they appear on your book’s goodreads page. I don’t expect you to type all that, after all, I copy/pasted it myself out of goodreads’ developer area. I can’t post it directly here because this website is itself a wordpress site which will try to render the code rather than just display it, so click here to access a copy for yourself. Please note though, that buried in the code is a place for “developer id.” No, you do not have to register as a goodreads developer in order for this to work, but keep in mind that like any other big site, if you use their tools without registering, they’ll throttle you after so many tens of thousands of clicks. Here is the final result, tailored to each individual book:

 

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The power of this one little plugin is so awesome, you can just about use it to create your very own plugins. If you have any questions about shortcodes, please contact me.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

Victor Davis is the author of one short story collection, Grains of Sand, and is publishing a second book, The Gingerbread Collection, in the spring of 2016. He shares his writing and reading adventures at his blog Mediascover. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. His Books & Stories are available on AmazonApple iBooksSmashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Managing Links

Wordpress for Authors

Photo Courtesy of WordPress for Beginners

It might be worth mentioning at this point an important fact about WordPress plugins. If you’ve been following this post series you might be getting excited and carried away by the many possibilities discussed. Keep in the back of your mind that plugins slow your site down. The more you have activated, the slower your site will run.

The reason is that each plugin consists of extra code that must run in order to render the page correctly. If you have twenty plugins activated, then twenty sets of code must run, each plugin demanding its round-robin piece of computation time to make sure it’s performing properly. Whenever you see a plugin advertising itself as “lightweight,” that’s tech speak for very little code, thus very little added load time.

Broken Link Checker

The Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that you can install and run periodically. It will search your site and check every link and report back to you any broken links that need to be repaired or removed.

As you know, it dents your credibility for a link on your site to come up with an error. External links are forgivable, since your reader knows you might have linked some content that has since disappeared through no fault of your own.

If there are any internal broken links, that makes you look much worse. Avoid them all by sweeping for them from time to time and fixing even very old posts. Per the caveat above, this is exactly the kind of plugin that is indispensable, but doesn’t have to be installed and activated 24/7 in order to work for you.

 

Redirection

When I first tried to use WordPress, I didn’t get the concept. I’ve worked as a software developer and built my fair share of websites. So the whole “new page,” “new post” GUI made no sense to me.

To me, a “new page” was an empty notepad file and I got to build it from scratch. WordPress asks you to create content in this tiny little box within your page, while it “takes care of” all the functional parts of the site around your content.

That’s every bit of what you intended to do, but there are a handful of times when you want to display some “naked” or custom content without leaving your site. Redirection allows you to create pages like this one, which looks like “http://mediascover.com/subscribe/” but behind the scenes, redirects you to “http://eepurl.com/bvnWy9” without you knowing.

This is called a “pass-through” redirect, and it is useful for folding special pages into your site without going through WordPress’s theme. The plugin offers other kinds of redirects as well.

 

External Link Checker

Every time you create a link in WordPress, there is a checkbox that says “open link in new tab.” SEO considerations aside, the rule of thumb is to open external links in a new tab so that your website stays open in the original tab, thus the user hasn’t truly yet left your site.

For your own internal links, you want the user to transition from page to page without annoying them with an explosion of new tabs each time. What This Amazing Plugin does is search through the hundreds of links on your blog and find any that violate this rule of thumb so that you can fix them.

The only problem is This Amazing Plugin does not exist. I’ve found dozens of plugins that, when activated, scan the page as the user loads it and make this change, but the change is not saved permanently. What I want is a plugin which, like the Broken Link Checker, I can install & run periodically to catch mishaps without having to leave it permanently activated. If you find such a plugin, or decide to make one on this inspiration, please contact me about it!

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Victor Davis is the author of one short story collection, Grains of Sand, and is publishing a second book, The Gingerbread Collection, in the spring of 2016. He shares his writing and reading adventures at his blog Mediascover. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. His Books & Stories are available on AmazonApple iBooksSmashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

Easy Digital Downloads Plugin

wordpress plugins

I have to start this one with a caveat: there are pros and cons to creating your own web store. As an indie author, you may think it’s a good idea to sell your ebooks on your own website. Why not? Well…

Pros:

 

  • It provides another revenue stream, besides Amazon & Smashwords &tc.
  • You get 100% royalties (less payment fees, see below).
  • You appear professional, with a high-tech site with a store and all.
  • You have total control over how to sell, market, present, price, and format.
  • You get to harvest emails from your purchases, unlike with third parties.

Cons:

 

  • Read the fine print on your contract if you are with a small press publisher. Some may explicitly forbid you to sell the same content online, even if you own the copyright.
  • If you are enrolled in KDP Select, you may not sell on any other retailer, including on your own site.
  • Customers don’t always feel comfortable using shopping carts on sites they don’t know. Some will refuse to give a credit card on “yourawesomesite.com” and others may not even feel comfortable using Paypal.
  • The plugin I use processes payment using Paypal, which means you pay a fee on every transaction, (but usually the fee will be nothing compared to the lost royalties of other sites).

 

Okay, having said all that, of all the online store plugins I looked at, the one that made the most sense for me was the Easy Digital Downloads plugin. That’s how you can create store pages like this one. Notice the page I linked you to has a bunch of 99-cent items. If you want to see how the process works, feel free to “buy” a few free items from this store instead. All I’ve done is used the same plugin and listed items for $0.00.

To use this plugin, you’ll configure a few settings, then create new downloads. You will set the price and upload the file(s) the customer will be buying. For me, to avoid confusion, I let the customer buy three files for the price of one book: an epub, a mobi, and a pdf file. Since this plugin was created for photographers, musicians, authors, etc, it’s not specifically tailored for ebooks, so you’ll have to be a bit creative in terms of how you want to set it up.

 

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That said, the biggest boon this has given me is information. If you have a “freebie” on your site, you are kind of flying blind on who downloaded it, right? Well, by using this plugin, you can create your freebie as a downloadable free “purchase.” Your fan/customer will click a buy button, it will ask for their email, and email them the freebie file.

The advantage of this approach is information. You now have your fan’s email (instructions later for how to auto-subscribe them to a mailing list), and you can track your downloads after a promotional. The disadvantage to keep in mind here is it does increase friction. That is, the more clicks, keystrokes, and decisions a customer has to make, the less likely they are to continue and to actually purchase your book, even if that purchase is free.

Bear all of this in mind before deciding whether to stick with KDP or attempting to set up your own shop.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

Victor Davis is the author of one short story collection, Grains of Sand, and is publishing a second book, The Gingerbread Collection, in the spring of 2016. He shares his writing and reading adventures at his blog Mediascover. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. His Books & Stories are available on AmazonApple iBooksSmashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Embed PDF Plugin

wordpress pluginSometimes, you want to embed a PDF file directly into your webpage, the same way you embed images and video. The simply and aptly named Embed PDF plugin allows you to do this.

Here is an example of the plugin in action. As you can see, the page loads the pdf in the page itself. This saves you from the confusing “view vs download” standard of web pages hosting a file directly as a “myawesomesite.com/file.pdf” when you want to present one.

Maybe it’s a freebie or maybe it’s a copy of a brochure or a business card. One way or another, it’s cleaner and simpler to display it in the page surrounded by the rest of your site.

The plugin is powered by Google Docs, so the viewer comes with a zoom feature and a “pop out” feature that will take the user to a new tab if they want to, where they can view or download the file itself in their browser.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Victor Davis is the author of one short story collection, Grains of Sand, and is publishing a second book, The Gingerbread Collection, in the spring of 2016. He shares his writing and reading adventures at his blog Mediascover. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. His Books & Stories are available on AmazonApple iBooksSmashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

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