CJT Lewis, novelist

mock up of home page for Galileo's Revenge website displayed on screens of various sizes

Christopher Lewis, a historian of science and a historical fiction author, approached me to discuss a new website for promoting his novel, Galileo’s Revenge. The book takes Galileo’s life as the starting point for an entertaining and exciting crime story set in Renaissance Italy.

WordPress.org v WordPress.com?

He had a WordPress.org site but was struggling to manage and customise the theme. A key requirement he had was something ‘a bit easier to deal with’. He will add blogs on a regular basis with fascinating background information about life in the Renaissance and about Galileo. He was interested in writing for the site but daunted by the technical aspects of updating it and managing it.

Having had a recent good experience with WordPress.com I suggested he use a paid-for tier on WordPress.com. Hosting, security, backups, a selection of premium themes and access to their online support was covered in one subscription fee. It’s even possible to add themes and plugins to WordPress.com with the higher paid tier now.

Getting the basics sorted

I then did the site set up:

  • creating the basic structure after discussing his goals and plans
  • customizing a theme after planning it with him
  • dealing with WordPress.com where necessary
  • helping to find the right plugins (WordPress.com now allows .org plugins for their Business level of subscription) for his particular needs

Prioritising learning

Once the site setup was done, I concentrated on teaching Christopher how to add content and manage the site. We spent a lot of time adding content together, with Christopher taking more of a lead as time went on. I really enjoyed this, and it was great seeing him get more adventurous and confident with the editor.

My skills and knowledge of WordPress more widely came in useful when he needed special kinds of content – e.g. footnotes – that aren’t a standard part of the WordPress editor. I advised when something seemingly easy was going to take too long to do to be worthwhile. I could tell when we’d be best compromising and moving ahead with more important bits of the site.

A few hiccups

We hit a few stumbling blocks along the way. Communication with WordPress.com was not uniformly smooth although their staff members were always friendly. There was some confusion over where you can transfer in domain names ending with .co.uk. It worked out okay in the end and the ongoing support and versatile theme was worth it.

Unexpected perks

Working in this way is very fulfilling – being able to see someone learning and gaining confidence over time. New blog posts started appearing without me being involved! Spending time with someone as they learnt to edit a site has helped my other teaching work and I’m grateful for that.

I found myself using bits of Gutenberg I’d scoffed at before. I am embarrassed to admit I thought that having a special block in the WordPress editor for adding ‘verse’ was a sweet but irrelevant touch. How wrong I was! This site has poetry on several pages already, and Christopher expects there will be more.

Next steps

Christopher will now begin promoting his book. Follow him on twitter to learn more about his novel, Renaissance Italy, Galileo – and more. In Cambridge we are lucky to have excellent support via many meetup.com groups. Ones like Cambridge Social Media Meetup and the The Marketing Meetup may provide useful sources of support. It’s a great way to learn how to promote your passion project or business.

And of course you can buy his book, check out his website and enjoy the read!