A while ago, I made a short book from a series of lectures our Dad gave shortly before he retired as a Methodist minister. He’s a fantastic deep thinker and theological historian, and a great writer too. The book really deserves better distribution. So I’ve built Cingela as a platform for his book, as well as some other things he’s doing now that he’s retired. You can buy the ebook edition for Kindle or any other major ereader there. There may be other books published under the Cingela banner later this year, so they’ll be sold there too.
The site explains what ‘Cingela’ means, but you’ll have to watch this week’s video for the correct pronunciation. Hint: it’s a one-click site. Haha. Anyway.
Tools used: The site has a WordPress CMS with the MyProduct theme from Elegant Themes. Photos are my Dad’s. I used Photoshop (at the office) or The GIMP (at home) for tweaking the images, like creating the glow around the featured-book cover image. For selling ebooks, I’m using Payloadz with PayPal.
Process: Register domain (we use Hetzner); install WordPress; download, install and set up the theme; set up an account on Payloadz.com (for delivering downloadable ebooks), link it to Paypal, and create and upload the ebooks on Payloadz; create a site logo; find photos; write page copy; go through everything with Dad and make a few changes to text. Probably about five hours’ work spread over several days.
In a past life (aka my twenties), I spent a lot of time writing, editing, and publishing poetry. I even got my Masters degree in writing it and published a book. These days, other things are higher on my list of priorities, but I still admire good poetry, it’s the word-based equivalent of watching Barcelona pass a soccer ball.
Anyway, because about a zillion people try to write poetry, I used to get asked a lot how to go about publishing it. I wrote a few pieces about this for my personal blog, and after some years, those pieces still got more hits than anything else I wrote. So I’ve taken that content and built How to Publish Poetry specifically for it. It’s advice for South African writers specifically, since I know my local scene best, and there’s not much help for writers in this part of the world.
The site’s monetised with Google Adsense advertising. If I ever find time, I may write up a more comprehensive guide to writing poetry for publication in South Africa, and sell it as an ebook. (Those grand intentions don’t mean anything now.)
Tools used: The site has a WordPress CMS with the OnTheGo theme from Elegant Themes. Photos are either mine or they’re Creative Commons Attribution licensed pics from Flickr (attributed in the file names).
Process: Register domain (we use Hetzner); install WordPress; download, install and set up the theme; create a site logo in Photoshop; find photos; paste past blog entries into WordPress as Posts and edit/update them; set up Google Adsense account; get Adsense code and paste into WordPress backend. All in all, probably about five hours’ work spread over several days, not counting several hours writing blog articles occasionally over a few years. Also, in order to make sure Google sent people to the new pages (instead of the old blog pages, which Google’s been sending people to till now), I added redirect instructions to the old site’s htaccess file. This is pretty technical for non-developers, and messing it up can break stuff, but I followed instructions on a few sites (like this one) and it all worked fine.
It’s odd how the most obvious things can take longer to realise. Here’s one that has been dawning on me. I love building websites. But websites are only tools; each one a different kind. Blogs are expression tools, for instance. And when websites are revenue-generating websites, they’re business tools. Each one is a business. Perhaps a tiny business, but a business nonetheless. With a model, a plan, costs and revenue and customers and suppliers.
But that shouldn’t be scary, right? Starting and running Electric Book Works has been super-hard, so starting a business seems scary when I think of what that took. But the scariness and the complexity is not built into the business. It’s built into my mind.
In the 52sites experiment, we’re really going to have to build super-simple businesses that largely run themselves – the websites are just the most visible part. I’m going to have to get over some neuroses, especially the one about taking myself too seriously.
I’ve dragged Michelle in for this one. She’s an awesome cook, and has a great collection of cookbooks. She has a knack for buying amazing books and producing incredible meals from them. But sometimes she’ll buy a cookbook, or more likely I’ll get her one, and she just won’t find it useful. Sometimes the cover and the reviews just don’t tell you what you need to know. I reckon lots of people want reviews they know they can trust.
So, Books for Cooks contains Michelle’s reviews of her favourite cook books. (She says writing these reviews is like working in my own private sweatshop, but I think she’s secretly enjoying it.) From the About page:
How do you really know whether a cookbook is worth buying? Standing in a bookstore, you can’t cook from it. And most reviews on websites are all marketing copy or written by people who’ve only had the book a few hours. Books for Cooks is for finding out about books we’ve used and loved for ages. No quick-glance reviews here. These are books we have actually cooked from and learned from.
The site’s designed as a niche store, and to monetize it, I’ve got affiliate links pointing to local retailer Kalahari.net and to Amazon.com. Mish and I will split the proceeds.
Tools used: The site has a WordPress CMS with the eStore theme from the fabulous Elegant Themes. I took all the photos of the books with Michelle’s Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD, resized and renamed them in batches using Faststone Image Viewer, and uploaded them directly (not through WordPress) with Filezilla.
Process: Register domain (we use Hetzner); install WordPress; download, install and set up the eStore theme; create a site logo in Photoshop; take lots of photos and rename and resize them using Faststone; ask Michelle (nicely) to write a bunch of reviews; paste the reviews into WordPress as Posts; adjust the eStore themes settings for each Post; open affiliate accounts with Amazon.com and Kalahari.net; create affiliate links and add them to each post. Boom, done! All in all, probably about ten hours’ work spread over several days.
It’s D-day. Jon vs Arthur. Brotherly rivals since childhood, now we meet to compete in the most extreme environment on earth, apart from those underwater volcanoes: the Internet.
Once a week for the next year, we’ll each create a revenue-generating website, and pitch it on video here. The rules? Build them ourselves (no help from friends). We can include or sell content or products by others, as long as they get their rightful share of any revenue. And keep costs as low as possible, ideally to domain registration fees only — about $12 per site.
The aim? Make back our costs.
The real aim? See what happens and learn from it.