5 min read

Writing #12 : Tools we use (instead of Wordpress)

Tools that work fit together like well oiled gears

Tools we use

We gave up Wordpress after we were hacked four times in three months at the end of 2012 and early 2013. I was in the middle of putting out the Alex the Fey novel, In the Grey, and working on websites. Between Super Steve and I, we worked weeks on end to try to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, the problem was global brute force attacks. They weren't specific to us. In fact, they didn't have anything to do with us, except that they sucked up weeks at a time.

I don't have weeks at a time to be sucked up.

(Go here for more information about why we quit Wordpress.)

Here's what we use:

  • Blogging:
    After years of self hosting Wordpress sites, I returned to Typepad for this blog and our upcoming projects. Truth be told, I no longer have the bandwidth for plugins, hacking, and other nuances of self hosted blogs. As for cost, I was able to get unlimited blogs for $14.95 a month. At the time we switched, I was paying for hosting, specific proprietary plugins, as well as someone to back up the sites every week. Typepad is a lot less than that.

    Typepad is not open source. It has yet to be hacked. In fact...


Plus, the customer support is fantastic.

  • Stories by Claudia and Denver Cereal:
    We have a unique challenge when it comes to both Denver Cereal and Stories by Claudia. We have a tremendous amount of content which needs to be available for people to read on any device, anywhere in the world. The content must load quickly. We also cannot afford to have the site slow down when more people are on it.

    That's a lot to ask of a website.

    After looking at a lot of Content Management Systems (CMS), Super Steve chose Statamic, a brand new CMS in 2013. It hasn't been an easy road. But the site is everything we wanted  - it's fast, easy to use, and doesn't slow regardless of the traffic or load.  You can read both Denver Cereal and Stories by Claudia on any device.

    We self-host the Statamic sites so we still have to make sure the sites are secure and safe from hacking. The site uses very little server resources because it posts the pages as static HTML. That keeps our hosting costs very low. (We're still on a Virtual Private Server.)

    I'm not sure how ready Statamic is for non-programming folks. The guys who own and run the company are not the most customer friendly lot, so it's doubtful they'd help you get your site going.  Posts are written using Markdown, a favorite among geeky web-types. Markdown is not for everyone. That said, there are people who specialize in this program both in design and technology.

    Statamic is also missing things that are standard in most CMS. Their search only goes one level down so doesn't work on our content heavy sites. Their membership feature is atrocious. You have to pay extra (per site) for a form generator. They don't have lots of free themes or plugins. Most add-ons are pricey and require programming knowledge to use.

    Statamic is a solution that's worked really well for our specific, and complicated requirements.

    Update by Super Steve: " I'd agree that the Statamic isn't particularly user-friendly, but I'd say that they are developer friendly, and that anyone wanting to put up a statamic site should probably choose a Statamic developer rather than going it alone. You've got to write the code."

  • Static sites:
    Claudia Hall Christian, my author site, and Cook Street Publishing, the publishing sites are, for the most part, static. I need to be able to change the content every once and a while. Otherwise, they need to run on their own. Super Steve chose Perch as the backbone of these sites.

    Perch is an easy to use CMS. Super Steve was able to convert the Wordpress sites to Perch. There's a growing community of people who use and love Perch. There are many free add-ons and some paid ones. So far, we haven't had to add any paid add-ons.

    It's designed for smaller sites, and smaller companies, so it's easier to use. There's also customer support. For people who need it, Perch can work in any language. This is probably why it's popular in Europe.

    Super Steve has set it up so I can't say whether it was harder or easier than Statamic. I think they are just different. He set it up so that I can update every page as I need to.

    There is a PHP database involved. But, unlike Wordpress, it doesn't seem to impact the server use.

  • Sales:
    We took our store down in last 2012, early 2013 after it had been hacked for the third time. While we never lost data, we found that we didn't have the control we needed to make the store work as well as we needed.

    We tried a number of solutions but found that most store software isn't mobile friendly. In other words, it's difficult to use on mobile phones.

    We've tried any number of solutions before we settled on Ganxy. The benefit to Ganxy is that they check every file you load, and then support them.

    Why is support is a big deal for eBooks? A lot of people think you just make a file and put it out there. That's true for a lot of content, but not true for fiction. When people purchase a fiction book, they want to be able to read it via their favorite eReader, or over multiple eReaders. The first year of eReaders there were only Kindles. Now there are multiple versions of Kindle hardware and multiple versions of software.

    We're publishers. I'm an author. There's no way we can support multiple versions of software and multiple versions of hardware in many countries.

    Ganxy reviews our files and supports our customers. That's perfect for us. We can focus on what we're good at and let the rest go.

That's what we do right now. A year from now, we may be doing something else. It's taken about a year and a half to get everything converted.

It's all working. I'll keep you posted.


This month, I will attempt to share thirty thoughts about writing - one a day for thirty days.

Writing #1 : The difference between fiction and non-fiction

Writing #2 : Writing schedules.

Writing #3 : Just show up.

Writing #4 :  "You missed a comma" and the Copy Edit Banshees

Writing #5 : Do it now! Write your story. Share it with the world

Writing #6 : How to put down a writer with a smug smile on your face

Writing #7 : Myth about what "Publisher's used to" do

Writing #8 : Want to be a writer? Get fit

Writing #9 : Want live your dream of being a professional author? Stay inspired

Writing #10 : Why we quit Wordpress

Writing #11 : Ah Shit! Something blew up!

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