Using a WordPress Multisite Network to Promote Multiple Author Pen Names

Author marketing when you use more than one pen name can be a minefield.

Should you have two separate websites? Two separate twitter accounts? Two Facebook pages? Should you just go the whole hog and live in a different house for each pen name, ignoring your family if they call you by the wrong name?

OK, so maybe the last option is a little extreme. But it can be tricky deciding whether to market each pen name separately or to focus all your efforts on one persona. It’s exhausting enough doing this once, after all.

But if you do decide to create a different website for each pen name (which is what I do), then the decision of how to set up your website will be made both a little trickier and a little simpler, both at the same time.

Trickier because you have to identify which website providers will make it easy for you to create more than one website. And simpler because once you have that information, it helps you narrow down your choices.

Tip: My free book Author Website Blueprint gives you the lowdown on what each of the major website providers give you for your money)

In today’s post I’m going to outline how I use WordPress Multisite to support my three pen names. Using Multisite, instead of three completely separate WordPress sites, will make the process simpler – and, importantly, cheaper.

Why Have Separate Websites for Different Pen Names, Anyway?

OK, let’s get the first question out of the way.

Here’s why I think it’s a good idea to have a website for each of your pen names:

1. Each site will encourage sign-ups to a separate mailing list.

I’m assuming here that you’re using a separate mailing list for each pen name. You really should do this – your pen names will have different readerships (that’s why you’re using pen names, after all), and you’ll need to use different tactics to engage with those readers.

Let’s say you have one pen name for thrillers, and another for romance. You might like to think that people who read your thrillers will love your team romances, but they probably won’t. You need to focus your efforts for each pen name on the correct market – people who read in that genre.

This means your newsletters will have different content and a different tone. Possibly different branding, too.

If you encourage signups to both newsletters in one website for all your work, then people will get confused. They’ll sign up to the wrong newsletter and you won’t be able to engage with them in a way they appreciate.

Personally I have three mailing lists (some healthier than others), and link each one to a separate website:

So that’s reason number 1, what other reasons might you have to use more than one website?

2. Your Websites Can Reinforce the Brand for Your Individual Pen Names

Going back to our thriller/romance author example earlier, can you imagine what a website for a thriller author might look like? Dark and mysterious, maybe. A bit like your covers. And what about a website for a romance author? Well, it won’t be dark and menacing.

So by having two websites, you can use those sites to reinforce your author brand. The content of each site will be relevant to readers in that genre, and your voice will be different in the two sites, as well, just as it is in your books.

3. It Will Enhance Your Search Engine Rankings

A good author website will be designed so that people will find it in a Google search (other search engines are also available) and stumble upon your writing that way.

This is especially the case for nonfiction authors; your blog will be a primary source of potential readers for you.

I write both fiction and nonfiction. My nonfiction blog posts are like this one: designed to be informative and useful (and entertaining, I hope). The posts in my fiction blogs are very different. They consist of updates on my writing, character bios, musings on writing, and short stories. If someone found one of my posts here on author websites via a search and then ended up reading something about one of my characters, they’d be confused. Which is why I keep the two separate.

You want the search engines to understand what your website is about, which will give it an extra boost when it comes to moving you up the search engine rankings. Consistency is paramount here, which is why you don’t want to dilute the google juice of your nonfiction site on business strategy with your erotic fiction stories.

Of course, having multiple websites for multiple pen names isn’t for everyone. If one of the following applies to you, you might prefer to stick to just the one website:

  • You genuinely (and I mean genuinely) share an audience between your pen names. Which does beg the question: why are you using more than one pen name anyway?
  • You’re a technophobe who breaks out in a rash at the thought of running a website. Running one is hard enough, but two? It’s enough to send you running for the hills.
  • Your website isn’t going to be something you focus on (again, because you hate this stuff), so it’ll just be a placeholder for links to other aspects of your work AND for newsletter signups (please don’t leave that out).
  • You’re at an early stage in your author career and are focusing on writing right now. Good for you – stick with it. You can resist the whole author websites thing later on. Meanwhile, a one-page holding site will help the search engines to learn that you exist and will improve your rankings once you do start using your website(s) in earnest.

What is WordPress Multisite?

At last! Let’s get down to the meat of this post, You’ve already decided you need a website for each of your pen names, and you’re itching to know what this WordPress Multisite thingumajig is.

Let me enlighten you.

WordPress Multisite is a WordPress installation that lets you run more than one website without having to install WordPress more than once. In other words, it lets you create a network of sites.

If you’ve ever had a WordPress.com site, it might be helpful to know that WordPress.com is simply a vast WordPress Multisite network, with lots of customizations to ensure it doesn’t crash when the sixty gazillionth user signs up for it.

You don’t need to worry about that sort of thing – you’ll only be running a couple of sites on your network, and don’t have to worry about it falling over.

Having just one WordPress installation brings you plenty of benefits, including cost and efficiency. Let’s take a look at them.

Benefits of WordPress Multisite

Here are some of the benefits of using WordPress Multisite for multiple sites, as opposed to multiple installations of WordPress:

  • As you’ll only have one WordPress installation, it might mean your hosting costs are cheaper. Some hosts only let you install WordPress once, and even if they don’t limit number of installations, you’ll be using less hosting space.
  • If you use the same plugins for all your sites, you only have to install them once. You only have to run updates once. You don’t have to repeat everything in two or more separate sites. This makes things much more efficient.
  • You can use whatever domain names you like for each site in your network, and they’ll work as if they’re completely separate sites.
  • You only have to have one username and password for all your sites.

I’ve been using Multisite to host client sites for years. I now use it for all three (I know!) of my pen names. It makes things simpler and easier for me, and saves me a heap of cash on hosting.

How to Use WordPress Multisite for Multiple Pen Names

I’m going to just give a brief outline of how to use Multisite for multiple pen names here. That’s not because I’m being mean: it’s because I’m planning another, more technical post which will walk you through the process of setting up a Multisite Network in more detail.

But here’s an outline of what you need to do:

1. Install WordPress on your hosting.

You might be doing this from scratch or you might already have a website for one pen name up and running. It doesn’t matter. But you always start with a ‘normal’ WordPress website.

2. Activate WordPress Multisite

This involves writing one line of code in a file in your system, and then copying and pasting some code to a couple more files.

If the thought of this terrifies you, you’ll be reassured to know that some hosting providers let you enable Multisite when you install WordPress with their auto-installer. But you have to do this when you first install WordPress.

Siteground is one hosting provider that lets you do this. That’s an affiliate link, but I’m only recommending them because I’ve used them for years and think they’re worth it (and because the affiliate link gives you a big discount).

If you want to know how to activate WordPress Multisite, you can either join my mailing list to be notified when the post on that is published here (and get my free book on author websites), or see this (admittedly more technical) guide.

3. Add a Second Site to Your Network

Your network will already have one site – the base site. That’s the one you started with, and you’ll probably be using it for the pen name you first started writing under.

For your second (and third, and fourth…) pen name, you’ll need to add an extra site to your network. Again, that’ll be covered in my future post on configuring WordPress Multisite.

This blog you’re reading is one of five sites on my Multisite network, three of which are for my three pen names (don’t worry about the others, I don’t). The screenshot below shows you that I have an extra item in my admin menu that lets me access all of the sites in my network:

4. Configure Your Themes and Plugins

For each site, you’ll need to install and activate a theme. Plugins are different: you install them once and then activate them for each site where you want to use them.

If you want to, you could even use the same theme in both sites, as long as that theme allows for plenty of customization. If you can change the colors and the fonts, you could make the theme look very different in each site.

Multisite gives you some extra Network Admin screens which you use to install plugins and themes. You then activate and configure them via the admin screens for each site, which will look the same as the admin screens for a normal WordPress site.

5. Create Content

Now it’s time to start creating some content. You’ll do this separately for each of the two sites.

The process for doing this is no different than for a regular WordPress site. The only difference is that you’ll be doing it twice. Which may be one reason not to set up two author websites in the first place! But if you do have the time to do this, it’ll help you reach your target audience and reinforce the brand for each of your pen names.

WordPress Multisite is a Great Tool For Authors With More Than One Pen Name

If you have multiple pen names and you want to create a site for each of them, WordPress Multisite is an invaluable tool.

It will make managing your sites easier and faster, and could save you money. It doesn’t take long to set up and is easy to manage.

Keep an eye on this blog for a follow-up post showing you how to activate and configure WordPress Multisite, coming soon!

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