Ethical publishing for the frugal yogi
Welcome 🙏🏾, I might say yogis and yoginis, but really, welcome to anyone who wants to grow and spread their writing ethically, but has only pennies to spare! When I say ethically, I mean without stooping to using marketing ploys or distorting your ideas to fit some rancid algorithm. I’ll admit the irony of that last statement though, considering that Maitri is hosted on Substack, who buy and sell clout venally. But don’t they all? But I’m getting ahead of myself here; these platforms are just tools and you don’t always have to use them to the manufacturer’s specifications. You may modify them to suit your purposes. For the most part, publishing platforms and other freemium tools have given us a world of possibilities. I’ll discuss these tools in detail over the coming issues.
This week, we’ll take a look at platforms to host your website on and the low or no-cost ways you can do this. When you write and write a lot, you really need a publishing system that lets you focus on the writing and automatically fills in the extraneous details, like metadata for search engines, keywords, and other palaver. Wordpress is excellent for beginners, but you’ll need excellent hosting like Flywheel to manage its enormous bulk and give you some useful management tools. You’ll also want to use the Wordpress app to do your writing. Going with Wordpress will cost you, but it includes a membership layer so that you can “keep” your users or sell them access to your content. In fact, Patreon’s own Memberful lets you sell subscriptions or donations and digital or physical products as well, integrating nicely with Wordpress with a plug-in. Lots of people use them: Craig Mod uses them for his newsletters and other projects; Matt Gemmell uses them to support his writing. It cost $25 a month to sell more than one product or offer things like newsletters and podcasts. But I digress. For a place to serve up your writing, Wordpress is great, if you can put up with a slightly clunky writing space and you don’t mind the hosting costs. Personally, I believe that you should be able to write in your editor of choice or even in plain text. Blot.im lets you write in Markdown and publishes anything that you put in a particular Dropbox folder to your website. It costs $30 a year and that gets you a pretty minimal, but lightening-fast static blog. If you’re familiar with the Liquid template language, you’ll find Blot’s Mustache syntax a little limiting, but easy to tweak. Static websites feel like a breath of fresh air when you come away from platforms like Wordpress. But you do want some of the bells and whistles that Wordpress delivers. Two of the best options for static website generators are Jekyll and GatsbyJS. And one little-known Jekyll starter project lets you publish straight out of your Dropbox folder, a la Blot. Since static websites are not resource-intensive, services like Netlify will serve up your site for free, within very generous usage limits.
But when you really consider what you might need for your writing and just your writing, you really can’t go past publication platforms like Substack or Medium. With custom domains now available for both of these platforms, you can claim your own personalised space on the web. And sure, you’re probably not going to make the cut when pitted against all that other perfectly manicured content, but if you use these platforms for what they are—clean and pristine writing environments that are very reasonably priced (or even free)—you really just need to focus on your writing and find the ways and means of getting it out there, just as you would anywhere else. To sell bits of your work as physical or digital products, there’s a plethora of selling tools which you can integrate anywhere. For example, at Maitri, we chose to create a static website store which freely hosted at Netlify and costs very little in terms of the technology. I’ll go in-depth with selling tools in a future issue of Organic Growth.
Well that about wraps up this first issue of the letter. I hope that it’s useful to those of you who are investing your time and talent into writing or being creative in other ways. These are just snippets shared from my limited experience and fumbling around for many years. I would love to hear how you do some of these things, or if you would like to know more about customising the templates and tools mentioned above. But in the meantime, thanks for reading!