What It Takes

What It Takes

Bringing It All together

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 14, 2011

Do a Wayback Machine search for www.stevenpressfield.com and check out the late 2002 version of Steve’s first author site—and then check out the 2008 version.

Not much of a difference . . .

Steve’s first site was a traditional early 2000’s author site—a stylized resume, offering readers information about authors and their work. Steve’s site was static, so readers visiting once a year could catch up on the previous year’s additions within a few minutes—and then wait another year before returning. Information flowed one way—from Steve to his readers—void of interaction/engagement.

In 2008, Steve launched a micro-site for his World War II novel Killing Rommel. Readers visiting www.stevenpressfield.com were redirected to the Killing Rommel site. The page had some cool stuff on it—including a Killing Rommel video produced by, and featuring, Steve—but it was still a one-way, static site. The new page provided information about Killing Rommel, but that was it. There was no reason to stay or return. Content didn’t leave the page.

In 2009, Steve launched a blog for his video series “It’s the Tribes, Stupid.” As mentioned in “On Sharing,” this wasn’t a project Steve launched for financial gain and it wasn’t related to his books, so he wanted to keep it separate from the author site.

Mistake. Looking back, we should have kept everything together.

What We Learned

After launching the blog, Steve’s readers started chiming in and conversations went to books at times. Steve was engaging with readers and they weren’t interested in sticking to one project.

Enter “Writing Wednesdays.”

Enter awkward organization.

When “Writing Wednesdays” was launched, the blog was oriented toward the “Tribes” readers, with “Writing Wednesdays” being something that popped up once a week.

We all knew the blog needed a facelift, to better feature the different strands. That’s when we started talking about redoing the old site and bringing it and the blog together.

It was the interview with Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds that really got us moving, though.

The interview is titled “The Warrior Ethos of Steven Pressfield.” Steve and Glenn start out talking about the battle of Thermopylae and the Greeks. At about the 6:10 mark, Glenn brings up Steve’s blog:

Glenn: “You’ve branched out now into blogging and your blog’s kind of an interesting blog. You’re sort of interspersing things about writing and writing advice. I saw how you talked about how you did a rewrite on a porn flick and what you learned from that, which I thought was pretty cool. And that’s kind of fun. And then in between that, you’ve got interviews with Afghan tribal leaders and Special Forces people fighting there and things like that and . . . How do you manage that mix? How’s that working out for you?”

Steve and Glenn fade off and are replaced by a screen shot of the blog.

Just below the blog header, which features the title “It’s The Tribes, Stupid” and a picture of a tribe in Afghanistan, is the title “Writing Wednesdays #10: Sex Scenes.”

Not exactly dance partners . . .

The Challenge

It was clear from readers that some people were interested in “Writing Wednesdays” and The War of Art. Others were interested in Steve’s novels and military-related projects. Others were interested in everything.

Some authors create sites for their books, rather than for themselves. This means the next time they have another book or other project, they need to recreate the wheel—another site design, another URL, another push toward growing readership.

All of that takes time.

We knew the site design would be an ongoing project, as updates were needed, but we didn’t want to start at zero each time we approached a launch. We needed a site that would represent Steve, not a string of individual sites for his different projects.

Bringing It Home

I’ll leave the design talk of the new site—which pulled the 2002 site and the blog together—to Jeff Simon of Little Box Creations.

On the content front, a few things happened. Steve had a few columns going on the blog and was writing his new book—The Professionwhen a health issue, requiring surgery, came up. He blogged about this in a few “Writing Wednesdays” columns. He reposted a favorite WW column here and there, and pulled back some, but through it all, he kept engaging.  His readers kept responding, he valued their input, and wanted to respond.

However, it was clear that something had to give, so Steve took a look at what he could commit to moving forward, and pulled back on the rest.

I just read the Tech Crunch article “How Space Jam’s Website Went Viral. Space Jam’s 1996 Website, That Is.” The entire article reminded me of the evolution of Steve’s site, but the last paragraph brought everything home:

“You could just chalk up this week’s explosion of the Space Jam site to an extremely slow holiday news cycle, but it’s much more than that. We’re now in the very last hours of the most fast-paced decade ever technology-wise, and that is a little scary. In this era of Word Lens and Self-Driving Cars, perhaps some of us are more than a little nostalgic for simpler times when having a website, no matter how bad, was an achievement in itself.‘”

Goals for Tomorrow

It takes time to stay on top of everything. It’s impossible to do everything, but important to do what makes the most sense. “Having a website, no matter how bad” is no longer an achievement—and that goes for everything else related to publishing and outreach, too.

I’ve spent my first three “What It Takes” articles talking about how we got here.

Next Up: Outreach plans for The Profession.

Posted in What It Takes

4 Responses to “Bringing It All together”

  1. January 15, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I am curious if you guys use any tracking tools to see if the site has grown over time? I have followed Steven from the days when he was a “friend” on Facebook.
    Believe it or not, I look at Steven as a teacher. He is open about his life experiences and how they have molded the person he is now. Obviously he is entertaining as well or you would not have the traffic that this site has.

    • Callie Oettinger
      January 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Tom, Thank you for following all this time on Facebook and for leaving a comment here. Yes, we have been tracking the growth of Steve’s site. Jeff Simon installed a stats tool within WordPress, which is our main go-to. When we first launched the site, we hoped the number of readers visiting would increase. Now, though we still have an eye on site visits, it’s cool to see the length of time readers spend on the site. The bounce rate – the number of people who drop in for a few seconds and then leave right away – has decreased. Readers are hanging out and returning, which means the content is of interest. Callie

  2. January 15, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I’m interested to see the whole “melding” process as I’m going to have to do the same thing soon enough. I guess the good news for me is, I’m not known yet, so no one’s going to notice the change. lol

    • Callie Oettinger
      January 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

      Victoria – Hope you’ll share your “melding” process! Callie