Writer Platform

How to Build Your Historian’s Website & Where to Build It, Part 1

How to Build Your WebsiteYou know you need to build your platform and you have decided to start with a website, but how and where do you build your historian’s website? If you don’t know how to write HTML and CSS code, creating a website may seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be.

There are several low and premium cost options available for those who don’t know how to code in a computer language.

In this post you will discover three options you could use to build your historian’s website.

Part 2 of this post will cover WordPress and where I think you should build your website.




Blogger is a free weblog publishing tool provided by Google.

Blogger offers the ability to create a blog and to add webpages that highlight who you are, your CV, books/writing/research, teaching, news, and services that you offer.


Themes: Blogger offers a selection of themes (background designs) that you can use to customize your website.

If you have the know-how, you can customize any blogger theme by adjusting the HTML and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) code.

Blogger also offers users several “dynamic” designs to choose from.

“Dynamic” or responsive themes automatically scale to a viewer’s device. If you pick one of Blogger's “dynamic" themes your website will look good on giant monitors, laptop screens, and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.


Social Sharing: As a Google product, Blogger websites work seamlessly with Google+. This integration makes it easy for your to share your blog posts on Google+.


Monetization: Blogger sites easily connect with the Google AdSense revenue generation platform. This opt-in service will allow you to add advertisements to your website. If someone clicks on one of your ads you will earn a percentage of the rate Google charges the advertiser.


Mobile: Blogger has both Android and iOS apps that you can use to post to your blog and tweak your webpages while you are on the go.


Cost: Free, unless you want to purchase a custom URL or domain name. (Highly Recommended)



Blogger provides a wonderful option for those with very limited budgets. Purchasing a custom domain name from Google will be the only investment you need to make with Blogger (about $12).

Some historians have done well by hosting their blogs and websites on Blogger.  John Fea and J.L. Bell serve as two examples.

If you want to use Blogger to create a website instead of a blog, you should adjust your settings to direct web traffic to a welcome or landing page. If you don’t, those who search for you on the web will be directed to the blog portion of your site.  See Inside Tech Tricks, "How to Create a Custom Landing Page in Blogger to Increase Leads."





Squarespace is a content management system that provides a website builder, blogging platform, and hosting service.

Squarespace provides a suite of drag-and-drop tools that will help you build anything from a basic website and blog to an e-commerce store.




Themes: All Squarespace themes are responsive. This means they will automatically scale your website for different screen sizes; from giant desktop monitors or TVs to small smartphone screens.


Website Building: Drag and drop the features you want (and that Squarespace offers) into your theme layout.


Social Sharing: A built-in social share feature allows website viewers to easily share your content with all major social media networks.


Customization: Squarespace allows you to access the cascading style sheet (CSS) to customize the look of your theme.


Costs: Squarespace offers 3 plans:

1. Personal: for $8 per month you get to create one website with up to 20 pages, a blog, 2GB of storage space, and up to 2 contributors. You also receive the ability to sell 1 product, accept donations, and access 24/7 customer support.

Squarespace Website2. Professional: for $16 per month you get to create one website with unlimited pages, a blog, photo galleries, and have unlimited storage space and contributors. You also get the ability to sell up to 20 products, access the developer platform (for customization), and reach out to the 24/7 Squarespace Customer Support team.

3. Business: for $24 per month you receive all of the benefits of the Professional plan plus the ability to sell an unlimited number of products, real-time carrier shipping information, label printing via ShipStation, and integrated accounting by Xero.

If you pay for your plan in one, annual installment Squarespace will give you a free custom domain name.



Squarespace seems like a great option for beginners who aren’t interested in learning WordPress.

From what I have read, Squarespace’s drag-and-drop website builder makes website construction easy and the service offers only responsive themes. I also like that Squarespace provides its premium customer support to all of its clients.


DH HistorianHire a Professional Web Designer

You could hire a professional web designer to custom build the website of your dreams.

This is likely to be an expensive option, especially as you may need to retain the web designer and pay them a monthly fee to add content to your website (such as a new page or blog post), maintain your site with code updates, or to fix your website if it breaks. Additionally, you will need to pay for a hosting service to host your website and for a custom domain name.


Stay tuned for “How to Build Your Historian’s Website & Where to Build It, Part 2,” which will discuss your WordPress options. I will also reveal my thoughts as to how and where you should build your historian's website.


Share StoryShare Your Story

Do you use Blogger or Squarespace?

Have you hired a professional website designer? Please share your experiences in the comments below so we can help our colleagues make an informed decision about how and where they should build their historian’s website.


State of Ben Franklin’s World: 4 Months Since Launch

State-of-the-PodcastAre you thinking about adding a podcast to your historian’s platform? I thought it would be interesting to share how “Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History” has fared as a method to communicate the work of professional historians to the history-loving public.

In this post, you will discover how Ben Franklin’s World has performed during its first four months.


Brief Overview of Launch

I launched Ben Franklin’s World in two phases: a soft launch and a hard launch.


Soft Launch

The soft launch took place on the benfranklinsworld.com website.

On October 7, 2014, I posted the first four interview episodes plus my short pilot episode; the pilot offers a brief explanation of who I am and why I started the podcast.

Until early December 2014, these episodes could only be accessed from benfranklinsworld.com.

The soft launch gave me time to tweak the show and build a catalog of 8-10 episodes before I listed it on iTunes, the largest podcast directory.

Podcast experts recommend debuting a podcast on iTunes with 5-10 episodes.

Launching with several episodes allows new listeners to download multiple episodes. (Many podcast listeners like to binge listen to new shows.) This strategy also provides enough content for your podcast to generate the download numbers it needs for placement in iTunes' “New & Noteworthy” sections.

“New & Noteworthy” sections provide prominent placement within specific categories and/or the entire iTunes store. Placement in "New & Noteworthy" helps listeners discover your podcast faster; think free advertising.


Soyuz_fg_22.07.2012Hard Launch

The hard launch took place on December 2, 2014 when Apple accepted my submission and listed Ben Franklin’s World on iTunes.

New episodes appeared every other Tuesday until December 30, 2014, when Ben Franklin’s World became a weekly show.

By starting as a twice-monthly program, I created positive buzz for the podcast and gave myself time to build a sufficient store of new episodes to support a weekly show.


Strategy Results

This two-part launch strategy worked.

Ben Franklin's World built a small, but dedicated following of friends, family, and people who found the show via social media between October and December.

Early listeners provided useful feedback, which I used to tweak the show. They also helped to elevate the profile of the show when it launched on iTunes.

After iTunes listed Ben Franklin's World, I sent an e-mail to the 30+ people on my e-mail list. I informed them that they could now find the show in iTunes and asked them to provide honest ratings and reviews. (Apple uses ratings and reviews to help determine which shows to place in its "New & Noteworthy” sections.)

Their downloads, ratings, and reviews helped place Ben Franklin’s World in the “New & Noteworthy” section of the history category before the end of its first week on iTunes.

Placement in "New & Noteworthy" also boosted the profile of Ben Franklin’s World. Show download numbers went from single and double-digit downloads per day to 100 and 200 downloads per day.

Ben Franklin's World #35On December 28, 2014, the podcast took off.

The show received placement in the “New & Noteworthy” section for the entire iTunes store and two or three times appeared among the top 10 shows in “New & Noteworthy."

The result: December 28, marked my first 1,000+ download day with 1,304 downloads. On December 29, the show had 2,548 downloads. The peak came on December 30 with 3,545 downloads in a single day!

Throughout January, Ben Franklin’s World did not have a sub-1,000 download day.

Peak days always came on Tuesdays (new episode release days) when instead of having a 1,000+ download day, the show had a 2,000-2,500+ download day. Release days always put Ben Franklin’s World among the top 200 podcasts in the overall store.

Apple allows new podcasts about 8 weeks of eligibility for its “New & Noteworthy” categories. Ben Franklin’s World enjoyed great placement for exactly 8 weeks.


Downloads Post “New & Noteworthy"

On February 1, 2015, iTunes removed Ben Franklin’s World from “New & Noteworthy.”

History New & Noteworthy 123014Download numbers have dropped a bit, but I am very pleased with the performance of this young program.

New episodes still experience 2,000+ downloads on release day and numbers stay above 1,000 downloads per day until about Thursday or Friday when they dip into the 900-500+ downloads per day range for the rest of the week.

With that said, new episodes still reach 5,000 downloads in 7-14 days.

As of Thursday, February 12, 2015, at 9:57 am, listeners have downloaded episodes of Ben Franklin’s World 83,494 times.

Although downloads do not equal number of listeners, they illustrate that a lot of people are choosing to spend 35-55 minutes each week discovering the great work that academic and public historians are conducting in early American history.

In the near future, I would like to increase the reach of Ben Franklin's World and its daily download numbers so the podcast once again enjoys 1,000+ downloads per day. I have ideas for how I can achieve this feat and I will share my strategies for promotion in future posts.



I enjoy podcasting and the medium has provided me with many benefits.

First, podcasting has helped me achive my goal: It has enabled me to start bridging the gap between professional historians and the history-loving public.

Ben Franklin’s World has created a wider public awareness about my colleagues' historical research.

Second, podcasting has expanded my professional and social networks.

Each week, I have a meaningful conversation with a different colleague, often someone I have not had the chance to meet in person.

I also receive several e-mails per week from listeners who tell me how much they enjoy the podcast and learning about the work of its guest historians.

Third, my work as a podcaster has allowed me to become a more well-read historian.

Since August, I have read one history book a week that does not pertain to my research or my sepcific interests in early American history.

I look forward to continuing this new professional adventure.


Thoughtful-WomanWhat Do You Think?

Have you considered creating a podcast? Do you have questions about podcasting that I could help you answer?


Website Design: 4 Must-Have Pages for Your Historian’s Website

Website DesignWhat content and information should you include as part of your historian’s website design?

Your website serves as the most important plank in your historian’s platform.

Your website serves as your online hub, the place people go to find out more information about you, your work, and how to get in contact with you.

For many creating a website can seem daunting, especially when it comes to what content you should include. (We will discuss how and where to create a website in a future post.)

In this post you will discover four pages that you should include in your historian’s website and four pages that you might include.


4 Must-Have Pages for Your Historian’s Website


1. Landing Page: The first page visitors see when they visit your website.

Landing Page ExampleThis page should contain a brief welcome, a succinct summary of who you are (1-3 sentences), an overview of the information and resources your website contains (i.e. list pages you want visitors to checkout such as your about page, blog, book page, and public speaking page), and a way for visitors to contact you, preferably link(s) to your e-mail address or primary social media account(s).

Landing Page Examples: Liana M. Silva, Keith Harris, Kenneth Owen.


2. About Page: The page that explains who you are.

The best about pages get to the point and do not stretch accomplishments.

They contain a professional headshot and contact links.

About Page ExampleSome experts recommend that you write no more than two, short paragraphs on your about page; studies reveal that people have an attention span of about 8 seconds!

You can write as many paragraphs as you like, but be as succinct as possible. Keep large chunks of text to a minimum and make the information easy for visitors to skim by adding bold section titles.

You can also add photos or embed your CV at the bottom of your page.

I opted to create a separate page for my CV. About Page ExamplesMegan Kate NelsonJarret Ruminski, Kristen D. Burton


3. Research/Writing/Book Page(s): The page(s) where historians highlight their publications.

Books Page ExampleIf you have published a book, you should create a book page.

Book pages vary.

Some historians create a web page for each book.

Others offer a list of books with a photo of the cover and a brief synopsis of the book.

Book Page ExamplesChristopher Cameron and Ari Kelman


If you have not published a book, you should still create a publications or writing portfolio page.

You publication page should list your publications much like they appear on your CV, i.e. group your publications by type and introduce each type with a bolded section heading.

Some scholars also include a brief synopsis of their peer-reviewed journal articles.

When possible, include links to your publications. Publications Page Examples: Joe Adelman, Jana Remy, and Liz Covart (I offer my page because I couldn’t find another scholar who lists publications.)

Combined Publications Page Example


Some historians like to combine their books and articles into a single publications page.

Combined Publications Page Examples: Dan Cohen and Joyce E. Chaplin


4. Contact Page: The page that makes it easy for visitors to contact you.

Contact Page ExampleUse this page to provide links to your e-mail address and all social media accounts that you check regularly.

You could also include your mailing address, phone number, publisher, and literary agent.

Some historians also use a contact form.

Contact Page ExamplesAndrew Pegoda and Danielle McGuire


5 Optional Pages for Your Historian’s Website

1. Blog: blogs provide a fantastic medium to broadcast your ideas.

If you have a blog you should either keep the blog on your historian's website or provide a link from your historian's website to your blog.

If you have a blog, make sure you update it with some regularity.


OnlineHub2. Press/Media/News Page: This page lists information about your appearances in the press, public speaking engagements, or other positive news about you and your work.


3. Resources: Resource pages provide helpful information to your website's visitors. They also serve to draw visitors to your website.

The resources you offer could be as simple as a linked list of your favorite blogs, how-to resources, or useful articles.

Other ideas include social media hashtag lists specific to your subfield, links to your favorite online databases, or favorite books.


4. Teaching: If you teach history, consider creating a page that lists and describes the courses you teach or have taught.

Provide links to your syllabi whenever possible and consider offering a paragraph or two about your teaching philosophy.


Teaching Page Examples: Joseph M. Adelman offers 4 pages about his teaching: an overview, a blogging rubric, his work at Framingham State University, and the classes he taught at Johns Hopkins University.

John Fea has a page that links to his "Virtual Office Hours" YouTube videos.

Roy Rogers provides a page that lists the courses he has taught and links to individual webpages with information about each course.


5. Services: Do you provide a professional service such as writing, editing, research, or consulting?

Create a page that explains and offers your professional skills for hire.


Share StoryShare Your Story

What pages do you have on your historian’s website?

What questions do you have about how to create a website?



Why You Need a Platform & How to Build One

  1421697146_full.pngDo you have a platform?

A platform is a suite of tools that you can use to make you and your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

In this post you will discover why you need a platform and how you can build one.


Why You Need a Platform

Publishers want historians to have platforms because they want their authors to be able to sell books through who they are, who they know, and through social media.

However, an historian’s need for a platform extends further than their publisher’s desire to sell books.

Platforms allow historians to broadcast their ideas beyond their books and classrooms: They enable historians to publicize their ideas and research to the public.

The public needs to know, and in most cases wants to know, about history. A public that knows about the past can learn from successes and mistakes and act in a way that builds a better future.

Historians have the power to affect a better future by empowering the public with information about their history.

Promoting History, Not Propaganda

Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly wrote four of the thirteen best-selling history books in the United States in 2014.

Why did their books sell so well?

Aside from the fact that Beck and O'Reilly wrote them without jargon and without copious notes and citations (or any notes or citations), Beck and O’Reilly have platforms.

Historians may not have the platform that Fox News provides these propagandists, but we can put a dent in Beck and O’Reilly's “history” book sales by building platforms en masse.

The individual platforms of many historians will change what the history-loving public understands about history and how they discover and learn about their past.

Together we can make a difference in how the public appreciates and perceives history.

We may also be able to sell more history books.


How to Build a Platform

Platforms consist of several building blocks, or planks, that you can stand on to be heard and seen as a subject-matter expert or authority.


7 Platform Building Blocks

Historians-Platform1. Website: A website should be the first element you build when you create your platform.

Your website will serve as the primary place where people go to find more information about you and your work.


2. Publications: Published writing highlights your professional knowledge and establishes you as an expert in your field.

Publications also have the ability to connect you with readers.

If you want to create a wide-audience for your work, publish in non-academic magazines, newspapers, and blogs in addition to academic publications.


3. Newsletters: Newsletters provide you with a direct link to your readers and followers.

They work in conjunction with your website to call attention to you and your work.

You will need to develop a mailing list of people you can send your newsletters to if you want to make use of this weekly or monthly platform tool. (This will be the topic of a future post.)


4. Public Speaking: Public speaking engagements such as book talks or lectures at your local library, museum, or historical society provide you with opportunities to present your research and ideas in person.

They also furnish opportunities for your audience to meet you and get to know you as a person.


2637715-15. Social Media: Social media offer powerful outreach and community-building tools you can use to connect with a worldwide audience.

The popularity of interacting and connecting with other people online has given rise to many different networks, therefore you have a choice in the way(s) you interact with others.

However, bear in mind that the information you post and the community of fans and followers you build on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. ultimately belong to those platforms. Therefore, social media should always be used in conjunction with a personal website, e-mail list, or blog.


6. Education: Education can be an important tool for historians, although not as important as producing a strong body of well-researched and well-presented work.

If you went to graduate school and have a masters or doctorate in history, mention this fact on your website about page and in the byline for your published work.


7. Volunteer Work: People love people who give back to their communities.

If you have helped a local historical society put together an exhibit, led the quest to save a local historic site, or have participated in some other community-minded organization let people know about it.

You can highlight Uncle_Samthese humanizing activities in your social media profiles, website about page, or bylines.

Additionally, volunteer work will help you network with people the old-fashioned way: by placing you in direct contact with other like-minded people. Your fellow volunteers may become your friends and biggest supporters when it comes time to spread the message about the history you study and write about.

Although volunteer work can serve as a powerful tool in your platform, you should only undertake it if you have a passion for a cause and want to better your community.



social media - internet networking conceptA platform comprises a suite of tools you can use to make your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

This post has outlined seven different elements that you could use to build your platform.

You do not have to adopt and cultivate all seven elements, but you should build a professional website.

As you consider which of the above planks you want to use to build your platform, think about how each element will help you showcase your authority and whether they will give people a good reason to follow you and your work.

Choose elements that will help you highlight your genuine character and humanity. People like to follow and support genuine and helpful individuals.

We have just scratched the surface of platforms.

Over the course of 2015 (and maybe 2016), we will explore all of these platform elements in greater detail because we need to build better platforms if we want to convey our historical knowledge to the large public of history-lovers.

Please let me know if you want to know more about a specific platform element. I will try to write and schedule requested posts sooner rather than later. E-mail Twitter | Facebook  


BooksHere are three books about building professional platforms that I recommend:

Chuck Sambuchino, [simpleazon-link asin="B00FGVWODY" locale="us"]Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author[/simpleazon-link]

Michael Hyatt, [simpleazon-link asin="159555503X" locale="us"]Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World[/simpleazon-link]

Seth Godin, [simpleazon-link asin="1591842336" locale="us"]Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us[/simpleazon-link]


How Historians Can Re-purpose Conference Papers & Lectures

Otis RepurposeHistorians spend a lot of time writing conference papers and lectures. Often we use this content to serve a singular purpose and then we forget about it.

But what if you could turn your conference papers and lectures into something more? Something that helps you promote your work and generate more interest in it?

In this post you will learn how you can repurpose your conference papers and lectures into video and audio content that will build your platform and help you reach a wider audience.

How to Reach a Wider Audience

A great time slot on a conference program may allow as many as 50-100 people to hear your paper. Often attendance will be less than that.

You may experience similar attendance for one of your public talks or lectures.

But what if you could repurpose and reuse the material in your conference papers and lectures to reach a wider audience with minimal work, would you do it?

Technology has made it possible for you to make all of the content you produce accessible to a wider audience.

You could transform your conference papers and lectures into blog posts, feature articles for online and print newspapers and magazines, podcast episodes, or educational videos. All of these mediums will help you spread word about your work to a wider audience.

In particular, videos and podcasts make up some of the most shared media on the internet. These media types will help you attract an audience who loves history, but doesn't necessarily have time to read or the ability to attend a conference.


Video ContentCreating Video Content

Using software like Screenflow or SlideShare and a lavalier microphone, you could record your conference papers or lectures as you give them.

You could also use these tools to record your work from the comfort of your home or office.

Software like Screenflow captures whatever you show on your computer screen.

A lavalier microphone clipped to your blouse or lapel will capture your voice as you deliver your paper or lecture. You can use this audio recording as a podcast episode and/or add it to your Screenflow or SlideShare file to create a narrated slide show presentation.

Uploading this audio and video content to your website will make it accessible to all of your followers, students, colleagues, potential publishers, and other people interested in your work.

You can also link this content to your web-based CV or resume to draw attention to your capabilities as both a scholar and a public speaker, a great resource for those interested in hiring a speaker.



Below you will find a video recording of “Memory, Community, Loyalty: Albany, New York, 1763-1776,” the paper I presented at the 2014 Conference on New York State History. I recorded the video using Screenflow and a [simpleazon-link asin="B00BHN05H2" locale="us"]Rode Smartlav Lavalier Microphone[/simpleazon-link].

I have posted the video of my paper with 3 goals in mind:

1. To provide people who did not attend my panel with the opportunity to hear my paper.

2. To spread the reach of my work.

YouTube is a powerful search engine. By uploading and tagging my video with relevant search terms, I hope to increase awareness about my research using the power of Google and YouTube search.

When people search for Albany, New York, the American Revolution, the French and Indian War, the British Empire, the British Army, or the fur trade, perhaps Google and YouTube will present my video as an option.

3. To enhance my online CV.

I have linked the title of my conference paper to this video so that anyone who peruses my online CV can view my presentation.



Historians spend a lot of time creating conference papers and lectures. By repurposing this content into audio and visual presentations we will increase the likelihood that interested persons will find out about us and benefit from our research.


What Do You Think

Do you repurpose your conference papers and lectures? If so, how? 


"Memory, Community, Loyalty: Albany, New York, 1763-1776”