Henry Hyde: Designer, Writer, Editor

Overload Alert: Please Help!

Overload Alert: Please Help!

Henry's overworked!I’m spreading myself too thin, with a host of different blogs, running on separate sites and under different domain names. As well as this, I of course design and edit a monthly magazine (Miniature Wargames), provide graphics work for a number of clients and now have contracts for three new books for Pen & Sword, and plans for launching my own self-published fiction writing career now I’m a member of ALLi.

Something’s gotta give!

I’m sure some of you have faced similar situations, where you have realised that you need to focus or drown and been faced with difficult, perhaps even life-changing decisions. This is hard: I have a multi-faceted personality and enjoy expressing myself about many things.

One option is to bring everything together onto the one site here at http://henryhyde.co.uk and simply divide the site into appropriate sections, so whatever I write about (writing, design, editing, photography, art, travel, wargaming, even cats) will generate more traffic to the one site, improving its Google ranking. I’m really not bothered about hiding my interests and hobbies – they are part of who I am.

This move would also cut my brain overload and massively simplify the management of all these aspects of my personality.

In addition to the main site, I have:
Henry’s Cats [now closed as of 25th July – yay!]
Venice and the Veneto [now closed as of 25th July – woohoo!]
Sussex Sights [now closed as of 25th July – phew!]
Henry’s Wargaming
The Wargaming Compendium
Joe Schmoe’s Wargaming Journal
and, of course my Payhip site for selling digital products.

I have plans to – no, hold that headline, I NEED to – massively increase my writing and blogging over the next 12 months, and would like to experiment more with podcasting and/or vidcasting (I haven’t decided whether to do this solo or with interviews). But to do this, I really need to focus on what I most want to communicate and what you, as followers, would like me to communicate about.

So, my question is, what do you think? Should I condense everything into one site, or do you think the variety of subject matter would confuse visitors? Do you think I should just cut my losses and abandon most of these blogs (which, as you’ll see, have either not recently, rarely or never been updated – nice ideas that I simply haven’t had the time to exploit), perhaps merging some of them, but keeping them separate? What would you be most interested in seeing from me?

And finally, I’m going to create new Mailchimp newsletters. For these, I would definitely keep the subject matter separate: initially, one for wargaming, and another for writing, design and editing.

All comments appreciated, so tell me what you think!

27 thoughts on “Overload Alert: Please Help!

  1. cptshandy

    Condensing into one blog sounds like a good idea. I’d be interested in reading all kinds of stuff (although I’m not too excited about cats :-)).

    I’ve seen people split up their blogs into different separate blogs, but I’m not too keen on that, as I forget to check them and therefore sometimes miss stuff. However, you might run the risk of losing readers if you keep everything together on one blog – I’ve realized I probably feature too much history topics and too little shiny wargaming stuff on my blog, which somehow seems to diminish readers instead of attracting them…

    Personally, I like blogs to be an expression of a person’s passions and I find it exciting to follow someone’s journey through different interests. Concerning your blog, naturally I’m most interested in wargaming, but I’d gladly read about design, travels, photography… bring it on!

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks for the comments (T.B., if I guess correcty?)

      Indeed, the whole issue of repelling part of the audience because of what they might think of other aspects of your life is a thorny one, but I’m coming to realise that if that’s how they react, then they’re probably not the kind of people who will really be in tune with whatever you do. I’m also a great fan of Joanna Penn and her decision to stop self-censoring. If it’s part of who you are, then you should get it out there, and if some people don’t like what they read, well, that’s life, and they’ll wander off to find someone who’s a better ‘fit’ for their own tastes, morals and so on.

      You and I both know that the elephant in the room here is wargaming. Over the years, I’ve had some really peculiar reactions – perhaps inevitably, even more so since I first launched Battlegames. You should see some of the expressions when that inevitable question arises at dinner parties or social getherings: “So, what do you do for a living?”

      “I play with toy soldiers, recreating historical conflicts or sometimes entirely imaginary ones, write about it, and create a monthly magazine for fellow enthusiasts which sells all around the world.”

      At best, some people react with genuine curiosity. Once in a blue moon, someone (it’s usually a man) confesses “Ooh, I used to do that!” or “Oh, yes, our son loves that Warhammer thing (but I’m sure he’ll grow out of it).” And rarely, “Wow, that sounds terrific, can I have a go?”

      At worst, I’ve had people literally sneer, turn their back on me and move away. And recently, whilst attending a social function in London (at Horse Guards parade, as a matter of fact), a somewhat inebriated woman bellowed theatrically, “Oh good god, real men would never play with toy soldiers!”

      Well, those are the kind of narrow-minded idiots that I wouldn’t want anything to do with in the ‘real’ world anyway. It’s not like I’m a bible-thumping evangelist, carrying around a copy of The Wargaming Compendium, standing on street corners or going door-to-door, trying to ‘convert’ the unwargamely to the True Path. There are many aspects of the hobby which are entirely laudable, and which I really wish more people did know about and appreciate, but I won’t force it down people’s throats. Why, however, people think it’s perfectly fine to yack on for ages about bloody golf or football or reality TV shows is of course a question in itself – why should these things be seen as more ‘socially acceptable’?

      Well, there’s an article in that, isn’t there? 😉

      1. cptshandy

        There is a reason why I write as ‘Shandy’ (and yes, I’m T.B.). Interestingly though, I get more and more relaxed about that and care less about who of the blog readers know my real name… so perhaps this is a good sign. Still, very few of my ‘real life’ friends know that I play wargames.

        Perhaps a blog like yours would be a good way to showcase wargaming insofar as it shows that wargamers are interested in all kinds of things. There might sometimes be a tendency among wargamers to exclusively focus on their shiny toys. That’s why I enjoyed your podcast ‘View from the Veranda’ so much, as it linked wargaming to so many other exciting topics – rambling (or let’s call it ‘free association’ :-)) can be a good thing as it can lead out of narrow avenues.

  2. Mel

    Bring it all under one roof. Spend some time planning the site, storyboard the site design, same way you would a book. To make ongoing maintenance an easier task, look beyond WordPress, to other CMS solutions like Joomla or Drupal.

    The effort you put into planning and design will pay dividends later, but, you already know that!

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks for the feedback, Mel, and yes, indeed, everything is going into the mixer and goodness knows what might emerge.

  3. Rex Withers

    My thoughts, “group” them together but only by genre, for example the tourist type ones under on domain name/site and the wargame ones on a different domain name/site, with domain re-directions for existing domain names of course.

    I use Joomla and a blogging product called easyblog (No affiliation) http://stackideas.com/easyblog. Allows people to subscribe in a very granular way is they wish (or just for everything). Also allows for posting by email (with images auto resized) saves a lot of time.

    After I purchased your book it took me a while to find you (in totality) on the web as then content was spread across multiple web sites it was only after I joined the dots that I also subscribed to your mag so certainly from that perspective grouping would be better.

    By the way thanks for the great content!!.

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks Rex, I appreciate your very useful feedback. Having two ‘personas’ — wargaming, perhaps plus history, and ‘the other stuff’ — is certainly a viable way forward. Could/should that also include historical fiction, which is one of the genres I’m exploring? What about fantasy and sci-fi, which of course interests many wargamers as well as those who wouldn’t dream of playing with miniatures…

      There’s a lot to think about here!

      1. Mel

        You can achieve the same effect from a single domain, by using sub-domains, eg wargaming.henryhyde,com, graphicdesign.henryhyde.com, etc. It can be achieved much easier, with less maintenance overhead, by simply using different themes for each “grouping” within your cms.

        You provide an interesting case study, unique among clients I’ve worked with, as your hobby and business personas enjoy a symbiotic relationship, which is another reason for putting everything in the one place.

        However, whether you go for a single site, or multiple sites, you still need to generate the content. To be honest, without knowing the specifics, I suspect the the root cause of the overload,is content generation, rather than site maintenance.

        Figure out how much content you can reasonably support, and cut your cloth from there.

        1. henryhyde Post author

          Hello Mel and thanks for stopping by.

          Yes, the issue is content generation and the simple inconvenience that there are only 24 hours in a day and I need to sleep, eat and do those other necessaries like, oh, yes, earning a living!

          The subdomains is a really, really good idea. I own a raft of different domain names (at some expense!) but have wanted to bring them all under the henryhyde.co.uk umbrella, so what you suggest is a viable option.

          I’ve been designing sites a long time — my first was in 1996 — but in recent years have opted for WordPress as the simplest platform as it means that I don’t have to worry about coding most of the time. (I simply got bored with the back end work, and I’m a front end kinda guy…)

          But I am aware of Joomla, Drupal and other CMS options, so I’m not ruling anything out.

          1. Mel

            Hi Henry

            You will be aware of this, but for general information, one of the downsides of sub-domains, is that you need to install a separate instance of your cms in each sub-domain. This does complicate the maintenance task.

            WordPress is a perfect;y good solution, and it does allow you to use different themes, in different parts of your site. This gives you a unique look and feel for each of your different content groups, but, only one instance of WordPress to maintain.

            Cheers

            Mel

  4. Rex Withers

    Yes it’s a complex beast all right, you could just not work so hard? (No I can’t say that I enjoy the content too much).

    Add to that the concept on how to monetize some of it as well (you have to eat right) it’s fair to receive payment for the work that you do. I find in my own business that in theory the more I blog and the more resources I provide the less (again in theory) my customers will require my individualized (billable) services.

    I occasionally watch a YouTube channel that has a “backstage” sort of concept where some content is free but in order to get the backstage content you need to be a supporter (i.e. pay a small fee), that’s an interesting concept but I do wonder how many people do actually pay.

    Anyway Ill leave you to consider all that good luck with your plans.

    Rex

  5. guy

    From the way you’ve expressed yourself in this blog I’d suggest you’ve already decided to move everything into a single place. And I think that is a good move if (a) you don’t bother with the ones that haven’t been updated in ages (they can always be added later) (b) you do so in a way that allows people to follow specific bits as they wish (perhaps as Rex suggested, and my experience with Joomla was very positive) and (c) please do not say you play with toy soldiers. It may seem a silly comment, I did it for years, however I stopped doing so as I believe it belittles the hobby and what we do.

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks Guy. As for the “playing with toy soldiers” bit, I’ve adopted that because generally speaking, it disarms people and simply preempts the general response to “I play wargames”.

      I’ve experienced other stock responses, depending on what I lead with, such as “I’m a writer,” which gets “Oooh, I’m thinking of writing a book” or “will I have heard of you?” No doubt your brother,as a doctor, gets “oh, I’m sure you can help, I’ve got this pain…”

  6. nobby531

    I follow one of your blogs and subscribe to your magazine. I may be following two shortly seeing the list above. I met you briefly at Salute, have had helpful words from you by email, and found your compendium a very good read.

    Now, if I may be so bold on the basis of the above, I would advise that you do exactly what you feel is best for you and especially considering any issues of stress. You obviously monitor what you do so if the changes do not work to the standards you require than change again. Sorry if that is granny teaching egg sucking, but I got the idea from a few minutes at Salute that you were stressed and I know from experience that isn’t good.

    Personally, I would prefer all in one place. I have little interest in cats, being a dog person, but I can skim it and choose to leave it, or read in detail. That is what I do with the wargamers I follow when they blog about periods or subjects I am not interested in.

    I hope that helps and that I haven’t been over familiar.

    Best wishes.

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks so much for your comments (Derek, isn’t it?). I really appreciate hearing from a regular reader. And let me start by saying that you need hardly worry about being over-familiar when I’ve invited comments!

      Salute? Probably the most stressful day of the year, and this year more than ever because we knew something was up with the boss of Atlantic Publishers — as it turned out, he’d opened negotiations with Warners to sell the magazine!

      Clearly, consolidation is definitely on the cards and the great thing about getting feedback of this kid is that it helps to crystallise what’s already been churning around in my head. As you say, site visitors are perfectly capable of deciding what they want to read as long as the different categories are clearly signposted.

  7. Roz Morris @Roz_Morris

    Hey Henry! I used to think I had to have multiple personas – the writing coach persona and the fiction writer. I built a big following for the Nail Your Novel stuff and when I published my novel I was worried they might not all like it. So I started another blog and a separate Twitter identity.

    I didn’t go nearly as far as you, but I found the two-time tweeting was too much!

    Seriously, I think we get this from having worked in magazines. We’re used to serving a targeted audience with carefully honed content. If we generate content that belongs to a different audience, we start another magazine. But online life doesn’t have to be like that, and people who get to know us as, well, people, don’t mind if we have diverse interests.

    Certainly I found that nobody minded when I merged the two Twitter identities. I made the second blog into The Undercover Soundtrack and actually it’s continued to thrive. I could merge them all into one but it’s no trouble to keep them separate, and actually I like having the Soundtrack pieces in one creative space. I link to them from my main blog anyway so there is one coherent conduit that encompasses all I do, creatively.

    So merge, merge merge, Henry. You already do it effortlessly on Facebook, and nobody minds if you hop around your interests. Or wear many hats. x

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Hi Roz and thanks for your thoughts.

      And what brilliant thoughts they are! The magazine analogy is something I’d never considered — I think you’re bang on the money there. Perhaps I should switch over to. ‘newspaper’ mode, because they tend to have different sections covering, well, just about everything.

      As far as Twitter is concerned, it’s been interesting to see how what I planned has been ignored by a proportion of my followers anyway. I was certain that those who knew me because of wargaming and my book would only be interested in my @battlegames and @MiniatureWG identities, but in fact a fair few have latched into my @Henry__Hyde thread. This is one of the things that alerted me to the fact that I might be tying myself in unnecessary knots about keeping the different sides of my online personality separate.

      I shall continue to wear many hats, but perhaps just on the one head. My days as Zaphod Beeblebrox are over. X

  8. ashley858

    I left a comment of FB, but as I’ve now found this site I’ve put it in my RSS feeds for later perusal. IMO I think you’re spreading yourself too thin. All those site need content, and I’d suggest you need to think what are your core interests, and focus on them.

    As for the wargaming thing, I get quite twitchy about the subject for many of the reasons you describe, and don’t get me started on military fiction where I was mobbed at a writers group for the audacity of portraying the military in a positive light.

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks Ashley, great to hear from you.

      Indeed, I’m going through one of those life stages. I turned 54 this year and had that realisation that if I’m going to achieve even a fraction of my ludicrous ‘to do’ list, I need to focus pretty ruthlessly. The fact is that whilst I love certain aspects of online life, one of the main problems is that it can fool you into thunking you’re achieving something when actually, the vast majority of it is entirely ephemeral. What I want and need to do is write books and my online life needs to support that, so being disciplined with my online time is increasingly important.

      I know I’m not alone in this — I’m lucky to have a lot of author friends now — you included, of course — and this subject comes up often! I also share your pain about the reaction to not just wargaming, but anything military, including some unforgivable remarks about Combat Stress I heard a while back. All we can do is walk away: those people will never buy our stuff, let one be our friends.

  9. Stationery Explorer

    It’s a tricky one, although arguably much of your content is related. I think the umbrella site is the best idea, perhaps you could have two distinct sections to cover your business and personal interests. It may even help to keep things separate using subdomains (wargaming.henryhyde.co.uk; cats.henryhyde.co.uk, etc). This should make it easier to keep an eye on which section is attracting most traffic and keep things a little more separate on where your Google ranking is concerned. Hope this helps, but it’s been a while since I’ve had anything to do with web-work!

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Hi Chris and thanks for your input.

      Yes, as Mel mentioned, sub-domains are certainly an option I’m considering. There’s also the question of whether I should be driven (pardon the pun) by the traffic, or by what I want to express. One of the reasons I set up so many domains in the first place was because a few years ago, all the pro advice was to have as many sites as possible and populate them all with Google Ads to generate revenue. Well, that fell flat on its face, because the amount of revenue generated was pitiful and now, Google Ads are falling out of favour compared to other forms of revenue generation.

      Also, as Mel said, my hobby is currently also one of my businesses – I think it was Rich Clarke who pointed out to me that I am one of those rare beasts, a professional wargamer! But I’m also in the process of trying to re-balance my life so that there’s more space for the other stuff too, such as writing fiction and exploring my interests in other areas such as art and music (not that these things will ever be available for public consumption, you’ll be glad to hear…).

      Part of my problem is that I’m what used to be called an auteur, though it sounds terribly pompous nowadays: I love controlling all aspects of production, from creating the content to laying it out to publishing it (which is also why I joined ALLi). But the busier I get, the more I realise I just can’t juggle with so many balls at the same time, and I don’t want to get to the point where it affects the quality of the work.

  10. Helena

    This all strikes very close to home, Henry.

    My gut reaction would be to 1) combine all your blogs into one (e.g. this here henryhyde.co.uk site), and 2) trim the breadth of your output somewhat.

    As you and other contributors have posted already, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a single blog site displaying a range of the writer’s interests. My own Chocolate Ocelot blog covers a variety of the topics that I want to write about, from gaming to gender identity, from saying goodbye to an old car to a travelogue from the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

    I think of my blog as a general interest Sunday magazine with a variety of articles, long and short, on different topics. Nobody is likely to want to read every single article, but that’s what the blog’s categories and labels are for. But it is all me, and all facets of me. I think it’s OK to have a blog site that is all of you, and not filtered for the perceived audience. Lord knows we (I) can find ourselves instinctively filtering how we present to other folk in real-life conversations (as in whether to tell people you’re a wargamer); it’s nice to be honest, out and proud about all aspects of one’s writing on one’s own blog at least.

    The addition of a few more categories to your henryhyde blog, for example Cats, Wargaming, Venice and Veneto, should not shock or alienate your readership overmuch, I would hope.

    Like you, like loads of people, I have a range of interests bouncing off each other in my head. I like to hop around from subject to subject, though I suspect this may be not be conducive to a single-minded assault on Getting My Bloody Book Written 🙂

    So much for point 1. As for reducing the breadth of your output, you do sound very spread thin! Something or things have to got to go, for the sake of your stress levels. Look at your poor face on that photo 😉

    That line about focus and communication from your post struck me:

    “I really need to focus on what I most want to communicate and what you, as followers, would like me to communicate about.”

    I wonder if what you most want to communicate (A) may not necessarily be what others want you to communicate about (B). You might perhaps consider satisfying either criterion A or B, but not both 🙂

    At this point I wanted to include an Exclusive Or logic diagram, but decided not to go Full Geek.

    1. henryhyde Post author

      Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Helena, I really appreciate that you took the time to write so much.

      Your Chocolate Ocelot output is really impressive, by the way, though much more of a journal because of the way Google Blogger presents things. As someone who used to design a lot of websites and lecture about web usability (really), I still have the need to enable visitors to navigate quickly to the bits they want – but I need to trim the variety of bits on show and FOCUS!

      What a brilliantly insightful comment, by the way:

      I wonder if what you most want to communicate (A) may not necessarily be what others want you to communicate about (B). You might perhaps consider satisfying either criterion A or B, but not both 🙂

      I shall have to take that under consideration, as Captain Picard might say…

      And yes, your comment about the Sunday supplements is very much in parallel to my thoughts after Roz’s comments, that I’ve been thinking too rigidly in separate magazine format.

      Sometimes I just wonder if I’m really thick and can’t see the bleedin’ obvious! 😀

      1. Helena

        The journal style layout and lack of navigability on my Blogger site bugs the hell out of me, but it’s free and I can’t face the hassle of building my own or migrating to WordPress 🙂

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