I’m SO excited to announce that my ecommerce site is live and ready for orders!
The official launch was announced in my January newsletter and on social media on 01/08/24, although Patreon subscribers had early access to a soft rollout of the new website the day before, along with a patron-exclusive promo code for 15% off as a membership perk.
About a month earlier, patrons unlocked a behind-the-scenes video to see the back end of the website as I was building it, followed by a recent video this week showing the multi-step process it takes to add products to the site.
Other than those sneak peeks for Patreon subscribers, I’d mostly kept my progress under wraps as I spent my month-and-a-half break between events photographing products, editing the images, creating a spreadsheet with assigned skus for all of the products and variants (aka the individual designs for each product), building the website from scratch, weighing items, ordering packing materials, setting up shipping parameters, and plugging in the details for each variant as I added them to the site.
Read on to learn about the new website, challenges I faced, overall design, features, prospects, and more…
The NEW On The Cobblestone Road Ecommerce Site Powered by Square
I established On The Cobblestone Road (the website you’re on right now) in 2016. It’s operated through WordPress, and this is where you’ll find my blog, event schedule, art and photography galleries, about pages, information about my novels, and more.
The new ecommerce website is run through Squarespace, so although it utilizes my primary domain in the URL (onthecobblestoneroad.square.site), it’s actually a separate entity.
I opted to use Squarespace because I already use Square point of sale (POS) to process payments at events. Not only is my entire product library saved on that platform, but Squarespace also allowed me to build the new website for free with an impressive number of customizations at no extra charge (although paid upgrades are available).
This solution was easier than trying to equip the original OTCR site with a WordPress ecommerce plugin, which would have been extremely restrictive with any free version and likely would have required a paid subscription in addition to the existing annual costs of maintaining this website and domain. Utilizing Square’s free feature made the most sense to fit my needs rather than taking on extra expenses just to link WordPress to my existing Square library.
Although the two websites operate independently of each other, they still share my branded domain name and unique style, and they’re connected to each other with links so people can easily navigate between them. Just as I’ve always done here on this original website, I exclusively use my own photography and artwork, so you’ll likely recognize many of the images on the new website.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used my On The Cobblestone Road brand and domain to link with an external website that isn’t directly tied to my WordPress site. A few years ago, I created an apparel shop at merch.onthecobblestoneroad.com where customers can order my graphic designs on clothing, drinkware, and other merchandise. In that case, all of the designs are my own originals, but the production, shipping, and customer service is outsourced through a company called Spring, which manages all of the orders placed on that site.
With the addition of the new Square ecommerce website, I now operate three OTCR branded websites that each serve a unique purpose. This is in addition to the two other WordPress websites that I founded: The Chronicles of Avilésor and Green Witch Lunar Witch.
Products Available on the New Ecommerce Site
As I mentioned, the website’s initial launch was a soft rollout. I started with only a handful of products, including autographed copies of all three Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms books in hardcover and paperback, authentic Kit and Rayven Amínyte pendants, waterproof/weatherproof die-cut vinyl stickers, postcards, and mouse pads.
Since the initial launch, I’ve also added notecard packs and collectible Chronicles of Avilésor buttons that were released in three series, one for each book. Keychains, artboards, earrings, 3D-printed Amínyte pendants, book prints, and bookmarks are still on deck to be added and will be slowly introduced over time (now that my 2024 event season is about to start).
Adding products is a time-consuming process because, although the items are in my Square library for events, they’re not ready to be added to the website without a lot of prep work. For example, when someone orders a keychain at an event, I ring up “keychain,” process the payment, and that’s it. But for the website, I have to create an individual variant for every single keychain design that I have (which, at the moment, is 29… not counting the designs that I’ve discontinued).
Each variant needs its own product image, which means I have to photograph everything and edit/size the image. I also manually add the inventory, weight, price, and sku for every variant. In many cases, I need to add a product description, SEO information, and dimensions (if relevant) since I don’t need any of that for events. And I often need to update the product title as well to make it more descriptive and user-friendly. Example: A Fallen Hero was originally listed as “Book 1: AFH Paper” in Square so I could easily search for the product and have it abbreviated to fit on the small phone screen. When it was added to the website, I changed it to “Book 1: A Fallen Hero (Autographed).” The hardcover and paperback were combined as variants under one product listing rather than standalone products.
At this time, I am NOT planning to upload all of my products. Some of them will remain event exclusive, including items that are more difficult for me to ship, such as the canvas prints and puzzles. Supplemental items that I order from trusted retailers but don’t originally design/make myself, including the cosplay headbands and labradorite shards, will also not be available on the website. I want the website to focus exclusively on my art, books, and graphic designs.
New Feature: Gift Cards
Another exciting feature of the new Square site is the capability to purchase e-gift cards! This is a feature that I haven’t been able to offer before.
I’ve created seven unique designs using my own artwork and Chronicles of Avilésor graphics depending on whether you’re sending the gift to a CoA fan or someone who would appreciate the art products.
You can purchase a gift card by using this link or navigating to the “Gift Card” option in the top menu on the website.
For now, the gift cards are online only. I might consider ordering physical gift cards toward the end of the year for stocking stuffers at the holiday events as a test to see how they perform.
Additional Links to Shop, Subscribe, & Explore
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the new ecommerce website is a separate entity from my OTCR-branded apparel shop and primary website, but viewers can easily navigate to these other sites via links on the homepage. There, they’ll also find additional links to related websites. Some of them are ones that I operate, like the Chronicles of Avilésor website and a link to my Patreon community.
Others are for collaborations with other businesses, like the Ghost Realm candle. This was a fun collaboration project that I did with Old Soul Artisan in 2020. The “mystical forest” soy candle was inspired by the Chronicles of Avilésor, and I sell the candle at events. However, due to these products being breakable and requiring extra care when shipping, I have decided not to resell them on my own website. Instead, customers are redirected to purchase directly from Old Soul Artisan, who is better equipped to package and ship fragile products. I do still earn commission from online sales of the candle, so purchasing from Old Soul Artisan still supports me (in addition to supporting her small business as well).
I also recently added a link to Hic Sunt Dracones on the website. Many people are familiar with Clover and Thistle, my 3D-printed baby book dragons who guard the tip jar for me at events. My dragons are VERY popular… so much so that I have to keep a close eye on them because everyone wants to buy them (and they are not for sale)!
Although the dragons were not a direct collaboration with HSD, I did work with her to produce the 3D-printed Amínyte pendants that I sell at events, so I’m still happy to support her small, local business by featuring her on my website where I can easily direct people to buy their own book dragons since I’m asked about them so frequently. And we’ll see… there might be other collaborations with HSD in the future…
Updates to On The Cobblestone Road’s Existing Shop Page
Now that the new ecommerce site is live, a refresh of the shop page on the main site was necessary so I could properly link the websites with a directory.
The old shop page was functional, but it was cluttered with a lot of outbound links because the books were available through so many online retailers (especially the audiobook). The redesign has created a much cleaner layout that’s easier to browse and navigate.
Links to buy the books through retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. are still available, but I separated them onto a different page so they’re visible only for the people who are searching for the third-party retail links.
The primary shop page has been simplified with new graphics, large titles, and informational blurbs to direct people to the correct place whether they want to buy artwork or books directly from, place an order on Amazon, or shop for alternative products like the candle or my apparel designs. The links on the shop page echo the same links on the new ecommerce homepage.
Coming Up: Book IV Preorders on the New Website
This ecommerce website has been on my to-do list for a long time, and it feels good to finally see it functioning! I’m especially excited to have this new resource as I get closer to publishing the fourth book in my series.
With Book III, I offered preorders for autographed copies from the first print run. However, there were some challenges with the awkward combination of plugins I had to use on WordPress. Customers had to submit a form with their personal information, but then they had to pay separately and click a second “submit” button. I ran into issues with people submitting the form but not the payment and vice versa.
Having my Square site set up to take preorders for Book IV exactly the same way I would process a regular order is going to make everything a lot easier for everyone, including me!
I’m also thrilled to now be able to fulfill orders myself. I frequently had people buy the first book from me at an event and ask where they could get the other books later. I had to tell them that they could order from Amazon (but the books wouldn’t be autographed), or they could track me down at another event.
As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s much better to have people buy the books directly from me so Amazon isn’t taking a large cut of the profit. This will be better for my business, but it’s also better for fans so they have an option of getting autographed copies without having to wait for the next event in their area that works with their schedule. As I travel farther away from northwest Indiana, it’s harder for people to meet up with me since I don’t often return to some of those places frequently.
Let’s just say that it’s been a whirlwind start to 2024 right out of the gate… but I’m feeling REALLY good about the new website and my event lineup for this year so far!!
I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.
After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.
That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.
If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤