How to Make Custom Images for Your Blog Posts Without Hiring a Designer

This post by Neil Patel originally appeared on Quicksprout on 6/8/15.

The posts on this blog are typically 2,000 words long. Would you honestly read them if they were nothing but text? Sure, some of you would (and that’s amazing, thank you), but I could never blame anyone for not wanting to read a giant block of text.

This is why articles that include images get 94% more total views than articles that don’t.

Remember though, that stat is just an average. If you use images well, your traffic could increase even more.

It’s a win-win: you get more pageviews, and your readers get to enjoy reading more digestible content.

While social media isn’t the same as your blog posts, it illustrates the power of great images.

Posts on Facebook that include an image get 53% more likes than posts without an image. Additionally, they also make up 93% of the most engaging posts.


Read the full post, which includes 5 specific tips for making custom images, on Quicksprout.


The Telling Signs of Content Flops, and 6 Ways To Fix Content Marketer’s Worst Nightmare

This post by Olsy Sorokina originally appeared on the Hootsuite blog in 3/15.

Even the best-love brands have their haters—that’s unavoidable. So for marketers, it’s often better to focus on being memorable and stand out from the crowd. Think of all those commercial jingles that just won’t get out of your head, or anticipation of products associated with the coming of a new season (Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’m looking at you). Brands that achieve this do so by straying off the beaten path. Marketing guru Seth Godin calls this “finding your purple cow,” a term inspired by a short 19th century nonsense poem and used by Godin to describe being remarkable, and succeeding in advertising by thinking outside the box.

Should you be thinking about finding your own brand’s purple cow? Finding that truly unique way of telling your story means taking risks and surprising your audience. That means the first step down the path to a more memorable bovine brand is to figure out if you’ve been boring your followers.


3 warning signs that you might be boring your followers:

1. Your Twitter engagement rate is low

Once Twitter has rolled out their analytics tools to all users, determining how well your messaging is performing on the microblogging network is easier than ever. Perhaps the most telling of all metrics available to users is the engagement rate, a number calculated based on the number of impressions (i.e. how many people saw the Tweet) and the number of engagements (link clicks, favorites, retweets, etc.) with your Tweets. Obviously, the higher the engagement rate, the better you’re doing. We experienced this ourselves when we doubled our Twitter engagement rate in two months.


Read the full post, which includes two more signs you may be boring your readers and six tips for fixing boring content, on the Hootsuite blog.


Author Websites, Blogs, and Book Sales Pages

This post by Joel Friedlander originally appeared on his The Book Designer on 5/11/15.

Last week Stephanie Chandler invited me to do a presentation for the Nonfiction Writer’s Conference, an online event featuring lots of speakers on topics of interest to self-publishers and nonfiction authors.

The topic was “Essentials for Author Websites, Blogs and Book Sales Pages” and it was designed as a 40 minute teleconference presentation, so no visuals or slides like we would rely on in a webinar or live presentation.

(Stephanie also interviewed me last month for the Nonfiction Writer’s Association blog, and I got pretty personal in the interview. You can read it here: Expert Interview: Joel Friedlander)

For the last several years I’ve been giving talks, keynotes, and presentations to a variety of book industry groups and, to be honest, it’s one of the more enjoyable parts of my own platform building efforts.

But that’s a subject for another day.

Today I wanted to share with you the some of what went into this presentation, because thinking through your online strategy is never a bad idea. Because I use mind mapping to prepare many of my presentations, I’ll use the mind map for this event to illustrate the main points I wanted people to walk away with.


Read the full post on The Book Designer.


12 Writing Tips I’ve Learned After 20 Books and 3,000 Articles Over 20 Years

This post by Andrew Griffiths originally appeared on Inc.

As much as we might think the written word is slowly being phased out in favor of video, right now we are writing more than ever before, both in general communication and in sharing information through content. But very few people are actually taught to write the type of copy that we have to produce these days.

I write a lot. I write books, blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper columns, and much more. I’ve learned a lot, to the point where now I teach people to write and publish everything from books to blogs.

The following 12 tips have really helped me over the last 20 years, and they might prove helpful to you.


1. Always visualize a person who is your ideal niche whenever you write

For example, when I am writing an article for a small-business audience, I put a picture of three small-business owners whom I know on my computer and I write as if I were sitting and talking to them (in fact, as if I were sitting and having a cup of coffee with them).


2. To keep continuity with your writing voice, at the beginning of each session, go back and read what you wrote last time

This is a great tip to ensure that your writing style and voice stay constant. Great writers and popular columnists have a consistent voice and your writing will develop the same style if you follow this tip.


3. Don’t waste a whole session on a piece that isn’t working


Read the full post on Inc.


The 10 Commandments Of Authorial Self-Promotion

This post by Chuck Wendig originally appeared on his terribleminds site on 4/15/15. Note that it contains strong language.

*wheezes while stumbling down a mountain carrying ten stone tablets*

*dumps stone tablets on the ground and most of them break*

*coughs for like, 40 minutes*


Ahem. Okay. Yeah. Yes. Hi!

It is time to speak about the sticky subject of self-promotion. You’re a writer. You’ve written a book and somebody — you, a big publisher, a small publisher, some spider-eating alley hobo — has published it. And now you want to know how you promote the book so that the world can fling money at your face in order to greedily consume your unrefined genius. But it’s not easy. You don’t know what works. What makes sense. You don’t want to just stand on a street corner barking at passersby and hitting children with your book. But you also recognize that you’re just one little person, not some massive beast of marketing and advertising, hissing gouts of pixelated steam and vacuuming up potential buyers into the hypno-chamber that is your belly.

What do you do? How far can you go? What should you say?

Thus, I bring you these ten tablets.

Ten commandments about self-promotion for authors. In a later post I’ll get into the larger practicalities of self-promotion — what seems to work for me, what seems to do poop-squat for me — but for now, we’re going to cover the overall basics.

Let us begin.


Thou Shalt Throw Pebbles

The self-promotional reach of a single author is not very far.

Big publishers and companies have giant cannons.

You, however, have a satchel of pebbles.

A publisher will ideally dp outreach that puts your book in front of various folks within the distribution process — book buyers, librarians, the secret tastemaker cabal that operates out of a warehouse in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. You, as lone author, do not have that effect.

The best you can do is pick up one of your pebbles and throw it.


Read the full post on terribleminds.


7 Lessons Learned from Publishing 300 Guest Posts

This post by Neil Patel originally appeared on Quicksprout on 4/13/15.

Over the last three years, I’ve ramped up the amount of content I create. Not only do I blog three times a week on Quick Sprout and a few times a week on my personal blog, but I also write guest posts all over the web.

In fact, currently I publish slightly more than 100 guest posts a year. As of today, I have officially published my 300th guest post.

My experience writing guest posts taught me a lot. And I can tell you that if you want to generate a positive ROI from guest-posting, you can actually do so as long as you learn from my mistakes.

Here’s what I learned from writing 300 guest posts:

Lesson #1: Go after a broad audience
Your blog already attracts a narrow audience. If it doesn’t, you should reconsider the type of content you are publishing. By going too broad on your blog, you’ll end up gaining visitors, but no conversions.

I learned this the hard way by attracting thousands of visitors to my corporate blog who wouldn’t convert into customers.

But going after too narrow an audience with your guest posts is a terrible idea. Why? There usually aren’t a ton of niche places you can go to guest-post. And if you find a handful of them, they probably won’t have the traffic volume you need.


Read the full post on Quicksprout.


The Author Platform – You Definitely Need One and It Should Have Been Started Yesterday

This post by Karen Cioffi originally appeared on The Working Writer’s Club on 3/28/15.

Did you ever hear the expression, “a stitch in time saves nine?”

Whether you’re an author or freelance writer, that’s how you need to think of your writing platform. Get it started first, as the foundation of your business. It’s much more effective than trying to play catch-up.

If you’re an author, your platform needs to be in place before you hit the submissions road (if you’re going the traditional route). And, it certainly needs to be in place before you self-publish.

If you’re a freelance writer, you need to have an effective website and marketing strategies in place before you offer your services online.

To reinforce this thought, let me tell you about my father. He was in construction – he built homes. The first thing that gets done, after the blueprints are drawn, is digging for the foundation. Then the foundation is created. Then the house is built on top of the foundation.

It’s the same when building an online platform. Getting a website is the digging part; the added content and optimization of the website is the foundation of your platform.


Read the full post on The Working Writer’s Club.


Socially Awkward: A Simple Guide to Social Media

This post by Jandra Sutton with Steph Rodriguez originally appeared on San Francisco Book Review on 3/20/15.

Chances are you’ve read countless articles about the best ways to use social media outlets, like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, and devoured list after list of quick-tips—even “for dummies”—at an attempt to implement a wealth of information with varying degrees of success. It’s great that you’re using social media, but that’s only one part of the equation. You’ve already mastered all the basics to be accepted by the social media in-crowd: “like,” “share,” “tweet.” Yet, what about the things you should avoid at the risk of becoming a social media outcast? By following these simple guidelines to online etiquette, even the most socially awkward computer user will roam the halls of social media with much success.


Tasteful Self-Promotion by Online Appeal

Facebook and Twitter are perfect outlets to express a variety of thoughts and experiences like: how great the bike ride to work was, photographs of a tasty dish from that new, swanky restaurant in town, an interesting article you read, or even as a means to self-promote your brand or new novel.

Still, as a general rule, only 1 out of 5 posts should be blatantly self-promotional, like those including a link to buy your book. The other four, leave open to share a new blog post, comment on a topic relevant to your book, ask followers a question that interests them, or retweet that insightful article you read over the weekend. Flesh out your social media pages with more than just attempts to sell. This will further engage your loyal followers.


Read the full post on San Francisco Book Review.


How Do I Sell My Book? 6 Tips for New Authors

This post by Anne R. Allen originally appeared on her blog on 3/22/15.

Ruth and I get lots of email from fledgling authors, both indie and trad-pubbed. The majority ask pretty much the same question:

“I’ve got great reviews, I’m on social media, and I send out a newsletter—just like [my publisher/agent/a blog guru/this book I read] told me to: why isn’t my book selling? It’s been out for six months!!!”

In other words, everybody wants us to tell them how to achieve sure-fire publishing success.

But we won’t.

That’s not because we’re meanies. It’s because we are fresh out of magic spells. And our wands have been recalled to Hogwarts.

Yes, Ruth has had a number of books on the NYT bestseller list and I’ve been an Amazon bestseller.

But we couldn’t tell you exactly how a brand new author can climb up the charts right now. What we did worked for our books at the time. But times change. What worked even three months ago may not work now. Each new book, each new Amazon program change, and each new search engine algorithm change requires a different strategy.

Here’s the thing: there IS no sure-fire formula. There never was. Traditional publishers don’t have one and neither do indies.

Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying. Marketers only know what worked for certain books at a certain time.


Read the full post, which includes details on six specific strategies for raising your book’s visibility, on Anne R. Allen’s blog.


Google+ Is Being Dismantled, And That’s A Good Thing

This post by Nate Swanner originally appeared on Slashgear on 3/2/15. It’s being shared here because it should be of interest to the many authors who’ve used Google+ as the foundation and hub of their author platform efforts and web presence.

In a recent chat with Forbes, Google’s Sundar Pichai turned a few heads by noting Google+ would be considered as parts — not the sum of those parts. Rather than a social network, Plus would be a stream. And Photos. And Communications. Adding a bit of fuel to the fire was the subsequent dismissal/resignation of Dave Besbris as the head of Google+. Besbris took over for Vic Gundotra, who spearheaded Plus from inception. With a new boss in Bradley Horowitz, the circumstance around Plus might sound confusing. That’s because they kind of are.

The first thing to note is that Google+ isn’t going anywhere yet. It’s still Plus. Google has no plans to change that right now, regardless of how anyone considers it. You’ll still log on, and it’ll still be Google+.

Though Google isn’t saying Plus is dead, it was also never really lively. From the jump, it was dogged with a ‘ghost town’ moniker, and seen as just a bit too different to really latch on. Worse were those nearby streams, often full of people asking how everything worked, and being shamed by knowledgeable users or ignored. Plus was/is just weird.


Read the full post on Slashgear.


The Ultimate Guide to Finding Images for Book Promotion

This post by Dana Lynn Smith originally appeared on her The Savvy Book Marketer site on 2/11/15.

When someone lands on your website, book sales page or social post, you may get only a fraction of a second to capture their attention before they decide to move on. Photos and illustrations (along with strong headlines) are key to drawing the eye and breaking up large blocks of text to make it more inviting.

Carefully selected images can also convey a sense of the message contained in the text, but sometimes bloggers choose beautiful or whimsical images to capture the reader’s attention. (I ran across this gnome image while working on this article and just couldn’t resist!)


Copyright Concerns
Like our writing, the work of photographers and illustrators is protected by copyright. The creators of photos and illustrations can choose to make their work available to others through various types of licenses that govern how and where the images can be used and how they are compensated.

It doesn’t make sense to buy an image for every blog post or social post, but it can be a challenge to find images at no charge. Following are some tips for finding and using images in your book promotion.

Creative Commons Licenses
Many images are available free under a “Creative Commons License”. Although there is no charge for using the image, there may be restrictions on how it’s used and you may be required to give credit to the creator. See the bottom of this page for an explanation of various types of creative commons licenses.

Here are two sources of free creative commons images:


Read the full post on The Savvy Book Marketer.


An Author's Field Guide To Internet Trolls

This post by Publetariat founder and Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton originally appeared on her Indie Author blog on 6/8/09 and is reprinted here in full with her permission.

‘Author Platform’ is the buzzphrase of the moment. If you’re doing a good job of creating and maintaining that all-important communication channel between yourself and the public, it’s only a matter of time before the web trolls descend upon you to ruin things for everyone. Herewith, I present a relevant excerpt from Ms. Gertrude Strumpf-Hollingsworth’s “Encyclopedia of Annoyances, Bothers and Frustrations”, which provides a valuable natural history lesson in the identification and management of the species most likely to darken an author’s virtual doorstep.

The Internet Troll (webicus infuriatum) is a hardy, highly adaptable family of parasites with established populations all over the web. Most leading Techno-Naturalists classify it as a viral organism due the fact that it reproduces by infecting members of targeted populations. Once exposed to webicus, susceptible individuals soon display the aggression, vitriol and boorishness which are the identifying hallmarks of all Trolls.

Hiding behind a pseudonym, webicus will quickly become the dominant element in any online ecosystem which provides it with a steady supply of attention and argument. In fact, webicus is so skilled in monopolizing these resources that it frequently drives off larger, but more peaceable, local populations. While all Trolls are destructive, there are perhaps none so pernicious as the subspecies which target author websites and online writer communities. Armed with a voluble nature and much larger vocabularies than other Trolls, these are particularly troublesome.


The Queen Bee/King Drone (lordicus cliqueium)

Behavior: Lordicus begins by befriending charter members and site owner/administrators alike with its initial friendliness and offers of assistance. With favors banked and loyalties established, lordicus reveals its true nature when another community member voices a dissenting view, or becomes as well-liked as lordicus. In either case, lordicus and its followers close ranks to attack or freeze out the other member, claiming to speak on behalf of the entire community.

Control: The only effective method of lordicus control is a strongly-worded email from the site owner or administrator. Lordicus’ response is invariably a dramatic, martyred leave-taking from the site, after which it will continue to lurk and foment dissention among other members via off-site communications.

Identifying Call: A shrill, “Who do you think you are?”, sometimes followed by a low-pitched, “Nobody cares what you think, anyway.”


The Puffed Pedant (self-importantia verbosia)

Behavior: Self-importantia is known for its lengthy, patronizing deconstructions of other members’ writing, in which it takes great pleasure in pointing out every broken rule of grammar, plotting, characterization and the like, regardless of whether or not said rules were broken intentionally, as a stylistic choice. Given that s.i. is never a published author in its own right, one might expect other community members to routinely disregard its remarks. However, s.i. posts with such smug conviction that it effects a sort of Jedi Mind Trick on the least experienced and most gullible members of the community.

Control: Since s.i. doesn’t technically overstep a site’s Terms of Service, there’s little the site owner/admin can do to put a stop to its antics. It was once thought that exposing the Pedant to the works of Kurt Vonnegut or Anthony Burgess would humble and silence the creature, but field studies have proven it will merely label such works “the exception that proves the rule” and emerge both unscathed and uneducated by the experience. Depriving s.i. of the attention, argument, and writing samples it craves usually proves more effective.

Identifying Call: A repetitive, clucking, “Do your homework.”


The Prickly Recluse (hypersensitivium rex)

Behavior: This species is known for its uncanny ability to incorrectly interpret the tone or meaning of any other member posts, regardless of how innocuous those posts may be, invariably choosing the most negative or insulting meaning possible and taking that meaning entirely personally. From there, hypersensitivium will repeat and repost its incorrect interpretation in an effort to rally support and sympathy for itself.

Control: First-time victims generally interpret the Recluse’s behavior as innocent misunderstanding, and will usually attempt to resolve the matter with an apologetic, clarifying post. However, since hypersensitivium will misinterpret the palliative post as well, such efforts are destined to fail. A warning post or email from the site administrator will generate one last, self-pitying post from the Recluse, followed by several weeks of absence from the site. It is from this latter behavior that the Recluse gets its name.

Identifying Call: A sharp, striking, “How dare you!”


The PubPro Mimic (wannabeum knowitallia)

Behavior: This type of Troll masquerades as a publishing industry professional with many years of relevant experience, yet never offers any proof of its claims and simply ignores all requests for such. Nevertheless, using its supposed trove of expertise as bait, wannabeum easily attracts a cadre of insecure writers looking for a “secret handshake” or other insider knowledge that might give them an edge in getting published. Since wannabeum lacks the expertise to which it lays claim, its haughty assertions about writing, getting an agent, publishing and bookselling are largely false. Even so, any attempt to correct the Mimic directly, or even to merely post an alternative viewpoint, will backfire in a firestorm of belittling recriminations from the Mimic, which will rely on its claimed expertise as all the support or proof its posts require.

Control: Catching wannabeum in a resumé lie will cause it to immediately vacate a site, but this is nearly impossible since wannabeum never posts under its real name and is careful to keep the identifying details of its claimed career experience vague.

Identifying Call: “If you’d worked in the publishing business for as many years as I have, you’d know how ridiculous you sound.”


The Equalizer (evenus stevenus)

Behavior: Evenus is the self-appointed score keeper and referee of any community it inhabits. Evenus keeps constant track of who has shared good or bad news, who has posted congratulations or sympathy, and whether or not such congratulations or sympathies are adequately effusive and timely. Anyone failing to pass the Equalizer’s test is subjected to the same kind of freeze-out favored by the Queen Bee / King Drone, but unlike that species, the Equalizer keeps the impetus behind its attack secret for as long as possible. Often, Evenus deprives its victims of this information for so long that another member of Evenus’ circle is ultimately the one to reveal it.

Control: As with the Puffed Pedant, since Evenus doesn’t technically break any site’s Terms of Service, little can be done to discourage it. One can either ignore Evenus or strive to steer clear of it.

Identifying Call: frosty silence.


The Sock Puppet Master (bittera duplicator)

Behavior: Perhaps the most pathetic of all the Troll species which favor author communities and websites, bittera creates its own support network by setting up multiple user accounts. It uses these accounts to create negative or attacking posts about others and their work, then uses its other accounts to second its own opinions in a masturbatory fashion.

Control: No specific action is necessary. Bittera will eventually reveal itself as a fraud by losing track of its various aliases, posting in the tone or style of one persona while logged in as another. Once exposed, this Troll will immediately delete all of its past posts, close its many accounts and move on to a new site. It may reappear months later to set up a new collection of accounts and aliases, but only when it’s sure its past activities have been forgotten.

Identifying Call: mockingbird-like repetition of, and agreement with, anything posted under any of its many aliases.


The Fake Friendly (condescendiosa passive-aggressivium)

Behavior: This Troll openly attacks and insults authors and their work, and when called to account for its unacceptable behavior, claims its remarks have been misinterpreted and it meant no offense. For example, in a thread about the merits of giving away free ebook copies as a promotional gambit, following the post of a member extolling the virtues of free ebook copies, it may post, “If your book was any good, you wouldn’t have to give it away.” When the other member responds with understandable anger and offense, the Fake Friendly will defend itself by retreating behind a response along the lines of, “I didn’t say your book actually is no good, I’m just saying that you deserve to be paid for quality work.”

Condescendiosa can keep this back-and-forth dance of insults and re-interpretation going indefinitely, but its most maddening behavior is its penchant for claiming the moral high ground by recasting its abuse as simple, well-meaning honesty, which it says others can’t tolerate on account of being overly sensitive.

Control: Much like the Sock Puppet Master, this type of Troll is always the cause of its own undoing. As it slashes and burns its way through the community, systematically training its disingenuous focus on member after member, condescendiosa eventually finds it has more enemies than cohorts and vacates the premises.

Identifying Call: “You’ll never make it as a writer if you don’t develop a thicker skin,” and “I don’t know what you’re so upset about.”


3 Vital Questions to Build Website Impact

This post by Donna K. Fitch originally appeared on D’Vorah Lansky’s Build A Business With Your Book.

Why do you have a website? What a silly question. We have websites because we’re supposed to. Everyone else does, right?

But a website without thought behind it, without intentionality, may be doing you more harm than good. Professional web designers ask their clients a series of questions before they do any design work. Improve your website by asking yourself these three questions:


1. What do you want to accomplish with your website?

It’s so tempting to pile cool widgets and generic text (“Welcome to my website, I hope you enjoy it”) on your site without considering the purpose. Besides overwhelming the site visitor, the items may be sending mixed messages—or give the impression you’re not sure what business you’re in. If you aren’t sure what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t know when you’ve arrived.


Read the full post on Build A Business With Your Book.


Why Is Typography So Important To Content Marketing?

This post by Erika Schneider originally appeared on the Outbrain blog on 9/16/14. Note that while it is aimed at small businesses, the information here is just as applicable to author websites and blogs, and even book cover design.

Content marketing has become one the primary ways of retaining customers, attracting new clients, and generating leads, sales, and profit for a company. While the content itself on a website is incredibly important, another crucial aspect of content marketing is typography. Typography isn’t often given a lot of consideration, but there is no doubt it plays a role in strengthening your brand, creating interest in your product, and highlighting your central message.


What is typography?

Typography is actually a pretty basic concept, and simply refers to the way that text is arranged on a page or document. Often times, typography is referred to as an art, as typography can be incredibly creative and innovative. Typography is great for enhancing a theme, adding personality, increasing emphasis of an idea or reinforcing a thought, demonstrating emotion, creating interest, and crafting aesthetic appeal.

While straightforward black-colored text such as this is appropriate for some forums, colorful and artistic text can be a great advertising tool. Notice how that sentence caught your attention and drew you in based on its font and color scheme alone? That’s the whole point of great typography.


Elements of Typography

You might think that typography is limited to font and color, but typography is actually much more than that. Here are the elements of typography that you should familiarize yourself with:


Read the full post on Outbrain.


Thinking of Rebranding Your Blog? Read This.

This post by Stacey Roberts originally appeared on ProBlogger on 10/1/14.

Rebranding an established and successful business? Why would you do that?

For some, the risk of changing the name of something people have grown to know and love is too big. For others, the risk of being boxed into something they no longer feel much affinity for is even bigger.

No doubt it’s a scary leap to rebrand a blog – would people still read? Would a slight shift in direction upset the established audience? Would the to-do list of technical issues be too overwhelming? Would you lose all that Google love you’ve built up over the years?

At some point, if you’ve felt the rumbling undercurrent of wanting to make a change, you’ll decide those reasons are no longer enough to hold you back. And so you research new domain names, you design new logos, you test the waters. And you make the switch – your blog (and your online identity) is something new. Something more you.

Jodi Wilson did that on New Year’s Eve 2013. She took a blog she had lovingly nurtured for six years from online journal to a much larger online place of community and inspiration, and gave it a complete overhaul. Once a place to share the milestones and sleepless nights as a new parent, the blog had evolved into a new space of a woman finding joy in a simple, humble life. And Jodi felt it required a new look and name to reflect that.

“One of the biggest factors in the name change was the fact that my blog was originally named after my son and his teddy – Che & Fidel,” she says.


Click here to read the full post on ProBlogger.