Archive for the ‘ Tech Talk ’ Category

Tech Talk Special Edition: Take on Twitter

I was hrzavhahagh *cough cough* years old when this came out. I know how young I am, don’t need reminding. But it is one of the first music videos I can ever remember and sticks with me more than 25 years later. That’s a powerful thing! So enjoy Aha! Take on Me before we talk about TAKING ON TWITTER!!!


First, I am @EAWwrites on Twitter. Send a Tweet with “@EAWwrites I’m doing the Twitter Challenge” so I can add you to my lists and help you.

The goals:

  • Note your Twitter following at the start. For me, that’s roughly 1800 followers. Multiply by 1.5. That’s the goal of follower increase. So for me, that’s reach 2,700 followers by January 31st.
  • Learn how to maximize automating and participating on Twitter (it takes both).
  • Track your book sale links to see how your Twitter campaigns are doing!

Step One:

Sign up for Twitter. If you are new, make a goal of 200 followers. Go through their tutorial to learn all about how to tweet. The gist of it is sharing information in 140 characters or less. Managed correctly, tweeting is a great creative exercise for your writing in crafting short, simple messages.

Step Two: Sign up for Add the links for your books (you can customize the shortened link if you’d like, I use for example for my link to CANCELLED on Nook). These are the links you are going to tweet and track. You can also shorten links to blog posts you want to track. Tracking is good!

Write 10 Tweets in a Word Document and Save it as Auto-tweets

There is a little controversy about auto-tweeting. Some purists maintain that auto-tweeting is against the spirit of “social” media. I say pish-posh. How is a bulletin board with flyers and business cards not social in your local coffee shop? Exactly. Are the people standing right there the entire time their flyer is up? No. Instead, the manager just takes down things that are a little stale. Twitter is that manager.

When you send out a tweet, it might have a life span of a few seconds in your followers’ feeds, depending on many factors. If it’s retweeted (RT) then it gets a little chance at a second life. But for the most part, the tweet you posted 5 minutes ago already impacted the people it was going to impact and it’s in the annals of the web now.

Back to the Word document:

Write your tweets and aim for 100 characters or less, including your shortened link. You can check this by highlighting your tweet and checking the Word Count. There is usually a character count, with spaces. That’s the number you are looking for.

Effective Tweets

A recent study from MIT looked at factors to induce RTing. You can read if you’d like, but here’s what I’ve pulled from it.

  1. Less than 100 characters so the RT doesn’t get cut off when someone clicks RT. ex: She returned his shirt and ruined his life. CANCELLED on KINDLE  [82 characters]
  2. Capitalize the first word, try to keep it short to stand out in the feed. ex: ROMANCE from a MALE pov. He’s becoming daddy, his fiancee isn’t pregnant.  [90 characters]
  3. Ask for the RT. ex: FREE #ebooks on Jan 1st. Over 500 to giveaway! PLS RT [67 characters]
  4. Be a human. ex: Told daughter not to write on self, she pointed at my tattoos. #Mommyfail [73 characters]
  5. Share links of places you’re featured. This is called external validation, or RT tweets that mention you (you will find this is your @twittername tab in Twitter). TECH TALK Learn all about links! On Mark Williams international: [79 characters]
  6.  Be practical, get known as someone who tweets links of information your followers can use. ex. WRITERS read this, easy guide to make business plan for ebook! [83 characters]
  7. Offer a sale or good deal (not necessarily your book, any good deal for your followers) 2 examples: UK Kindle Romance from a bloke’s POV! Only 99p for a LIMITED TIME [81 characters notice I added a “hurry” to make people click?] OMG Tell me, are these not stunning NOOK covers? I so want one! [80 characters]
  8. Topical. You can take advantage of a trending hashtag or latest news item, showing you are “with it.” Big example of this was all of the Steve Jobs tribute tweets when he passed away in October. People RT to emphathize, and show they feel your sentiment, even if it’s only 140 characters long. Most popular one then? ex. #iSad [4 characters, spoke 4,000 worth]
  9. Time Sensitive. Add a time qualifier, like I did in number 7, or be specific so people want to RT because it can’t wait. ex. Jan 1st has over 500 books to gift through NOOK. Get a New Book for the New Year! [95 characters]

Okay, so use the tips above to make a list of 10-20 tweets in a word document. Save it. Now open

Automating Through Hootsuite

For this exercise, using the FREE automation on is more than acceptable. It will prompt you how to add a twitter account “Add a Social Network.”

Click the paper airplane in the left hand corner, then SCHEDULE. If you have more than one social media account connected (I do) you need to click the one you want to post to in the top right.

Now click Compose a Message. Copy and paste one of those tweets in your Word Document, and then select the date and time, and click SCHEDULE.

Your scheduled tweet should now appear in your dock, and if you messed up, you can click the pencil to edit it.

Schedule 10-20 tweets all throughout the day, concentrating on the three peak times: Morning (6 AM-8 AM your timezone) Lunch (11AM- 1PM) and Evening (6PM-10PM) for 7 Days in a row. You can’t schedule a Tweet that’s already scheduled, but you can make a very minor adjustment (one character, add a period, take it out, add an exclamation) and it’s not considered identical. This will let you tweet the same tweet a few days in a row at different times. Also, don’t worry about the Add a Link block. We’re pre-shortening our links, this is just a way Hootsuite will shorten a long link for you (handy if it’s a link you don’t want to bother tracking) as tracking link clicks with Hootsuite is difficult/costs.


You can’t just automate. Every day you automate tweets, you need to go back and check  how they’re doing. It’s like baiting fishing lines, check and see if a fish bit! If someone RT’d you, thank them, then click on their profile and find a good tweet of theirs to RT in kind. People who followed you? Follow them back. People you follow who followed people? (in the Activity Feed on Twitter) Follow those people too, they will follow back.

When I first started tweeting, I only followed what I thought were “quality follows.” Yeah, I sat at about 200-300 followers for MONTHS. I even Unfollowed people I couldn’t remember why I’d followed them!

You can now use LISTS to keep your true twitter friends close, just click their profile and the little person silhouette, then Add to List. You can make public and private lists. I have a Private list of “Readers in UK” “readers in Germany” that I use to classify my followers when I remember to do this. It’s private, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m just cold and calculating.

It’s silly to worry about following strangers for a Twitter account you primarily want to use to get your book out there. You never know when a tweet of yours will spark someone’s interest, someone you had no interaction with before. For example, I wrote a blog post about taxes last year, and by tweeting it, I was followed by a few financial professionals. Guess what? A few times, they’ve retweeted my book link tweet because it was interesting. People of ALL professions read, not just authors. 🙂 So don’t just follow back or only follow authors!

I RT based on a tweet’s merit, not just because it’s from someone I know. And besides, how much do you really know someone on Twitter? You don’t. So might as well make your community bulletin board access as large as you possibly can. But do keep the number of people you are following within 100-150 or so of the number of people following you. Twitter has a mechanism to prevent spam following, but it’s best to just do this on your own and not rely on that. Besides, you don’t want to be that person who follows 600 people but is only followed back by 27.

Spend 10-15 minutes a day checking your @twittername feed and responding. Your automated tweets that are just you being human (#4 Above) will make you appear as if you are there. And since Twitter is all about instant and busy people with busy lives, it’s perfectly acceptable to get back to a Reply or RT in a few hours or even a day or two. After all, you’re busy! 🙂

The Plan, Once More With Feeling

Automate your tweets. 10-20 per day.

Interact daily with the people who RT you.

Participate in #WriterWednesday and #FollowFriday. Type in #FollowFriday, find one that is a bunch of names, click RT. Follow those people. At least one or two will RT with a TY, and half or more will follow you back. Easy way to get 3-4 new followers for only 1 minute of effort.

30 days, grow those followers to 150% of what you have now. And watch how often your links are clicked at

Additional Resources

I talk about using spreadsheets to automate on Hootsuite which is a bit more involved, and requires the $5.99/month membership on my blog. Read it for extra credit and to learn more tips and tricks to automate tweets. 🙂


Covering For Mark Williams Part 3 – Athanasios

As we head full-steam into Christmas it’s business as usual for writers, artists and bloggers.

Today one our resident graphic-designers continues his four part series on his approach to cover design, with some insights into how he developed various covers in close liaison with the authors concerned. Not least us!

Athanasios’s aproach is in stark contrast to the way many trad publishers and some small presses handle covers, where they pay no heed to the author’s ideas and present a fait accompli image the writer will hopefuly love, but may hate. If they do, tough.

One of the great joys of being indie is to have control over your book cover, and using graphic designers like Athanasios is a great joy in itself.

When the revamped MWiDP web-site finally goes live early in 2012 there will be a spot for Athanasios and our other designers to showcase their skills. Watch our for that!

Meanwhile, here is the man himself. Take it away, Athanasios!

Covering for Mark Williams – III


In my last two posts I related how I started commenting on book covers listed in facebook groups and evolved into redoing them. Since then I’ve worked with a few indie writers who are happily listing me as their cover artist. I’m also using it as a means to bring more attention to my own Occult/Horror Thriller, Mad Gods.

One was Joshua Corey Mays, for his fantasy work: Terra Ingonita: Book 1-The Abyss. His first cover was a concept drawing he wanted turned into something that resembled an old, tome of magic or a forgotten, forbidden necronomicon. The first image in the example shown is his first cover. The second was my mockUP of the discussed idea with the final being, well the final.

I returned time and again to IWU and ROBUST and gave my opinion on whatever cover was posted for feedback and generally enjoyed the exchange of ideas and camaraderie from all the other indie writers. Some of the covers listed only needed a little tweaking to improve them as in Apolo Drakuvich

while Mind Crafter was a complete from scratch project.

I still kept up my own writing and by late summer I finished Commitment, the sequel to Mad Gods and second in the Predatory Ethics series. Its first cover was a family portrait of an older Adam, one of the main characters of Mad Gods and Melusine Rothschild a new and unspecified ally or villain. She was from a timeless family that wove itself throughout the illuminati and Global Elite of history.

They were paired in a formal and traditional portrait used by nobility throughout the centuries but with colors and stark contrasts that were ominous and dangerous. It was in keeping with the rest of my covers at the time but when I chose to change Mad Gods I also decided to change Commitment to suit its predecessor. Now the twisted and anguished fallen angels of both were representative of the world Adam doesn’t want to be part of.

It was during this time that I was accepted into the fold of MWiDP. Once there I approached Saffina Desforges with my sideline. She looked into my work and let me try the cover for a forthcoming project of spotlighting new indie writers titled Saffina Desforges Presents.

Saffina’s request was:
One ‘Quick Kindle Coffee break reads’ and another that just says, ‘Quick coffee break reads’ We would like (if it is possible) a pile of Kindles and a cup of coffee on top as the main image and for the universal one (i.e. NOT for Kindle) a pile of generic e-readers with the coffee cups.

This request prompted this draft image:

Mark Williams weighed in:
Very interesting! I love the cup and Kindles! This could be really good with some tweaking.

Two issues: One, the lamp dominates the picture, grabbing the eye straight away, when the lamp is incidental to the image. The coffee cup and Kindles are the key elements.

Two, text. Love the text on the cup, but SDP is the big brand selling point and needs to be across top in large letters.

I love SD on the cup, coz that is just so cool, but… we need Saffina Desforges Presents (SD bold, as the brand) across top, and then the final title across bottom on table. Can’t remember what choices we had now. Coffee and Kindle obviously key. Also need to be clear these are short stories, and have Vol 1 tucked away somewhere. Or maybe Vol. 1 on coffee cup? That’s probably an ideal place for it.

Saffina added:
Completely agree with Mark’s comments. Love the theme, but the lamp needs changing (did reply previously to see if we could have a banker’s lamp, smaller, instead?) and the Saffina Desforges Presents needs to be bold text at the top. Agree that the cup is the perfect place for VOL 1 and then somewhere in smaller text (below SD presents… perhaps) A collection of Kindle coffee-break short stories?

OR as Mark says, at the bottom across the table. Would you have a play around and get back to us asap please?

And I replied:
Ok, those are great suggestions. I even found a GREAT background image that’ll invoke A LOT of atmosphere for the cover. I’m very excited about the look of it so far.

I’ll have something up for you by the end of the day. It’s 7:09 AM here in Montreal so you’ll have something back in another few hours.

Which became:

Most recently further volumes of Saffina Desforges Presents are planned and the covers for volumes 2 & 3 are slightly different.

This week I gave a wider variety of covers and the expansion of my own work. Next week will be my final week and I’ll round out my time on Mark’s blog and 2011 by some of the most recent covers I’ve done and, if the authors I’m working with allow me, some covers for books that are just around the corner.

I’m always willing to help with indie authors with their covers. More examples of my work are @: Covers For Hire or email me @:
Athanasios’s webpage is

Athanasios’s Covers For Hire page is

Mad Gods buy pages are &

Commitment buy pages are &

Thanks as ever, Athanasios. And don’t forget he also answers to Tom for all those who struggle with polysyallabic names!

Which begs the question why is the word monolyllabic not monosyllabic?

And that gives me an excuse to end by saying there’s another awkward question over as Saffi’s blog tomorrow, where as part of the Twelve Days of Christmas season I’ll be asking you to explain snow to someone who’s never experienced it.  There are several hundred million people here in West Africa who haven’t had the pleasure of building snowman, throwing snowballs or sledging. Pop over to Saphicscribe tomorrow to have a go.

And be sure to check out Saffi’s guests so far, too. Nick Spalding is there today – . My turn tomorrow, and there’s a great list of top names in the preceding days to catch up on as well!


Covering For Mark Williams Part 2 – Graphic Designer Athanasios Returns











Last Tuesday our cover designer Athanasios (who also answers to Tom, for those who like names easy on the eye and tongue) began the first of a four part series looking at what goes on behind the scenes to produce a great cover.

Just a reminder, above, of the two great covers he produced for our Saffina Desforges Presents anthology series. BTW, Volume 2 hopefully will be live this coming weekend!

More on that later in the week if things go to plan. meanwhile, without further ado, here’s Athanasios with Part Two of his cover design series. Take it away, Tom!

Covering for Mark Williams – II

I’m Athanasios, a VERY little known graphic/video artist in dvd/film production and lesser-known indie writer.

In my last post I detailed how I went from commenting about other indie writer’s book covers in the facebook group Indie Writers Unite! to redoing and improving them. I also showed the process involved in making covers and their evolution in my own books.

I was enjoying some success with the covers I’d done so I continued my promotional efforts. While telling many other facebook groups, forums and indie bloggers about my Occult/Horror Thriller, Mad Gods I also let them know I’m knowledgeable and able to do some pretty damn eye-catching and good covers for books.

One such effort bore fruit when Andre Jute at ROBUST goodreads group reposted my ad for Covers For Hire. He also gave my name to KA Jordan, a ROBUST group member who was looking for a new cover for her paranormal romance, Swallow the Moon. I went back and compiled our email exchanges and the step by step of the process.

Andre’s ROBUST Post
Athanasios Galanis will do you a basic cover for between $50 and $500, still a bargain for a guy who knows what he’s doing. Samples at

Kathleen’s ROBUST Post
I contacted him(?) and got a reply right off. Instead of the black cover, he said he could show me something with both characters and the bike.
I’m intrigued.

Andre’s ROBUST Post
It’s a him, all right. He’s a professional graphic designer. He creates graphic books. I thought his work would be bang in the bullseye for quite a few ROBUSTER’s books.

Then we moved to exchanges of emails.

From Kathleen:
I have an e-book cover that will not work in a print format. So I’m looking for a cover that will work both as a paperback and an e-book.
The name of my e-book is ‘Swallow the Moon’ about a witch, a soldier, a haunted motorcycle and a mad artist.
The current cover does not lend itself to becoming a brand. It is very plain green on black. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

From Athanasios:
Well, it’s quite a literal cover.
From your description I would do a close up of the bike and do some kind of artwork directly on the bike itself.

From Kathleen:
The bike is a modern Haybusa – painted to look like an albino Burmese python.
Can you do that???
Could I afford it?

From Athanasios:
I could do that in mockUP for spec, and if you agree I’ll do it in earnest.
I can get something to you sometime tomorrow this time, just the rough idea,
Sound good?

From Kathleen:
The photo attached is roughly the same model – I can’t see if the faring is the right one.
I’ll get you a picture of a snake too and I’ve attached the book blurb.

From Athanasios:
Ok is the bike supposed to be reminiscent of a python or a cobra? I gotta know cause the faces of pythons and venomous snakes are different.
Also you were mentioning Burmese pythons before. Do you want Burmese coloring or regular python coloring, I’ve gotta know all this.

From Kathleen:
I think the Cobra Head would be the most dramatic of the two.

Based on the previous email back & forth I Googled and found references. Then I made and sent Kathleen the mockUP to give a proper gist of what I wanted to do.

From Athanasios:
Hey Kathleen. Here is a preliminary mock up of Swallow the Moon.
I hope you like it. If you’ve got any further suggestions please specify.

From Kathleen:
Wow – that is seriously moody – I love the snake pattern, the head, and the background with the moon. It should really stand out.
I like the typeface too – will work well with other books.
There is one suggestion – it’s a romance, so we should have the two of them on the cover.

From there I completed the finishing touches.

This week I shared a quick back and forth of ideas that led to a striking cover. Next week I’ll go into a wider variety of covers and the expansion of the covers for my own work.

I’m always willing to help with indie authors with their covers. More examples of my work are @: Covers For Hire or email me @:

Athanasios’s webpage is

Athanasios’s Covers For Hire page is

Mad Gods buy pages are &

Commitment buy pages are &


Athanasios will be back next week with part 3.

Meantime we’ve set Athanasios a challenge quite different from his usual fare.

Regulars will know that we’re working with two fantabulous teen writers on a new YA series, St. Mallory’s, set in a modern day English boarding school. Imagine St. Trinian’s without the innuendo and stockings, with  a dash of Blyton, Brazil and Brent Dyer thrown in.

What will Athanasios come up with? We have no idea, but are eagerly awaiting the first drafts! 🙂

Sunday Tech Talk with Elizabeth Ann West: Working With Images


Dump half, add milk for me please. 300 x 263 pixels left aligned wrap

Good morning! I’ve got my latte in hand, very generous on the milk part. You see, coffee and I have a tenuous relationship. I can drink only small amounts in a twenty-four period or my body rebels in a rather painful way. So, my mug is up to those of you who can handle a full cup, maybe one day I will be part of that club.

Speaking of joining clubs, if you missed last week’s column about links, what’s in them, how they work, please go visit that first before reading below. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Then without further adieu, and our smiles and joy firmly in place, let’s learn about images, where to get them, how to control them, and how to make them.

Before we begin, let’s talk about photo albums. Images on websites or blog work in a very similar fashion.

First, you have to take the picture and get it printed. In this post, we talk about where you get pictures.

Second, you organize them into a physical photo album. For the Internet, this is uploading the picture into a folder on a server somewhere (server is just a fancy term for the physical storage space on a massive computing network that a hyperlink points to). We talk about uploading and also “borrowing” photos from other photo albums, or servers.

Finally, you drag your guests to sit down in your living room and thumb through your pictures, and talk about them! For the web, you do this when you insert a photo into a blog post and write around them!

So you have to get the photos, put them on a server (photo album), then use them in posts (“Here, sit on my couch and hear all about my vacation.”) Easy.

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand…. Look, They Make My Blog Posts More Interesting!

abstract sail boatPretty. 510 x 509 pixels center aligned

Those of us who can remember the really, really old days of the Internet (yep, I can) know that at the very beginning, it was text based. There just wasn’t the bandwidth to handle the larger file sizes of images, and as a result, few sites used them. Of course, there were also few sites at the time, but hang with me. One of the ways developers catered to those of us with a 14.4 KBps modem was with alternate text.

This tag or attribute (refer to the link post) still exists today, but we mostly ignore it. If you’ve ever uploaded an image to your blog there is a box asking for “Alternate Text.” This text is what appears if the picture cannot load for some reason.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There are three main types of image files, or file formats. Jpg (.jpg pronounced jay-peg) is one of the most universal formats out there. It’s a file format that lets a user determine how compressed the data should be, resulting in either a highly-compressed, really crappy pixelated image, or a less-compressed, digital masterpiece.

Elizabeth Ann West

Less compressed, higher resolution. 200 x 200

Elizabeth Ann West

More compressed lower resolution, 200 x 200

By opening up an image in a photo editor (I use GIMP, because it’s free), you can change the scaling or compression rate once you save it as a .jpg to reduce the file size. This is very handy for profiles on forums and other sites. For example, Amazon’s Author Central requires author photo files to be no larger than 800 KB. My author photos were professionally taken, so the file sizes were quite large, 4 MB or 6 MB per picture (1,000 KB = 1 MB). I scaled them down (Image, Scale Image) and then when I saved them, I put the .jpg compression at about 85%.

Book Writing

Thank goodness we don't still write books by quill, nor need to use .gif for our book trailers! 112 x 105

There are many more differences in these file types, but most of it is information that won’t really appeal to you as an end user of the file. You just care about the picture showing up when and where you want it to, right?Another file format is .gif.

GIF was one of the first two types of image formats on the web. Another claim to fame is animation long before people embedded YouTube videos (that’s next week). From .gif came .png (you say Jay-peg, and Gif like the peanut butter, but not ping. It’s the letters, pee-nnnn-gee). A .png file can handle transparency, very handy for logos or images you are moving to another image and want to blend in, like say a book cover. 🙂

So I Searched Google for “Rose” Found One I Liked, Right-Clicked and Saved It. I’m Good, Right?

No. You’re very far from good.

As masculine and feminine I could make a rose

I know girly, but it has a bug in it at least. 150 x 100

Images, even those on the Internet are subject to copyright law just like the books and even blog posts we write. You need permission to use them. If you are looking for images to include in any type of commercial, professional work, like an author website, blog, advertisement, or cover art, you need to make sure you have a license to use the content. Take the time to read the fine print. Some royalty-free sites don’t allow you to alter an image, so it’s very important you understand what is permitted. It would be like someone asking to use your work, adding or removing a few words and completely changing your intent.

There are many websites out there with royalty-free images (we all know what royalties are, royalty-free means you pay a flat fee for the image’s use, sometimes expiring after a large number of distributions). I use because of its easy to use free database of images, and its relatively inexpensive prices if I need to buy an image. In fact, just about every image I use on my author blog ( is from Dreamstime.

Uploading images into most blogs is accomplished with a GUI (Graphical user interface). Buttons you click on. But let’s take a look at what’s really happening, under the hood….

Cruise ship

Image used on my blog for Blog Cruise, using the URL to reference not an upload. Also clicks to that posting.

Images are files. They do not magically exist in a post when you upload them, but as their own file somewhere on the server. Blogger makes it very difficult to understand this, and it mostly looks like jibberish. For example, the cruise ship I’m using to promote the Blog Cruise I am putting together for March 2012 has this link:

YUCK! Now we learned last week all of that information in between the / marks are actual folders on the server where my free Blogger blog is kept. The only thing I could control is the name of the file, and I like to keep it the original Dreamstime file name so other people can go back to the source. If I had renamed it cruise ship.jpg, no one would know it’s a Dreamstime photo.

If you’re working with WordPress, or another blogging interface, you might have more control over where and how files are organized.

For example, the image of my book in 3D (a generous gift from my awesome cover artist, Melissa Oyler) is That is understandable, and if I really wanted to, I could go into my WordPress files and change even how that link is developed. Why would I want to do that? Well, search engine optimization. If I wanted to be coy, I could upload the images of my book to a “bestseller” folder. Hmmm…maybe not a bad idea 🙂

Making Images Behave

Cancelled 3D

Gift from my cover artist, Melissa Oyler.

Whether you use the GUI uploading (and I do) it is many times helpful to change the source code to make an image behave. I learned my know-how by making changes to settings in the GUI (the easy to use uploading interface where you can set things like padding, borders, etc.) and then looking at the source code to see what changed.

Images are built on links in HTML. They start with the same <a tag. On my reader site, I have a recent posting about developing an audio book. The code for the image I use is this:

<a href=””><img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-247″ title=”Old headphones” src=”×300.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”200″ height=”300″ />

You’ll notice that the first thing it starts with is a LINK! Now, this is NOT the link


This is the headphones image I used on my audio book post. 140 x 210

where the picture is housed, but where the user goes if she clicks on the picture. Wheels turning yet?

You ABSOLUTELY can make images GO places. Like a page to go buy your book. All you have to do is make the first link where you want the image to point to. The next bit, <img tells the computer to specifically call up an image, how to format it, and where to get it. Notice my alt=”” is empty, shame on me. I should have put headphones or something there.

Src= is where the image physically exists on some server. This can be any image on ANY server. Now, a word of caution. When you link to an image somewhere other than your web server (or the free server you use for your blog or site) you are taxing the other server’s bandwidth. If your site gets a small to moderate amount of traffic, this isn’t too big of an issue. However, if you had an image linked to a site and your post went viral, the traffic on your site could cause problems on the other site because each and every time your page or post loads, it’s asking for bandwidth from the site hosting the image. Plus, what happens if they take the image down?

Link to the UK Amazon purchase page for "A Thousand Glass Flowers"

Button, Button, Who Has the Button?

Where it is 100% okay to link to an image on another site is when you are trading buttons. As soon as MwiDP moves to its new virtual home (I’m building it as we speak, it’s awesome) I will have buttons available of the regular columns here and for the MWiDP authors. Buttons are mostly used to advertise cooperative sales, blog hops, friends, and awards. The ONLY difference in a button’s code versus a normal image is the img src tag and sometimes, where the image points to (the first website URL in the code). You will see sites that say “Grab the code” and it will look something like the code above, except with the URL and image source of the button.

But I pasted that code into my site and it didn’t work!

I get this question frequently on Twitter and via email. If you are placing a button on the side of your site or blog, you will usually use a widget that allows HTML. Sometimes this is called a text widget. Either way, it needs to accept HTML. If you are placing a button into a post, you will need to click on the tab HTML and paste it at the appropriate spot. Once the image is inside your post, you can usually highlight it and use your GUI icons for centering etc. and it will modify the code automagically.

The Image Strikes Back!

Ever upload an image and IT’S HUGE!!!!! Happens to everyone. You have a few options. I didn’t touch on the last bit of the code above about the headphones image. Where it says Height=”300″ and Width=”200″ that is controlling the size of the image. In pixels.

What the heck are pixels? How big is one? Well, I can say a pixel is not a native measurement most of us think in. I don’t. And even then, how big a pixel even is depends on your screen resolution. I run a teeny-tiny Toshiba netbook with Ubuntu. My screen size is only about 10”. Pixels are itty-bitty for me. If you have a nice desktop with a large flat screen monitor, your pixel is bigger than my pixel.

What you need to do is figure out what different sized images look like on YOUR computer screen. This will help you in planning your blog posts and web pages for the best visual impact. You don’t want an image to overwhelm your text. To help in this exercise, I added the pixel lengths of each image I used in this post.

You can change the pixel size in the HTML code or GUI interface of your website or blog, OR you can edit the photo down to the size in a photo editor. By scaling the image down before you upload it, you cut down on uploading times and the storage space you use up on your server. Both good things. It just take a little pre-planning.

Today we nicked the surface on images. You have the basics to go find images, upload them, or hand code the HTML if you so choose. I highly recommend you at least TRY hand coding one image this week. It might be a little frustrating, but I promise once you hand code one thing, it feels amazing. And it will go a long way in your confidence to be the master of the technology around you, not letting it master you.  Gold star buttons for everyone who comments that they tried this homework assignment! 🙂

Come back next week and we’re going to expand on images, iframes, and some other neat gizmos and gadgets in HTML. I’ll be here in the comments, and as always available by email at eawestwrites on Google’s free email.

Shameless Plug

Yes, it's a USB plug, geeky and funny 🙂 150 x 100

Shameless Plug: I am now formatting ebooks for other authors. I am pleased to announce that my “techie” skills landed me a role in formatting MwiDP’s ebooks into epub and mobi as needed. I am very reasonable in my rates because it’s something I genuinely enjoy doing. If you are having trouble with a file, please let me know and I might be able to help. For more information, you can visit I DO have space and time to help you get a file up in time for Christmas.

Just so you know, even we geeky types are NOT immune to frustration. This post, RIIIIdIcUlOuS in the number of pictures was an absolute beast of a mother to work on. Seriously. I had it all nice and pretty, then made a change, and everything went to hell. Took me about another hour-hour and a half to fix it. This is also Mark’s blog’s 100th post. That is a very special milestone, and I’m honored to be a part of it. But man, this post was more than a bit of a drama queen! 

Sunday’s Tech Talk with Author Elizabeth Ann West: Links

Mark Says:

Turning Over a New Leaf

Turning over a new leaf: organization!

I promised a few weeks ago I’d introduce some organization to this blog, and if you’ve been watching very, very carefully you might have seen the odd example of it happening.

For instance, the regular Wednesday Review seems to be appearing regularly on Wednesdays. If you’re not a regular visitor you won’t appreciate just what an earth-shattering achievement that is.

This coming Tuesday one of our resident cover artists (the guy who created the wonderful Saffina Desforges Presents cover for us) will be commencing a four-part series on cover production.

And on Sundays Elizabeth Ann West will be here making sense of the techie side of ebooks and writing in the ebook age.

If you’re like me, IT is a scary word. It’s a foreign language so alien to mankind that only in the last few decades have we even begun to explore its bizarre syntax, crazy conjugations and impossible pronunciation.

So Elizabeth Ann West has drawn the short straw, and will be here every Sunday giving us some pointers on IT mumbo jumbo and how it can make our lives easier. Elizabeth thinks it’s simple even a child can do it.

And of course, they can. Kids can do anything. But what about an adult writer like you or I? Can she make IT make sense for us? We’re about to find out.

It was hardly a short straw…. I think I got the good end of this deal! 🙂 I’m happy to be here every Sunday!

Basic HTML Authors MUST Know: What’s In a Link, Anyway?

Welcome to the technology isn’t scary/hard/outside of my comfort zone series! Every Sunday, you can sit and chat with yours truly and we’re going to demystify the things that beep with little lights. I’m not going to throw you in the deep end, don’t worry. Today, we’re going to start by treading water in the shallows with a most basic HTML function an author* must know: links.

NB: That’s ALL authors. Not just the self-published or indie author.

Attitude Check

Before we begin our journey, I have a slight requirement from the class. Ready? Smile in place. That’s right. We’re not going to go into this series with fear. Fear is for the people too weak to try anything. We are courageous. We are mountain climbers. We are those who dare. And if you ever have ANY questions, email me. Eawestwrites on gmail.

Here We Go Linky-Do, Here We Go Linky-Lie

Can you dial a phone number? Yes? Good, then you can understand links! A link is just the Internet’s version of a telephone number. Let’s look at the parts of a phone number:

(555) 555-5555.

The parenthesis is what? The area code. It tells the phone the general area you are calling and whether or not to charge you outrageous long distance fees. Next is the prefix. The prefix relates to specific neighborhoods in that area code. Growing up, my phone number was 479-1759. My neighbor’s was also 479 and four more digits. And the boy down the street I totally crushed on? 479-1129. Cell phones, at least in the United States, have eradicated much of the geographical references in phone numbers. Finally, the suffix. Those last 4 digits are what designates a unique home in that area code and in THAT prefix area.

But Elizabeth, that’s a phone number, not a link. Ah, stay with me. Let’s look at a link from my blog.

Http:// – that part is like picking up the phone. You can’t call anyone unless you pick up the phone. Sometimes, people use a phone on a secure line. For the Internet, that’s a link with https:// – There’s the area code! This tells the web browser you want to go to my site specifically instead of the millions and millions of other sites out there.

/books – My site is organized. This is the prefix that begins to narrow down the area of my site you want to go to. This could have been /news or /aboutme and so on.

/buy-cancelled-ebook-direct – Now we have the unique part of the URL, our Internet “phone number.” There isn’t another post or page on my website with this ending, which is also the page title. Why? Because I don’t want to confuse visitors or the search engines. This is like calling up a specific house in a specific neighborhood.

Search Engine Tip: Be thoughtful when you title pages and posts. In the above example, I call my post “Buy Cancelled ebook direct” This was on purpose. I get credit in the search engines for the phrase “Buy Cancelled” and “Buy Cancelled Ebook.” Same with my categorization “books.” Search engines like to see related words and phrases on the page and in the URL for top results. Using “Products” or “Christmas Sweaters” wouldn’t be a good use of SEO (search engine optimization) and your readers will think you belong in a loony bin because you aren’t selling Christmas sweaters. You’re selling books.

Understanding a link is important for a number of reasons, especially when you are planning your own websites and blogs.

  • Are you using logical, but human friendly URLs?

  • Do you categorize areas of your site so your reader is clear about the part of the website they are in?

  • You can see how a minor typo in a link, making it broken, is just like dialing a wrong phone number.

You can LEARN information about a site from a link. Let’s glance at a link full of gobbledy-gunk:

WHAT A MESS! But we can dissect it. The site it’s going to is obvious, Amazon. No idea what gp stands for, but product makes sense. Then there’s B005MW1RL2. Guess what that is? It’s my ASIN for my U.S. ebook, Cancelled. The ref= information refers to how this link should behave, it opens in a new tab. ie=UTF8 identifies the character set that should be used (for other languages, this is different) and that eawestwriting-20 is my Amazon Affiliate name. The rest of the link? That helps identify the shopping trip purchases for my Amazon Affiliate report.

Links are the vehicle of selling your books on the Internet. Now that we learned the basics, and saw a link that goes above and beyond, let’s look at ways to make links work for us!

Just How Effective IS My Marketing Going?

One of the neatest tools available to authors is a link shortener. There are many free ones out there, I use Remember that massive link up above for my Amazon Affiliate link? Using, I shortened:

to makes the initial ending tag random, but I customize mine to keep track of my link traffic. For example, anytime I tweet my U.S. Book version, that is the link I put at the end. This link sometimes changes if I’m tweeting through Hootsuite (a website that let’s you schedule tweets), as they have their own link shortener that begins with hoot.(rest of link). But even when Hootsuite shortens the shortened link, the servers at get clued in that the link was clicked on.

Since my book is called CANCELLED, I use CNX on all of my shortened links for it. This will help immensely when my next book comes out next year! The “aa” tells me it’s my Amazon Affiliate link, and the kindle is just to make the link user friendly. A reader seeing the shortened link won’t know what is, but they recognize the word “kindle” thus expecting to go to Amazon. will show me how many people click on each of my shortened links (I shorten EVERYTHING, including my interviews on other sites so I can make sure I’m driving enough traffic there). It will also show me the COUNTRY the click came from. 🙂 This information helped me tweak my tweets to make my UK links clearer to people it’s for, readers in the UK. (I sell my UK version through Mark Williams). I noticed a high percentage of U.S. clicks on my UK Amazon link when I put #Ukkindle at the end of the tweet. I now mention UK somewhere up front, or put the hashtag up front, and this greatly cut down on the amount of erroneous clicking. I would never have known there was an issue with my tweet format if I didn’t track my link clicks.

I’m a big believer in the 10% rule of advertising: 10% of the people who SEE the ad will click and 10% of those people will buy. So 100 people see an ad, 10 will click, 1 will buy. This holds somewhat true for my tweeted links. I average 10 clicks daily on my Amazon U.S. link and I’m seeing 1-2 sales per day. My UK links gets fewer sales, but I just started to reach out to that market, and I’m not British, so that probably hampers my tweet reach. But I’m not giving up! 🙂

Make links blend in.

But, But, I WANT a Pretty Link

Everyone still smiling? We’ve learned the parts of a link, what each part does, and how we can use links. I know this is long, but I promise after this blog post you’re going to recognize concepts you learned here all week.

There are times when a link needs to blend in with the text around. In talking about your book, in an interview or blog post, you might want just the book title to be a hyperlink to a site. My first post on Mark Williams was called On Safari to Find the Reader. See how that’s just words to click? The HTML behind that is:

<a href=“”>On Safari to Find the Reader</a>

Many programs do this automatically, or give you a clever little chain icon to make a piece of text a link. But it’s always a good idea to know what’s going on under the hood because you can then fix things when they break.

<a> </a> These are the HTML anchor tags. HTML tags are always surrounded by these symbols: < >. Call them alligators (I do), less than and greater than signs, etc. The / means stop. Think of this as walkie-talkie speaking. When you start, you usually give your handle then say OVER to signal you’re done speaking. The computer needs these tags to know when to start what’s in the middle and when to stop.

Href stands for hyperlink reference. Programmers are slackers too, who wants to type hyperlinkreference? No one. Hence the abbreviation.

The quotation marks are another universal piece in many programming languages as a text delimiter. It’s plastic wrap around the actual text of the link so the computer or browser knows the characters inside of the quotation marks go together.

There’s one last little part of that hyperlink I didn’t include, but you should probably know.

<a target=“_blank” href=“”>On Safari to Find the Reader</a>

Ooooh. Target=“_blank” If you’ve clicked the link you’ve probably figured out what that does. If you haven’t, give it a go and impress yourself.

Anchor tags can have MANY HTML attributes (we will get into this more with images next week). Target is one of them. Target=“_blank” is a very handy attribute because it opens the link in a new tab or window. So if you are putting links on your blog, or into an interview, it’s a nice courtesy to use this attribute. It allows the reader to navigate away from the website she is on without losing the site or having to cycle through a ton of Backs to find where she left off.


I'm clapping for all of you!

I’m glad everyone made it to the end. Links are just the Internet’s phone numbers. The parts of a link are very important, and used by search engines to judge what is on any given web page. You can use links to learn about the type of website you are going to (and probably now see a phishing scam a mile away!). Links are also great tools to track how effective your marketing efforts are. Finally, you should also now be able to put a link into a page with manual HTML if necessary.

Come back next week as we tackle images and how to make them work! And again, if you have ANY questions, I will be checking up on the comments here and I am available via email.

 Always Smiling,

Elizabeth Ann West

(Tech Guru for Mark Williams DPI and the WoMen’s Literary Cafe)

Disclosure: I am not a programmer nor do I hold a computer science degree. I hold a Bachelor’s of Art like many other writers, I’ve just always been technologically inclined from an early age. My husband and I are geeks, with more computers than family members. I’ve ran Windows, Mac, and currently run Linux (Ubuntu). I read documentation, have volunteered to write documentation for the Fedora project, and generally never give up until I understand something. This is why my mantra is firmly “If I can do it, YOU can do it.” I hope we have many enlightening Sundays together, and if you ever find a resource that contradicts me, share it. I’m always happy to learn!

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