Monday, March 30, 2015

State of the Belfry Address

Mulluane | Monday, March 30, 2015 | 2 Comments so far
You may (or not) have noticed that things have been a bit quiet lately. Well life, as it tends to do, often goes in circles. There are good times, easy times, chaotic times and bad times.

Unfortunately, I'm somewhere between chaotic and bad. Some medical problems have cropped up and are taking most of my time.

So, I am going to change a few things. 
Bat surrounded by chaos!
Sometimes life spins out of control!

The first thing I'm going to stop doing is including a variety of affiliate links in my reviews. This process alone takes longer than writing the review itself. 

Besides, nobody ever uses them to buy anything. I used to be able to count on atleast something around xmas. This year I got nadda. 

I'll still do Amazon, and I'm not dropping Adsense. Plus I'm going to leave the various banners in the footer; just in case somebody wants an easy way to access their favorite book retailer. 

A bat can always hope!

Next thing I'm going to do is structure my reviews a bit differently. The word vomit method is great but I'm missing too many points of interest, often repeating myself or leaving out important information. I'm hoping that I'll end up with a much better review and with some structure, I'll stop leaving out vital info. And don't worry, I'll reserve a section where I can rave or rant accordingly :>)

The third thing I did was start a new blog. No, I'm not really insane. Sometimes I just need a new project to keep those creative juices flowing and for now, this is it.

So, when you get a chance, visit Witty Wacky and Wise ~ A (Mostly) Speculative Fiction Book and Author Quote Gallery. From now on, all of my quote work is going there. It is pretty cool actually. I'm using Blogger's dynamic views flipcards. Hover over any thumbnail image and it will "flip" showing you the title of the quote. Once I populate it with a ton of quotes, it will look really neat. Well, I think so anyway :>)

Besides, it is time to stop using them for fillers when I just can't find the time to write a review or article. 

The long and short of the matter is, I'm streamlining things so that maybe I can go back to cranking out reviews like I used to. By taking out the things I DON'T look forward to doing, and by cutting down the time it takes to create a review, I'll procrastinate less and write more. As tired as I am right now, easier is definitely better! 

So anyway, that is what's up. I'll see you all soon!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Laini Taylor | Weekly Quote 37

Mulluane | Thursday, February 19, 2015 | 2 Comments so far

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke & Bone

Laini Taylor Quote about hope on background design by @mulluane

About: This is a weekly feature here in the old belfry. The quote is credited to Laini Taylor

The design, along with any flaws, is mine. 

If you would like to suggest a quote (I prefer it be from a SFF author) let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do. No promises though. If a quote is too big I may not be able to reproduce it in the space available. I do promise to try though!

Usage: Non-Commercial Fair Use is permitted. The following restrictions apply: Please do not remove or mask the watermark url. Do not sell, print or claim this work as your own and when sharing, pinning, reblogging or posting, a direct link to this post is required. Thanks!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mulluane | Weekly Quote 36

Mulluane | Thursday, February 12, 2015 | 2 Comments so far

"Bat-ter Not Forget Your Valentine!"
Old Bats Need Love Too...

Mulluane

"Bat-ter Not Forget Your Valentine!" Old Bats Need Love Too... Valentine Image by Mulluane

About: This is a weekly feature here in the old belfry. The quote is credited to Me! Yep, my wicked sense of humor at work scaring the masses again.

The design too, along with any flaws, is mine. 

Slow week for me. Have a family medical thing going on. Should not be serious but it has required preparing for a change in the household routine. 


I'll be back up to speed in a week or so.

If you would like to suggest a quote (I prefer it be from a SFF author) let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do. No promises though. If a quote is too big I may not be able to reproduce it in the space available. I do promise to try though!

Usage: Non-Commercial Fair Use is permitted. The following restrictions apply: Please do not remove or mask the watermark url. Do not sell, print or claim this work as your own and when sharing, pinning, reblogging or posting, a direct link to this post is required. Thanks!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Blogging Tips: Make Sharing Easy | It Is A Visual World! Use Shareable Images

Mulluane | Friday, February 06, 2015 | 4 Comments so far

Welcome to my Book Blogging Tips Series!


Today I want to continue with the basics of having shareable content. Before we get started, if you haven't already, please feel free to read my premise for this series and/or my disclaimers.

Note: all the links in this post are affiliate free. I'm not being paid to promote any product or website. The owners of the sites I link to however, may or may not use affiliate links in their posts. 

You may notice that there are alot of links. They all link to articles or tools pertaining to whatever concept I'm discussing at the time. And even better, the tools have free versions! All are well worth a look see. 

Finally, while most of the advice offered here is aimed at Blogger / Blogspot users, the core principles apply to everybody!

Done? Good! Lets get started!

The Importance of Shareable Images


The Importance of Shareable Images

One of my favorite ways of sharing content is by using a post image. 

Unfortunately, I frequently run across book blogs with images that are either too small or placed in iframes. (ie, Amazon affiliate image links.) If the image is too small or in an iframe I can't pin it, nor can I create a visual share. And some blog posts have no image at all! 

Why is this important?

Everything is visual these days. Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram and the list goes on. Even my favorite scheduling tool, Buffer, has added a "share this image" on hover function to its browser extension. With all those beautiful images flooding the internet it breaks my heart to see content I can't share!

So why do people use tiny images or iframes?

Iframes are what Amazon uses for their affiliate links. There is a better way of accomplishing the same thing with much better images and I'll explain how in a moment... or twelve.

Page load speed is the other reason. Large images can really really slow things down. Especially if you don't know how to optimize them -- but here is the thing. The size of the image inside the post isn't always what matters when it comes to sharing. As this Pinterest article states -- about 1/2 way down the page -- it is the size of the original image that counts!


When Using Images to Share Content, Size Matters


Let me show you what I mean. Take a look at this quote. Nora Roberts. Leave it up in a separate tab. You'll need it in a minute.

Inside the post I have it set to extra large so it measures 640 X 512px on the page. Somewhat less than the 750px wide minimum Pinterest suggests. 

Now, I'll show you a trick. 

Right click on the image and depending on your browser, click on either "view image" [Firefox] or open image in new tab [Chrome]. (I couldn't find a way to do this in IE.) Now hover over the tab from another open window. Don't view the actual image, just mouseover its tab. It will tell you that the same image is 1280 X 1600px! And that is after Blogger scaled it down by 44%. 

The size you see in the tab is the one that matters. Your post could have an image measuring 100 x 200 but if the source image is between 250 and 750px wide (or larger) it can be pinned to pinterest with beautiful visual results.

But what about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google +? 

Well, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google plus have their own sizes. There is a trick to creating the perfect image for sharing across those four platforms. That will require a bit of in depth explanation so hold on to your hat! I'll link and explain it all next. 

*Tip: if you want to make image/link sharing easy for those of us who use the Buffer extension, the hover button will only appear on images that are atleast 350 X 250 px at the source. Thank you Buffer support team!


More Technical Stuff, One Size Fits All!


I searched and searched for an answer for creating one image that I could share to G+, Facebook and Twitter. Finally I ran across this tutorial: How to Optimize Your Images to Work Across Social Networks. Go read it. He explains it way better than I could. (Note: He doesn't mention Google + but his method works there too!)

Go ahead... Read it... I'll wait...

Done? Brilliant isn't it!

Now me being me, I had to do things a bit differently. Since I use Picmonkey I played around with containing that 560 x 292 base inside a 40px border. I didn't like the idea of guessing the dimensions but I found a simpler way. I put a 40px museum matte frame around the base image, got rid of the black edge and set the color to reflect my blog theme. Then I resized the whole thing back down to 560 X 292 and Boom! An image that shared beautifully across all 3 platforms!

See for yourself:

G+
Facebook
Twitter

Cool huh...

*Tip: Tired of Twitter's 140 character limit when you have so much more you want to say? Create an image like this! Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy. Image was created using PicMonkey and sized just for twitter at 1024 X 512px. Just make sure you use add photo to attach it when sharing your post link.


Pin that Image!


"Geez Mulluane, there you go with the pinning again. Why are you so obsessed with Pinterest?"

It took awhile to gather speed but now I get around 500 repins every week and some of that stuff is yours! I don't get that kind of juice from G+, Facebook and Twitter combined. And there are 2 other factors you should consider. 

People who use pinterest are looking for items to buy, inspire, or create. Unlike other platforms, pinterest users are far more likely to buy the book, enter the giveaway, or check out your blog. Twitter is for social engagement and facebook? You are lucky if anybody even sees your post. I can't speak to G+ because I just gave in and joined it, but so far I'm not impressed.

The other beauty of Pinterest is that its images stay prominent indefinitely. I still get repins of books I pinned over a year ago. On the other platforms, you are lucky if a post lasts an hour, much less a year!

"Sweet! I want that kind of exposure! What should I do?"

First you need the right images in your posts. Then you need to install Pin It buttons on your blog.

Pin it buttons, the official ones from Pinterest, will not work on iframed images/book covers like those people use from amazon. You are much better off using the publisher's image or one from Goodreads and inserting your own link. All you need to do is add your Amazon tag at the end like so: 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/ISBN/?tag=your_Associates_ID 

Replace ISBN with the actual ISBN number. Either 10 or 13 will work but on ISBN 13 do not include the dash. If you don't know how to make an image clickable just follow the instructions here: Linking a picture in your post to a website.

Personally I'd do this anyway. Amazon is not known for its high quality images.

One last tip. Images do not have to be 750px wide as Pinterest suggests. That is just what they advise you to use for optimal pinning. (However, for Pinterest the taller an image is, the better. Tall images are repinned far more often than short ones. No idea why.) Pinnable images do however need to be atleast 250px wide at the source or the Pin It widget may not "see" the image.

"So Mull, what do you do in your posts to accommodate all those different platforms?"

I use 2 images! One for pinterest (a regular book cover) and one for Facebook, G+, LinkedIn and Twitter. See how I did that here: Daughter of the Empire. And don't forget to use both alt and title tags on your images. I've seen publishers who get this wrong. In Blogger, click on the image. Click on "Properties" and put a descriptive sentence in both fields.

Why?

3 reasons. 

  • Alt tags describe the image for people who use text to voice software. 
  • Search engine bots read this info for clues to your content which affects the search terms that are used to pull up your content in both text and image searches. These days, having your content found in image searches is almost as important as showing up on the first page of search results! 
  • Thirdly, some platforms use that info in the description when the image is shared. Don't leave it to chance, write your own description. 
*Tip: If you use the buffer extension, you can use the share image function in Pinterest to share to Twitter! This wasn't possible previously as Pinterest only provides sharing to email and Facebook. Don't forget to expand the pin first! 


Sidebar Images


And don't forget those sidebars! I know everything is mobile, mobile and more mobile but some of us still prefer PCs. For us, big beautiful sidebar images grab the eye and scream click me! The longer a visitor stays on your blog, the more likely they are to fall in love with your content. They may even find something that they just have to share!

I recently discovered this cool tutorial for making sidebar widgets that rotate images from whatever posts you link it to. (Blogger only) Not only are the images large and gorgeous, the way they slide in and out catches the eye. The tutorial is here and it can't be simpler! Truly Simple Slideshow Gadget for Blogger | Code It Pretty. And it is even easy to change the links whenever you want. 

You can see them in action here: Dragon's, Heroes and Wizards, three of them no less! 

*Tip: If you use/modify your own images, (1) either taken with your camera, (2) free domain images you have modified or (3) images you created with an app, always watermark them! Inserting a watermarked url unobtrusively into a modified or original image insures that you'll still get the credit, even if the image is incorrectly linked! But, never!!! claim an image as your own unless it meets one of those three conditions.  


Conclusion


It Is A Visual World! Use Shareable Images
One last thing before you run off and start reading all those links. Here are some more links!

Some people, with just cause, are afraid to use images for fear of violating copyrights. Not to scare you, but it can happen

But not if you do things correctly. There are tons of Free Domain pics out there. Book Covers btw, fall under the heading of Fair Use. As long as the cover is being used to promote or discuss the book, your use is protected.

"So what do I do? I'm not a photographer and I need images!"

Well, it is not as hard as you might think. 
  • You can make your own images in Picmonkey or Canva just like the goofy old bat pic you see before you. (Also see link below)
  • You can use Google image search's tools to find free images. Just click on Search Tools, click Usage Rights and choose: Labeled for Reuse With Modification. Do NOT use any old photo you find. Make sure you filter your search. And even then check the source.
  • You can use a free photo stock site like TheStocks. Or a site like Webweavers for cute gifs and clipart or make your own gifs with Lunapic.
  • Check out this link: 4 Tools to Enhance the Images in Your Content Marketing. It gives you links to the 4 tools I mentioned and tells you why you should use them.
*Tip: Ever wonder where an image came from? Want to make sure you are linking to the original source? Use Google Chrome! Rightclick on any image. Pick "Search Google for this image." Look for a link to the artist. May take a few pages to find them. Don't count on Pinterest links. They are full of unattributed links!


Homework: Try it yourself! Rightclick the image in this post: Robin Hobb Quote. Use the chrome image search. (Don't worry, the search results won't go on for 10 pages.) See for yourself where that image came from!

Still awake? Oh good, you'll be glad to know that's it for now. Actually that may be a bit much! But you can always bookmark and come back to explore all those links later. I'll still be here... plotting my next post.

So what about you? Do you use images in your content? Have you seen a positive result? Ever run across great content you couldn't share? Questions? Suggestions? Did I leave out something important? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Raymond Feist | Weekly Quote 35

Mulluane | Thursday, February 05, 2015 | 2 Comments so far

"Love doesn't demand; it accepts."
Mara to Kamilo

Raymond Feist

Love Doesn't Demand; It Accepts ~ Quote from Mistress of the Empire (Riftwar Cycle, Empire Trilogy) by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts.

About: This is a weekly feature here in the old belfry. The quote is credited to Raymond Feist's (according to Goodreads) but it may be Janny Wurts'. Hard to be sure since they co-wrote the book. 

The design, along with any flaws, is mine. 

You can see my review of the first book in this series, Daughter of the Empire, here: 

Daughter of the Empire (Riftwar Cycle: The Empire Trilogy 1) by Raymond E. Feist, Janny Wurts

If you would like to suggest a quote (I prefer it be from a SFF author) let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do. No promises though. If a quote is too big I may not be able to reproduce it in the space available. I do promise to try though!

Usage: Non-Commercial Fair Use is permitted. The following restrictions apply: Please do not remove or mask the watermark url. Do not sell, print or claim this work as your own and when sharing, pinning, reblogging or posting, a direct link to this post is required. Thanks!

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