My DIY Book Covers Win & a Poll!

My writing isn’t a business. The stories are gifts from my Muse that I pass on to you, the reader. This means there is no guarantee I will ever recoup any of the expenses I incur to edit, format, or provide a cover for my stories. I estimate hiring professionals for all aspects of publishing the seven works I plan to release would cost me between $7,000 and $9,000. That’s a lot of money to invest with no expectation of a return on that investment. Now, I won’t skip or penny pinch editing; that is a cost I must pay (and it’s worth it). Formatting is both a technical and a tedious effort, but I’m certain I can do that on my own. That leaves the expense of cover design. This is not something I can do without help. I am not a visual person. I’m in awe of those who can match fonts, understand proportions, and create stunning visual compositions. I can do none of those things. Lucky for me, Derek Murphy has the skills necessary to design effective, beautiful covers. Even luckier for me, he founded DIY Book Covers. He combined technical know-how with artistic sensibility to produce over one hundred book cover design templates. These templates are available at very reasonable price, and a one-time purchase gives you lifetime access to all current and future templates. The DIY Book Cover templates are:

  1. Editable in Word;
  2. Expertly designed for both font and layout;
  3. WAY cheaper than paying for individual cover designs.

This weekend, I took some time to get to know my DIY Book Covers. I was nervous, but I needn’t have been! In a very short time, I was able to craft multiple versions of a cover. The templates are easy to use, and the Cheat Sheet guided me through the steps to get started. I chose a template for my surreal short story, followed Derek’s Font List to determine the font to use, downloaded and installed the font and, voila! I was a cover designer! It really was that easy and way more fun than I expected. I spent hours sifting through images on my favorite stock photo site, 123rf.com. Replacing the image Derek chose in the template with comps from 123rf was simple: right-click the image, and pick “Change Image” from the menu. Friends, if I can do this – and I can’t even figure out how to match shoes to my outfits – YOU can do this, too!

 

Here is DIY Book Covers, Template #17 (the one I chose):

DIY Covers Template 17

 

In the poll, you can see a few of the options I tried during my play date with DIY Book Covers. The images I used are all comps. Comps contain a watermark and are of slightly lower resolution than the purchased images will be. The images in the poll are from the designer view of Word, and so you can see the grid lines. Bearing all of that in mind, I’d like your help choosing which of the covers I use for my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA. Please take the poll. You can click the thumbnails to see larger versions of any book cover. If you have suggestions or feedback, leave a comment and let me know. Thanks for helping!

xoxo,

-aniko

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How to Add a Mailchimp Newsletter to WordPress.Com Blog – with Style!

EDIT!!!  Today is February 23, 2016. I published this post in May of 2014, and a lot of people have written to tell me how useful and helpful it was to them. That is awesome! Even more awesome, though, is that WordPress.com now offers a widget to embed a Mailchimp Subscriber Popup. Here are some excellent instructions on how to use it. I would recommend trying that first, and then using the instructions I have here as a back-up plan. Good luck!

< START OF ORIGINAL POST >

The true gift of having a clearly defined definition of success is that you begin to find exactly what you need to achieve that success. I discovered  YOUR FIRST 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl exactly when I needed a guide for book marketing. I want to get the word out about my books, and I want to do it without being subservient to a cumbersome system I neither understand nor enjoy. Grahl gives me a blueprint to achieve that, and having a newsletter is an integral element in his system. In this post, I share what I’ve learned about setting up a Mailchimp newsletter and integrating it into your (free) WordPress.com blog.

Here are the main points I will cover:

  • Getting started with Mailchimp
  • Customizing Your Mailchimp sign-up form to coordinate with your WordPress.com blog
    • Use Google’s built-in developer tools to find the hexidecimal code for colors on your site
    • Set the font or background in your Mailchimp sign-up form to match your blog
  • Add the Mailchimp sign-up form to your WordPress.com blog

I chose Mailchimp because I get newsletters from other authors using it, and those newsletters look nice. Plus, Mailchimp has stellar set up guides and knowledge base articles. They also offer a basic free account that meets my needs, allowing up to 12,000 emails to 2000 subscribers.

There are a couple of things to know before you set up your newsletter:

  1. CAN SPAM law requires you link your mass email campaigns to a physical address – if you don’t have this and you are reported to Mailchimp, your account can/will be suspended!
  2. Mailchimp’s free account doesn’t provide auto-responders to send automatic emails triggered by specific subscriber actions. This means you will not be able to easily send every new subscriber a series of emails, unless you set it up for each user yourself. It is something to consider when selecting a plan, as auto-responder “drip campaigns” are an effective marketing tool mentioned in Grahl’s book .

Ready to get started? 

STEP 1  Sign Up for Mailchimp

Sign up for a Mailchimp account

STEP 2 Define your First List

Follow the Mailchimp setup directions to Create and Import a List of Subscribers. This list is the “bucket” where all of your WordPress.com subscribers will go into once they sign up for the newsletter. The List Name you select is visible to subscribers, so take care to choose something descriptive and polite!

STEP 3 Build the Signup Form

Now the real fun begins! It’s time to build the signup form associated with your list! The signup form is your newsletter’s first contact with a potential lifetime supporter. As such, it should be clear on what is offered in return for signing up, and be respectful of the subscriber’s time. Remember that the more fields a person has to fill in, the more likely they are to decide not to subscribe. I started out with five fields, and have since altered my form to request only what I need (email and first name). I also left in the option to select Plain or HTML text, but if the subscriber is comfortable with the default (HTML), they need take no action.

The Signup form is located in the Navigation bar at the top of your List. Select the General Forms if you are going to link the subscription page to your WordPress.com blog. Here’s a picture of the Mailchimp Lists page, when Signup Forms is selected:

Mailchimp Signup Form

From the main Mailchimp page, select Lists in the left panel. Then select the list you created in Step One, and click Signup Forms (see image above). Click the General Forms button. Once you are on the Create Forms page, select the Build It tab.

Mailchimp Build It

On the Build It tab, drag and drop items from the right onto the designer area on the left.

Mailchimp Build It

Don’t worry about the looks, we’ll take care of that in the next step. For now, just arrange the fields you want the user to enter the introductory text.

STEP 4 Customize the Signup Form to Match Your Blog

Now that you have the content and fields defined, it’s time to make the signup form look like it belongs on your WordPress.com blog. To do this, I am going to show you how to use the Google Chrome developer tools to locate the hexidecimal value for the colors on your blog. You can use another browser, as they all have Developer tools, but my video will show how to use Chrome. The first step is to open your blog in Chrome, then follow the video.

The video shows you these steps:

  • From the Settings, select Tools -> Developer Tools
  • The Developer Tools open by default at the bottom of the browser. The left pane shows the elements on the page (links, titles, images) and the right pane shows the attributes associated with each element.
  • By default, the background color for the page is displayed at the top of the left pane; go ahead and copy that value (or memorize it, if such appeals to you!).
  • You can discover the hexidecimal color value for any element on the page by clicking the magnifying glass on the Developer Toolbar (far left). Click the element you want to know about on the blog page, and scroll down in the right pane of the Developer Tool until you see the “Color” section. You will know it is correct because there is a tiny square of color in the Developer tool that tells you the color associated with the hex value.

Here’s the screencast video: Use Chrome Developer Tools to Get Hex Values

The screen cast may be slow to load! If you click PLAY and the screen goes blank, please wait. When the entire video buffers,  you will be able to play it without experiencing lag. Thank you!

Now you can match the background color of the Mailchimp Newsletter to the background of your WordPress.com blog!  This will give a seamless appearance to the experience of clicking from your blog to the newsletter signup. The background color for the Mailchimp signup form is located on the Design It tab of Create Forms:

Mailchimp_DesignIt

You can repeat the process to match the signup form font with the color of the font on your blog.

Finally, if you want to discover a complementary color to use in your signup form design, the Color Hexa site is amazing. I used the complementary purple color to my green font to color the asterisk that indicates required fields. It’s a small detail, but remember: newsletters are where you get and keep loyal supporters!

Complementary Color

Not only does Color Hexa show you complementary colors (and their hex or RGB values!), but it will also show you the values to use to get a darker or lighter tinted version of the same color.

Shades and Tints

In my newsletter form, I used a darker tint of the background color to fill in the fields on the form to make them more visually pleasing.

Complement and Tint

 

STEP 5 Link the Mailchimp Signup Form to Your WordPress.com Blog

You are ready to go live with your newsletter sign up form! The final step is to add a widget to your WordPress.com blog and provide it with the URL for your newsletter. This will provide your potential subscribers an easy way to access the signup form, which is hosted by Mailchimp.

  •  First, copy the URL from the Lists -> Signup Forms page on Mailchimp. Mailchimp URL
  • Open your WordPress.com blog dashboard.
  • Go to the Appearance -> Widgets page.
  • Drag a new TEXT widget into the Sidebar at the right.
  • Enter a Title for the Widget (at the moment, mine is “Be a VIP!”)
  • Enter the following HTML into the free-form text area:

  <a href=”http://YOURMAILCHIMPURL“>The link text people will see!</a>

For example, mine would be:

<a href=”http://eepurl.com/SxxLn”>Subscribe to Aniko’s Newsletter!</a>

Remember, the text inside of the href will be displayed as the link users will click. Here’s what mine looks like:

Newsletter Widget

The green font “Subscribe to Aniko’s Newsletter” is the portion that was in the HTML added to the text widget. Note that if you copy and paste my example, to replace the “smart” quotes around the URL – the way they are rendered in WordPress will break your link if you do not replace them!

Reload your blog, and verify that the link to the Mailchimp signup page works. Go through the sign up process, adjusting anything that feels strange or awkward about the setup. You are now the proud owner of your very own Mailchimp Newsletter, linked to your WordPress.com blog!

Congratulations!

xoxo,

-aniko

 

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I learned how to add a stylish Mailchimp newsletter to my WordPress.com blog!