Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Business of Writing: Creating and using QR codes for your book #ASMSG #MFRWOrg

QR code for Amazon product page
of Audiobook edition of
King Arthur's Sister in Washington's Court
by Mark Twain as channeled by
Kim Iverson Headlee.

The best marketing content offers potential customers a way to buy the product straight off the advertisement, and the Quick Response (QR) code is a great way to capture those impulse buys.

What is a QR code?
A QR code (sample pictured, left) is a specialized bar code readable by smart phones. The bar code can contain text, URLs, email addresses, telephone numbers, or any other alphanumeric data.

The smart phone must have a QR reader app installed, and there are several good, free apps available for iPhones, Android devices, and other types of smart phones. My reader of choice is the "QR Droid" app.

A QR code will never expire as long as the associated link remains active.

How do I create a QR code?
Even more plentiful are the web sites that pop up when you perform an Internet search on "free QR code generator". My favorite free QR code generator site is QR Stuff. Here you can enter any URL—for example, your book's worldwide Amazon link created via or other such service, or the Audible link to its audiobook edition—and the site will display the bar code for you to download and use.

There are some book-specific QR code generator sites, such as, but they are limited to products in the Amazon retail catalog, and they will append their Amazon affiliate ID to your book's URL. If you don't have an Amazon affiliate ID, then using will save you the step of creating a worldwide link prior to requesting its QR code, but you won't be able to set up QR codes for your book's Nook and other e-tailer product pages.

The QR Stuff site offers a subscription service if you want specialty items such as scalable graphics, or if you believe your dynamic (i.e., link-shortened) QR codes will receive more than 1,000 user scans per month. If all you're doing is setting up a static link to, say, your book's Kindle product page, then no limits apply to either the creation or use (scanning) of the free QR codes.

If you want to get fancy, you can embed your own branding graphic, but if you don't want your customers to be subjected to the company's ads, the ad-free version (via costs a minimum of $6.25/month. I thought I might try embedding my imprint graphic for Pendragon Cove Press but decided that the cool factor wasn't worth the monthly subscription cost, and I had no intention of submitting anyone to the extra advertising.

How do I use a QR code?
The output of sites such as QR Stuff and is either a JPG or PNG file that may be embedded in any other image, email, web site, or publication. I have placed QR codes on promotional postcards and inside teaser booklets, in the backmatter of my free print editions of The Challenge and The Color of Vengeance, and even on designs uploaded to for screening onto tote bags.

In every case, the key is to make sure there is a high contrast between the QR code graphic and its surrounding background; otherwise, the scan will need to be done in the brightest possible lighting conditions or else it might not work.

If you can design it, you can QR code it!


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