A time-saving tech trick for self promoters

shortLinks_300x373If you’re in charge of your own online promotion, I’ll bet I know a way you could save some time and aggravation. Your book is available on Kindle, Kobo, Sony, and on your own site, right? Maybe your publisher’s site, if you have a publisher. Maybe there’s an audio book available on Audible, and then there’s the GoodReads and LibraryThing pages, etc. The point is, there’s a lot of them.

So when you’re writing a blog post, or sending an email, or signing up for an online ad system, etc., how do you keep track of all the URLs linking to your book on all those pages? Sure, you have a landing page somewhere that contains all the links, but sometimes, you need to link to the Kobo page specifically. Or the Kindle page. I’ll bet you’ve even got a document somewhere with all those URLs listed, so you can cut and paste them, don’t you? Of course you do. We all do.

What if I could show you a way to memorize all those links so you could give them to people from memory? Or type them into a form without having to go look them up? Well, come on in past the fold and I’ll show you how you do it.

There are two techniques. I’ll explain both of them, and let you pick what’s best for you.

TinyURL.com

Open up that list of URLs you keep and then get on over to tinyurl.com. Now, for each book you have, create a short mnemonic code that you can assign to each book. For my fantasy novel, Strange Places, I use SP. You can use whatever you like, but it’s best if it’s short and easy to remember. Now, at tinyurl.com, cut and paste your Kindle page URL into the long URL field, and then type YOURCODE-Kindle into the custom alias box below it. (In my case, it was SP-Kindle.) Now click the “Make TinyURL” box. You’re done. From now on, you can send people to your book page on Kindle by giving them tinyurl.com/SP-Kindle. Hey, that’s pretty easy to remember, isn’t it? Now repeat for every destination page you have for every book you have. Once you’ve set these up, you’ll never open that doc with the cut-and-paste list in it again.

Unfortunately, there are three problems with the TinyURL.com approach. First, the astute among you will notice that if we all herd over to tinyurl.com and start doing this, the woman who wrote a book called Sexy Potatoes is going to be disappointed, because I’ve already acquired all the useful short codes that begin with SP-. So she’ll have to use something like SexPot-Kindle as her UR code, which in her case, doesn’t look like a bad compromise. But eventually, we’ll all have to start lengthening our short-forms even more. Maybe SP-AuthorInitials-Kindle would keep things better organized. But for those of us whose names are common (I’m a J Smith, you know :-) even that scheme has its flaws, so again, the short URLs will need to get longer. (The really cunning reader will probably stop right here and rush over to tinyurl.com right now, before her ideal short-forms have been taken by other readers. It’s a race. Ready? Go!)

The second flaw with this approach is that tinyurl.com might go away some day, and when it does, all the places I’ve put that short link might break. So what’s an author to do?

The third problem is that if you type in your long URL wrong when you set up the tinyurl, or if your destination needs to change in the future, there is no way to edit the assigned short URL at tinyurl.com. That short form will forever redirect to the original page you pointed it at. There may be other URL shortening services that allow you to customize the short URL and that also allow you to edit them in the future, but I don’t know of any. (If you do, please feel free to comment below and I’ll update the article.)

Use Your Own Domain

It turns out that redirecting one address to take visitors to a different one is a very common thing on internet servers. To resolve all of the problems I mentioned above, what we want to do is use our own, existing domain names as the basis for this trick, rather than tinyurl.com, or whatever other service people dream up. Essentially, what we’ll do is make up a URL on our own domain that doesn’t really exist as a page, and then have the web server handle visitors who try to reach that URL by sending them to the long URL instead.

And this, it turns out, is really easy to do.

For those of you who use WordPress, the simplest solution I’ve found is to install a plugin called Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin. Once you’ve installed it, go to the admin panel and choose that plugin’s Quick Redirects page, which will take you to the setup page you want. There you’ll see two fields: Request and Destination. Just put your short-form URL code in the Request box (don’t forget to put a / at the beginning of it) and put the long-form final destination URL in the Destination box, including the http:// prefix. Then click Save Changes.

That’s it. If your web site is at http://myawesomeness.com, you can now type myawesomness.com/SP-Kindle (or whatever your short code was) into your browser’s address bar and it will take you to the Kindle page for your book. Nifty, simple and easy to remember. How can you lose?

Anyway, for those of you who don’t use WordPress, relax. You can still use this trick, but you’ll have to dig a little bit into how your web server handles 301 errors, which is what we’re doing – handling an unrecognized URL by redirecting to another one. I promise you it isn’t complicated, but it may take a bit of research.

Once you’ve got it working, no matter which method you use, I’m sure you’ll find a dozen other uses for it, too. For example, I’ve found it useful to create a short URL for my cover images, too. (I use SP-Cover as my code.) The sky’s the limit.

And if you do find this article useful, I invite you to try out my Kindle or Kobo links and buy yourself a copy of Strange Places. (Just to prove to yourself that the links actually work, doncha know. :-)

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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.