Thursday, November 17, 2011

Promoting Your Book with QR Codes

by Holly Jahangiri  

I’ll bet it never occurred to you, while writing your book, that writing would be the easiest part of becoming a published author. I still remember the “deer in the headlights” look on my face when Vivian Zabel said something to me on the phone about attending a book festival and arranging for book signings. “WHA—? Oh, no, no, no… I WROTE the book. You have to promote it!!”

I still remember Vivian’s laughter on the other end of the line. After my blind panic subsided, it did start to sink in – it even made sense. What’s a good book promotion without the active involvement of the author? When’s the last time you went to a book signing and thanked the publisher for their autograph?

Book Promotion: 20 Strategies That Will Broaden Your Reach is a great list of things you can do right now to promote your book. As an introverted technical writer who writes children’s picture books by night and still wakes in a cold sweat from nightmares involving kindergarteners and flying globs of Jell-O, rotten fruit, and spoiled milk, virtual book tours are one of my favorite methods of book promotion. I also like new, cutting edge, or creative ideas.

What Are Those Squiggly Things?

One such idea involves the use of QR codes – a form of two-dimensional barcode that can be easily scanned and translated by any number of free smartphone apps. A lot of people ask me, “What are those squiggly things?” My dad would call them “curiosity generators.” The cool thing about QR codes is that, although they’ve been around for quite a while, they’re just now gaining traction as a marketing tool, and they’re actually useful because they are so easy to use and so accessible thanks to the popularity and widespread use of smartphones. Look closely, and you will see QR codes on billboards, shop windows, buildings, magazines, coupons, ads, business cards, postcards, web sites, and more. If you have a smartphone, odds are you’ve seen them as a way to quickly download apps from a catalogue or web site. Odds are, they pique your curiosity and you want to scan them – to discover the “secret message.”

Here are a few examples (if you have a smartphone, go ahead and scan them!):


Adding a QR code to your business card lets you embed your contact information in a standard format, or allows you to create a “landing page” with dynamic content that can be updated as needed. When resizing the QR code or changing colors, or when placing text or other images near the QR code, be sure to scale the graphic, preserving the original aspect ratio. Always double- and triple-check to be sure it still scans, if you make any changes to it at all. The “quiet space” around the QR code (more commonly known as “white space” to us writers) matters, and some codes have a higher amount of “forgiveness” built in (higher error checking). A higher amount of error checking results in a more complex code that allows for up to about 30% of the pixels to be replaced or altered artistically. This often comes at the cost of scanning speed, and people may give up trying if they think the code doesn’t work, so sometimes, simple is best.


You can use a QR code to make it easy for people on the go to sign up for your newsletter, or bookmark your blog. QR codes can be printed or placed on your blog. This example goes to a signup form for a mailing list I created for a blogging contest. You can use a QR code to link to your book trailer on YouTube (keep in mind that Android-based smartphones may only be able to play video hosted on YouTube).

It is easy to create your own QR codes, at no cost, online – just search for “free online QR code generator.” One of my favorites is If you prefer artistic QR codes that you can integrate with your brand image, you may want to hire a designer. The following promotional codes were created using and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3:




Now Create Your Own – It’s Easy!

  1. Using your favorite web browser, visit
  2. In the blue box, enter your text. You have 255 characters to play with – that’s 115 characters more than a Tweet on Twitter! You can use a URL shortener, too, to buy more space for your message.
  3. Click the Qurify! button. Your QR code appears to the right.
  4. Click the link to Download (PNG file)  |  Download (JPG file) - choose your favorite format, or download both.
You can use the black and white QR code as is, or add it to your promotional materials using your favorite illustration program.

This should be enough to get you started! Any questions? Fresh ideas for using QR codes? Share them in the comments, below.

Holly Jahangiri is a technical communicator, social media analyticator, children's book author with 4RV Publishing (Trockle, and A Puppy, Not a Guppy), blogger, happy wife and mom living in Houston, Texas. She would really appreciate it if you would read her post, Good Goals Gone Bad on


  1. I hope reading will click on links to help you with the competition, Holly.

    I don't have anything that reads QR codes, so hope the examples aren't something that would embarrass me. *grin*

  2. Gosh, I hope the elves didn't mess them up! :) Thanks, Vivian. I need to let the BBTCafe folks know that this went live a day early, so they can come ask any questions I've failed to anticipate and answer! (Surely I haven't...)

  3. I just have to trust you, huh?

    I'm sure people who know what you're talking about will have questions. I don't know enough to have any.

  4. So changing the color doesn't alter the information? That's good to know!

    I read on some site that using the shortened URL to generate the QR code made the code simpler and easier for Smartphones to read. Also that it should be at least 1" square.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  5. I don't think it has to be at least 1" square, but the smaller the code, the smaller the amount of data should be, I think (the more dense those tiny pixels are, the slower it is to scan, in my experience).

    Oh - can you scan the examples and reassure Viv I didn't embed any jokes at her expense? :)

  6. I've been wondering about those codes I see everywhere. I've even been seeing them on book cover backs, by he bar code. Way cool!

    It seems I have another promotional toy, even though I have no smart phone yet (I don't get cell service where I live, so haven't been able to justify the expense).


  7. Okay... I'll see if I can understand, put to use, and make this work. Thanks, Holly *:)

  8. Interesting. I didn't know much about these.



  9. Great! Aidana, let me know if you need verification - I'll be happy to scan a code for you, now and then, while you decide if it's worth the expense as an "artistic tool." :) (There may be less expensive barcode readers out there that can verify the codes, too.)

    Have fun, Ginger and Cheryl - I'll be interested to see samples of what people come up with, now that they've got a few springboard ideas.

  10. Jolly, great information. I don't have anything to scan QR codes with either, but if it's a marketing tool I'm interested!

    I'll be linking to this in my newsletter.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  11. If anybody wants to promote their business and products effectively, then generating qr codes for it that's brilliat way according to me. Qr codes offers great ways to promote any product against the people through mobile marketing.

    custom qr codes

  12. We want to promote books but without QR code.

    book publicist

  13. Did you know that you can shorten your links with LinkShrink and get cash for every click on your shortened urls.