How’s your Sunday? Mine’s off to a good start, since I have the fab Brantwijn Serrah visiting. She’s going to chat to us about an extremely important issue for any author – promotion! In particular the pretty picture side of it; ie book covers, trailers and promo graphics and art. I’m thinking I can definitely learn something here, so I hope you all find it helpful too. *sits back with her brew and biccies* Take it away, Brantwijn.
If you’re an indie author like me, chances are you don’t get a lot of promo or marketing material arranged for you. For most of us, things like book covers or web banners are things we have to pay professional artists for, and I’ll be the first to say I’m no professional. I’ve been lucky to have some skill and interest in graphic arts, but not everyone does, and not everyone has skill enough to compete with paid career illustrators.
That doesn’t mean you can’t at least try to create your own promo now and again, if you’re not exactly able to afford a professional marketing assistant or team. Here are some things I’ve learned from my experience creating my own graphic marketing material.
My first subject is probably the one for which I have the toughest advice. Book covers.
If you aren’t familiar with—and skilled at—using a good graphics program like Photoshop, or working with stock art, I highly suggest you do not create your own covers. Covers are the first thing your readers see and like it or not, we do judge a book by its cover. Not only do you have to have a handle on making that image look clean, polished, professionally arranged, and attractive, you have to make it something that will communicate. Your readers should look at the cover and have a good feel for something about that book which interests them.
There are quite a few quick tips, covered quite nicely in Rayne Hall’s Book Why Doesn’t My Book Sell, among them suggestions such as creating an asymmetrical rather than centered image, and keeping text clean and minimal. But the bottom line on covers is that if you can’t make it look absolutely phenomenal, you’re better off hiring a professional. This is an area where I personally suggest very little compromise. While I can’t take the time here to exactly conduct a course of graphic arts design, I can however give you a few thoughts on what you can do.
If you are planning on undertaking your own covers, you should invest the time in learning advanced uses of a graphic arts program. You should be able to do things like:
* Splicing together multiple images from stock photos to make them appear to naturally be part of the same image.
* Use layers and blending techniques to eliminate “rough edges” or obvious “Photoshopped” elements (like one model’s head on another model’s body).
* Use color adjustment techniques to give the cover a consistent tone, if you’ve used several elements from separate stock or if you’ve adjusted some colors already.
* Interpret the importance of pixel dimensions and high resolution.
* Be familiar with text tools as well as layer options to make your text pop and yet not appear overworked.
Never, ever use images that you do not own or did not personally purchase from a stock image website such as Shutterstock or Fotolia. Don’t use images of celebrities for your characters, and don’t ever use artwork by an artist you have not paid for their work.
Stock Images for Promo Art or Book Trailers
Promotional art like web images, twitpic banners, and book trailers are a little easier to work with even if you’re not a pro.
I suggest you always use stock art. This gives a clean and polished look, and even if you can’t turn your stock model into a four-armed alien woman with shimmery green skin and intricate Martian tattoos over half her body, you can work with elements to create something effective, if not a literal interpretation of your character.
Again, I highly, highly advise against using pictures of celebrities. Besides possibly inciting some form of cease-and-desist, using photos of celebrities waters down the independent creative work you are trying to promote. If you are asked to create a “Dream Cast” for your story, then of course celebrity association is expected and in fact, is your goal. In any other circumstance, however, feeding me promotional art of your story pasted all over with pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston or Robert Downey Jr, or famous depictions of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Dean and Sam Winchester, etc, is only going to make me feel like your book is really a veiled attempt at an ode to your celebrity boyfriend. Outside of a “dream cast” request, try to avoid describing or depicting your characters by association with celebrity pop culture icons.
When creating promotional stills, such as a Twitter or Facebook picture, banner, or card, make sure any text in the image is minimized, easy-to-read, and balanced against the visual space. You don’t want to have your graphic element overly crowded by your text. Don’t overdo text art or text effects, and don’t fall in love with a particularly difficult-to-read font. This is my weakness: I see fonts as a reflection of the “voice” I’m trying to invoke, and I hate using the same style font for everything. However, overtly ornate fonts are harder to read, and you don’t want to gamble on a font at the cost of losing a significant deal of your audience. No matter how pretty Edwardian Script is and how well it evokes your Victorian historical romance, it’s not worth using if no one can read it.
In promotional stills focus on one, at the most two, major visual elements. You want to communicate a lot about your book in a small space, and you don’t want your audience distracted or misled by exceedingly complex visual elements. Choose something that has a striking look to it and a strong evocation of your story’s theme or spirit. A character, normally; a particularly important or striking object, such as a silver pocketwatch or set of dogtags or a piece of jewelry, can be very visually affective (as long as it significantly relates to the story, of course).
Creating Book Trailers
I use a combination of Audacity, Powerpoint, Windows Media Player and my stock art programs to create my own book trailers such as the ones here and here. Many of the same rules apply as we discussed above, such as the amount of text and the quality of your artwork.
Another thing to consider when it comes to book trailers, though, is time. As a general rule, I try to keep my book trailers to about 2 minutes. It should be something viewers can click, enjoy quickly, and not require a lot of extra comprehensive absorption.
To create a trailer using PowerPoint, at first treat the trailer as a presentation. Plan out where you wish to stake your claims about the book (or use reviews, or tidbits of the text) and create a number slides to contain this “presentation”.
Arrange the transitions and animations for the trailer over the slides. Try to avoid overly fancy or cheesy effects (like “Swing In”). Personally I find a simple fade in and out to be useful. As with still promos, avoid crowding up too much space with text, but when there is important text to highlight, make sure to include it.
I most heartily suggest anyone who wants to do these things when marketing their new indie release, definitely go for it. Try it out; pay attention to details, get a sense for the layout and process other authors have gone through before you. We may not have professional marketing teams on hand… but the Indie Community is coming together to understand more about the act of marketing ourselves.
Thanks so much for sharing, Brantwijn. I think I’ve definitely got some points from that, so am sure everyone will have.
Brantwijn also has a fab new release out. Check out the details here:
Finn expected a quiet birthday: a night off, touring the local bars with his sister Reagan. But his two princesses, Nineva and Nerissa, have already planned a big surprise. Before he knows it, Finn finds himself in a version of Wonderland, racing the Red and White Queens for his fondest birthday wish. Can he best the Red Knight, find the White Rabbit’s missing token, and outsmart the Chesire Cat, before he gets turned into a sheep?
And can Nina and Neri possibly know his true birthday wish…is them?
You can get your hands on a copy here:
Barnes & Noble
And don’t forget to follow Brantwijn on social media to stay up-to-date with her news and releases:
Foreplay and Fangs on Facebook
Take care x