How To Create Free & Easy Book Marketing Images

My eyes glaze over whenever I need to use photoshop or any other application with a steep learning curve. I’m sure I could figure it out eventually, but honestly, I don’t want to spend hours with the tutorials. I’d rather be writing. Sites that allow writers to shortcut the process make life so much easier. When they’re free and easy to use, these sites become invaluable tools.

This first little beauty is a gem. The site’s called DIY Book Covers. The section we want is The 3D Book Cover Creator You’ll Love to Use. And you know what? They’re right! It’s a game-changer for those of us who lack patience for sites like photoshop, which is why I’m sharing step-by-step directions with all of you.

Ready? Here we go …

Please excuse the lighting in some of these photos. I took them with my phone rather taking screenshots (long story).

The linked title above will take you to this page …

It automatically opens to “Single” image choices, as you can see here …

The cool part is, we also have the option of creating tablet, phone, and print combo images by clicking “Composite.”

Click the image you want to create, then click “Next” and it will take you to this page …

Click “Browse” and find your book cover on your computer. Then click the blue “Upload” button and the image will appear.

See the two orange buttons at the bottom? We have the option of saving as PNG or JPEG. I like to use PNG for marketing images because they tend to be crisper, but they do take up more download space. Once you choose your file preference, click “Next” and you’re done. The download will show your 3D image with a clear background.

These steps took less than five minutes from start to finish. Easy-peasy, right? Okay, now, we could use this 3D image as is, but it’s a little bland. We want readers to click our ad, so we need to add a background.

Numerous sites offer public domain photos that don’t require attribution. My top three favorites are Pixabay, Morguefile, and Unsplash.

Finding the perfect background image takes time. To help with the search, consider the following:

  • What type of mood do you want to convey?
  • We want our background to reflect our genre. Are you promoting a gritty crime novel, sci-fi, fantasy, or romance?
  • Will the background compliment your book or overpower it?
  • Where will your 3D image sit? Get creative!

The first and third promo pics below go against the norm; the middle one is more universal, but I’m showing them as examples of thinking outside the box …

 

The third image should be more centered, but you get the picture. The bookend photos are fun images to catch people’s attention. I wouldn’t recommend always using these types of backgrounds unless they fit your book, but taking a break from the serious side of marketing can be fun too.

Okay, once we’ve found our background, it’s time to insert our 3D image and text. As I mentioned in my first official post on TKZ, the easiest site to use is Canva.com.

Let’s go there now. This is the home screen …

See the dropdown menu under “What would you like to design”? Canva takes the guesswork out of social media’s various sizes. All we do is choose the social media site where we’ll be marketing our book, and Canva automatically gives us the correct size. Although, I’ve found that “Facebook post” images also work on Twitter. We don’t need to create two separate images unless we’re paying for ad space. In which case, it’s best to create an image that’s guaranteed to fit. Ads tend to run differently than a regular post.

I chose Facebook Post, which led me to this screen …

On the left-hand-side of the screen, you’ll find Uploads. Click that button and upload your background image as well as your 3D image. I’m showing you the background image I chose for SILENT MAYHEM so you can see how to drag the image to fill the screen.

See the white bars and corner dots around the outer edges of the background photo? Hold and drag until the image covers the entire template. Then decide where your 3D image should go. By clicking the book cover image in Uploads, Canva will stick it in the middle of your background, but positioning it easy and self-explanatory.

Next click “Text” in the left-side menu and a dotted bar will appear. At the top, you’ll find where to choose a font, color, size, etc.

Here’s the finished product that I created for my new release, SILENT MAYHEM …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Brush is another cool site. With the free option, our 3D options are limited, but they’ve combined everything we’d need to create a promo pic, including over one million background images, stamps, text, and fonts. The only catch is, they limit the amount of downloads to three per month. They also offer a Plus Plan for $8.00 per month ($96/yr), which grants access to all 3D templates, unlimited downloads, support, and five video templates per month. With Book Brush, creating a book promo image only takes a few minutes.

What sites do you use to create marketing images for your blog or book(s)? Do you have a favorite site for public domain photos? Any tips to share?

 

Some things in life defy comprehension, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Or deadly.

Pre-Order SILENT MAYHEM on Amazon and join the giveaway!

Email me your receipt and I’ll put your name in a drawing to win signed paperbacks of the first two books in the series.

Winners announced on Release Day (4/29/19).

 

 

5+

Can Slick Marketing Sell Bad Books?

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

Kris titled her post last week “Naked Came the Stranger,” and slyly didn’t give us the story behind the title. I’d like to do that now, because I well remember one of the most famous literary hoaxes in publishing history.

This was back in the 1960s, the halcyon days of big, trashy novels like Valley of the Dolls and The Love Machine. A Newsday reporter by the name of Mike McGrady, over drinks with some pals, posited that a novel with no social value and even less literary quality could sell, if it was about sex and had a titillating cover.

To prove it, he got a couple dozen of his newsroom colleagues (19 men and 5 women, including two Pulitzer Prize winners) to conspire to write a lurid tome. The simple concept was a housewife having a series of adulterous flings, one per chapter. As the New York Times put it in McGrady’s obituary, “She has sex with a mobster and sex with a rabbi. She has sex with a hippie and sex with at least one accountant. There is a scene involving a tollbooth, another involving ice cubes…” You get the picture. The conspirators wrote one chapter each, trying their darndest not to make the writing too good.

McGrady edited each chapter, blue-penciling anything even approaching a modicum of literary quality.

The project’s original title was Strangers In The Valley, a cross between Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann and Strangers When We Meet by Evan Hunter. But a female colleague, Beulah Gleich, told McGrady that the title was no good. He asked why. She said it needed the word Naked. McGrady suggested The Naked Stranger. Gleich said that was too blatant, that the title should have “more class.” Well, you be the judge.

McGrady decided on the pseudonym “Penelope Ashe” and had his sister-in-law pose for the author photo. (On the back of the dust jacket, “Penelope Ashe” is described as a “demure Long Island housewife.”)

He then submitted it to publisher Lyle Stuart, known for “edgy” books. They accepted it (not knowing it was a hoax) and proceeded to design a salacious cover. If you want to see the entire cover (a rather oxymoronic term considering the context) you can go here. (The photo was purloined from a Hungarian magazine, and when the book became a phenomenon, the photographer and model demanded compensation, and got it.)

When Naked Came the Stranger hit the stores, the reviewers hit back. The Village Voice said the book was “of such perfectly realized awfulness that it will suck your soul right out of your brainpan and through your mouth, and you will happily let it go.”

It became an instant bestseller.

After the book reached the 20,000 sales mark, the hoaxers, perhaps feeling a collective pang of guilt, decided to come clean on The David Frost Show. So the joke was over, right?

Um, no. The book sold even faster, spending 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It has lifetime sales of over 400,000. Open Road Media has the pub rights now.

I remember my mom and dad laughing about all this while looking at a Life magazine story on the hoax, with a group photo of the co-authors. You can see that photo, along with some others (including one of the cigar-chomping McGrady) by going here.

Takeaways:

1. In the staid publishing world of the 60s and 70s, if a book was about sex, even if poorly written, slick marketing and a suggestive cover sometimes led to heaving, tumultuous, luminescent waves of febrile, smoldering, incandescent sales.

2. That may happen occasionally today, though it’s much more difficult, primarily because of the roiling sea of content now available.

3. If a book is not about sex and is poorly written, slick marketing and a great cover might drive some initial sales, but with a major drop off afterward. This will be of no help to an author’s career.

4. On the other hand, a really good book will always be held back by a bad cover. That will also be of no help to an author’s career.

5. So if you’re self-publishing, don’t skimp on covers. Where do you find designers? Check out 99Designs and this article by Joanna Penn.

6. A great book with a great cover, all other things being equal, is the best driver of what is far and away the most effective marketing: word-of-mouth.

7. Book after book following #4 is the only sure-fire way of building a writing career.

So, writer, don’t play fast and loose with a one-book stand. Commit to a quality relationship with your work, and take a vow to make that a life-long bond.

Okay, Zoners, let’s have your naked opinion. Don’t be a stranger.

10+

What is Amazon Doing Now? Can it Work for You?

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I received a notice recently from Amazon regarding its implementation of “Amazon Stores,” a way to promote a brand or company products. I’m not sure how open and available this is for anyone with a brand or a store concept. Are many authors using this?

I have a corporation, Cosas Finas LLC, that I have developed into Cosas Finas Publications to promote my brand and I have a website that I’m still developing for this entity. (My navigation needs improvement and I’m tweaking it after my deadline, so be kind.)

Awhile back I set up an Amazon PAGE for my company/brand using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to link ad campaigns to. I created a landing page for my ads to show more of my books and group them by series or featured new releases.

I’m a user of Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) and have various ad campaigns established for my books as they release or I develop a concept to promote a series, for example. Through AMS I had created a Cosas Finas Publications company PAGE, which is different than their new STORE idea. Amazon Stores are slicker and more attractive in appearance.

Brand pages are going away or the links to these pages will start to be phased out by Oct 31 and completely gone by Dec. It’s only cost me the money for “click-thru” ads and I set my budget and can monitor the expense vs sales revenues. I’ve been satisfied with the benefits outweighing the cost on AMS and I monitor my profitability and tweak ad campaigns to make them more effective.

Amazon Stores are free to vendors. I just set up an ad campaign that links directly to my new store. It was very easy. I chose a HEADLINE search for keywords as my campaign structure (recommended by Amazon and others I’ve researched) and I can query Amazon’s own system for high traffic keywords used by customers. I set up a daily max budget with a click-thru cost for an ongoing campaign without an end. It’ll be up to me to periodically evaluate the effectiveness and I can terminate any campaign at any time. From what I understand, these vendor stores will be required to have at least one ad campaign linked to them to keep them active. This will probably go into effect after Dec, 2017.

I really liked the ad design I submitted yesterday for Amazon approval. Instead of me creating an intriguing tag line for each book, I was able to use my brand slogan, which is “Take a front Row Seat to Suspense” and direct readers to my store. My ad dollars will go farther if I can consolidate my ads for my brand. We’ll see how this turns out. It’s still very new and I need a final approval on my ad campaign before I can see what traffic and sales it generates, but the metrics are there to analyze, with revenues vs ad cost.

To check out more details, visit AMS for vendors (first party sellers are vendors) or Seller Central (for 3rd party sellers that sell other’s products) for sellers.

How many of you advertise through AMS? What’s been your experience?

My STORE is approved as of yesterday. I hope this link works – Cosas Finas Publications The pre-set design templates are not flexible enough for me. It would be nice to have them in modules where you could mix and match, but I can play with the templates to see what works best for books.

Key Features of Amazon Stores:

1.) Design templates allow you to feature different books in a way that your Amazon Author Page isn’t set up to do. You can add video/book trailers, post promo text, praise blurbs/awards, or feature upcoming releases.

2.) Flexible ability to feature different products at your command. You are the keeper of your store and what is in it. If you have other products that are associated with your brand or writing, like T-shirts or coffee mugs for writers, you can feature those along with your books.

3.) There are social sharing buttons tagged to your store and you can set up HEADLINE search ads or drive readers to your store through your ad campaigns and increase your store traffic. Amazon allows a vendor to search existing keywords already proven to have high traffic on their system.

4.) You can take your Amazon Store link and use it in other promotions off the Amazon website. I can see this working for KDP Select products that are exclusive to Amazon for a time.

5.) Developing an ad campaign for my whole brand of books allows me to make the most of my budget for advertising. Rather than creating an ad for a new release, I can create one for my brand and update the book offerings as I have releases.

For those of you focused on your writing and not at the point of targeting the “not so fun” part of the business end, it’s still important for you to see what authors are doing to promote their work. I talk to many aspiring authors whose eyes glaze over when you share the very necessary business side. They want to believe a publisher will “take care of them” and sell their books, easy/peezy, but that’s not how it works.

I wanted TKZers to see how this might work for you, if you’re not aware of AMS and the Amazon STORE concept, but if you are using it, what are your thoughts? Where do you see this going for Amazon? Is this concept directed at larger companies with multiple products, like a running shoe company for example, or can this work for authors on a budget?

5+

Another Way to Get Your Ebooks into Libraries

Jordan Dane

Available for Amazon ebook preorder now

Available for Amazon ebook preorder now

 

Interested in getting your ebooks into libraries and get paid? And would you like to do it without forcing libraries to repurchase your digital offering after a restricted loan count as if it has a limited shelf life? You can upload your ebook into Overdrive or get to Overdrive through Smashwords. Both can be cumbersome systems to work with and have their challenges, there are many e-book programs being developed every year, such as Sqribble, and more and more platforms to read ebooks, not just iBooks.
But I wanted to share a developing alternative.
EbooksAreForever

EbooksAreForever is a platform to help libraries sustainably purchase ebooks from independent authors and publishers. It was launched in March 2014. Since it’s new to me, and I’d been looking for a means to reach out to libraries for my indie pubbed and backlist novels, I thought I’d share what I found.

Ebooksareforever’s philosophy is based around sustainability. They believe libraries should be able to buy ebooks at affordable prices. Since ebooks are digital and not physically degradable items, libraries should be able to own and offer them to loan for eternity.

Authors JA Konrath and August Wainwright co-founded ebooksareforever to sell DRM-free ebooks with no re-licensing restrictions.

“We deliver a curated collection of titles from independent authors and independent publishers and make it as simple as possible for both the author/publisher and the library to interact with the collection and to fairly compensate the author/publisher for every transaction.”

—August Wainwright, co-founder

How does EbooksAreForever work?

I’m excited at the prospect of having a new avenue into libraries, but understandably, libraries need a gatekeeper to ensure quality. How does that work?

Every author and book is approved by a curation team. “We need this because we’re working hand in hand with libraries”, says Wainwright, “and we need to deliver what they’re asking for. We assess by reviews, number of titles the author has available, whether those titles are in a series, quality of cover art, interest in libraries, and genre saturation in our system. We couldn’t be taken seriously if, say, 80% of our titles were romance. It equally wouldn’t work if every book had to have at least 200 reviews on Amazon.”

Good news. If your book is rejected, you can reapply 60 days later.

Each book is purchased by a library on ‘perpetual license’. They pay once and they can use it forever. Only one copy can be checked out at a time.

Will authors get paid?

Yes. Titles are sold to libraries for $7.99 (full-length) and $3.99 to $4.99 for shorter works. Authors receive 70% royalty of every sale.

Ebooksareforever says it hopes to evolve the submission/rejection process once the business grows and the system flourishes, but the current focus is on developing and sustaining a robust system which is a trusted resource and popular with libraries.

They are also working on ‘patron apps’ which will break the business out of the US and allow global libraries to purchase titles with patrons loaning copies using universal apps. This system should also see broader opportunities for author payment. A very exciting prospect.

PROS

• Free to submit

• Author payment

• Set up by authors for authors

CONS

• There are rigorous curation efforts that favor series and higher-profile authors

• For now, it’s limited to US-only

Discussion:
What have you heard about EbooksAreForever?

Any other ways to distribute your ebooks into libraries besides the ones I’ve mentioned?

tmp_4087-TheLastVictim_highres-1601584079The Last Victim available for ebook preorder at a discounted price. After release, will be available in print and ebook formats.

7+

Book Talk Checklist

Nancy J. Cohen

Do you give talks at libraries, bookstores, or community groups? If so, here’s a handy checklist so you don’t forget your essential items.

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Autographed by Author Stickers Optional; not all readers want a sticker on their signed book.

Book Cover of Upcoming Release

Bookmarks: Yes, readers still like them. And even if your books are only available in ebook format, a bookmark or postcard is a reminder the guest can take home.

Books to Donate: Optional; This works for a library donation or door prizes if you’re a guest speaker at a community group.

Box of Books: Always bring a box or two for when you sell your own; otherwise keep some in your car trunk in case the bookseller doesn’t come through.

Bottle of Water: This isn’t necessary if you’re in a conference hotel that provides water for speakers or if the talk takes place at a restaurant.

Business Cards: Be sure to include your website, blog, and social media URLs.

Calculator: This might be needed if you are selling your own books, or else bring a pad of notepaper to add the cost of multiple copies. Or use your cell phone for this purpose.

Camera: Bring a camera or use your cell phone to take pictures of your event.

Cash: Bring an envelope with small bills for change if you are selling your own books. Consider if you want a credit card app on your cell phone or if you will accept personal checks.

Computer Thumb Drive or Laptop: If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation.

Conference Brochures and Flyers: For your local writers’ group for recruitment purposes.

Handouts: If you are doing a lecture, bring a handout people can take home. It’s always appreciated and stays with them longer than a PowerPoint presentation.

Mailing List Sign-up Sheet: This is the most important item to bring. If you are speaking to a writers group, offer to send new sign-ups a file via email of a related handout of interest to them.

Notices of Upcoming Appearances: If you have a slate of appearances, give it to attendees. They might tell a friend who’ll want to hear you speak.

Printed Promotional Material: i.e. postcards, bookmarks, and brochures for your series.

Sharpie fine point black ink permanent markers: Bring plenty of pens, but not expensive ones in case you lose them.

Wheels: You’ll need to haul boxes of books if you bring your own. Look in luggage stores for folding wheels or put the books in a carry-on size suitcase.

With this handy checklist, you won’t forget anything important. What else would you add?

 

8+

The Wow Factor

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Jim provided a great post yesterday on the reasons people abandon reading a book (mainly because, no surprise, it’s slow and boring!) and ways in which an author can make their own work ‘unputdownable’. Today I want to discuss what propels a book to the next level – what I call the ‘wow’ factor – those elements that take a book to a level where not only can you not put it down but you also can’t help but tell everyone about it. 

This is the essence of ‘word of mouth’ marketing, which can turn a book into an instant bestseller. Think about a book like Fifty Shades of Grey. Although I confess I haven’t actually read it, and no matter what you think about its subject matter or literary merit, there’s no disputing it created a buzz which encouraged millions of people to buy it. For me, the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series have it. But how to define that ‘wow’ factor? Surely if if was that easy, we’d all be bestsellers…but it’s not and yet, it’s the elusive element that every publishing house and indie author longs to create.

For what it’s worth, I think the ‘wow’ factor probably involves a combination of the following:

  • A startling, controversial or shocking take on a conventional topic or genre.  This is what made Fifty Shades of Grey the talk of the town when it was first release. I remember being in a boot camp class and being amazed at how many women were reading it, simply because it was so illicit and controversial (which was really why I didn’t feel in the least compelled to read it!). I think the same can be said for classics such as Lolita and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. If you get people talking about a book because it raises the hackles, insults somebody’s ethics or challenges their notions of propriety it’s probably going to generate buzz (both negative as well as positive). But that is hardly enough (I’m sure there have been thousands of books about controversial topics that have bombed…)
  • An uber-intense relationship between characters that appeals to the inner romantic in us all. Think The Bridges of Madison County or the Twilight series. Despite the writing style (or lack thereof) these books pulled at the heart strings. They managed to capture the yearning for true love and, as anyone whose ever watched The Princess Bride knows, true love conquers all. It’s hard to quantify exactly why these books manage to generate such an overwhelming ‘buzz’ but I think the ‘I will love you forever’  over-the-top romance was addictive.
  • A story that touches our humanity. We’ve all read great satisfying books and recommended them to others but rarely do we rave about a book to strangers, family members and friends unless it something indefinable that captures our heart as well as our attention.  I think if a novel makes people feel good about themselves, or raises our consciousness and humanity we feel compelled to tell others about it. This is certainly what happened to me after I read Schindler’s List and The Alchemist.
  • And finally, a story that totally transcends the ordinary… Which goes to demonstrate how important it is to raise the stakes, take risks and strive to transcend the genre in any book you write.  Think of a book like Life of Pi and you’ll know what I mean.


So what do you think helps create the ‘wow’ factor? What was the last book you couldn’t help talking about with everyone you know? 

0

Multiple Book Releases

What happens when you have more than one book to promote at the same time? Do you annoy readers with announcements about the new releases, blog tours, and contests? Which book do you choose to emphasize in your online blasts?

In this digital age, we can publish as fast as we can write. But at what point are we diluting our own sales? And how will our digital releases affect our print books with their higher price point?

I’ve reached this quandary in April through no planning of my own. Wild Rose Press gave me April 26 as the official release date for Warrior Rogue, #2 in my paranormal Drift Lords series. But then they decided to enter it into the Kindle Select program, meaning the ebook came out in December and my five free days were in February. I did a big push over Valentine’s Day weekend with announcements and contests.

I’d planned another promotional campaign for April 26 to celebrate the print release and the book’s availability for Nook and other formats. I set my newsletter to go out on that date, a Rafflecopter contest to start then, and a blog tour shortly thereafter. (If you want to sign up for my newsletter, visit http://nancyjcohen.com and fill in the form on the left sidebar).

But the best laid plans go awry. Two things happened to impact my campaign. Warrior Rogue showed up in print about two weeks early. And Shear Murder, Bad Hair Day Mystery #10, came out in ebook for $3.19!

I’d been panting with anticipation for the digital release of Shear Murder, but Five Star wouldn’t give me a specific date. This title had only been available as an expensive hardcover for over a year. And finally it shows up in the same month as my promoted new release. What to do?

Since I’d already set up my contest and newsletter and blog tour for Warrior Rogue, I’m going ahead with those plans for April 26. That date seems like a moot point now, since the title is already available in various formats. The irony is that Warrior Rogue, initially $2.99, price jumped to $5.99. So now that ebook costs more than Shear Murder at $3.19.

I don’t want to bombard my fans with notices and confuse them with my two different genres, but I really want to get word out about Shear Murder. It’s easier to keep new releases apart when they aren’t the same month!

And hereafter, I won’t treat release dates as absolute. There’s no point in planning a big hoopla around a certain date when the book shows up weeks earlier. Is this a result of the digital age?

Those of you who are hybrid authors, both traditionally and indie published, can at least space out your own uploads so as not to compete with your publisher’s plans. But if you’re writing two or more books per year for different publishers, how do you alternate your online promotions? And as a reader, how much news from an author is too much?

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