OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Think about how you surf the internet these days. Think about how you decide what to click on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
Now multiply that by all those people who are overwhelmed by the amount of information and entertainment options online.
Let's face it – in a sea of content, how do you stand out?
Visual images can be a way for people to make an instant decision over whether to stay and read any further. Posts with visuals also get more engagement on social media.
It's the same concept as book covers – and we all know that people DO judge a book by its cover.
So what are some of your options as a writer to use visual content?
1. Use images on your blog posts
I see so many authors ignoring this basic advice and writing articles on blog platforms with no visuals on to entice the reader. This is a basic must-do for everything you write online.
You can get Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr so it doesn't have to cost you money.
Use the Advanced search option and then make sure you link back to the image provider, or use Compfight to do the searching for you. All my own photos are available for you to use under a Creative Commons license on Flickr here.
2. Make shareable images using quotes from your books
There are lines within your books that will be perfect for sharing.
First you have to find them, and if you have enough sales, you can find them on your Amazon page, right at the bottom, where the most highlighted passages are listed. Some of mine from Pentecost are shown right. You can, of course, go through the book with a highlighter and find some you like.
Then you can use tools like Canva or PicMonkey to format the quote with a great image, or you can just use Powerpoint/Keynote and then save as an image. Post them on any of the social media sites with links back to your books, blog posts or profiles.
You can do this for other people's quotes as well, for example, I did one for my podcast with mega-bestselling author David Morrell, the creator of Rambo.
3. Use Pinterest for story-boarding, research and inspiration
I love Pinterest, and I use it mainly for my own story ideas.
I create a Board per fiction book project, and it helps me capture ideas and images, as well as provide an extra dimension for my readers. I always share the Pinterest Board in the Author's Note at the back of my thrillers.
Register at Pinterest.com and download the Pinnable icon for your browser, then you can pin away when you're doing book research. I start my Boards very early, so often they are named after my working titles, which generally change later. For example, my Ragnarok Board became ‘Day of the Vikings' later.
For more ideas, check out A Guide to Pinterest for fiction and non-fiction writers by Frances Caballo. You can also find a whole load of ideas on Pinterest for using Canva to create book covers here.
4. Use infographics
These are perhaps best used for non-fiction books or for blog surveys or other useful information that begs to be shared. If you're someone who loves to play in Powerpoint/Keynote or Excel, you can prep the data there and then use the previously mentioned tools to format it.
You can also use services like Infogr.am or Easel.ly, or you could hire someone from Fiverr.com or PeoplePerHour.com to create one for you. For more ideas, check out 10 tools for creating infographics and visualizations.
5. Share ad hoc pics on your social media timeline
When people tell me they don't have time for marketing, I usually point them to a smartphone and taking pictures.
A picture creates a moment of connection, and someone will likely comment on it, favorite it or click to follow your profile because of it.
These are not pictures of you and your book! It is usually just something you see or that inspires you, for example, the sign on the right that I saw in a shop window in Bristol, UK, was retweeted and favorited 48 times. It took me about a minute to snap the picture and share it.
Attraction marketing is based on being useful, interesting, inspirational or entertaining – and you can do that with just one picture a day.
You might think your life is boring or mundane, but where you live might be fascinating to people on the other side of the world, or even in the next state. Try sharing aspects of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and see who discovers you.
6. Use SlideShare for your fiction or non-fiction book
There's a whole article on using SlideShare for your book here.
But basically, you create Powerpoint/Keynote presentations that are heavy on the visual side and load them up to SlideShare.com. From there, they can be shared easily on any social media, and embedded within your LinkedIn profile. Here's one I made for my political thriller, One Day In Budapest.
7. Create Book Trailers and Book Research Videos
Making a book trailer yourself takes some time and commitment, but it can be done!
I must admit to having some doubts about book trailers as an effective use of marketing budget, as I don't see much evidence that they really impact sales. But I have recently come around to the idea as translations mean the same content can be used multiple times, and with a proliferation of books, it's an effective visual differentiator. But be careful, there are services that cost a lot of money, and if you do it yourself badly, it can do more harm than good.
My trailer below in English is for Desecration, London Psychic Book 1 and I've used the same video for the German and Italian versions of the trailer, just by switching out the text. I also have Spanish coming too, so can reuse it all over again.
I outline the process for making a book trailer yourself here, and I made the one below for around $40, which included the royalty-free stock photos, video and music from Incompetech. I wouldn't recommend spending a lot of money on this but if you are feeling visually creative, give it a go yourself!
For more information, check out the following resources:
- 12 days to visual buzz email series – which includes more tips on where to find images, making 3D images, websites and logos
- 26 ways to use visuals in your social media marketing – Social Media Examiner
What image marketing are you using for your books? What else can you suggest? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.
Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Nick Wheeler not different, just special
Karen Inglis says
Hi Jo – great article as ever. One other tip – research shows the people are more likely to engage with images with captions than without. Hence on my blog I always caption my images… This one I did in May on the inspiration for The Secret Lake is a good example – http://kareninglis.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/6000-sales-on-the-secret-lake-revisits-its-roots/ but you will see captions on all of the images (I hope!) K
Joanna Penn says
Good point Karen, and adding captions is pretty easy with Canva and other options. Thanks!
Karen Inglis says
And on WordPress you just add the caption from inside the dashboard – very easy to do… and you can edit it quickly if it doesn’t look right…
Suzanne Anderson says
THANK YOU!!!! I was wondering how others created those cool graphics for their FB posts….thanks to your suggestion, I just signed up for Canva and I can now do it myself! It’s going to be very helpful for my next book launch.
Joanna Penn says
It is one of those tools that sends you off down a rabbit hole of creation for hours 🙂 Have fun!
Cyd Madsen says
Excellent, excellent, excellent as always. As content readers we are skimming and depending on the visual to sum it up and make it memorable. I think Pintrest builds intrigue about a WIP, as does tumblr. On Google+ your personal photos, and those you’ve created with iPhone or Droid, can be made into an album you name and add captions to, then hit a button and have an email sent to your circles. I have no clue how a bunch of my photos ended up on Google+ waiting for me to fill in the blanks, so I can’t tell you how to do it, just suggest that we don’t overdo it.
Because images are such a huge part of marking for every business, and both Instagram and flickr will soon be adding pricing, it might not be a bad idea checking into a subscription at one of the microstock sites. There are amazing bargains, the images all have to be tagged with a concept (very important for your message) that makes your search easier, and a web sized image is surprisingly affordable with a subscription. There are smartphone apps for adding text, but there’s also the free photo editing software Gimp that’s a little powerhouse with a small learning curve; great for adding text. If you want to kick it up a notch, take a look at SmartPhotoEditor. Amazing effects can be added from their gallery of effects with just the click of a button. And whaddya know, right now it’s on sale for 50% off — just $30.
Zazzle is another fun way to market, especially in your case with so many underlines that resonate beyond the book and stand alone. Simply upload the photo or graphic (they make it so easy), stick it on a product (they have so many) and set your price. It’s not necessarily a way to make money, but it’s a great way of creating promotional goodies and having your words/book covers on mugs and t-shirts and purses and the list goes on. I know several authors whose family members wearing nothing but t-shirts with their book covers. Adding imagery is not only critical, it can be a great deal of fun. Thanks for this post and driving home the point for writers.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Cyd, I’ve tried Zazzle before, and keep meaning to do it again – we need some ‘creative pens’ clearly 🙂
I’m checking out SmartPhotoEditor as well – although these days, I do most editing on my phone app, Camera+
Marquita Herald says
Great tips Joanna! I’m a very visual person anyway and incorporate a fair amount of “artsy fartsy” on my website so I already follow most of what you’ve included on your list – though I confess both as a reader and marketer I’m not a fan of Infographics – but I definitely see the value in Slideshare and have been wanting to give that a try for sometime. Looks like the time has come. Thanks for the inspiration!
Debra Eve says
Wow, you have some stunning photos on Flickr, Joanna. Thanks for sharing them. “Shareable images using quotes from your books” is something I should have been doing long ago!
Paul B. Silverman says
Thanks for sharing -excellent resources
Related to quotes, one I like for entrepreneurship (on cover of my upcoming entrepreneurship book) and I share with senior business school students is the Michaelangelo quote – there are excellent graphics online also for this quote :
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
Many messages here as we know especially for aspiring writers who get bogged down and have real ability to achieve greater success. Many of the same messages for entrepreneurs and in my view important message to send to graduating seniors starting their careers
Thanks again for your great contribution to the global writing community!
Paul B. Silverman Adjunct Professor R.H. Smith School of Business University of Maryland; blog http://www.paulbsilverman.com/blog twitter @globalbizmentor
Frances Caballo says
Thanks for mentioning my Pinterest Just for Writers eBook, Joanna! Great post.
Mridu Khullar Relph says
I have one more suggestion, Joanna, which is to make an image out of the title, like I’ve done here: http://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/productive-work-from-home/. I’ve found that this really helps intrigue more people and these images work especially well on social media and lead to more clicks.
Benjie R. says
I’m a fan of images in a blog and web content. As a reader, i think having images makes it easier for me to scan the page and even makes the post more interesting.