Obviously, unless we are writing comic books or children's picture books, we are going to use words. So this proverb doesn't apply. Or does it?
We've had some excellent suggestions in this special week of innovative and proven writing and marketing strategies, and you'll notice they all have one thing in common. They all make use of images.
Karen Cioffi kicked us off with a professional and attractive mini-poster that promised us "Tips, Strategies, Guidance—Your Way to Success." I don't know about you, but I immediately stopped what I was doing and read the article. Not because I wanted to learn more at that point. (I was in the middle of another project.) But because I was drawn to the article by the poster. And of course it was an excellent article.
The next blog post was by Annie Duguid, and this time I was attracted by her colorful screenshot. The bold red arrow drew my eyes to the icon for CamStudio, and I wanted to know more. Was this something I needed? Did I already have a similar package that I wasn't using? I read on . . . Annie offers some fascinating suggestions on ways to create attractive screencasts as well as other software we can use to create promotional tools.
Next up, Magdalena Ball shared three clever (cheap) ideas with us, two of which involve creating images, either online or on a blackboard (which you could subsequently photograph and transfer to your computer for use on your websites etc.)
There's nothing new about the concept of showing pictures to attract attention to the message. Show, don't tell, remember writers? Okay, I know that means we should write to show, but this can also refer to showing images.
Imagine going to Amazon.com, or any other online bookstore, and reading through the pages of books— but they have no images. I'm sure you'll agree you wouldn't spend as much time browsing through their pages and almost certainly wouldn't spend as much money. (Hmmm!)
There is no question that images are one of the most powerful ways we can connect and engage with our readers. But no, images don't substitute for your words. They endorse them, or they encourage people to read them in the first place.
Here are four ways we can use images in our marketing posts, blogs, websites, and social media sites.
1) Use Existing Images:
The issue of copyright in connection with images is huge, and we have to tread very carefully through this mine-field. However there are sites out there which are genuinely free.
a) Morgue file contains a vast selection of high-resolution stock photography images which you are free to alter and use in different ways.
The image on the right is of a first birthday cake which I downloaded from Morgue. I then edited the image to create a banner for an event on Facebook, celebrating the first anniversary of my book, Strength Renewed.
b) FreeDigitalPhotos allows you to download and use small images of professional photographs in a resolution suitable for websites, for free. The only proviso is that you must include a short phrase of credit (and why wouldn't you?)
2) Make your own images:
a) Use your own photographs, or collect photos from friends, making sure they understand what you want to do with them. Don't forget to ask if they want you to give credits. Use them on your Facebook cover, or your profile picture, as well as on your website, articles, and bios when you guest blog.
This is a snap my son took of me shortly after the launch of Strength Renewed. I cropped the photograph and reduced it in size and I now use it extensively on bios as well as my profile picture on my Facebook author page. It is casual and relaxed while still clear enough to show the title of my book, and has proved to be a most useful photograph.
b) Use scenic photographs, and add quotes from your book, links to web addresses, or any other short phrase relevant to your message.
3) Get yourself a series of images or characters.
a) Adapt these to various subjects and situations. For example a few years ago, I purchased a set of 3D characters from Warrior Forum. These are not free, but I have used them extensively in all sorts of situations. They have been well worth the money I paid for them. (See the little character t the top with her whiteboard.)
b) There are other similar characters available on the web, but be warned that they can become extremely time-consuming.
c) Make a very basic comic strip with a message, using Comix H/O, a fun site which Annie Duguid told us about on 24 November. This is not difficult at all, and I can see how I can use this to incorporate my own characters, or in front of one of my scenic photographs.
4) Try out some free graphics programs and find one you are comfortable with. Start with simple tasks, such as adding text to an existing photograph. As you gain confidence, you will find yourself able to make different posters, advertising messages, and other images.
- Photoscape is a fun and easy photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance photos.
- GNU is an image manipulation tool that many compare with the huge Photoshop, but it is free.
- Paint Shop Pro is a well-known program similar to, but much cheaper than, Photoshop. Nevertheless it is still expensive. However, you can pick up an older version of this, or of many other programs, for free at OldApps.com.
The warning: It is easy to get caught up in the creation of images and posters. As a writer, be careful the adage at the beginning doesn't turn into: "A picture just cost me a thousand words."
The encouragement: When you download, buy, create or edit images or posters, strive to make something you will be able to use many times. For example, yesterday's post by Caroline Howard-Johnson uses one of those 3d characters I spoke of above. The little woman is placed on a bright green background with the title, "It's all about Pitches." That same image could be changed to call out a hundred and more different titles. I could put it on a pink background and say, "Read Strength Renewed!" as a means to attract people to an article about my book based on breast cancer. I could even add a little pink ribbon to her chest and a link to the book at the bottom.
There is a lot of work involved in making images or logos, so go for ideas that you can use over and over again. Think of how you can use them to market your work in an innovative and time-effective manner.
SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally.