Friday, January 24, 2014

Marketing Images: a Study in Compromise

A strong image with room for the text. That's Layla, the alien girl in the book.

by Louis Shalako

For marketing images I have a few limitations. For one thing my old Pentium II computer won’t operate Adobe CS-6, (Photoshop) a major program for making book covers and all sorts of wild other images.

Staying within these limitations, I have two choices. I can farm the work of making an image out, or I can do it myself using the simplest of paint programs. The cheapest ebook cover I am aware of is $25.00 U.S. and she doesn’t include a POD cover. I would still have to acquire the original ‘clean’ image and make my own for the paperback, as similar as possible, using the paint program I have available. This sort of limits her in the fonts and effects she could use.

The snake sort of swallows its tail in that case.

It is ideal have the ebook and the paperback covers similar if not identical as it avoids confusion in the shopper’s mind when they are clicking around on the average bookstore website. They don’t just keep going because they thought it was a different title; get lost and give up.

The other option is to get a pro marketing image, by that I mean a stock image were there is no text. From a stock photo website, you pay by credit card and download a digital image.

Because of those limitations, I have no choice but to take the cheapest option anyway. If I am capable of making a halfway credible rendition of someone else’s design, I might as well have done it myself. However, the odds are they would be using Adoble CS-6 or something very much like it. It’s strictly either/or here. 

There’s not much point in me making one version and them another. It would still cost twenty-five or more dollars.

So my marketing images cost $5.65 plus whatever interest I end up paying on the credit.

The big difference in the resulting image is that I can’t meld two or three layers together. It affects the design, and so far I haven’t taken a straight shot and tried using the limited special effects that I do have. I buy a pro image and then put a title on it, the author name on it.

Sometimes there is a superscript. I only have limited fonts and I only have limited colours.

Typical POD cover using Createspace free template.
Even so, I seem to have learned a lot. If the book or story is targeted at men, put a girl on the cover, if it’s targeted at women, put a handsome man on the cover. I zoom out on the created image to see if I can read the name when the image is real small. I look for strong and dramatic images, that stand alone in the pictorial sense. They don’t need anything added.

The technology available affects the design.

Since I can’t meld layers together, I’m looking for entirely different, whole and substantial images. I’m not looking for elements or components that can be layered together, like a red rose on a white table with a face faded in above and behind, and sparkling galaxies whirling around in the background. I simply don’t have the technology. If I needed something like that and found a suitable marketing image on a stock site, I would of course buy it. If it was cheap enough.

Then I would stick my text on there and there’s my book cover. I would still have exactly the same limitations from the paint program.

This would obviously affect the branding of the works. It would be a challenge for all the different pen-names, all the genres and all the books and stories I have out there.

Just as an example, the third in the Maintenon mystery series, Blessed Are the Humble, is a pro image.

It would be nice to find a few more of the same type. First of all, I like that one. Secondly, I would prefer not to have to replace it anytime soon. I have no money to waste. It takes time to shop and time to make them. I would very much like to upgrade the covers of Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery, the first in the series, and also the cover of The Art of Murder. Then there is the original novella, the one that inspired the series.

The Handbag’s Tale has been soldiering on for a couple of years now with a cover that looked okay at the time, considering my limited experience, but it clearly needs something new—something branded, something that is clearly recognizable as a mystery novel.

When you think about it, it’s like twenty-three dollars to get four new images. What I hope to do is to write quite a few more mysteries. Each of the covers must be ‘branded’ to some degree. The real killer is the time spent on a stock photo site looking for something, anything, that will work.

It’s always going to be a compromise, no matter how good your computer and your photo-shop type program. The real compromise is in the time it takes.

I have a nice little story here, it’s about 6,500 words. The image for such a product still costs the same as a full-length book. The difference is that I might spend an hour, maybe two looking for something I can use.

I spent days looking for an image for Horse Catcher, and that one ended up being a real big...compromise.

It’s just that simple: can I make this work, because it’s a good image and it fits well enough. But how will text look on there? And who is this book written for? Women don’t get turned on by other women—they get turned on by men.

If it’s an erotic or romantic story geared to women readers, then everything about that image matters. If the story is targeted at gay males, it still matters. Don’t put a hot chick in a bikini on the cover. So much of this should be no-brainer stuff but it still took me some time to get this far.

If an aircraft is a series of compromises flying in close formation, then writing a book and putting the whole thing together is a study in the art of compromise.

The Case of the Curious Killers, (iTunes.)


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