On images and social media

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I’m by no means a graphic designer.  When my first book came out in 2009 I relied on a friend to design my bookmarks, and while she’s wonderful and did a fantastic job, I was always frustrated that I had to rely on someone else. I felt like being able to do this sort of thing myself would be a useful skill.  So I downloaded a trial of Photoshop thinking that maybe I could figure it out, and was immediately overwhelmed.  I looked into actually taking a Photoshop class but it was absurdly expensive (and I knew that if I didn’t use what I learned regularly, I would just forget it all).

Then about two years ago, another friend told me about GIMP, a free program similar to Photoshop, and she gave me a brief overview of the basics. For a while I used it to play around, Googling for tutorials to learn new tricks (and I didn’t even know the terms to Google — my searches were always along the lines of “how do I cut out text in GIMP to show an image underneath?”).  Slowly, over time, I’ve grown more familiar with GIMP (learning about brushes was a huge leap forward for me!).

So for my latest release, The Map to Everywhere, I decided to try a few things.  Most articles I’ve read indicate that content with images is most likely to be shared on social media and my own experience has borne this out (I’m much more likely to notice an image in my timeline than simple text).  So in addition to tweeting or announcing any book news on my social medial channels, I created image cards as well (there’s got to be some sort of official name for promo images used in social media, but I have no idea what it is!).

Here are a few examples:

Map BN ad 20th

Ad sized specifically for Facebook.

Map GR ad image

Sized specifically for use in Goodreads giveaway.

Free preview ad

Sized specifically for Twitter (used in all channels)

Map out now ad SLJ

Release announcement (sized for Twitter, used in all channels)

Map Facebook ad paper and title

Used for Facebook ad (in a/b testing)

Map Facebook ad wAmazon logo

Also used for Facebook ad (in a/b testing — there was a third image that used the BN logo)

A few things I learned along the way:

  • The very first image I created (the BN sale promo), I sized specifically for Facebook.  But then I realized that when posted to Twitter the top and bottom were cut off, which reduced its effectiveness.  So for future images I sized them specifically for Twitter which was also compatible with Facebook (this is the size guide I used).
  • When I uploaded images to Twitter I did so through the web. The app I use for Twitter creates a link to the image, rather than a preview in the tweet itself, and it was important to me for the image to automatically show in people’s feeds.
  • I pinned the tweets with images to the top of my twitter profile, rotating them out every few days.
  • Facebook is really restrictive on the amount of text you can have in an ad. The first time I ran the Amazon ad it was approved with no problem; the second time it was rejected for having too much text (the BN ad was always approved). Just another note: I also created a specific tag in my Amazon Associates account so I could track how many people actually bought the book from this link.
  • I added an image to my Goodreads giveaway (I think you should be able to see the actual giveaway page here). I found this made the giveaway listing really stand out (a trick I discovered while perusing other giveaways).
  • When designing images focused on the social media channels more industry dominated (for me that’s Twitter and Instagram), I tended to use the starred reviews. When designing for more consumer channels (my personal Facebook page and Goodreads), I used author blurbs.
  • Once I found a format/size that worked, I tended to stick with it. In fact, I created a master image with tons of layers that I just click on and off as necessary to create a new image. I found this also helped to create a sense of branding (especially since the fonts are ones from the book and the images are from the jacket (the blue is the back of the jacket and the tattered paper is from the flaps).
  • To post these images on Instagram, I just pulled it up on my phone and then screenshotted it — that created a square image I could post to Instagram (another trick I learned via Google).
  • Anything I didn’t know how to do, I Googled. As I went along, I learned more about better ways to compress images, how to resize without losing quality, etc. But there’s still a ton I don’t know.

I share all of this because a year ago I’d have never imagined I’d be able to do any of these things (I also designed bookmarks, postcards, bookplates, and notecards).  And while I don’t think it’s necessary to have images for promo, I’ve found it to be really useful and helpful. I enjoyed being able to get news and announcements out in a second medium and felt like it bolstered what I was already doing.

I also share all of this to show that it doesn’t take a ton to get to a place where you can create workable graphics.  It just takes Googling and experimenting (even GIMP is free!).  I just looked around at what others were doing, figured out what caught my eye and what didn’t, and incorporated those elements that worked for me. Have I made mistakes with these? Undoubtedly. I’m sure if I’d hired someone I’d have gotten some really beautiful and professional images, but I also would have had to plan ahead and pay for it. All of these I was able to create on the fly.

Did these make a difference? That’s hard to tell. Which is why I’m glad I really liked the process of creating these.  Even if an image was just as effective as a tweet, I had fun and more than anything else, I think that helps make any social media campaign successful.


To learn more about The Map to Everywhere (and purchase a copy!) click here!

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2 comments to On images and social media

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I haven’t tried Gimp myself, but my husband certainly loves it. Sometimes he’ll even use it on a picture of a miniature he plans to paint so he can try out different color ideas.

    And yes, Googling for skill knowledge has become an integral part of my day-job, as I have to work in a bunch of different programming environments. It’s both amazingly empowering and frighteningly habit-forming.

    Thank you for the fun post (and lots of pretty pictures)!

  • This is amazing. I have used Gimp to edit photographs, but haven’t thought about using it for the graphics side. Thank you for the ideas and for the encouragement.