A couple months ago I put up a post on designing Twitter ads for writers. Hopefully a few people got something useful out of it, even if it was just a few ideas about things you can do. To celebrate Leap Day – which isn’t even a National Holiday, go figure – I figured I’d show off some of the ads I’ve come up with over the past couple months. If anyone’s interested in getting some ads done, please feel free to contact me.
For the most part the ads I’ve done have been created with open source software and licensed images. Always make sure to use licensed images; they’re not that expensive and, if you get good ones, can be reused in a variety of ways.
- Inkscape (Free vector image editor. I use it for text work and layout)
- GIMP (Free bitmap editor. I use it for editing and resizing images.
- Canva (Free online ad creator. It’s a good piece of software, but I’m old school and stick to the flexibility of Inkscape and GIMP).
- Photoshop and Illustrator are quite excellent programs, they’re just out of my price range.
- Dreamstime (Great selection, buy the five images for $40 pack and get the biggest images you can)
- VectorStock (Excellent supply of vector images. $25 will get you around 25 images)
- Free Stock Images (You’ll have to do some digging but there are some absolute gems in here)
You can scream about your book on Twitter all day long and may or may not get anyone to pay attention. One thing that has been proven time and again, though, is tweets with images get noticed and retweeted far more often than just plain text tweets. Text tweets disappear in the chaos of Twitter, but a good image can help draw the eye. Once you got the eye, it’s up to the ad itself to keep the person looking – and hopefully clicking on the link to buy your book. Therefore, the ad has to be eye-catching, but there also has to be something in the ad that makes the reader want to learn more. That thing can be the ad itself, bits of snippets from the book in question, or any number of things. I trend toward using snippets and quotes from the actual book, but not all the time. Sometimes a straightforward image and simple copy can accomplish miraculous things.
There’s a bit of an art (that I admittedly am not spectacular at) to picking the quotes to stick in an ad. You’ve got limited space: 1024 x 512 pixels and the text has to be big enough to see easily. Ideally, ad text should be quick and easy to digest. Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose and unless the image is grabby enough no one will take a second note of it. Once they do, you’ve got mere seconds to get your point across, so the quotes can’t be complicated and need to divulge enough information to warrant a second look. If you can get a click out of it, you’re doing pretty good.
Some people prefer to stick to the same ad images and content, and that’s okay. I prefer to shake it up so the content doesn’t get stale. In advertising terms I’m probably not making the best of my “brand”, but in Twitter terms I know if I see the same thing over and over again, I’ll just scroll by it on subsequent viewings. They become just more noise.
So, here are some of the ads I’ve pulled together over the past couple months along with some notes about where the images came from and what I was trying to do with them. As an added bonus, there’s some extra content about the books here, too. Think of it as the director’s cut. At the very least, hopefully someone will get some ideas out these.
One of the most recent Arise ads, and still one of my favorites. The image was vertical and had to be faded into the blue on the left using a masking layer in GIMP. The base image is from Dreamstime.
A simple Arise ad. Image from Dreamstime. Not one of my favorites, but I do like the boldness of it. I should probably redo this one.
One of the newest (as of this posting) Arise ads. I spent some time digging around Vectorstock and found some amazing vectors by Sababa66. A lot of those have been incorporated into the recent Henchmen and Arise ads.
The text works, but just barely. I do like the intense stare she’s got, though. I always thought of Jessica as an intense young woman, capable of incredible highs and lows. The image was from Dreamstime and, once again, required some masking layers in GIMP to get it to fit the horizontal template.
Again with Jessica. She really came into her own with Arise. This comes from one of my favorite exchanges in Arise: Jessica’s hand touches my shoulder and she says, “If someone comes up, drop and I’ll open with Painless here.” “Painless?” “Yeah, that’s what Jesse Ventura named his gun in Predator.” “You named your gun?” I ask. “Sure, you guys name your dicks all the time, why can’t a girl name her gun?” “Mighty Thor and I take offense at that statement,” I respond. Painless, of course, is was Jesse Ventura called his minigun in Predator.
Not one of my favorites. I grabbed the image from Dreamstime for some damned reason or another and it doesn’t entirely fit, but I do like the red.
What can I say? I love the fact that she had a bar in Mexico. I also like the Dia de los Muertos image. I’m not sure about the background color, though. The image is from Vectorstock and I’ll probably redesign something else with it.
The text is from Duérmete Niño, one of the stories in The Clock Man. The title comes from a classic bedtime song that tells kids to go to sleep or else Coco (the bogeyman of northern New Mexico) will come eat them. Working with the various stories in The Clock Man gave me a lot of room to draw on different designs for the various stories. The image is Francisco Goya’s Que Viene el Coco. I love the text and the conversation, but the image doesn’t work quite as well as it could.
For some reason I really liked the idea that Jack (a character from Zona Peligrosa in The Clock Man) would fall in love with a literal devil girl. In case you’re wondering, she’s the SallyAnne from my story Loophole in the Holes anthology. At some point I need to work out a longer story with those two. This is one of those where I’m hoping the image is grabby enough to get someone to take a couple seconds reading the text. I played around with the fonts a lot in this one, going back and forth between Jack’s bombastic style and Zapp’s plain typewriter text, as well as highlighting “sexy” and “devil” with different fonts and colors.
The Clock Man (the story not the whole collection) started as a simple short story and ballooned rapidly as I explored Aluna. Felix Crow is a dick, but he’s got his heart in kind of the right place. Traditionally, dragons are wise creatures or holy terrors, but I was exploring the idea that the dragons of Aluna were very alien things; most of the people on Aluna know of them, but very few have met one. The dragon section was a fun little bit to write. I’m still plotting out a full-length novel of Aluna with Chan, Kevin, and Felix. Of course, the dragon will be there, too.
I’ve had at least a few people ask about what Eve is and what her back story was. It’s covered in Eve, one of the Clock Man stories. Some people have said it wasn’t as exciting as they were expecting, but from tiny misdeeds mighty Valkyries grow. It was a fun story to write. I had to do a lot of research on Norse mythology in general and Valkyries in particular. Plus, Eve gets to stab Odin, so it has that going for it. The text very much sums up why Eve does what she does. The story goes on to further explain how this one Valkyrie wound up on her own long before the events of Henchmen.
The Clock Man story was a kind of stylized neo-wuxia, detective noir story with magic and horror thrown in. I love martial arts and exploring how the Clock Man would fight was interesting. I spent a huge amount of time on that story just looking up the Chinese I used in the text. I tried to go with a kind of Steampunk style. even though the story really isn’t Steampunk, it’s the closest analog to Aluna’s magic-powered world and the Clock Man himself is definitely a grotesque variation on Steampunk.
The horror aspects of The Clock Man show up pretty near the end. I wanted to explore what would happen to someone who goes completely off the rails and starts throwing his humanity to the breeze. What would a guy like that do? Probably nothing good. This particular ad has gotten noticed a couple times and a few people have even mentioned they stopped to read it. That alone makes it a win. Even as cluttered as the text is, the narrow font and simple use of color make it pretty easy on the eyes.
Huizhong was a part antagonist, part love interest, part unwitting pawn in a game that was much larger than she thought. She’s one of the characters I want to bring back in an Aluna novel. I like the image, it captures her pretty well even if I do need to work on her hair (it’s gray with a pink wash in the story), but the text design needs some more work.
Wilford Saxton was originally intended to be a disposable character in Henchmen, but I found he was more interesting than I had expected. As soon as he got the gun at the end of Arise it changed his dynamic entirely. The first story in his spin-off series is The Hunt from The Clock Man, it’ll be followed up a few weeks with Saxton: Uneasy Allies. The text is from a conversation between Wil and his gun. The image is a reference to the bruja in the story.
Felix spends a lot of time getting pushed around in The Clock Man. The colors are great and I like the text for Alyssa’s quote, but something isn’t working for me. I think the font is just too fussy to be read clearly and the excerpt doesn’t convey enough information about the story. The image is from Dreamstime, by the way.
I think this one freaked a few people out. It’s a reference to a section in Zona Peligrosa where the Guardian tries to seduce Zapp. The whole feel of the house in the nowhere was influenced by some of the events in Exceeds Expectations, and the Guardian (Alunan, naturally) was intended to trip up intruders by appealing to their baser instincts. There are a couple sections in the story that prove the tactic has worked in the past.
This is a subtle reference to the way Wil Saxton isn’t as innocent as he likes to think he is. The Saxton series will explore his motivations and his changing perspective on what makes a monster. The ad itself was intended to be a simple, bold shot, but the Clock Man logo doesn’t work well with it. This was later repurposed for the Saxton series.
Trying to pull up the horror aspects of The Clock Man. Image from Vectorstock. I’m actually thinking about redoing the cover with this image. This one is in the rework bin right now. I like the basics of it, but it doesn’t pop, damn it. It just lays there like a bored hooker.
A later image and logo design for The Clock Man. I’ve also toyed with using this for the cover. This one is a straight up ad and was done before I started using bits of dialog in the ad pieces. In some ways it works pretty well, but in others not so much. I think the Chinese text on the left needs to be faded, and The Clock Man logo needs to be pop out more.
The background image was from a free stock image site that escapes me right now. It fit with some of the retro aspects of Zona Peligrosa (like Jack’s 1936 Cord 812 or the old Indian motorcyle). The statue also reminds me of one of the tchotchkes you could always find in the old gas stations along Route 66 (now Interstate 40).
I think I only used this once. It’s not my favorite. In some ways the image is perfect for Zona Peligrosa, but there’s simply too much going on for anything to stand out. It’s a perfect example an ad that’s too busy to be of any use. Learn from mistakes, my young padawan.
The first Henchmen ad with Sababa66’s graphics. The book has a comic-book feel (super villain and all) and the artwork was perfect. I ultimately redid the covers for both Henchmen and Arise (the text work, too), with the new graphics.
Her eyes were blue in the original artwork, but I changed them to gray to reflect Eve’s eyes. It doesn’t say much about the book, but it is eye-catching. Unfortunately, the image took up too much of the usable space to add a snippet from the book.
I still like this one. It’s got an action movie feel going for it. Again, it doesn’t say much about the story, but hopefully it caught someone’s eye. At some point in the future, I’d like to see this or something like it hanging with the rest of the coming soon posters at the theater.
One of the last ads done with photos from Dreamstime (for now, anyway). I’m still not happy with the text. The image is great, but the rest just doesn’t work as well as I’d like. I may need to experiment with the text.
I like the Henchmen logo on this one and the picture kind of reminds me of my dad.
No text from the book, but “in your face entertainment” sums up Henchmen pretty well.
I really like how this turned out and I’ve used it quite a bit. I’ve always seen Jessica as kind of crazy and the image captures her pretty well. This one has gotten noticed and even commented on a time or two; that makes it a win.
Another one I really liked. Even though I never mention rain in Henchmen, the image fits really well. The simple text pops nicely, too. This has been noticed a time or two on Twitter. I think it’s the simplicity of it all and the bold text that make it stand out.
As you can gather, I’ve been trying to get something good out of this picture but it keeps eluding me. Sigh.
First promo piece for the Saxton series. Yes, I used the same image earlier. See what I mean about good artwork?