Because of the how-to nature of this topic, and the inevitable length that ensues, I will be tackling this subject in two parts. This first post will focus on the image of your teaser; the second post will focus on the textual aspects of your teaser: title, excerpt, etc.
Let me begin by saying, I am not a graphic designer. In case you didn’t quite get that, let me repeat: I AM NOT A GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
If you’re wondering why that’s important, well, it’s because there are lots of people out there who ARE graphic designers. They know a lot more than I do. They are much more talented in their field than I am. And many of them, for better or worse, have a lot of disdain for the way people who are not graphic designers–people like me–do things.
And why is that important? Well, for me, it’s important to note that I have the greatest respect for graphic designers, and how they do things. (I’m also envious, but that’s a topic for another day.) That being said, I’ve figured out a way that allows me to do some of my own designing, in a medium and with software that works for me. And that way is through Microsoft Word.
**Cue the scoffing departure of anyone who has any graphic design experience.**
So here’s the deal: I know Word isn’t the greatest source for creating graphic images. Some might say it shouldn’t be used for that at all, but I’ve found a way to make it work for me. And it’s that information I’m going to share with you, because I know that many of you, like me, have no graphic design experience, but still want to be able to put something together to market your work. So here’s a place to start. (For anyone who may have some experience with Photoshop or similar software and/or would like to experiment outside of my knowledge base, I’ve listed a number of links at the bottom of this post.)
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
First things first. What, exactly, is a teaser? A teaser is a piece of marketing material meant to give your audience a little tidbit–a tease–of what you’re working on, something to build their anticipation, and get them excited about what they can expect from you. It is comprised of four main elements: an image, an excerpt, the title, and the author’s name.
In this post, we will focus on the image, and I will use examples based on my upcoming work, “Reaper.”
Element #1: An image
The image of your teaser is the foundation, so it’s important to make sure that, like a foundation, it is strong and simple. Think about it: when you put down the foundation of a house, it’s strong enough to support the house, and it’s simple in that it allows the house to show off. It lets the house be the star. When it comes to your teaser, the image is important, but it’s not the star. The star is you, and your book. So when you choose an image, don’t be afraid if it seems a little plain. More importantly, don’t be wary of a bunch of open space. That open space is vital, because it gives you a way to spotlight the star.
Let’s look at these two pictures, for example. While the second is a lovely shot, and definitely embodies the tone of “Reaper,” it’s going to be hard to work with, because the tunnel is so detailed, and it takes up so much of the image’s space. Placing text on that image is going to be extremely difficult; in order for the words to be readable, they would need to be huge, and would inevitably make the image superfluous. The first image, however, still brings death to mind, and offers plenty of what is called “white space,” (the black bands above and below the skulls) to present the other three elements of your teaser.
As you may notice, in the first, the title is brought to the forefront, whereas in the second, the title cuts off the Grim Reaper’s body, and while it is readable, it does blend into the background more than in the first image. In this case, the first image is the better choice for a teaser.
Now, when it comes to putting together your teaser in Word, here are the steps you want to take. First, open a new document (I’m hoping that’s fairly obvious). Next, you want to go up to the tool bar and click “Insert,” then “Pictures.” Your file box should open, giving you the option to choose your image.
Once the image appears in the document, you want to make sure to adjust the layout so the picture lies BEHIND the text. To do this, click on your image. A small box should show up on the right side of the image, with lines and an arch through them. When you click on that box, a larger box should appear, with a number of options where the arch interacts with the lines differently. You want to click on the one that says “Behind text.”
This will allow you to manipulate your text over the image, ensuring the text is always seen over the image, instead of disappearing behind the image.
Now, you have the option of playing with your image a bit, to make it more appealing, more dynamic, more colorful, etc. To see these options, go back up to your tool bar. There should be a purple tab called “Picture Tools/Format.” You want to click on that. Now, there should be a ton of fairly unfamiliar options listed at the top of the page.
There are options to make corrections to your photo, to compress it, to crop it, to rotate it, add borders, etc. Feel free to play around with those options at your leisure. I personally tend to focus on two main tools: Color and Artistic Effects, both of which are located on the far left of the tool bar.
Changing the color of your photo allows you to–duh!–change the color of your photo. If your original image is in color, but you think it would look better in black and white, you can do that. If your image is in black and white, and you want to add some color, you can do that, too. Here’s how. Click on your image, then go up to the tool bar and click on color. A bunch of options will appear.
Now’s a chance to play with things. The great thing about Word is, you can always click the Undo button. You can always go back and try again. So click on different color options, see what they look like, see what you like best, and go with it. For this experiment, I’m going to warm up the tone and saturation, and end up with this:
Now, I want to look at Artistic Effects. Like with Color, click on your photo, then click on Artistic Effects. A bunch of options will appear, and again, you can play with them to see what works best. I’m going to use the Texturizer effect.
Now, I have a solid, foundational image that is ready to support the text elements of my teaser, which we’ll delve into in Part 2.
A final note regarding images: Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just Google images and use them. This is copyright infringement. If you find an image on Google that you absolutely love, and you just have to use it, you must find the original owner and gain permission. And while that is possible, it’s usually a pain in the butt, and there’s no guarantee the original owner will let you use their work. So what’s a fella to do? For starters, check out the following links:
Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, FreeStockPhotos, and Flickr. All of these sites offer free stock photography, with no need for attribution. A note regarding Flickr; make sure when you search photos, you make sure to filter your results to the Creative Commons, with modifications allowed. Any photos you find within these sites/results, you can use without posting attribution. If, after using these sites, you’re still having trouble finding the right image, you can also try sites such as Shutterstock, iStock, and BigStock. Some of the images there are free, but most require a fee of some sort to use.
Either way, these sites offer you a plethora of images to use for your marketing, and in doing so, you keep your risk of getting sued minimal. As authors, we don’t want others to plagiarize our work. The same holds true for other artists, whether they be photographers, graphic artists, painters, illustrators, etc. We need to give credit where credit is due; so if you’re going to use someone else’s work, a) make sure to gain permission to do so and b) attribute the original image to its owner.
(For the record, the images I used above came from Pixabay.)
That’s it for now. Keep your eyes open for Part 2, where we’ll delve into the textual aspects of your teaser.
**And, as promised, here are the links to some online software that is a bit more savvy, and socially acceptable, than Word, for those of you daring enough to try your hand at them.**