10 tips for Graphic Design without Breaking the Bank

Graphics are much more likely to be shared than text. A quick glance at twitter and facebook shows how popular image content can be.

But creating slick, professional graphics can be quite expensive. As authors we don’t have the budget for a design department, and if we were to pay freelancers for every social media image we’d quickly destroy our profit margins.

So how can you produce a nice graphic on the cheap? Here are our top 10 tips.

#1 Have the right source material. The one place you *shouldn’t* be skimping is on your book cover itself. It needs to convey genre, be eye catching and get clicks. If you’ve got a cover that works then all the derivative materials are more likely to work too (NB – make sure you buy the rights to create subsidiary marketing materials rather than strictly a book cover licence).

#2 Make use of stock photographs. There are dozens of great stock photo libraries around from Shutterstock to Morgue File. Adding images taken by professionals can lift a design from OK to great for little cost. Watch out for rights issues (i.e. that what you use is for commercial use) and keep an eye on any requirement to add a credit line too.

#3 Find a program you can use. PhotoShop is complicated but fully featured. Canva is quick and easy, but more limited. I like quick and simple for social media posts. For example using a free layout from Canva I made this:

logo whole series quad

This took less than ten minutes and cost me nothing. I already had the cover files, and my logo, (see #1) so it was a case of dragging, dropping and resizing. positioning to fit everything together.

#4 Watch out for regional issues. There are differing tastes in different countries. We’ve seen marked conversion rate swings testing the same designs in the USA and the UK. Given that the UK is our biggest market by far, we tend to optimise for the latter (or run two campaigns).

Here’s another reason why regional differences matter:

TPK Save the Date

Spotted it yet? 04 05 2016 in the UK is May the 4th. In the USA it’s April the 5th. Date and time formatting can really screw up your focus.

#5 Spin it. Time is your biggest asset, and if you can spin one design into several you can save time AND keep your branding consistent. For example my book one permafree marketing might look like this:

DoD free today

and then if I run a sale I might use images like these (NB – these are examples; they are probably not going to be on sale on the date you happen to read this post):

Cleaver Square free todayTGM 99c today

#6 Have a logo. An author/ series/ imprint logo can help unify your designs. It doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to be unique.

You can use your logo almost anywhere your book has a presence from your author website to your social media to your mailing list header like this:

DCI Morton thanks for subscribing

which brings me to our next tip…

#7 Brand it. Tie your graphics back into your branding. We brand everything as ‘DCI Morton’ and run our website on DCIMorton.com. If you’re branding yours as ‘RomanceAuthorName’ then you’ll want the corresponding domain name. Graphics need to be part of a bigger message

#8 Recycle. The proportions that are ideal for twitter are not the same as facebook or pinterest or instagram, but with a little work you can shift elements to create matching designs.

#9 Experiment. Use your images with trackable hyperlinks to see which images people respond to – and then split test them to improve with each round of revisions. Data is key to making your assets work for you.

#10 Have fun. You’re an author. You don’t need to stick within the lines. Go out and do something crazy. If you think it’s fun then your readers will think it is too. For example we had a twitter conversation about Waterloo Station last week. In response we mocked up this (again thanks to Canva):

Arrival boards TPK May 4th

That’s it. What have you done to make your graphics look slick and shiny? Do graphical posts work for you?

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