DIY Infographics and other Cool Marketing Things

If you’ve spent any time online recently (which, yeah, maybe you’ve been avoiding it as much as we have!), you’ve probably seen these cool graphic communication tools known as infographics.

A practice infographic on how writers can use different social media platforms

Infographic is really just a fancy way of saying “a picture and a few words working together to communicate key information or important messaging.” They give people an easy, at-a-glance way of gathering info, and they’re a great nod to those people who grasp pictures faster than they do words.

I’m a non-visual thinker — give me words any day! — but even so, I’ve grown to appreciate their amazing ability to communicate big complex ideas in a flash. So I wondered if I could learn how to make them.

The short answer is YES — anyone can learn to make an infographic, and depending on how fast you can pull together the content, can do it in 15-20 minutes! The longer answer…well, that’s what this blog post is for!

The Tools

There are at least half a dozen platforms that can help you design your own infographics. Most of them are free for the basics, paying if you want to get really fancy and customized. I found a great rundown of the major players here.

I used Canva to create both the samples I’m posting here. You can scroll through dozens of templates — some free, some paid — and find one that gives you the general look you want. The designs can be changed with photos, colors, textures, etc. I have only just started to play around, and found it easy and fun to mess around.

You’ll also want to have your statistics, facts, sources, images and a general outline ready before you start. I just dove in for the first one I created, and while I wasn’t trying to really create something I would use again and again, it took a lot more time than it could have.

And there aren’t only infographic templates available. You can use these platforms to design anything from wedding invitations to brochures to social media graphics and more.

The Whys

Which brings me to all the reasons you might want to get familiar with infographics.

Marketing. One Penny used Canva to create marketing materials for her upcoming book, saying, “I just took a stab at it, and take this from someone who HATES, no, abhors all forms of fiddly technology– I made a cool pamphlet in half an hour!! It still needs some tweaking, but it looks so much more professional than my 1st attempt using a word doc.”

Reaching readers. Kids are geared to accept visual ways of communicating, and as kidlit writers, it’s to our benefit if we can reach them in the ways they like to be reached. If you have a message for your readers, see if you can put it in infographic form.

Another practice with more in-depth information and graphics

Blog posts. As a blog reader and a blog writer, it can be really refreshing to see information presented visually. Instead of writing 500 words on writing great dialogue, why not try a graphic that explains what makes dialogue great?

Presentations. I occasionally give talks in my professional life and to school-aged kids. Infographics are a fantastic way to underscore the information you’re presenting orally — and help you stay away from the curse of the three-bullet-point Powerpoint slide!

Play around with a couple of the platforms to see which one works best for you. Once I tried one, the ideas started coming fast and furious. I’m looking forward to creating more and finding more ways to use them!

Creating Your Brand

Welcome to “Creating Your Brand,” the first in a three-part series on basic marketing for authors.

BRANDING

If you are like me, a complete novice in the area of promoting yourself, this is the place for you.

In 2016, I made it a priority to learn all I could about this subject. I had one-on-one brainstorming session with a published author and marketing specialist, attended workshops with literary agents, and read A LOT! Now I am ready to share the basics. Let’s start with some easy questions.

What is a brand? It is an image, tagline, or look you present to your audience. In the case of writers, the audience is readers, parents, teachers, librarians, agents, and editors.

What is the purpose of a brand? It defines you and your work and makes you recognizable to your audience. Think about these easily recognizable examples (yes, they are on a much larger scale, but they may help clarify):

Coca-Cola
Apple

 

 

 

 

 

Where is your brand used? Your brand is used in all areas representing you. That includes social media, swag, book signings, school visits, presentations, and more.

What are the rules for creating a brand? There are no rules, but your brand should be focused, concise, and consistent. It should be clear that you understand your audience. Of course your focus will change throughout your career, so don’t be afraid to rebrand as necessary.

CREATING A BRAND

Now that we know what a brand is, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Creating one. But how does an author just starting out, without a huge advance to spend on a marketing team, create a brand? Excellent question. Before we get to that, let’s look at a few websites that clearly define the author:

Rob Sanders – His website is colorful and animated, with a banner in pastel colors of children walking in a line. It clearly shows he writes books for young children.

Kim Liggett – Kim’s website is dark with red, black, and gray, and gives you a spooky and creepy feeling. Kim is a young adult horror writer. In addition, the image on her website includes a black ribbon, which is a central theme in her first book, and clearly represents her work.

Ellie Terry – Ellie’s website is simple, yet whimsical and colorful, just the right feeling for middle grade readers. In addition, her background is consistent with her upcoming book cover and her bio picture.

Okay, so where do we start?

The first step is to decide what central idea you want to convey to your audience. Think about it like this, most writers have an alter ego. You may be an accountant by day and writer of humorous, laugh so hard you snort, stories for children by night. Will kids want to see you in a business suit with tax papers in front of you, or read your jokes that makes milk come out of their noses? I love numbers, but my vote is for squirting milk.

One tip to find your central idea is to list the types of stories you write. Do you stick with one particular age group or genre like the examples above? At first glance, your books may seem different, but if you dig deep, I’ll bet you find some similarities.

You believe you have an idea, now what?

Think of it in a visual way. Are you drawn to sleek, whimsical, black and white, color, photos, or something simple like just your name. Even a name or tagline is visual because you will want to decide on which font best represents it.

You’ve narrowed it down. You have a visual. Great! Now make it happen.

You want me to do what? How am I supposed to do that?

With a lot of researching to find what engages you, even more playing around with styles, and most of all, not being afraid to try.

At least that’s what I did.

I write for middle grade and young adult readers. Both are kids, but are far different in terms of likes, dislikes, ideas, goals, and interests. I wanted my brand to encompass both, so fun and moody at the same time.

I also write in different genres. My novels are all based in current times, but each have an element that makes them unique, such as science fiction, paranormal, mystery, own voices, and more. Based on that, I leaned toward a generic look.

The last thing I wanted to include was something about myself. An image that clearly showed what I loved best. Besides my family and superhero movies, that would be books.

So I took my ideas and sent them to my wonderful illustrator Eva Folks. She played around with a few sketches and color palettes to create my brand. And thanks to her incredible idea of listing the genres I write in the final product, whenever my audience sees my brand, they know what to expect from me. Here is the finished product:

You can see my entire website and more of Eva’s drawings at halligomez.com

Is creating your brand stressful? YES! You want to present yourself in the best possible way, but remember to play around and don’t be afraid to try.

Stay tuned for part two of the series “Your Website” coming in February. I would love to hear your tips on creating a brand. Please leave them in the comments.

 HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

The Confusing World of Genres

I’ve always been intrigued by a book’s title. I mean, how awesome is AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie. For most of my life, that’s how I chose books. Or so I thought.

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One day I stopped drooling over the shelves and shelves of books at my local bookstore and paid attention to my surroundings. I was smack dab in the middle of the adult mystery section. I was deep into a genre.

Ah! Genre. What is that? I never thought about it before I became a writer. As a kid, I remember books falling into four categories: mysteries, science fiction (which covered topics like Star Trek), fiction (which included everything else), and non-fiction. But now, the world of genres seems to have exploded.

Not only is there a long list of genres, but there are subgenres, crossovers, subgenres of crossovers, subgenres of subgenres of crossovers – but only if they occurred before 1950 and have a redhead fairy with a sparkly wand who turns out to be the long lost daughter of Adolf Hitler and is seeking to continue his dream by summoning aliens to take over the world. (Seems like fanaticism is hereditary).

So what exactly is a genre and why do we need it?

Genres are a categories of literature characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. (Oxford dictionary).

Parents, have you ever gone to a bookstore and searched for a book with dragon-type characters or a world set in the clouds? Or how about a world of magic? Imagine searching hundreds of shelves, or thousands of books online to find the only ones your child will read. Wouldn’t it have been easier to ask for the fantasy section?

Writers, wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents looking for fantasy books headed directly to that section in the bookstore and picked yours off the shelf? Or you wanted to find books similar to the stories floating around in your head and you knew just where to search?

And how do books find their way to bookstore shelves and the proper sections? That’s where agents and publishers come into play. Agents have a great understanding of genres and the current market. They know which editors and publishers are looking for specific types of books. Publishers will then provide your book to the bookseller who will place it in the proper section for readers.

So as writers, it all comes back to you. What genres do you write in? With a limited understanding of them, I had categorized mine incorrectly. What I thought was contemporary was actually science fiction. (Who knew sci-fi was more than Star Trek?)

To help you understand genres, below is a handy list with book title examples. You may also take those as recommendations.

Action adventure – stories with spies, superheroes, or journeys. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Contemporary – stories occurring in current times. Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Dystopian – stories with social and political control systems that focus on lack of individual freedoms and may be in a constant state of violence. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Fantasy – stories with dragons, wizards, made-up worlds. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Historical fiction – stories set in the past, often during a significant event or time period, with fictional characters and events. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Horror – fiction which evokes a feeling of fear and/or dread. Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Humorous – a novel designed to amuse the reader. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Magical realism – fiction with magical elements that are considered normal and work together with real, or non-magical, life. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Mystery – fiction that deals with solving crimes. The 39 Clues

Mythology – fiction involving stories explaining how the world or humankind came to be. Usually involves gods or supernatural heroes. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan IMG_1616

Paranormal – stories involving experiences that lack scientific explanation and may include ghosts and psychics. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Science fiction – based on actual, imagined, or potential science. Can be set in current times, or in another world. Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

Speculative fiction – fiction about worlds unlike the real world and usually overlaps with other genres such as science fiction, horror, dystopian, and supernatural fiction. The Progeny by Tosca Lee

Steampunk – stories usually set in a Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history. Can also involve science fiction, fantasy, or horror themes. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Of course as you can see, many genres incorporate others, which can make categorizing or searching for books confusing. But for writers, it makes things much more interesting!

I would love to hear about your favorite genres and books! Please leave them in the comments.
A third IMG_2142 - Version 2degree black belt in taekwondo, HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter

Author Chat with Carrie Firestone, author of The LOOSE ENDS LIST

I loved the ARC of Carrie Firestone’s debut YA novel, The Loose Ends List! The book will be released on June 7th by Little, Brown. Carrie is insanely busy – both with getting ready for the launch and with edits for her second novel, but she graciously let us steal a few minutes of her time to tell us about preparing for her debut novel’s pub date.

carrie firestone

FoWP: The ARC for The Loose Ends List came out in September, 9 months before your launch. What happens during the time between the ARC’s release and the pub date? What has your publisher been doing to get the word out about the book? What have you been doing?

Carrie: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your fantastic blog! It seems like books take forever to hit the shelves. And in some ways that’s true. My editor acquired the LEL in June of 2014 and it will be released in June of 2016. The ARC (Advance Reader Copy) has been circulating around to booksellers, bloggers and other reviewers. Little, Brown has an amazing team dedicated to marketing and publicity. They have been getting the book into the hands of people who will create buzz. They also have a pre-pub online plan through their website NOVL. I am just beginning to work on my website, and create Facebook and Twitter author pages to be more available online.

FoWP: As a debut author, this is your first time preparing for a book launch. Was there anything that surprised you about the process?

Carrie: I am part of a YA/MG debut community called the Sweet 16’s. I was surprised by how warm, encouraging, and supportive this group of authors has been. There’s no competitive nasty stuff. Everyone has been collegial and welcoming. It’s great to be able to talk to people who truly “get it.”

loose ends llist

FoWP: You sold The Loose Ends List as the first book in a two-book deal, so you’re writing another story while preparing for the book launch. That must be hectic! Tell us about balancing your time between the two projects.

Carrie: I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything. You should see my laundry piles! When I’m working on a draft for book two, everything else is on hold. It’s a very intense process. Then I turn the draft into my editor and I have several weeks to work on the marketing/social media/social part of preparing for book one’s launch. Balancing those things is easier than balancing all the other family/life responsibilities.

FoWP: What advice do you have for writers still in the query and submission trenches?

Carrie: I queried agents with two other books and got LOTS of rejections before I landed my wonderful agent, Sara. I advise writers to study query-writing websites, and ask other writers for feedback on the letter and the manuscript. Then listen to the feedback. Be willing to make sweeping changes. When I look back at the first two books, I realize they just weren’t good ENOUGH. And the query letters were terrible. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, you may want to put your current WIP away and start writing a new book. It sounds harsh, but this business is very Darwinian. I used to say to my mom, “I’m not submitting it. It’s not good enough.” She thought I was being hard on myself. But I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t MY best work. Don’t jump the gun and get excited and start submitting until it’s your VERY best work. That takes time, and practice, and probably a drawer full of rejections. We’ve all been there!

About the author:

Carrie Firestone is a former New York City high school teacher who now lives and writes in Connecticut.

About The Loose Ends List:

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Pre-order The Loose Ends List:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

2014-5 NESCBWI cropped

About R.J. Allen

I write middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK, a series on book marketing, interviews Karin Lefranc

Karin’s debut picture book, I Want To Eat Your Books, launched September, 2015. She talks with us today about all she learned from that book launch.269b50326181df1eaf451ff948bc0b66

FoWP: Karin, readers have fallen in love with your zombie and the boy who tries to keep him from devouring every book in the school. A big part of getting this book into readers’ hands was you. You were everywhere when the book launched in September – signing books in bookstores and libraries, even the YMCA! What was your game plan for the book launch?

Karin: I wanted to generate as much excitement as I could for I Want To Eat Your Books anywhere and everywhere! My publicist at Sky Pony sent press releases to the media and bloggers. I visited many bookstores for book signings and I got the word out about all my readings on Twitter and Facebook.

FoWP: Where did you get help from your publisher and where did you need to make things happen for yourself?

Karin: My publicist at Sky Pony, Cheryl Lew, was a huge help! She wrote a press release to the media, including bloggers, a month or so before publication. She also worked with the Sky Pony sales teams to generate excitement for selling the book.

FoWP: What was the most non-traditional place you went to talk about I Want To Eat Your Books?

Karin: Probably the YMCA. It’s not a place I would have thought of, but I’m a member there and so they asked me to be a part of their Halloween celebration—as the author of a zombie book I fit right in! We had a huge cardboard cutout of the zombie, and sponges made to look like books for the kids to toss into the zombie’s mouth. This awesome creation was actually made for the launch party at Simsbury Library. The Simsbury librarians went above and beyond, creating cool crafts, games and treats for the children.

FoWP: I loved your book trailer. Did it cost a fortune to make?

Karin:  Not at all. At first I thought it would, too, but I went to fiverr.com. I got lucky and got found Anne-Rae, and she did a wonderful job. When I wanted to add audio, she was more than willing to add it if I sent her the voice over. And it all cost less than $75. Here is her link: https://www.fiverr.com/amongus.  I got the trailer on Twitter, Facebook, andYouTube. If you have a book trailer, it’s also a good idea to add to teachertube.com and teacherspayteachers.com so teachers can find your book.

FoWP: You had events scheduled during the week and every weekend. It must have been exhausting! How did you balance appearances with everything else in your life and what advice do you have for other debut authors?

Karin: My husband would laugh at this question because my life was a rather unbalanced at the time! As authors, we are usually on our own writing and so marketing our book is a whole other way of life. It’s about constantly putting yourself and your book out there. I tried to schedule two book signings nearby if they were far away. There is only so much publishers can do unless you’re a big name author, so it’s really up to the author to get creative. I made cute badges with the cover of the book and found a company that did square ones, which looked more like a book than a round one. Here is the link: http://24hourwristbands.com/shop/custom-buttons/custom-square-buttons. I also made bookmarks, another inexpensive marketing tool you can giveaway at book signings as well as leave with libraries and bookstores. I called all the bookstores in my area and told them I’m a local author and available to come and do a reading and/or book signing. Every Barnes & Noble has a customer relations manager that you can ask to speak to, or you can also email them with your press release, reviews etc.

FoWP: What did you learn from marketing I Want To Eat Your Books that would change your marketing plan for your next book?

Karin: I would start earlier—at least six months out. I would do a cover reveal on several Children’s blogs. I would do more online blog contests. I think it’s important to use whatever makes your book different and interesting to generate fun ideas and promotions. There are lots of grown up zombie lovers out there, so my goal was also to be where they were online and even at the popular zombie running races around the country. My book is also about the love of reading and the power of reading so I am now targeting literacy groups to find ways to work with them.

Thanks for all your marketing advice, Karin! Find out more about the launch of Karin’s debut novel, here.

I Want To Eat Your Books
By Karin Lefranc (writer) and Tyler Parker (illustrator)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Sky Pony Press

Find I Want To Eat Your Books:
Goodreads
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

How have you gotten MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK? Share your book marketing and promotion ideas in the comments below!

2014-5 NESCBWI croppedAbout R.J. Allen

I write middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.