How to Use Images to Promote Your Writing

Written by PamelaKelt | September 30, 2013

Slide16Much to the relief of my spouse and daughter, I have finally ditched my much-beloved clunky laptop and upgraded. What a painful process. When we got to transferring the picture files, I was amazed at how colossal the folder was – some for research, but a large part for PR. This aspect of e-publishing had obviously become more vital than I’d realized.

It all began with my first book, The Lost Orchid, set in 1887. I had some inkling of the period, but I needed more details – about locks, poisons, plant collectors, railways, bicycles, and so on. As I rummaged around the ether, I began to collect images. At first, I opened a Word document (called rather unimaginatively ‘Images’) and put them all in there, willy nilly.

Everything changed when I landed a book deal. It was clear I’d need a blog and an author website.

The picture hunt was on. Orchids, and Victoriana in general, were relatively easy to find. A friend told me about Creative Commons, where you can search for images, remembering to check the two boxes, ‘use for commercial purposes’ and ‘modify, adapt, or build upon,’ of course. As it was set in the 19th century, there was plenty of choice, as almost everything was out of copyright.

My book Tomorrow’s Anecdote is a 1980s newsroom thriller, and it was very hard to find pictures to match. If you’ve ever tried to search Wikimedia by date, you’ll understand. I had to get creative: Think of some celebrities from the time, key events, movies … eventually you’ll find a hidden gem, often listed under the most unlikely names, sometimes misspelled!

I cast the net further, using different search engines, a variety of search terms. I’d make the time to poke around, storing the image locations in a folder for each book. I soon found it was best to make the time to rename these with key words for easy retrieval.

Even so, things got chaotic, so I forced myself to keep better records (renaming files, keeping dates, creating sub-folders) so I could access all these bits and bobs in my ever-increasing visual archive.

As I got increasingly involved in PR, such as writing blogs for other authors, writing features, and press releases, I needed even more images. Blogs pack more punch with pictures, so it’s invaluable to have a batch of copyright-free images that you can pepper all over the place. They tell a story, they’re personal, and they show you mean business. And if your blogs look good, then a screendump of the latest article is a great PR tool.

I started to hunt through my own personal images, holiday snaps and such. With a bit of tweaking, they can be handy (such as this background shot in sepia of Tromsø for Half Life). I bought a scanner and boosted the collection with some vintage photos from my attic. The next step was to purchase my own back pocket digital camera. I take it everywhere, even walking the dogs. If something catches my eye: Click, File.

Simple can be good. A snap of the cover of my latest book, Ice Trekker, as it appeared on my husband’s tablet on launch day, got dozens of hits. I created a cocktail to go with Half Life, a novel I co-wrote with my husband. More photos, more views. If you’re doing an online launch, the more images the merrier!

Increasingly, books are promoted through video trailers. It was time to crank up the PR, so I launched myself into the brave new world of audio-visual material. It’s astonishing how much you need for a book trailer. It eats pictures.

To avoid the ‘slide show’ look, I wanted quality moving footage. After hunting around, I’ve built up a few sites, such as Archive.org, that offer royalty-free, copyright free stock material for the aspiring trailer maker (including the clouds for Tomorrow’s Anecdote). Marketing Motion Graphics has some smashing, whizzy flourishes to brighten up a plain video in seconds (see the revolutionary burning fuse in Dark Interlude). Old movies and newsreels are now increasingly available. With the right software, it’s now easy to download the whole thing or screendump a still.

But when it comes to PR, headshots are still the most important – tough for most camera-shy authors. Rope someone in, or buy a tripod. If you don’t like the shot, delete it and take another, and another. This is the wonderful thing about digital images. Nothing is ever wasted.

Finally, some tips:

Always read the small print about credits. If in doubt, leave it out.

Don’t be afraid to ask around.

When all else fails, think outside the box or create your own.

If you’re nervous of video, start with an online scrapbook – see Tomorrow’s Anecdote.

Bio: Find Pam on Twitter and Facebook; or visit her author website and blog. Orchidmania is a blog for orchid fans.