Thursday, 28 July 2016

Social Media Book Teaser Images by Courtney J. Hall

Courtney J. Hall

Teaser images can be one of the best marketing tools at an author’s disposal. Studies show that Facebook posts and tweets containing images result in at least 87% engagement. Compared to about 4% engagement for posts that are all text, and taking into account how simple the concept, you might wonder why more authors aren’t using them.

A common reason – “I don’t know how to make them.”

While it’s true that an author should leave the cover design and website building to a pro, trust me – you don’t need a degree in graphic design to create eye-caching and appealing teaser images that will entice readers to find your books. All you need is image-editing software like Photoshop or Serif PhotoPlus, a stock photo, and an intriguing line from your book.

The line is, hands-down, the most important part. It has to be one that will give potential readers no reason not to want to read your book. It shouldn’t be too long, but it should be interesting. It shouldn’t give away any major plot points, but it should reveal enough of the story to be enticing. Take your time and hunt it out. Don’t rush through this step. And if you can’t decide which one to use, you can always use your tagline.

Once you have your line, you need a stock image to go along with it. Think about the mood you want to create and use that as a jumping-off point. For spooky or mysterious, go dark and shadowy. For romantic, go bright. Use a photo with scenery, buildings, or people – whatever complements the line you chose to showcase. You also don’t want it to be too busy, because you will be adding text to it. But perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing your image is ownership. Don’t just grab any old photo from Google’s search results and use that to create your teaser. You’ll almost certainly end up with something you don’t have the necessary permission to use commercially, and it could also be pretty low-quality. You don’t want a blurry or pixilated teaser. Your best bet is to buy a stock photo from a site like Shutterstock, iStockphoto or Dreamstime. However, depending on your budget and how many images you plan to make, the cost can add up. So you can also use free, high-resolution Creative Commons-licensed photos from sites like Pixabay and FreePik, or use the Creative Commons search engine to find something from places like Flickr and Wikipedia that grant permission for commercial use.

Once you’ve chosen your image, open it up in your photo-editing software. If you don’t have anything on your computer besides Microsoft Paint, you can certainly use an online resource like Canva or PicMonkey – they also have stock photos – but I find them to be a bit limiting. And if cost is a concern, many companies offer free trials, like Adobe Photoshop, or even totally free versions of their software, like Serif PhotoPlus (you’ll just have to sacrifice certain functions, most of which you won’t even need to do your teaser images).

Apply any effects or filters until you have your desired look. Then use the text tool to add your line. Make sure your text is clearly visible against your photo. And make it pretty! Use an interesting font – again, being careful to use only a font that’s approved for commercial use, or one for which you have a commercial license). Use a bright color that pops against the background. Make it stand out! You want people who are mindlessly scrolling through their Twitter feed to stop on your photo, click on it, and buy your book.

When your image is as good as you can get it, save it as either a JPEG or a PNG file. And there you go! You now have an enticing image that will tease readers into wanting to read your book. Upload it to the social media page of your choice, and watch your sales explode!

Contact Courtney J. Hall via social media:

Twitter: @courtney_j_hall

Retail Links for Some Rise by Sin:

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

60 Seconds with Dave Barbarossa

As drummer with Adam And The Ants, Bow Wow Wow, and Republica, Dave Barbarossa toured the world. Work, whether in the studio as a session musician, or on the road with a number of different artists, has flowed in ever since, and he continues to earn his living as a professional musician.
In the midst of all this activity, Dave still found time to write his first novel, ‘Mud Sharks’. It tells the story of a young man growing up amidst the casual racism of the 1970s, where the violence he encounters in the outside world is mirrored by the abusive relationship with his father. His escape, and his redemption, comes with the advent of punk rock, with music, and with playing the drums.

By JJ Marsh and Karen Pegg

What books influenced you when growing up?

The first books I can remember reading were the Paddington Bear books, Stig of the Dump, PG Wodehouse. I’m a bit blokey, I like lists, so I read all the Jeeves books, the Lord of the Rings series. As I grew up I read anything and everything. Late teens, early twenties, I read JG Ballard and sci-fi writers, Le CarrĂ©, espionage, second world war stuff and anything anyone threw at me. So long as I had a book, I was happy.

Did you always want to write?

It wasn’t in my mind to. I took a break from touring and playing the drums. I stayed home and looked after my daughters while the missus went out to work. One day I sat at the computer and wrote a description of my friend. I loved doing it. I flew. It wasn’t very good but after that I wrote every day. You have to be disciplined, I think. It has to be a job of work, you’ve got to have a routine, give it three or four hours and put other things out of the way. I like it really quiet, just me and the cat.

Who or what had the greatest impact on your creative life?

Adam Ant and Malcolm McLaren. Adam was very disciplined, very traditional. He believed in perfecting your art, rehearsing hard and at the end of the night, nailing the show. Malcolm was all about muck it up, destroy it, throw it out the window and start something new. So I had these two great men either side of me, who both believed in me and gave me the confidence to go on.

Does the music affect your writing?

Only in the respect that it comes from the inside, that I want people to listen to what I’ve got to say. I was inspired to do things passionately and professionally on the drums. I take the same attitude to my writing.

Do you read your work aloud?

I was told to and that is how I edit. Mud Sharks wasn’t edited professionally. Then again, my first album with Adam Ant is a bit shambolic on the drums and people say it’s brilliant. With my new book, I’ve done six or seven edits and will not let it out of the room until I’m sure I won’t be laughed out of the office.

Is there a particular word or phrase that you most overuse?

Don’t be a c... that one. No, it’s got to be ‘unique’, it’s got to be yours. Malcolm McLaren used to say to us in Bow Wow Wow when we were creating this new sound in the 80s, “Never compete” and what he means is you don’t want to be like anyone else, you’ve got your own voice, own style, own soul. The minute you try being someone else, you’ll fail.

 There’s a dark comic side to your work.

That’s because I’m hideously self-conscious and cannot take myself seriously.

What makes you laugh?

Misery. We live and we die and make a fool of ourselves in between.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

No, not really. I like quality in all things. I can’t abide mediocrity, I’m a bit of a bore.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Catcher in the Rye. But it’s like choosing your favourite song, there’s hundreds.

Which book has impressed you most this year?

The Magus by John Fowles. Loved that.

Would you share what you’re working on at the moment?

I’ve finished my second book, called Community of Strangers. It’s very ambitious. Two parallel strands. One is a young policeman and his wife struggling to make it. She’s becomes a lawyer, he gets promoted, they buy a house in the country, a classic English success story. The other thread is a beautiful, narcissistic psychopath and his girlfriend, a mumbo-jumbo Ibiza crystal healer. It’s about their parallel lives. They meet in the end in an absurd location and everything is revealed. It’s about hypocrisy.

Is this completely fictional?

This is the question. I don’t know the difference between memoir and fiction. The writer is every character that he writes, isn’t he or she?

Why drumming?

I have trouble concentrating in lots of areas, but drumming absorbed me, made me focus. I loved it and I fell in with the right people, over and over again. It gave me a skill and a sense of self-worth.

You say you didn’t really go to school but you learnt to read.

I learnt how to read, but I didn’t know how to write.

Yet you have an amazing vocabulary.

That’s from reading, absorbing all those books. Reading is the key.

What made you write your first book?

I got tired of touring and the rock’n’roll lifestyle. Leaving my little daughter, my missus pregnant with the second one, gigging for two years and I’d had enough. So I said to my wife, you do your degree, I’ll look after the kids and do the ironing. It was brilliant. Washing-up, kids to school then I could sit down to write. I loved it. Still do.

How long did it take you?

This might be a bit glib, but 50 years. I was told to ‘write what you know’. So I wrote about my life as a ‘pop star’ drummer and it was dry, repetitious and boring. The story I do know is about my abusive childhood, bullying at school, the fact I escaped and got in with these amazing people and made something of myself. I wrote that as a novel over three or four years.

Is it painful to write?

If you want to write a book, you got to spill your guts, in my opinion. You have to be brave, go into your angst because you know what? The devil has all the best tunes.

Karen Pegg runs A Chapter Away, writing retreats and courses in South West France.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Colorful World of Synesthesia by Nancy Freund

When I started asking friends if they associated significant memories with colors, I was about a hundred pages into my first draft of ‘Rapeseed,’ my debut novel sometimes now referred to as my “synesthesia book.” Usually when I asked, the first response would be another question: “what are you talking about?”

“Yeah, you know, like for me, high school is yellow. But my school’s colors were yellow and brown so I’m trying to figure out if it’s a nature or nurture thing with my color associations. Also, do your foods taste like colors? No? Chicken isn’t blue? And smells? What about music? You don’t hear dark orange with a trombone?”

I learned quickly not to ask too many questions unless the friend was super open-minded, a neurologist, or – as it turns out – a fellow synesthete. It took me 10 years to write ‘Rapeseed,’ and during that time, I read everything I could on the brain phenomenon of blended senses. The minute I started looking, the research just kept coming. Today there are sophisticated labs in Texas, London, Brussels, Barcelona, and Edinburgh. Many famous artists and musicians have synesthesia: Vladimir Nabokov, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Paul Klee. Almost every time I meet a book club, at least one person in the room is a synesthete – classic or variant. Many of them didn’t know its name, or how many variations there are. We all have versions of this phenomenon of blended senses. A classic sees their letters and numbers in color. Further, there are now more than 60 known variations involving color, movement, sound, days of the week, textures, emotional response, graphic organization, and memory, to name a few. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the body of literature on it is growing too.


‘Rapeseed’ focuses on a 32-year-old woman’s self-acceptance after years of confusion about herself and how she fits with her family. Synesthetic Carolann has been keeping secrets from her husband, her community, and even herself. Her twin sister is not a synesthete, and she’s also not very nice to our protagonist! As a result, there’s a lot to untangle – with synesthesia at the heart of it all. Wendy Maas wrote a fantastic YA synesthesia book called ‘A Mango-shaped Space’ that offers one of the best synesthesia discovery stories I’ve seen. Since I’ve been meeting more and more synesthetes, the question, “when did you first know?” always opens a fascinating conversation. Clare Morrall’s Booker shortlist novel ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ is another revealing novel, showing why synesthesia may be viewed as both a gift and a burden. Dr. Jamie Ward’s ‘The Frog Who Croaked Blue’ is a lighthearted scientific study, if you can imagine that. Daniel Tammet’s ‘Born on a Blue Day’ is a revealing memoir of synesthesia and Asperger’s, while on the other end of the literary spectrum, T. Jefferson Parker’s thriller ‘The Fallen’ uses synesthesia almost as a super-power for a homicide detective who can “see” colors of deception in people’s speech. Similarly, Dominic Smith’s ‘Beautiful Miscellaneous’ features a trauma-onset synesthete whose car accident and subsequent coma deliver his form of synesthesia and a new life as a child prodigy. Fascinating stuff! These books are all about synesthesia, either fictionally or as memoir or scientific study.

It doesn’t take a lot of creativity, though, to also recognize synesthesia in books that don’t specifically claim it. Aimee Bender’s ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ certainly hints at it. Take also Sandra Cisneros’ novel ‘The House on Mango Street.’ Young Esperanza is not described as a synesthete, but check this out: “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”

The gorgeous poetry of those few lines made me fall in love with Esperanza and Sandra Cisneros both. And I have a feeling if there’s to be a cocktail party of fictional characters in some alternate universe, my Carolann from ‘Rapeseed’ and Mia from ‘A Mango-shaped Space’ and a handful of characters from the books (and authors) I’ve described will happily welcome Esperanza to the blended senses club. As for me, I want to hang out and talk neurology with Nabokov!

Contact Nancy Freund: