Design 101: Resizing an Image for Social Media Graphics and More

If you are on social media you know that you need images, lots of them, preferably not stock photos.   If you have something that you like, but it doesn’t quite fit into the social platform’s specs, you are going to need to resize it.  On the surface, this is a simple task. The basic “how to” is the same on most programs, though the display options may appear different places. For example, in Photoshop you need to go to “Image” and select “Image Size”. In MS Paint, there’s a dedicated button labelled “Resize”. They both serve the same function but, depending on the complexity of the program, they will have different limitations. When resizing an image for social media, here are a few things to keep in mind:

What is an Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the height and width of an image.  When resizing an image for social media you will want to take into account the different aspect ratios for different platforms.  They are a bit different. There are only two options when you resize an image: You can either maintain the aspect ratio or not. Maintaining the aspect ratio means that when you resize the image, it will keep the same ratio between its height and width. If the aspect ratio is changed, the image may become stretched out as you resize it. This tends to be visually unappealing, though small changes might go unnoticed.

Good Resolution = More Appealing Image

If you’re using very simple image editing programs, this option might not be available. However, if you or someone you know can do this, it’s a neat trick.  Resolution defines the clarity of an image and is often represented by either the DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). DPI is a term used for printing an image, whereas PPI is used for digital displays of images.

In general, the minimum DPI/PPI accepted as “hi-res” is 300. That means for every square inch of space the image occupies, there are 300 pixels. If you are ever asked to increase the resolution of an image, keep in mind that this will automatically make the image larger. You are adding pixels to the image when increasing the resolution. If you do not increase the size of the image along with the DPI/PPI, it can often cause an image to turn out a bit blurry. What if you want to increase the resolution but not change the size? Allow the image to scale up when the resolution is changed. Afterwards, it can be resized back down to the desired dimensions. This helps preserve the quality of the image.

 Resizing vs. Resampling

Most modern image editing programs are good at preserving quality, so long as you use the proper steps of resizing. Photoshop and the like will have more options when it comes to resampling, rather than resizing, an image. When resizing, you either take away or add pixels and other data related to the details of the image. Resampling is a process that helps fill in for these changes in data.  It ensures the result is as true to the original image as possible.

Unfortunately, if you need to make drastic changes in size, there will inevitably be some loss of quality. Since resizing an image down results in a loss of data, it can lead to a more pixelated or sharp look. Resizing up can end with a more blurry or softer look, since programs will fill in missing pixels.

It’s best to try and get the highest quality original image that you can from the start. If you’re going to need a specific set of dimensions or resolution, do your research ahead of time. This can help avoid the need to resize altogether. Otherwise, the smaller the size changes needed the better, in terms of maintaining quality.

Whether you’re working on your next Instagram post or designing a book cover, hopefully this helped clarify some terms from the complicated world of digital image editing!

How to Find the Right Bookstagrammer for Your Work

Instagram (IG), like all social platforms, evolves with time.  We have talked a lot about the benefits of Instagram for books and authors.  But before you start approaching all of the  “bookstagrammers” who come up in a #search, you need to know how to find the right bookstagrammer for your work.

Find the Right Hashtags for Your Topic

There are a lot of lists if you google the term bookstagrammer. Popular sites have made lists of their favorites by genre, aesthetic, or just personal preference. Often, these lists are more general and limited to around 20 accounts. The best way to find people is to go directly to Instagram itself and dig down a little deeper.

This does require research and time. It is important to go through the process so you find the right bookstagrammer for your work by identifying the hashtags that are popular with a specific genre. For instance, if you wrote a thriller, try searching #thrillernovel or #thrillerbookreview for specific results. From there, you will find more related hashtags and reviewers who are interested in your niche. You might even find certain genres have specific, trendy tags they use so keep an eye out for those!

Evaluating Bookstagrammer Profiles

Once you’ve found a hashtag that seems active and relevant to your book, start visiting user profiles. Take a look at their bios to learn a little more about them and then look at the rest of their posts. Was the book review a one-off thing or do they do lots of them? Do they often review books that seem similar to yours? It is more productive to ask someone for a review when they already have an interest in the genre of your book. People who are avid fans of one genre are always looking for their next read!

Take note of a reviewer’s follower count while you’re on their profile, but don’t let this metric be the end-all, be-all of your search. In the case of bookstagrammers, don’t overlook the micro-influencer. Bigger accounts get DMs (Direct Messages) about book pitches often, so yours might not even make it to their proverbial desk. Getting your book in front of an audience of 30,000 people is great if you can, but several posts made over time by different accounts can also be great exposure. Smaller users that have grown their audience organically may have a more active audience as well.

How to Pitch Bookstagrammers Correctly

If you’re looking for some differences on how to pitch on different platforms, check out our previous blog about pitching! While pitching, keep yourself as organized as possible in a way that works for you. Whether you want to use spreadsheets or an address book, just make sure you have a plan of action and a way to keep track of who you’ve talked to.

We have found that the book community on Instagram is a wonderful, supportive group.  They are super creative and just engaging with them can help you learn about how to use the platform in creative ways.

For more tips, check out our other blogs to find out more about social media and book marketing techniques.

 

Indie Authors Alert: Crowded Book Market Fall 2021

Fall is always a crowded book market because it leads into the holiday shopping season.  However, this year could be one of the most competitive and expensive for indie authors and publishers.

Expect Delays in Supply Chain

In recent years books by Michelle Obama and Bob Woodward have taken over the market and the paper supply.  The larger traditional publishers order paper in advance.  In 2018 indie authors and smaller presses were faced with delays getting their books printed.  The paper issue has not gotten much better for indies since then, but many have learned to work around the delays.  However, this year, the crowded book market combined with a truck shortage and a labor shortage, make getting supplies and shipping books challenging for printers like Ingram Spark that cater to the indie market.

Increases in Pricing

Have you felt the rise in inflation?  Groceries, gas and materials like lumber, metal and oil have all climbed steadily since January 2021.  Well everyone in the book business is going to feel the pinch as well.  The Independent Book Publishers Association published this brief memo from Ingram explaining that their U.S. prices have increased 6%, not including shipping.  As of November 6, 2021, we can except price changes reflecting this increase to go into effect.

Book Reviewers Overwhelmed

I don’t have any official data to report on reviewers.  I can tell you that we are hearing that reviewers are swamped through December with titles.  One Instagram reviewer mentioned that she had 200 books to review between now and the end of the year.  I’ve said in other blogs that the traditional publishers plan their most splashy and coveted titles for the Fall season and those books will be considered first.

How to Manage a Crowded Book Marketplace

I can offer a few recommendations if you currently have a book planned in the next three months and you have not already been soliciting publicity coverage.

  1. Set a soft publication date where you release the book without the expectation of coverage right now.  Plan for a hard publication date in the first three months of next year to give yourself enough time for reviewers to take a breath.
  2. Completely push publication until Winter 2022.
  3. Whether you soft publish now or wait all together, focus your efforts on your social media and digital marketing.
  4. Do your homework and research other kinds of media and contacts who may want to cover your book in a story or interview.  Some of these contacts might have some openings, especially if they don’t have to read the whole book.
  5. Plan, plan, plan.  Use the time to figure out what kind of traditional strategy you want to have for your book.  Get your review copies ready and start sending them to reviewers (stickered with the publication date) three  to four months ahead of your hard publication date.

Manage Book Sales Expectations

Most of all you need to accept what is possible and what is not, cut your losses, and strategize.  Evaluate the market and the competition for the season and decide how you want to move forward with your marketing and publicity.  Then start taking steps in that direction.

For more information about book publishing and marketing, check out  www.clairemckinneypr.com/blog and

Get Ready to Promote Your Fall 2021 Book

 

 

When should you publish your book? An Infographic

 

 

 

Digital Pitching Tactics for Different Media

As a PR and marketing company one of our most important jobs is writing.  Just because we are good writers does not mean we are going to write the next great American novel, because what we do requires a specific skill set.  In fact, some people equate PR writing with journalism.  We have to create the stories and be persuasive to convince media people to pay attention and write or broadcast what we want to get out there. Different platforms require different things so you would never send a lengthy email style pitch to a person on Instagram.   Twitter needs to be even more brief. Pitches can not be over-the-top, nor should they be dry.  Catch a person’s attention in the first sentence with eye-catching, pithy, and ultimately informative material. Like one of my favorite artists, Public Enemy, says, “Don’t Believe the Hype” –we can’t afford to alienate people by leaning too far in any one direction.   So how do digital pitching tactics differ between emails vs. social media?

Is Your Pitch Too Long?

The most glaring difference in digital pitching tactics is the length that your pitches can be. In email, the short & sweet is applied mostly to the subject line. Once someone has deemed your email important enough to open, it’s likely they’ll read it. There’s a lot of room in the body of an email to write at length about whatever it is you’re trying to pitch. This doesn’t mean you should write a novel, but it does allow the opportunity to append things like press releases or longer summaries. If your initial pitch sells the product well, the reader will usually want some more information. Attachments are a great way to do this.

When you start getting into social media, though, length becomes the enemy. Many platforms have character limits for direct messages (DMs) and people don’t want to read walls of text. For book pitches, I usually try to keep the message to a personalized hello, a short summary of the book and any relevant information about the author. It’s always important to end with a call to action like an invitation to work together or an offer for more information. Being concise and clear about what you’re asking for is vital with strict length limits.

Does Structure Matter?

The structure of a DM pitch is a lot looser, especially once you get to chatting with someone! I would suggest keeping it formal at first and, of course, always remain courteous. But don’t be afraid to “like” someone’s responses or use emojis (sparingly). It’s commonplace on social media and can make you seem more personable. People always like knowing there’s someone real behind the product!

Emails tend to be a lot less casual, almost always beginning with a greeting and ending with a signature. It’s good practice to use more formal language throughout the conversation. This might change a little if you exchange emails with someone regularly, but usually with pitches it is a strictly professional relationship and using language to reflect that is a good idea.

Pacing is Important–Don’t Be a Dirge

Some of the informality of DMs comes from pacing. Often, you will see responses a lot faster on social media than you would expect with email. Because it’s less formal and easily accessible through phones, people usually get back to you quickly if they’re interested in your pitch.  Make sure to do your best to reply in a timely manner as well.

As a tip, keep in mind that if you have a lot of people to pitch via DM you can’t always send out hundreds of messages all at once. Some websites have rate limits and might mark you as a spam account if you try to do too much in a short period of time! Try to limit your new messages to about 15 or 20 an hour.

Don’t Do It Unless You Know How

These are just some things to expect if you’re new to using DMs  and social media to pitch to people. The only real way to get a feel for it is to go out and do it!  And remember most of all you are trying to build relationships between you and the media.  It’s a symbiotic association that should benefit both sides.  Don’t risk the trust of a potential contact, know what proper digital pitching tactics are before you reach out.

If you’d like to read more publicity tips, check out some of our other blogs on the topic!

How Bookstores Work

All new authors want to see their books in bookstores.  Although you do need to have books available for orders, setting your sights on attracting booksellers to your title may not be the best use of your time.  Here are some things you need to know about how bookstores work.

Book Distribution

If your book is available for wholesale purchases on Ingram or in your garage, you can sell to the trade (stores).  But did you know that IF a store wants to stock your book, they might only stock one or two copies at first?  You may be convinced that without bookstores you can’t succeed, but there has got to be a better way.  If you get fifty stores to buy one or two copies you have distributed 50 – 100 books.  For an indie author or press, that method is a ton of work for not so much of a return.

Author Events

Publishers worked around the small orders by setting up big author tours, where a store would normally purchase about 20 copies for a lesser known author’s appearance.  Getting the buyers in the store to purchase them, well that’s another story.  If only two people attend an event, then most of those copies go back to the warehouse.  Big publishers pay for shipping to and from the bookstores and they take returns.

Discounts and Other Protocols

Bookstores require a wholesale discount.  On Ingram, that means discounting your book by 55%.  Ingram gets 15% and the bookstore gets 40%.  Also, you will be asked if you accept returns.  If you do not, then you will not sell wholesale copies to traditional stores.  Amazon is a different story.

Merchandising

Five stores each order two copies of your book.  Where will the copies be?  On the shelf?  Spine out?  How will people see it?  This is where merchandising comes into play.  There are several different options for shelving books including spine out, front cover facing, tables, end-caps, and displays.  All, except for spine out, usually cost money that comes from a publisher’s marketing budget.  It depends on the size of the store and how they choose to merchandise.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores and I’m a browser who might see your book on a shelf–spine out.  But, when you are starting out as an author, especially in the indie world, think of alternative ways to get your books to readers.  You will be dwarfed by the big publishers and authors if you try to start out in the traditional retail marketplace.

Highways and Car Trunks

Here are a couple of examples of authors doing it differently:

E. Lynn Harris was a maverick in many ways.  He wrote ten best-selling books and you know how he started?  He sold books out of the trunk of his car.  A couple of decades ago, Harris was building his army of readers on the ground.

Michael Connelly used to meet a guy on the highway in California.  Michael would sign a couple of hundred copies of his latest hardcover so they could be sold to collectors.  This was a way of marketing and selling to a niche audience that would not be able to find a pristine, cello-wrapped copy in a store.

For more information about bookselling check out our blogs:

“When Promoting a Book is Also About Selling a New Idea”

“How Many Books Should You Be Selling?”