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Friday, 28 February 2014

Making Memes, For Writers

What is a meme? There’s a great explanation on the inimical Wikipedia here. But, in short, for our purposes, it’s a message conveyed via the medium of a picture with words added.

So, what’s it got to do with writers?

Essentially, of course, your book cover constitutes a type of meme. But it’s in the area of promotion that these devices really come into their own. It’s long been the case that visual messages create greater interest and more responses than the written word alone. In the visually biased world we now inhabit, this has become even more the case, and promises to be increasingly so into the foreseeable future.

The idea is that it’s more effective to produce a ‘poster’, with relevant background picture and your words applied, than to simply quote the words in a tweet or short post.

A lot of writers employ cameras to collect information and records for their writing. It’s a fairly simple matter to use the same equipment to collect images suitable for backgrounds for memes. For those who don’t own or use a camera (and don’t forget most mobile phones now contain a camera, as do tablets) there are a large number of sites where you can use images taken by others. On most of these you can make unlimited use of pictures for a small fee and limited use for free. Don’t be fooled by the many claims that all images are free. Almost without exception, such images are either very small or bear a great big watermark. ‘Free’ for this purpose, generally means they are ‘royalty free’; in other words, once purchased, they can be used commercially. Pricing is from around £2.00 a picture, depending on image size. Make sure you read the licencing agreements before you use them. I’ve made use of some of these images for my book covers and they represent a very worthwhile investment. I list some of the sites at the end of this post.

So, how do you apply words to a picture? MS Word allows you to do this in a very basic way. You ‘insert’ a picture in a document and then set the text so that the picture is ‘behind’ the chosen text. However, this is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons; mostly, it’s very limited and not easy to manipulate. Most ‘Painting’ applications will allow the placing of words over or within an image. They also tend to be fairly limited and not particularly straightforward, however.

By far the most effective way of applying text to a picture is to use image manipulation applications,
like Photoshop. However, be aware that you need a degree in computer science, the patience of a saint and the intuitive skills of a genius to make full and efficient use of such programs (My daughter is currently studying Photography at university: they don’t teach Photoshop, even though most of their students use the program. Why don’t they teach it? A lecturer, asked the question, stated it would take a full-time course of around 5 years to do it justice!)

But, don’t despair: you don’t need a complex program to produce your memes. Below are some of the applications offered, free and online, that I’ve tried out for you. In each case, I used my own images, but all these sites have libraries of pictures you can use as part of the application. I used Fotofelexer to produce ‘We Travel this road…’ and ‘Breaking Faith’. Picmonkey was used for ‘If we stop..’ And Ipiccy produced ‘Life is…’
These I found easy to use, but each works in slightly different ways, so you’ll need to give them a try to find out which one suits your particular working methods.

The accompanying posters are memes I produced specifically for this post and each took me only a few minutes. Many of the sites have bells and whistles to allow you to ‘jazz-up’ your creations, should you feel so inclined. My advice is to have a go and see what you can come up with.

And, what to do with these wonders once you’ve produced them? Well, you can Tweet them on Twitter, add them to your blog/website, make them part of your Pinterest collection and stick them in albums on your Facebook and/or Google+ author page (what do you mean, you haven’t got one?). Obviously, make sure there’s a buying link to those that promote your books. As for the words you use to apply to the pictures, you have a choice of your own pithy sayings, excerpts from the text of the book and, of course, those wonderful words of praise from your reviewers (make sure you credit them, of course).

Have fun and scatter memes all over your world. You never know, you might actually attract some readers and maybe even sell some books!

If you’ve found this useful, stimulating, interesting or experienced any other positive outcome, please use the ‘share’ buttons at the foot of the post to let others know about it. It took me a lot of time and effort to produce this post. Thanks. Oh, and by all means comment, but bear in mind I’m no expert, so I may not be able to answer technical questions!

Photo editing sites:  
http://pixlr.com/editor/            Too much like Photoshop
http://fotoflexer.com/app/index.php?integration=upload       Easy to use and comprehensive
http://www134.lunapic.com/editor/   Difficult – can’t copy and paste a block of text
http://www.picmonkey.com/             More variety available if you upgrade at $4.99/month or $33/year
http://ipiccy.com/       Useful and comprehensive.

Sites where you can get pictures:
http://www.dreamstime.com/  21,500,000 images – small charge and some free. I’ve used this for covers.
http://www.shutterstock.com/           30,000,000 images – small charge, some free
http://www.istockphoto.com/            V large selection – small charge, some free
http://www.thinkstockphotos.co.uk/ V large selection – small charge – some free.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/      Large selection – small charge, some free.
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