How to make your erotica or erotic romance book advert shine!

I wrote before about how to make an erotic romance book advert in GIMP for Twitter. That article covered the basics, and this one builds on what I explained in the other article. This tutorial is a bit more advanced, so make sure you’re confident with making a simple advert before following this tutorial.

Click here to learn how to make a basic advert. That tutorial was written with the best sizes for a Twitter ad, but I find those sizes work well for Google Plus, too.

In this more advanced tutorial, I’m going to use the same advert I made in the first tutorial to show you how to make the text stand out so it’s more readable, then I’m going to show you how to filter your background picture so your book cover stands out! There are many other things you can do with picture editing to make pictures work together, but these are the easiest tweaks that will make your advert look more professional.

Part 1: How to make a text outline:

1. Go to one of the text layers and click on it to make sure it’s selected. Over the blue highlight, right click, then from that menu, select “alpha to selection.”
GIMP alpha to selection how to make book advert Katie Douglas

2. Your text will now have a weird blurry line around the edge:
GIMP alpha to selection how to make book advert Katie Douglas

3. Go to the menu at the top of the screen, click “select” then “grow”:
GIMP select grow how to make book advert Katie Douglas

4. You will get a menu like this. Choosing one or two pixels is enough on an advert of this size:

GIMP select grow pixels GIMP select grow how to make book advert Katie Douglas

5. Now that wavy border around the text has moved outwards in every direction by two pixels:

GIMP select grow how to make book advert Katie Douglas

6. Next, make a new layer. An option screen will come up. Just hit “OK” and it will make the right layer.

7. Get the bucket fill tool and make sure the main color is black (if your writing is white) or white (if your writing is black). You can play around with the colors but it’s tricky to get them to match the advert, so stick with black or white for now.

8. Make sure you’re working in the new layer you just created, not the text layer, or this will go weird. Click inside the wavy line surrounding your text. Everything inside the wavy line should go black, just like in the following picture. Click and drag your new layer so it’s listed below the text layer in the list of layers:

When the layer is in the correct place, your picture will look like this:

10. Go to “select” then click “none” to get rid of the wavy line around your writing.

GIMP select none how to unselect book advert katie douglas

Here is what the lettering should now look like:

11. Congratulations, you just made a text border! Now do it again to any other text on the page, and your advert text will be clear and professional-looking! Don’t forget to save and export your picture!

12. Here’s a before and after so you can see the difference this has made to the overall feel of the advert:

Before.
After.

Part 2: How to filter the background image:

Now let’s sort out that background. It’s mostly fine, but if you want to perfect your advert a little more, the background is definitely drawing attention away from the message and the book cover.

1. Make a new layer between the background picture and the layer with your book cover on it:

2. Next, select the layer with your book cover on it. Go to the color picker and select a dark-ish color from your book cover’s background:

3. Now go to the bucket fill tool. Change the opacity (how see-through the color is) until it’s very low, somewhere between 20 and 30% will be perfect:

4. Select the layer between the book cover and the background image, and click your bucket fill on it. The background should subtly change color like this:

And Finally…

To make the book cover stand out even more, you can put an outline around the book cover exactly the same way you made an outline around your text, so you get something like this:

Here’s a before and after for how the advert looked after following the first tutorial, and how this advert looked after following this more advanced tutorial:

Before.
After.

And voila, a shinier book advert you can use on Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms!

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Other articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors

How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors

Posting an eye-catching image on Twitter to advertise your erotic romance novel or erotica story is a great way to get people interested in your book. But how do you do that?! In October, I took a graphic design course to learn all about the mysteries of making adverts. Here’s a step-by-step checklist to help you create a Twitter ad:

  1. Get some picture editing software. I recommend GIMP because it is free (another option is PhotoShop, but I don’t use that because it’s expensive). One huge advantage of using GIMP (rather than Krita or Corel, for example) is that there are loads of videos on YouTube with tutorials about how to do everything. Just Google, “how to make bubble text in GIMP” and you’ll see what I mean. You can download GIMP for free here.
  2. When you open GIMP, go to “file” then click “new…”
    GIMP how to open a new image
  3. It will show a popup like this. Where I’ve put “500” (twice) put the size of your image (see step 4).
    GIMP new image dialog
  4. Pictures are measured in pixels. Your Twitter ad needs to be 500×500 (1:1 ratio) or 440×220 (2:1 ratio) pixels in size. This guide always has up-to-date measurements for all social media pictures.
  5. Go online and search for a nice background. Whatever you search for, type “CC BY” or “CC 0” after your search, because your pictures need to be a special type of copyright-free licence so you don’t get in trouble for accidentally using someone else’s protected work. When you find a nice picture, it should say on the webpage what you’re allowed to use the picture for. You probably want “commercial and non-commercial use” because even though you’re not selling your advert, it’s going to help you sell books, which is a commercial use.
  6. Copy your picture, then paste it into your GIMP image and hit the “new layer” button to anchor your picture to a layer (so you can use it properly).
    new layer her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
  7. If the background picture is too big, it might look strange, so go to “layer” and “scale layer” and change the layer’s size to the same size as your overall picture size (you don’t have to do this if the background picture looks okay, even if it’s too big, because when you export, only the visible part of the picture will be kept).
    GIMP scale layer her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
    Here’s where to find the “scale layer” option:
    GIMP layer too big scale layer2 her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
    And here’s where to change the size:
    GIMP layer too big scale layer3 her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
    Now you should have a background like this:
    GIMP before after scale layer her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book adGIMP after scale layer her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
  8. Get the book cover file that you should have from your publisher. Stormy Night Publications nearly always sends the final version to me shortly after the books are published, but I’m not sure about what other publishers do. Open that file in either Paint or GIMP and, on your computer keyboard, hold down CTRL and tap “a” at the same time. This will “select all.” Copy the image (edit/copy, or right click, “copy” or CTRL and “c”), and paste it into your GIMP book advert (edit/paste, right click, “paste” or CTRL and “v”). It might look like it’s gone wrong because the cover will be HUGE!
    GIMP cover too big her daddy and her master 99p sale katie douglas how to make book ad
  9. Hit “new layer” so you can work with the picture you just pasted, and it will stop saying “floating layer” in your layer dialog (the tab at the bottom right).
    GIMP cover too big new layer
  10. Repeat step 7 to scale the book cover down so it looks less scary. 200×300 is a good size for the book cover on a Twitter ad.
    GIMP cover too big scale layer1

    GIMP cover too big scale layer2
    The picture of the chain keeps the length and height ratio, so the picture doesn’t go a weird shape when you change its size. Only change the width, and when you click in the box next to height, it should automatically change it for you.
  11. To move your book cover, click “move” (and make sure the bottom option is checked: “Move the active layer”) and slide your book cover into position, until it’s where you want it. You can always do this to move it again, later, so don’t worry too much about whether it’s exactly where it needs to be at this stage.

    GIMP how to move layer cover1
    Once those options are selected you can click and drag the cover to where you want it.
  12. Now click on the “text” tool (big letter A in the toolbox on the left) and click and drag your mouse to draw a box where you want to write something. Put your words in the box.
    GIMP text tool how to make great book advert twitter katie douglas
  13. Highlight your text and select font, size, color etc until it’s how you want it (this works in a similar way to Microsoft Word).
  14. If the text won’t change color or size, it’s because there’s two options and for some strange reason, GIMP sometimes forgets it has two options and refuses to change one of them. Try the other one (see picture) and see if that makes it work.
    GIMP text edit can't change font color text not working
  15. To make your picture usable online, you need to export it (GIMP calls the process of turning all those layers into one picture “exporting” instead of “saving”, and when you hit save, it doesn’t make a picture you can use online). Go to “file” then “export as” and you have lots of options for file type; .png and .jpg are the best options for the Internet. If GIMP comes up with anything complicated while you’re trying to export, just hit “export” and it should go away and turn your work into a saved, exported picture.

  16. Once you have your picture, go to Twitter, write a nice tweet, add some hashtags and upload your image!

    GIMP finished pic use ruler
    Extra tip: The ruler at the top and to the left can help you line up each of your layers so they align properly with the rest of your picture.

Don’t forget to put a link to your book when you write your Tweet, and follow me on Twitter to get regular updates with content like this!

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Other articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make your erotica or erotic romance advert shine! (this is part 2 of the tutorial you’re reading now)

 

The Main Spanking Scenarios For Spanking Erotic Romance Writers

Every genre has its tropes, the patterns that readers expect from a story. Today I wanted to cover the main scenarios found in spanking erotic romance, which is, itself, a sub-set of BDSM erotic romance.

Hate at First Sight: In this scenario, the two (or more) characters detest one another so much that you just KNOW they’re going to end up together. It’s often combined with one of the other tropes, below. There are so many examples of this that it would be difficult to pick one specifically, although if this trope works properly, both characters need to be likeable (to end up with a satisfying HEA), so a misunderstanding is usually used to make this trope work.

Sold/Gifted/Sent/Given/Kidnapped: This is a VERY popular sci-fi trope, but has many different names, because Amazon basically dictates what can and can’t happen in books these days, and Amazon doesn’t like anyone using “Kidnapped” in the title (unless you’re R.L. Stevenson, presumably, because they’re still selling “Kidnapped!”). To get around this, there are lots of books where the heroine has been gifted, given or sent to the hero. The biggest challenge with this sort of story is this: What sort of a crap-ass bastard alphahole ACCEPTS a gifted or kidnapped woman?! And why doesn’t he INSTANTLY set her free when she naturally resists?!* Loki Renard is very good at exploring both points of view of the male and female main characters in her stories, and The Alien’s Leash is a good example of how the whole “kidnapped” trope can work with a likeable (but still very much in control) main male character.

Rescued: This is the opposite of kidnapped, and is more common in sweet romance. The hero is a traditional hero who wants to save the heroine from some circumstance she can’t overcome on her own. It’s not the most popular trope these days, because kidnapping is WAY sexier for BDSM purposes (damn you, Amazon, with your sudden but inevitable book title rules) and fits more with the fantasy of being made to do something you don’t want to do. A rescuer is less likely to push your limits. An example of a rescue which led to a more hardcore relationship can be found in the first book of my sci-fi spanking romance series, Her Daddy and Her Master.

Marriage of convenience: There are External Reasons (TM) why a heroine needs to marry a hero. It’s a very popular trope for historical romance or western (historical) romance, and historical spanking romance is no exception. It’s especially good where consent is dubious, because the institution of marriage (TM) implies some sort of relationship between the two main characters. Obviously, the main snag with this type of story is that you know they’re getting a HEA whether they like it or not… but then again, that’s not really a snag, is it? A good example of a marriage of convenience can be found in Amelia Smarts’ Handling Susannah.

Of course, this is all for spanking erotic romance, not for erotica, which has a different set of tropes and where, generally speaking, anything goes (as long as Amazon permits it), heroes don’t have to be likeable and ever afters don’t have to be happy. There are other tropes, as well, but these ones come up very often in spanking erotic romance. Which is your favourite?

Lots of Love,
Katie xxxx

*To clarify my own point of view on the whole “kidnapped” trope: Mmmm… kidnapped… [Homer Simpson gurgle]. I mean… not in real life,** but in a story it’s HOT AS FUCK when someone gets this one right. Especially because it so naturally lends itself to the hate at first sight trope.

**Unless you’re The Doctor, and even then, Colin Baker can fuck right back off to Gallifrey with Matt Smith, but Tom Baker will find me hiding in his pocket under a bag of Jelly Babies. An interstellar PhD will get you nowhere with me if you’re an asshat. Confused? Here’s a list of people who played The Doctor from Doctor Who. Does anyone know if there’s a spanking erotica fanfic version of the episode The Five Doctors? Because OMFG that should be a thing… OK, maybe I’m getting distracted here…AHEM.

Articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors
How to make your erotica or erotic romance advert shine!

Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?

Today, I’m going to talk about where to start a story in romance writing, and then I’m going to look more specifically at where the story should begin in erotic romance, using some very well known examples from across the literary spectrum. All the links on this page will take you to Amazon, where you can use the “Search Inside” function to read the opening paragraphs of each book for yourself.

When J.K. Rowling first submitted Harry Potter to a literary agent, she was told to cut the first two chapters and start with chapter three. I guess we shall never know what those first two chapters would have been about, but I would imagine they were a detailed description of the night Harry got his scar. The first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) is unusual for a number of reasons I’ll discuss in a future article. For now, we are looking at how stories start.

The first chapter of Harry Potter, in case you don’t know, follows Vernon Dursley around as he overtly has a very normal and boring day, and it’s tempting to think that means it’s okay to start a story with a normal, boring day, but underneath the surface of chapter one, there is a lot going on; Vernon notices strange occurrences because wizards are celebrating the defeat of Voldemort. Tension pulls us through the chapter as Vernon gets increasingly frustrated by all the things that clash with his values as the day goes on, highlighting just how important it is for him to feel normal. This shows us just how badly it’s going to go, when a wizard dumps a baby on his doorstep with a note saying, “sorry, your crazy sister in law is dead. Have a baby.”

Harry Potter, of course, is not a romance, and it’s certainly not an erotic romance, but it is a good benchmark because it’s the best selling series of all time (the best selling book of all time, I believe, is the Bible).

Regardless of your religious views, the Bible is an excellent example of where to start your story. Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, opens with, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” We didn’t get three chapters about how lonely God was, or how bored he was, how he went about his normal day in his usual existence, or how he had yearned to create a universe of his very own… we really don’t know anything about what God was like before he created the universe, and while I’m sure some fiction writers have written books about that, I’m not sure I’d want to speculate.

In a Victorian example which is closer to modern romance than the previous examples, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, begins with a conversation between four young ladies. The opening line is, “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Immediately, we know the time of year is probably near Christmas, and we want to know why there won’t be any presents.

The fact of the matter is, you can go back in time as far as you like, and choose anything from any genre, but all good books start with something happening. This is contrary to what some people advise for romance, however. I’ve read articles that say you should start with the heroine and hero’s normal lives before they meet one another. YAWN! No-one cares! Maybe in the 1990’s this was still good advice. Examples of bestselling books published in the 1990s are Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman Of Substance. Both books start with the heroine’s normal life… or do they?

Let’s look in more detail at the beginnings of both books. Outlander doesn’t begin with Claire (the heroine) sitting at home packing to go to Scotland. Nor does it start with her getting on a train with her husband. It starts with her already in Scotland. Something has already happened; she’s already left her normal life and gone to Scotland on holiday. It’s a very long book; I’d guess over 300,000 words, looking at the thickness of my copy, and yet, it doesn’t begin with reams of information about the heroine. It starts with her doing something, and information is interspersed, trickle-fed to readers between things happening, so they don’t get bored.

A Woman Of Substance is a bit less fast-paced. It starts with Emma (the heroine) getting her brother and father ready for work, before she makes the journey to her own place of work. It’s a historical novel set in Edwardian times, but Barbara Taylor Bradford doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae. We get enough information in the opening to know that Emma is working class, that she works at a grand house, that she has to struggle in her daily life, and that she is contemptuous of the upper class people she works for. The opening isn’t mindless activity for the sake of setting a scene, so much as showing the character through the scene. Even the conversation she has with her brother about buttering bread has a point behind it.

Both these books were published before the internet was a common distraction, before everyone had mobile phones, when more people still browsed bookshelves and read magazines. Both books were bestsellers and both were adapted for television. More importantly, both these books were published before the Amazon “search inside” preview and online blurb basically determined whether anyone bought the book or not.

Things have changed. Outlander is still in print. A Woman of Substance is now out of print in the UK, and it’s not selling very well in the US, either. You can’t even buy it in the Kindle format. Why isn’t it selling so good these days? A Woman of Substance has a strong beginning but it’s not fast paced enough to keep up with the demands of the modern reader.

In a modern romance then, the story will generally start where: 1. Something has changed in the heroine’s life. 2. That something should then propel the heroine toward the hero.

In erotic romance, you have the added element that readers are expecting sexual tension. Quality in this genre is often uncertain, because unscrupulous publishers have put out a lot of books that aren’t very good, so now readers are more hesitant to buy erotic romance books. They need to know, from the outset, whether this book is going to deliver.

A good example of how to start an erotic romance is the number one bestseller Claimed by Her Mates by Grace Goodwin. It starts with the heroine, Leah, experiencing a four-way. There is virtually no information about her looks, her backstory, or any of that stuff; Grace just dives right into the heart of the action and we learn so much more about Leah’s character from this. We learn that she is submissive, that she likes strong, dominant men, and that she might have fantasized about being dominated but had never actually experienced it until now. In fact, the whole Interstellar Brides series is full of perfect examples of how to begin an erotic romance story.

My advice is to start the book with a big, interesting event that will show the reader what to expect. The first few paragraphs have a lot of information to subtly convey to the reader; when is the story taking place? Where? Who is the heroine? What is she like and what is she doing? How does she meet the hero? And hopefully, when all these questions are answered, they will answer the biggest question every reader has: Why should I read this book?

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors
How to make your erotica or erotic romance advert shine!