Graphic Tools for Indie Authors – Part 1

From Forseng Fiction:

This post is the first of a multi-part series on graphic tools for Indie Author activities — blogging, newsletters, marketing, book trailers and the like. The series will cover some applications I have blogged about before, such as PowerPoint and Lumen5, but will also address others such as PhotoFunia, and Adobe Spark.

The purpose of the series is give Indie Authors of the tools available, some idea of the purposes to which they can be put, and an indication the required skill, time, and cost to be invested in the use tools.

This post begins a definition of “general assets” and “novel-specific” assets used as the “aw materials for creating visual content.

After the definitions I review and issue that plagues a lot of Indie Authors — they are not artists, so where can they obtain the necessary graphic “raw materials” — usually images — which they can then use for their own purposes?

Finally, the post covers PowerPoint — the “poor man’s” graphic editor.

Resources

A significant stumbling block for any indie author who wants to make use of visuals — stills, videos, GIFs, etc — is the lack of images with which to work. The days of pulling photos off the web are long gone, and I’ve read online that authors lament that while they want to make use of various visual tools, they have little “raw” material with which to work.

Fortunately, visual resources have become available over the last several years. I tend to class visuals into two categories: general assets (think stock photos) that can be used in visual content, and novel specific — those assets tied directly to an author’s book.

General Assets

General assets can be had from a wide variety of websites — both pay and free. Rather than trying to provide a comprehensive list, I’ve merely provided links to a few resource compilations:

23 Tools and Resources to Create Images for Social Media — despite the title, almost everything in this article can be applied to Indie Authors

The Best Royalty-Free Stock Image Sites for Your Book Cover — although focused on book covers, there are links to different image resources

27 Superb Sites with Royalty Free Stock Images for Commercial Use — the name says it all

There other possibilities as well. Indie authors who post their own images to Instagram may be able to “re-purpose” some them for other uses, for example. As always, when sourcing images, it pays to read the licensing terms to avoid copyright trouble.

Novel Specific Assets

These types of visual assets are directly tied to an Indie Author’s novel or series. Book covers represent the bulk of the assets which fall into this category, but it also includes images, illustrations, drawings, maps, and diagrams used in book trailers, blog posts, and promotional efforts.

To some extent, novel specific assets may be available from general asset sources. This is likely most true for genres such as romance, crime, and adventure and the like. For authors who write fantasy or science fiction, general sources may not offer much help.

In those situations, it may be necessary to spend some money have have something custom developed for the book or series. Typically these are done by commissioning amateur or professional artists. How much this will cost depends upon several things:

  • What is to be depicted (one character or multiple characters, full figure or partial, abstract or realistic background, etc)
  • The use to which the image will be put (book cover, blog post, book trailer, etc)
  • Whether the image is to be painted, drawn, modeled, sketched, coloured or black and white, etc
  • How quickly the image is required

Artists which may be commissioned can be found on Craigslist, DeviantArt, Fiverr, and other sites. Careful research is key, and the temptation to rush into a commission should be avoided. More information on working with commission-able artists can be found [elsewhere, see links on OP]

PowerPoint

PowerPoint is the poor man’s graphics tool and with a little imagination can be used to produce some graphic assets which can be used in blog posts, animations, and book trailers.

Most people who use Microsoft products are familiar to some degree with PowerPoint, so the learning curve is not steep.

Primary Uses

Primary graphics uses for PowerPoint include:

  • Simple graphics, primarily text-based
  • Limited animated sequences exported to MP4 format

Advantages

There are three main advantages to using PowerPoint:

  • Low cost — if Microsoft Office is installed, PowerPoint is immediately available for not additional cost. Moreover, everything an Indie Author creates with PowerPoint belongs to them (provided they do not use any 3rd party photo, graphic, or video assets).
  • Ease of use — the toolbars, functions, and capabilities are fairly easy to grasp, especially if the Indie Author has used PowerPoint for other purposes (e.g. in a job) in the past.
  • Export to movie option — export consecutive slides (a slideshow) as a movie using PowerPoint’s native capabilities.

Disadvantages

PowerPoint disadvantages are tied to its feature limitations.

  • Limited graphic capabilities — PowerPoint is not designed to be graphics creation tool, though many people use it that way. To achieve the desired effect with limited graphics features will take some experimentation and time
  • Limited animation control — PowerPoint lacks the fine timing controls and other video editing features available in even the simplest dedicated video editor

This is not to say that some incredible images and animations cannot be made with only PowerPoint. To do so, however, would require a significant investment in time. Most Indie Authors would like prefer to put such time to writing.

Link to the rest at Forseng Fiction

Although PG has created and presented with about ten billion PowerPoint talks/exhortations/shows, he has never thought of PowerPoint as a graphics tool.

You can find a gazillion PowerPoint presentation templates online, but the program would be pretty clumsy to use for a cover design.

With respect to picking up a template online or reusing a PowerPoint presentation you find online, it is theoretically possible to copyright a PowerPoint template and/or presentation, but, unless someone uses all or close to all of your template/presentation without a lot of changes, you may be looking at a difficult case to prove.

Note the distinction between claiming a copyright on a PowerPoint presentation and claiming a copyright to a photo or piece of art that is included in a relatively intact form in a PowerPoint presentation.

Theoretically, a variation on a copyright-protected presentation could be termed a derivative work which could give rise to a copyright claim, but the distinction between a new work and a derivative work could be difficult to perceive for a judge. PG thinks he could locate a zillion PowerPoints online that had a highly similar look as any original he’s seen.

The most common uses of other people’s PowerPoint presentation is for the general design and not the words and images included in the original.

If you started out with someone else’s template in the public domain or otherwise, but modified the look, colors, etc., again there is a problem of proof for the person trying to enforce a copyright if he/she was not the sole creator of the work.

Additionally, regarding damages, if the original presentation was not registered with the Copyright Office and/or didn’t include some notice that the creator intended to assert a copyright interest, that could also cause problems.

PG thinks that there are potentially a lot of fair use defenses for a claim based on an infringing presentation that used only bits and pieces of the original.

PG did some quick and dirty online research to see if he could find any information regarding someone filing suit for copyright infringement of a PowerPoint slide deck and couldn’t locate anything. If any visitors to TPV know of such a case, feel free to include it into a comment to this post or forward it to PG by using the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

3 thoughts on “Graphic Tools for Indie Authors – Part 1”

  1. Power corrupts.

    PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.

    n.b. In my misspent youth, I developed, gave, and sat though more military briefings with acetate slides than I want to admit to. As bad as they were, PowerPoint is worse.

    Reply

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