Grab something to drink, a bowl of something to munch on, a pad of paper … and a barf bag, and watch this 3 1/2 hour documentary …
Creating an Avatar and Why You Need One
An Avatar is a specifically sized image that is either your photo, logo or a graphic that you want to represent you. There is a website that I highly recommend, which will facilitate your Avatar following your email address on anything you post information to, such as comments on blogs, including your own.
The site is http://Gravatar.com. Create an account, include your desired Avatar, profile pic, biographical or company information and the email address you use to make posts. Now, whenever you make a post, your Avatar will automatically follow your email address, where ever you post – and readers can click on your Avatar to get more information about you and learn where they can find you online. This is a must for driving traffic to your website as you work towards building relationships with other bloggers!
So, what size should an Avatar be and how do you formulate one? Where else can you use your Avatar? Here’s a great article post that will give you all the details … Go to: How to Optimize Your Profile Photos Across Social Media
Put Out The Firestorm Before It Starts!
Put out the firestorm before it starts! When do you need a website? How do you get started if your book hasn’t been published yet.
In this podcast with Judith Briles on the Your Guide to BOOK PUBLISHING we discuss a common occurrence with new authors who wait until their book is published before they start thinking about a website. Waiting too long … starts the firestorm and panic – stop it before it starts!
Make-overs, new websites, specialized websites, blogging and getting started on all of it. Your business begins well before you have everything in place. This is not putting the cart before the horse! It’s planning with intention and creates trust with your audience and builds your tribe – who in turn, become your greatest fans and the starting place for your best viral marketing.
Listen in …
Images in Posts
Images in posts are extremely important but not always easy to come by. There are times when your blog post just doesn’t have enough descriptive words to conjure up an image, or, after searching the Internet for way too long, you find nothing that inspires you, or enhances the post.
Perhaps you are making a comment on another bloggers article, or a newspaper article and to use an image from their site would mean copyright infringement. Nope, don’t want to go there!
Here are some ideas to help you fill that image space which will enhance your blog post and break up the monotony of the reader’s eye and attention span.
1. Take your own photo – Most likely you already have a smart phone or a phone that can take photos. Snap a quick picture of something that is related or sets a tone.
Here’s some quick ideas:
- A desk shot speaks of work, thinking, writing, entrepreneurship, blogging, workplace …
- Your garden! Reflections of images that speak to women, gardeners, nature, fragrance, emotions …
- Automobiles set the tone for men, speed, automotive industry, paint, design, repair, travel, money
- Money! Who doesn’t like a good shot of money? Coins, bills, or both – get creative and have fun snapping several shots to build your inventory of wealthy images.
2. Screen Capture the site that you are commenting about. SnagIt is my favorite screen capture software tools because it also comes with an editor that makes special effects super easy. I can capture the site in question (that I’m commenting on) and make it a nice, small thumbnail, add a shadow and ta-da! I have a great image to help enhance my content.
3. Artwork or Cartoons are always fun to have in a blog post. Simple clipart or more detailed illustrations attract the eye and help keep the reader’s interest. Contact me about creating custom content for your site or sign up to my periodic newsletter to receive free clipart for blogs.
4. Microsoft provides images for use on their site which have a nice variety of photos and clipart.
What to Pay Attention To in Your Branding
It’s the subtle things that make up the background of your content that affect your reader and potential customers the most. If there’s a ton of text without much white space, readers move into a subconscious level of irritation or criticism which can backfire on you. Inserting a graph, an image or keeping your sentences short and breaking up your paragraphs, help to move the reader to a more relaxed state of mind to digest and comprehend your content. Bullet points are another way to get to the point quickly, and with a web-based platform, you can add more content and link it to the bullet so the reader has the option to read more, or just skim. Colors play another big role in whether or not trust or value is perceived in the correct way. If your site is about massage therapy and whole healing, the last thing you want to do is to create a red site. Red is an aggressive color and speaks of authority, not safety or calm as blue and green does. In a recent interview with Judith Briles for Author U (niversity) we discuss a few more areas for consideration.
By the way …
Branding is NOT about the appearance of your product, nor is it your logo. Branding is how people feel or think about your product or services. The appearance of your marketing material, products and other visual elements are what create that feeling or thought towards your business.
I felt that they were a trust worthy company and I loved your sense of humor and simplicity.
I think you know what you are doing. Everything was laid out well and was easy to find.
Both comments are from customers who have developed an opinion based upon how they felt when they were introduced to a company website. This is what they will tell others who want to know what it was like to work with that company.
And THAT … my friend … is branding.
The Basics of Branding and Managing Expectations
Are you considering creating a WordPress website and you need a little bit more information about what to focus on?
In this podcast with Judith Briles on the Your Guide to BOOK PUBLISHING we discuss the basics of what you need to know in building your WordPress site and how to identify your branding and manage expectations of visitors.
Do you know what branding really is? (it’s not your logo) How do you get visitors to linger on your website? What is the number one thing you need to know to avoid confusing your visitors?
Listen in …
How To Add Images
Blog posts can be easily misunderstood as incredibly boring if there are no visual clues as to what the post is about. Unless your writing is stellar and the first few words you write to capture the imagination of your reader, chances are, they will skim and pass your site by.
Breaking up the monotony of text with photos, clipart, videos or even something as simple as a line or white space will help the reader linger over your words.
This blog post is part of a tutorial on how to insert images into your text and I’ll even show you how to resize them from inside WordPress.
Adding Images to Your Blog Post
Every blog post you write benefits greatly if you add an image, video, clipart or graph. Engaging your reader on more than one sensory level peeks their interest, understanding and assists in eye comfort while reading text online.
In this short video, I tell you how to upload an image, show you how to resize it and how to move it from side to side.
What You Can Expect When Working with Me as an Artist
The following information is in regards to the creative process and is unique to me. Other artists may approach their work differently, so I’m not in a position to speak for them, but I think much of what I am about to say will apply to them as well.
Many of my illustration contracts center around providing interior book illustrations for a wide range of books that are written for adults and children alike. Each is different in how they are approached, and the styles will vary. Gratefully, my styles do vary and I’m blessed to be able to do many different types of artwork because of this.
Before I ever begin a job, my clients have viewed, or are shown, work that I’ve already created so that they can understand what they can expect for their own project. You can view my online portfolio by clicking here.
THE CREATIVE JOURNEY
A common mistake that many people, new to hiring an illustrator, will do, is that they will see my style, then as they describe their projects, their internal imagination morphs into something that I do not do. Yes, it is helpful to show artwork that you love or to provide photographs. Ideally, it’s best to show me samples from my own portfolio so that our communications and expectations will remain on the same page.
However, there are times when a certain look is trying to be expressed, and another artist’s work is shown to me as a reference. It’s important for you to understand that this is for REFERENCE ONLY and is not going to be a direct copy of their style, or the image itself. That would be copyright infringement and is illegal. My style is my own. Their style is their own. Your realistic expectations are expected”
As an artist and someone who loves to support you fully in your project, I have my talent, our communication, and your manuscript to go on as a reference. Reading your manuscript, researching for reference photos for things like furniture, buildings, clothing styles, facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures is something that an artist will do ahead of time. Note the keyword “time”. This takes time to do. Therefore, I do not charge by the hour, but per illustration.
As I find certain references or view the references that you provide, I am drawing and sketching concepts to continue communication regarding what you have in mind.
Frankly, my favorite illustrations are the ones where the author gives me free license to create, based upon what I”m reading in the book. They might tell me that they’d like five small spot illustrations and three full interior illustrations, for instance. They will also mark in their manuscript where they’d like them to go – or they may ask me to make suggestions.
My goal is always to support the flavor of the book that I’m illustrating and by allowing me creative license, I am free to flow and put my creative brain behind my sketches.
But sometimes, a client is a bit nervous with this approach and would prefer that they maintain more control over what goes where and what the characters will be doing. In this case, part of my brain switches to “left-brain” mode or becomes logical as I take in the information and concentrate on various details while developing the character concept.
When this happens, the first initial character sketches that I do might feel a bit stiff, as I’m only focusing on various features, and not what the character is doing.
Bear with me … this is just laying the foundation. Once the character style is established, we then get to have fun with adding personality and body language within the various interior illustrations which will go inside the book. These are the fun sketches, as they bring the book to life.
TIME AND PROCESS
Many people expect well-developed illustrations immediately because that’s what they see when they search Google for concept illustrations. What they don’t see is all the chicken scratches and weirdness that happens while an artist “feels’ out the character. If you understand this process, and the time that it takes to lay the foundation for good illustrations which will go inside the book – then you may take a peek. This is where conversation happens.
Speaking of which … I’m an artist. You’ve hired me to illustrate something that you are already familiar with. Your communication is extremely vital so that I can step onto the same page with you to see what you are imagining. Your project is new to me, I’ll need time to familiarize myself to it – and to you. Everyone communicates differently, understanding this, is important to me so that I can give you the best experience possible.
Frustration happens when unrealistic expectations get in the way of facts, and established styles. Please communicate with me if you are not “feeling’ something. And by all means, let me know if I’m on the right track with you.
These conversations are extremely important because they save you money! Every time I have to revisit and draw or redraw something or completely draw something new, I’m guessing if you aren’t communicating clearly. I’m not emotionally attached to my drawings, but my time and your time is valuable. Speak up! Have fun! Be realistic!
When I’m given full license to be creative and to draw as I’m inspired by your manuscript, you’ll get your artwork much faster. But when you want me to draw what you see in your mind, understand that it will be much slower and will require meticulous conversations and patience.
I’ve illustrated full books with 25 illustrations in less than a month and the client was jumping from the rooftops with excitement. And I’ve had to spend well over two years illustrating another book because the client wasn’t sure what they wanted, and we blew through hundreds of versions, only to return to my first initial sketch. The classic response by the client was, “Wow! I didn’t see you make this one. This is what I wanted!” to my very first illustration, has happened more than once.
My experience is that people will have a certain idea, and will begin with that … but then realize that it isn’t working, or that there’s another approach that they hadn’t thought of before. In the past, I made the mistake (yes, I said mistake) of meeting with the client personally and drawing in front of them. After eight hours of concept drawings, I realized that the client was so mesmerized by the artwork appearing before their eyes, that they got caught up in the entertainment of the moment and had completely lost focus of what they had wanted in the first place.
When I listen to a client, I’m listening deeply, I’ll ask questions, and I’ll have an intuition about what will work for them – based upon what I’m hearing. 90% of the time, I’m right on. The problem usually arises with an unclear idea or expectation of what they want – or that they have another artist’s style in mind, and have forgotten that they’ve hired me – not that other artist.
PRICING AND WORK-FOR-HIRE
My fees include all preparation work, editing, and finalizing of artwork. I’m very generous with my licensing as I provide you with exclusive, unlimited rights to the work I create for you. I don’t resell it, but I reserve the right to show it in my portfolio, as long as it is not violating a non-disclosure agreement or any other agreement we’ve made that is specific to this.
I do not charge by the hour! If I did – you’d be paying a fortune for my work. Much is put into the foundational part of reading the manuscript, researching, preliminary sketches, and character development as well as communication with you. When you pay me, you are paying for my creativity and licensing the work.
Many clients want what they understand to be “Work for hire” – where they own everything, lock, stock, and barrel. Including my style of drawing! Work for hire is extremely expensive and it allows the client to make derivatives of the work without any consideration of my style or the integrity of my art. In past judicial courts, some artists have been shattered to learn that when they agreed to ‘work-for-hire terms, their style of art was deemed a part of that – and they were effectively put out of business as an artist. They could no longer create anything that resembled the work-for-hire because it appeared to be that product line and that effectively destroyed their artistic career – because they style was their own. Now it belonged to someone else.
IN A NUTSHELL
- I read the manuscript
- Concept drawings begin (these are the chicken scratches to figure out the layout of the illustrations and character appearances.)
- Research is done to locate reference photos or other artwork which will help to explain the concepts.
- Interior illustrations are sketched out according to conversations that have occurred and adjustments to the illustration list you’ve provided.
- Two edits are allowed in the pencil stage.
- Inking is done after the image has been agreed upon.
- If you have requested color, then the coloring is then applied according to our agreement.
You will pay a deposit of half of the estimated cost of all the artwork. This not only pays for my actual drawing, it pays for all the preparatory work that must be done surrounding this work.
The remaining amount will be broken up into three equal parts, the final being when the final files are delivered.
Depending on the extent of your project and the number of illustrations, you can expect a project to last anywhere from a month to … well … like I said, it’s been as long as a year, depending on the communication of the client!
Categories and Tags
One of the confusing issues that clients run into, is understanding categories and tags. It’s very easy to immediately get into too much detail trying to list topics when worrying about SEO (search engine optimization).
To get beyond the fear of not having enough words to trigger better SEO, think of your categories and tags in the same way you’d think of a good, clean, filing system. For instance, the word “State” could be a category, with a child categories of “California”, “Colorado”, and “Texas”.
Your keywords, or tags, would be, “Denver”, “Los Angeles”, “Dallas”, “Fort Worth”, etc. In addition to these tags, you would also list what topic was that you were discussing in regards to those categories and tags. If you were a mystery shopper, you’d mention specific malls, clothing items, restaurants, etc.
When the search engines index your website, having good categories and tags makes it clean and more efficient to list the content of your site in a more complete and in-depth manner.
When ever you post your blog, select your category or categories, add your keywords, then save. When keywords are used often, they will automatically start showing as suggestions below the field that you’d enter a new keyword. Select those first, before you make up new keywords. Having more keywords is NOT the way to attract a search engine. More keywords without strong keywords (that appear consistently) start to look like spam and your site could suffer in its ranking because of this.
Believe it or not, you can lose your readers too, when there are too many keywords listed at the end of each of your blog posts. Your site starts to appear technical and more geared towards search engines than it does for the reader. Having clean, consistent categories and tags helps the reader to find what they need without leading to confusion. It also keeps the visual clutter down!
Here’s a great video I ran across on YouTube from Corey Dolbey on Categories and Tags. Enjoy …