Occasionally I have conversations with people that make me think there’s maybe a need for me to post about certain topics. Yesterday, I had a rather in-depth discussion with an author friend who was attempting her first teaser images and was wondering if I had any advice (spoiler: YES I DO OMG). If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, teaser images are a quick impact way to promo your book, and typically include a very short excerpt of your story, an eye-catching image, and the title/author name. The conversation I had about teasers made me really stop and think about the subject, which leads me to believe maybe other folks might have the same questions my friend did. So, here goes. Here’s some things to consider when building a teaser image for your book:
1. FONTS ARE CRITICAL
Typically, you don’t just make one teaser image for a book, so you should look at ways you can create a visual consistency that instantly tells people “this is a promotion for this specific thing.” My number one tip for doing this? Take the title treatment from your book’s cover and use that on your teaser. When I say “title treatment,” that’s the way your title looks on the cover, from fonts to colors. While you might have a little leeway with colors/effects on the text, matching those fonts and placement is CRITICAL for creating the visual tie between your promo and your product. Think of your book title as a company would a logo. You wouldn’t see different fonts on the Campbell’s soup label and in their commercials, and you shouldn’t treat your book any differently. As a designer, I’m always happy to provide the title treatment on a transparent background to my clients because I know how crucial that element is in branding. If you’ve had a cover designed by someone else, ask if they’ll provide this (they may charge you for that element). If they won’t, ask for font names to replicate the look on your own. Here’s an example of how I’m applying this in my promo materials for Lex Talionis:
In this teaser, not only do you have the same title treatment, but the teaser text also matches the author name’s font. All of my teasers for this book have the same setup. Establishing a look also makes your job easier because you’ve already got a “template” of sorts going to make other images easier to create.
2. IMAGE “FEEL” CONSISTENCY
This one isn’t quite as big a deal as the fonts are, but it can definitely give you extra recognizability. Ways to achieve this are with limiting the color palette (or toning them all to match), choosing similar photos for the series, or using the same model/object (with varying poses) in each one. The idea here is to evoke similar emotions across all your teasers, or, if you’re going all-in on a certain look, tying the teaser inseparably from the book. For Lex Talionis, I went all-in on the look, matching all of my teasers to the same stark white background with a single person/object in the focus. Example:
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EXCERPT
Your selected text is the next most critical element here. Once you catch the eye with the image, you want to inform the viewer about the book and hang on to that interest. You want them to WANT read more. For this, you need to think very carefully about the selection you pull from the story. Here’s some quick tips:
- Keep it brief. If you overload a simple image with paragraphs of tiny text, NO ONE is going to stop and read it. Longer excerpts work better as blog posts.
- Keep some context. You don’t want the excerpt so short that it’s vague and uninteresting. Dialogue tags let us know who’s speaking, and brief descriptions let us know how we should feel about them.
- Keep me curious, but not confused. Highlight a moment of tension, but don’t make it a moment that I’d have to have read 10 chapters to understand why it’s tense or important. A selection about the conflict or stakes or relationship should pack a punch without knowing anything else about the story. If a reader doesn’t know the story, your excerpt should make them want to know ALL THE THINGS, not shrug and wonder why they should care.
- Keep the typos out! Carefully, CAREFULLY check your text to make sure all of your commas are in place, you’ve got the right there/their/they’re and it’s/its, and if anything is misspelled or tenses incorrect. The excerpt is an example of what’s in the book, so if someone sees mistakes in the few lines of a teaser, what would they think was in the book? Yup. Watch those, folks.
4. LEARN TO LOVE WHITE SPACE
Especially with teaser images, it’s important to have an open space for eyeballs to rest. This is what’s known as “white space” (not necessarily the color white). It can be frustrating to try to place an excerpt of text on an image with all sorts of stuff going on behind it with varying shades and tones and shadows and highlights, so choosing an image with ample empty room will not only make your job easier in the design aspect, but will also make it easier for someone else to read it. Which is the point. People get obsessed with filling up all of the space in an entire image with STUFF, but that whole rule “less is more”? Yeah, that’s really important. Having “less” in an image will put the focus on your words, which is precisely where you want it. Example:
5. ADD EMPHASIS SPARINGLY
As you can see in the above teaser image, there are a few words highlighted in a different font and color. This can add visual interest and put emphasis on specific thoughts/ideas you want stressed to evoke certain feelings for the teaser in question. Be careful not to go overboard on this, as you still want the text to be readable and not overwhelmed with all the variations. You can do this with single words or a group of them, depending on what you want stressed. When you do this, try to pull in similar colors from your image to make the entire design cohesive. I’m telling you “less is more” again, because the second you start adding additional colors is when your visual punch disintegrates. Limit these to one, MAYBE two colors. And mind your fonts. Keep them easily readable or the viewer is going to close it out without reading. If you want a person to do something, make sure it’s as easy as possible to do it. Avoid red text on dark backgrounds, and keep your contrast high. Here’s one more example for you:
6. INCLUDE A LINK WHEN YOU SHARE
These teasers are designed to sell your story, so, again, make it easy for a person to take the next step you want them to take. Whether it’s adding a book on Goodreads or one-clicking that sucker at Amazon, make sure you link to it with your teaser in the post/tweet. You’d think this tip was a no-brainer, but… well, I imagine there’s been more than one lost sale due to the link being left off, as I see this happen more often than you’d think. Don’t make your audience go hunting for URLs. Chances are, they’ll put it off and forget.
7. TEASER TUESDAY!
Some folks don’t know about this, so I’m sharing this tip just in case. Every week, social media posts go out with the #TeaserTuesday hashtag, which is filled with all sorts of things from teaser images to blog post excerpts. If you’re looking for regular content to post, this can be a good filler.
8. LAST NOTES
Finally, keep these things in mind for your teasers. These shouldn’t require explanation (or some of them shouldn’t need to be said at all, but…)
- DO NOT JUST GOOGLE IMAGES AND USE THEM. (That is STEALING. There are plenty of places to find beautiful, FREE stock photos. See this post for a list of sources.)
- DO NOT USE CELEBRITIES IN A TEASER PHOTO. (Unless you have signed permission to do so, do not do this. You can get sued. It will cost you a lot of money.)
- DO NOT FLOOD SOCIAL MEDIA WITH THESE THINGS. (Three times a day is more than adequate, and post other things in between where you’re not trying to get people to buy stuff.)
- If you don’t have Photoshop, check out Canva.com or the WordSwag app or any other number of places where you can design things for free. They’re pretty user-friendly, and it won’t hurt to give it a go if design is not your thing, as they have templates and how-tos and all sorts of stuff.
If you’ve got other tips, please share in the comments! As always, this is not an all-inclusive list of tips and tricks, but I think it’s a good place to start. Good luck, and happy teasing! ;)