Monday, March 24, 2014

Use the wrong program. It's the right idea.

Almost every kind of software we need, no matter how pricey, seems to have some form of free alternative out there in internet land. And even if it doesn't, there always seems to be some other program that can be adapted to getting the job done. At least it seems that way to me.

Recently, I read a blog post about how to use PowerPoint to make an eBook cover. That may not sound terribly exciting in itself. Okay, I'll admit it's not. It's really just the idea of presentation software that's been commandeered for a different purpose that grabbed me. I can't help myself, I guess. I love finding 'free' stuff that can be used for just about any purpose your imagination can come up with. And even if your version of PowerPoint wasn't free, there are at least tens of presentation software products out there that are either completely free, free to try or free to use with certain limitations.

So by now you've probably guessed that in this post I'm going to focus on using (or misusing) free presentation ware and other unsuitable programs to create whatever it is you need to push your book into the limelight. Whether it's for making eBook covers or some other book promo material, there are all kinds of free software options out there to help you along. Here are some software options I've found on the web that are easy to use, free (in some capacity) and can be adapted to make the kind of book promos you want like an animated sample chapter, a mini book trailer, animated character images or whatever you think up:

It's free for non commercial use - so no book covers, but check out
the free trials for Animation-ish and Toon Boom Studio on the page.
Best use is for any 'video' type promos.

Same thing - free download, and you can freely distribute it but it has
 a watermark. You can pay to use it commercially ( watermark free).
Best use is for any 'video' type promos. 

Also free with a watermark. Paid accounts have more content and
no watermark. Just for fun I tried my hand at this one for a book
Best use is for any 'video' type promos or maybe an animated
author profile? 

Sparkol VideoScribe (
Unique video creation presentation ware that 'draws' out your ideas.
Seriously, it's an interesting one worth checking out. Probably best 
for descriptive novels, fantasies, graphic novels... you be the judge.

Presentation ware that works like a slide show. Interesting and it
will engage the reader by forcing them to move it along. Adaptable
if you have the imagination to work around templates.

How about a little 3D modelling to make your awesome 2D images when
 your inner artist is fast asleep? Easy, free and these two work in your Firefox
or Chrome browser (so there are no downloads). You might have to do 
a hack with your browser to get the WebGL to work though. (see this
It worked for me but I'm not suggesting you try it without reading all the
details. You can easily make cute 2D images for book covers from these 
for free. However, your newly created images become Creative Commons.

Smartdraw , Edraw
Charts, floorplans and maps. Free to try software. Could be useful depending
on the type of book you're going to promote. Non fiction? Adventure? Mystery?

In my last post here I tried out something similar to that book cover creation I mentioned above (way above). I used a new(ish) presentation maker, PowToon, to create a book review. It was fun, quick to do and the end result was something I hadn't seen before. Of course, that doesn't make it an original thing. It just makes it something that I couldn't find - i.e. a similar animated style book review - with a reasonable amount of searching on the web. But I will say that it felt like I'd created something unique. Plus, the video got a whole sixteen views, probably way more views than my book review blog gets! (But just watch, next week there will probably be all kinds of animated book reviews all over Youtube to prove me wrong about thinking my animated book review was ever original).

The point I want to make here is that if it's free, give it a try. And don't be afraid to be the first one on the block to do something new with all the wrong tools.