There are several joys peculiar to the independent writer. One of them is the responsibility of advertising. A few weeks back, I made the decision to plough more of the earnings from my books into these adverts. One of the places I wanted to advertise is a site call kboards.com, a busy hub full of Kindle writers and readers.
What Goes into the Ad?
It needs to capture interest with minimal information. I kicked around some ideas using the ‘rule of three’: this, that and the other, or ‘not this, not that, but the other’. Since I don’t really have graphic illustration skills beyond creating book covers, I’d need to use text. I came up with:
Lost in time
Overall, I’m happy with them. They’re short. They tell you that the main character is a woman, that there are three books (so far) worth of story, and that the genre is science fiction (time travel).
My girlfriend looked at a draft of the finished GIF and said that readers wouldn’t know anything about the quality of the books. I agreed, and added a quote from an SFX of Déjà Vu as a ‘zero slide’ at the beginning.
How Does it Look?
The standard dimensions for a banner ad is 728 x 90 pixels. Once I’d stuffed that full of my text, there was no room for the book jackets, and it generally looked shite. #advertfail
Fine, I thought. I’ll just create an animated GIF.
For the uninitiated, an animated GIF (pronounced ‘fish’) is a little video.
I don’t have any fancy animation software. I do, however, use Apple Keynote to give psychology lectures. Keynote is a particularly advanced presentation platform that has text effects, slide transitions, and timings. Crucially, it can also export a presentation as a Quicktime movie file. That file can then be dropped into a Mac app called GIFBrewery to make an animated GIF.
Open Keynote and select one of the standard templates
Next, you’ll want to have Keynote change its slide size to 728 x 90. Guess what? It won’t, because 90 is too small. You will need to create a slide with the banner ad proportions but more pixels. I’d suggest 2184 x 270.
- Create as many slides as you like. Each one of these will be a ‘moment’ in your animation. For my own banner, there were seven moments.
- Set the timings and transitions between the slides. You’ll see that, for the example below, I’ve set the transition between the first slide and the second to be the ‘sparkle’ effect; the sparkle moves left to right; and the transition activates automatically after three seconds.
Once you’ve set up automatic transitions between slides, Keynote should be able to play through the ‘presentation’ without manual intervention. About five-ten seconds long is probably enough—but if your banner ad is awesome, maybe people will watch it for longer. Who knows.
Now export the presentation as a Quicktime video. Go to the File Menu > Export > Quicktime. Keynote will offer the following options, which are set according to those I used for my own banner:
The Quicktime file is something that GIFBrewery can happily use to produce your banner.
GIFBrewery has many options, which you can explore. The two main things to point out are:
‘Resize’ will allow you to reduce the pixel dimensions of you video. If you’ve imported from Keynote, these dimensions will be too large, so here is where you can reduce it to 728 x 90 pixels.
The ‘GIF properties’ pop-up allows you to tweak the frame-rate (and therefore overall speed) of the GIF. You will also find options for reducing the numbers of colours. Remember that the webpage hosting your advert needs the GIF to have a very small file size. In the case of kboards.com, this is less than 60K.
Here is the finished GIF:
I hope that’s helpful. It took me a couple of nights of pokery, not to mention jiggery, to realise that I could use Keynote to produce a movie file, and then a good piece of software to generate the GIF.
If you want to use my files as a head start, here they are: