Being a writer, it’s no surprise that Vera Brook is in love with words and stories.

But she has always been drawn to photography and other visual arts as well. So she was thrilled to combine both interests and try her hand (and her eye) at designing first the cover, and then several social-media promos, for her debut novel, SAND RUNNER, book 1 in a science fiction series for young adults

A social-media promo is any promotional material you create and share on social media, in order to connect with the readers and to spread the word about your book, your blog, or you as an author. For Vera, these included posts on her author website as well as on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Tumblr.

A promo is basically an ad. It includes an image (critical!), a blurb (or a short advertising copy, if you will), and an “action link” for the viewer to click on, and which will take them to another site, where they can execute the action you want them to execute, such as go to Kobo website and purchase your book, enter a giveaway, or sign up for your newsletter.

But to do that, the promo must first catch the viewer’s eye. So here are some examples of cool, eye-catching promos that Vera created for her novel SAND RUNNER, together with some tips and resources to help you get started.

What you will need:

  • A camera (the camera in your smartphone will do)
  • Editing software. Adobe Photoshop. Or, even Microsoft Power Point. There are also free “Photoshop-like” tools such as GIMP that you can use for image editing.
  • It also helps if you have the final cover of your book on hand, to include in your promos

Promo Idea #1: Spotted in the Wild

The idea is simple: Print a paperback of your book, take it to interesting places, snap photos of it, and post the photos on social media.

Vera always knew she wanted to make SAND RUNNER available both as an ebook and as a paperback. So when the ebook was on pre-orders, she formatted the book for print and ordered 3 paperback copies from an online print-on-demand (POD) service. When a trip to Arizona came up, the paperbacks were the first thing that went into the suitcase. And when a box full of paperbacks for giveaways arrived, you bet the first thing Vera did was snap a few photos.


  • Don’t worry if you don’t get good shots right away. Keep experimenting until you find some that you are happy with. Take several shots at each location, changing the angle a little bit each time.
  • Pay attention to the background and make sure it’s attractive and not too cluttered.
  • Pay equal attention to the light (and shadows). Photos taken in harsh sunlight or in near dark may not come out good.
  • Have friends in interesting locations? Send them a copy of your book and ask them for a few photos in return.
  • People in photos are a natural attention magnet. But be careful with asking strangers to pose. You may need a proper release to use them as a model. It may be better to ask them to turn away and only shoot their hands with the book, or to gently cut of their head from the photo using the cropping function, so that their identity is protected. (This trick is used on book cover a lot as well. Show a person, but not their face.)

Promo Idea #2: 2D Mock-Ups

What if you are not planning to print a paperback edition? No worries. Photography can do magic. All you need is a good mock-up.

What is a mock-up? Vera still remembers discovering mock-ups not too long ago, and being amazed by what a simple and brilliant tool they are. A mock-up is a photograph of a physical object, such as a paperback book on a table, which is then processed in an image-editing software so that you can add your cover image on top, and make it look like it was your book on the table all along.

Mock-ups come in two varieties: 2D mock-ups (a photo of the book lying flat, so the cover image is the perfect rectangle) or 3D mock-ups (a book positioned at an angle, so the cover image is no longer a rectangle).

How do you use a 2D mock-up to create a promo image? The simple version can be done in Power Point. You simply open the image file (say, a photo of a book on a table), and you add your cover image on top, then group the two images and save them as one. Done! Now you have a realistic photo of your own book on the table to use in a promo.

Derek Murphy of creativeindie.com offers a nice selection of such mock-ups on his website, together with a lot of other useful resources: http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-3d-book-cover-generator/.

You download the file, open it in Power Point, drop your cover image on top, and voila!


Promo Idea #3: 3D Mock-Ups

3D mock-ups are fancier but also trickier, because the original object is photographed at an angle, so adding your cover image on top simply wouldn’t work. A program like Photoshop will let you stretch and bend your cover image to fit the dimensions of the model object.

One source of free, high-quality 3D mock-up images is https://covervault.com run by Mark Monciardini.

Below is a look at the template/mock-up image of a print book plus a mobile phone with the book on it (showing the book is available in both print and ebook versions), Vera’s cover and then the final promo image.

And, then, the promo seen in action in a social media promo . . .


And here is a different template/mock-up of a small stack of books . . .

And, the resulting image used in a couple of different promos . . .

Final tips:


  • Pay attention to what other authors are doing to promote their books—and learn from them.
  • If you have a paperback of your book, take it with you whenever you travel. You never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself. (Seriously!)
  • Keep a record of the images and mock-ups you use, together with the source website and license information, so that you can retrace your steps if necessary.
  • Have fun!


Vera Brook is a neuroscientist turned science fiction and fantasy writer. Sand Runner is her debut novel, and book 1 in the Sand Runner series. She is drawn to dark, complex characters who are thrown into life-or-death situations and have to forge their own twisted path through them, sometimes at great cost. She is also fascinated with science and technology, so they are the backdrop of all her stories. Vera defines herself as a bookworm, and is perpetually torn between reading books and writing them.

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