Make Eye-Catching Ads on the Cheap

by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor

As I write this, the holiday season is definitely happening. For me, the Christmas season starts on Thanksgiving Day. I just can’t get excited before then. No matter how many people or stores put up Christmas decorations in October or early November.

One aspect of the holiday season, of course, is shopping. People buy lots and lots of gifts this time of year. And thankfully, books make great Christmas gifts (which is what got me thinking about this topic for my December column).

As many Novel Rocket readers know, I transitioned from being traditionally published to publishing my own novels 3 years ago. That began an adventure that added a lot of new hats to my wardrobe. One of the biggest is marketing. My publisher had an entire department devoted to this. At Bainbridge Press (my imprint name), there’s only me. And very recently, my wife has jumped in to help.

Early on I realized I needed to learn how to create eye-catching ads to use on places like Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and newsletter. All the social media studies I’ve read said people will scroll right past even the best-written text unless it’s accompanied by a great looking graphic. I knew this was true because I do the same thing.

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The problem was, I didn’t have any money to hire a graphics expert. It was either me, or it wasn’t happening. So I began to investigate. Everyone was saying I had to get Photoshop. It’s the gold-standard for graphics software. So, I did (the cheap version you can rent one month at a time).

I’m SO glad I didn’t buy the whole thing.

It didn’t take long to realize this program was WAY too complicated for me. After watching about 50 YouTube videos, I was still miles away from figuring out how to make good-looking ads (I think it was less frustrating learning how to play golf).

Then I remembered when I was a pastor, I used to use PowerPoint to make nice-looking graphics for my sermons and Bible studies. I updated MS Office to get PowerPoint’s latest version and started playing with the art tools. Only instead of making overhead slides, I began working on ads for my book promotions. The program was so simple. Really, if you can use any Microsoft Office programs you can use PP. After a little experimenting, I was soon turning out some very satisfying ads.

Besides the art tools, there are all kinds of free graphics (backgrounds and clip-art) you can download off the internet (make sure you don’t copy licensed or copyrighted graphics without paying). I use different ones for every season or holiday. You can easily insert jpgs of your books and resize them, as needed. Add shadows to make them stand out. Then create the text for your ads in a variety of font styles and colors. They’re so easy to move around on the colored background.

When you have the ad just the way you want, use an app like “Snip It” for PC’s or “Grab” for Macs and select the Ad right on Powerpoint, then Save it as a jpg that can easily be uploaded to the internet. The Christmassy-looking ad for my brand new book, Saving Parker, was made using Powerpoint in about 30-45 minutes.

PowerPoint also makes for a great place to store your ads. As you create more, you can easily find the previous ones on the left margin. To save lots of time, I often copy and paste specific ad features from previous ads to make brand new ones.

Once your ad is finished, the next step is to create the Ad Copy that goes above it. I’ve included a recent one I put up on Facebook and Google-plus. I actually used the same ad copy for Twitter (though I had to trim off much of the text). Don’t be intimidated by this task. You’re a writer. You can do this part. You’ll probably even find it easier than creating the graphics.

Make sure to use the colorful Emojis FB offers now (I often create my ad text on FB, because these little graphics copy and paste well in other apps). And don’t forget to add hashtags at the bottom. Although they’re more often associated with Twitter, people are used to searching for topics and themes using them and they work just as well with other social media apps.

Well, that’s it for me. I’m sure others reading this have found some additional creative ways to make book Ads on the Cheap. If so, please share them with us.

Saving Parker

After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy is terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he decides to take him in. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free and Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell tries to hide a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He was also bullied as a child, the main reason he became a cop. But, really, what can he do? A series of tragic events occur. What vital role does Parker play in bringing these three lives together?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 18 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 4 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years. You can find more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at