This post is devoted to software tools that author-bloggers can use to enhance both their blog content and their marketing efforts.
I’ve noticed an uptick of posts discussing software tools appropriate to bloggers, such as Lynn Cantwell’s Which Software is Best for Authors, Part I and Part II. There are many others. I thought I would post my thoughts on the subject as all the cool kids are doing it. 🙂
This post covers three picks that I have yet to see discussed from an author-blogger point of view. Apologies to Mac users in advance, this post is oriented towards Windows.
I’ve covered TechSmith’s Snagit in a previous post, but it bears mentioning again.
What it is: Snagit is a screen-capture application that allows provides basic editing features. After a capture you can crop, resize, recolour, blur, add shadows, text, arrows, call outs, flip and rotate images. Snagit allows you to post your final images directly to email, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Dropbox, YouTube, and more. Snagit also provides a limited video capture feature as well.
Why Use it: Capture and modify graphics for inclusion in blog posts and book marketing content such as book trailers. For those who don’t have the time to learn GIMP or Photoshop, Snagit combined with PowerPoint offers a moderately powerful low cost graphic creation alternative.
Pros: Easy to use, extensive array of features, multiple uses beyond simple capture.
Cons: Cost — approximately $50US; small learning curve
Final Word: There are competitive products there, some web-based and/or free, but Snagit’s extensive array of features and solid product support makes it, in my opinion, the best alternative.
Video content is far more engaging than text (so why don’t I have more video? Hmmm…). The problem is that it takes time and some effort to put together video content of at least acceptable quality.
What it is: Powtoon is a web-based animation creation application. It’s designed to be simple to use and comes with loads of graphics in a variety of styles. You can configure the entrance, animation, and exit of text and graphics using a simple timeline system. Powtoon outputs either movies or slideshows and allows you to add music and narration using its native capabilities. Powtoon has been around for awhile so chances are you’ve seen an animation developed using it.
Why use it: It’s fairly simple to create short animations that take the place of blog posts. Depending upon the type of book you are writing it may be appropriate to develop a book trailer using it.
Pros: Entirely web-based, so nothing to download and install, free version available (with Powtwoon branding and limited set of graphics for use), relatively easy to learn.
Cons: Cost — if you don’t want the Powtoon branding and you would like full access to the graphics library, you’ll pay about $230US a year for a subscription, animation graphics have a very “cartoony” feel which may not suit your style (although you can upload your own images and graphics). As always, there is a cost in time to learn how to use the tool.
Final Word: If you choose to subscribe to Powtoon, be certain you will use it often enough make it worthwhile. For the occasional user, the free version may be the best bet, if you don’t mind the branding.
Proshow Gold or Pro
PowerPoint has numerous limitations when it comes to creating a book trailer, or any kind of video-like content presentation. An alternative is Proshow Gold, a low cost slide show application.
What it is: Proshow Gold is a slideshow application with numerous built in text, image, and transition animation effects. You can import music tracks and narration, exert fine control of slide timings and export to a variety of movie or on line formats (e.g. Youtube). It comes with a selection of royalty-free music and there is even a wizard to get you started. You can even import video clips to be included.
Why use it: Use this application to create book trailers and animated author content presentations. The finished product is far superior to what can be done in PowerPoint (to be fair, PowerPoint has a different focus than Proshow Gold). For those who want to create truly advanced presentations, Proshow Pro is available.
Pros: Relatively gentle learning curve (especially if you use the Wizard), low cost, includes royalty free music, graphics editing tools, narration tools, and more. There is an entirely web-based version as well (great for Mac users!). From time to time the Proshow folks makes transition effects available for free. There is a free trial.
Cons: Again, cost — Proshow Gold is $70US. In addition, there is a learning curve, particularly if you venture past using he Wizard.
Final Word: If you are serious about providing video or animated content but do not want to invest time and effort in dedicated video tools like Camtasia, or various Adobe products, Proshow might be for you. At the very least download the free trial and take a look.
As authors we are all busy people. It would be great if we could just magically “know” how to use any new tool that strikes our fancy, but we cannot. We must decide to invest the time in order to get the most value out of a new tool. In many ways the dollar cost for a tool is insignificant. The real cost is the time you spend learning the tool.
Only you can just how much your time is worth.
What tools do you use?
Thanks for reading, and I will see you again soon.