Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Create a Shiny Slideshow

First things first. This was how my post intended to start - with an admission of fail. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but this month has not started as intended. I'd planned to do NaNoWriMo, which was unusual in itself. Normally I just sign up at the last minute with an idea that muse just won't drop. This year, I plotted...and the day before NaNo started I knew I wasn't going to do it. I just wasn't feeling it. In fact, I haven't felt like writing since I did Camp NaNoWriMo back in July. Which might be part of the problem.

So what will I be doing instead? Well, I haven't done much reading this year, and as a result very little reviewing. I therefore nominated November as my NaNoReMo - reading, reviewing, revising and researching. I have over 300 titles on my Kindle, I have two shorts and a novella that need overhauling before they can go off for edits, and I made a vow to do research and reading on marketing (at which I suck so badly). That should keep me busy, give me more titles to release next year, a better marketing plan (ha!), do some payback to my fellow authors, and clear my TBR list a bit. Plus I have another book release this month and next, so there will be plenty of blog posts to write and one tour and one book blitz to organize--my last release is less than a week before Christmas, so I'm just going to do a release day blast rather than a tour. I should imagine everyone will be too broke after the holidays to be book buying.

In the meantime, because I wasn't writing and I have upcoming releases, I did a big (and overdue) update of all my social media platforms - my website and blog, my Author App and book cover albums on my Facebook page, added new first chapters to my WattPad account, and pinned my missing covers to Pinterest. I also started putting various videos on YouTube into soundtracks for each of my books. But in the process, I decided it was time for an overhaul of my blog. At a friend's suggestion I went looking for new blog templates and found a couple I liked.

I created a private test blog to experiment with (I NEVER make adjustments directly to my blog without testing, and without doing a full backup of my template and content just in case. I do this as routine once a month anyway) and discovered that because these templates weren't Blogger's own, it wouldn't let me change anything in the template settings like colour, width etc...you know, all the really important stuff. *rolls eyes* So I considered what it was about the two templates I liked. Turned out all I really wanted was the slideshow facility and the drop down menu (my page section is cluttered, and I've actually run out of pages to use. I'll come back to the drop down menu at a later date). Creating the slideshow initially turned out a whole lot more complicated than I thought, but perfect fodder for a blog post.

Firstly, you'll need to create some images for the slideshow if you don't already have some. I used PAINT.NET to make some promo pieces - my book covers on a fancy background, with one or two review quotes for each. I'm not going to go through making those (unless someone asks for them - I had enough of a nightmare doing them in the first place!)


So if you go into Design (top right corner) on your Blogger blog, then Layout (near the bottom on the left hand side), you'll get this -


You'll see the little Add A Gadget widgets. Click one of those and you get a popup box. Scroll down that and you'll find Slideshow in the list -


Click the little blue +, and you'll get this -


This is where my problems started. For one thing, Picasa Web Albums are tied into Google photos. But you can't access Google photos through this menu. And if you try to go direct to your Picasa album in your browser, it redirects you to Google photos (I discovered that Google just loves to make life impossible). To get around this and access your Picasa album, go here - http://blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/start-picasa-web-without-redirection-to-googlePlus-photos.html
Actually setting up a slideshow album once you get into Picasa is fairly easy (you might find these links helpful if you get stuck -
http://www.bloggersentral.com/2009/07/how-to-embed-picasa-slideshow-in-blog.html


If you set your Slideshow gadget to configure to this album, you get a teeny, tiny slideshow which you can't change the size of. Fine if you just want thumbnails of a photo album, perhaps in a narrow column on your blog, but totally inadequate to my promo pictures. BUT, if you look to the right hand side of that screenshot, you'll see Link to this album. Click that to get either a share link for social media platforms like Facebook, or HTML code to paste into your website or blog (for Blogger, use Add A Gadget but choose HTML instead of Slideshow from the gadget list). Or click Embed Slideshow and you get this - 


Now you can see some options for Autoplay, size etc, and you copy and paste the HTML into the HTML Add A Gadget instead of using Slideshow. It's a perfectly serviceable slideshow. But it didn't autoreplay, which frustrated me. As soon as you reach the end of the sequence it stops, unless you press play again.


It wasn't doing what I wanted, and I couldn't find a way round it, short of putting multiple images of the same pictures into the slideshow. There had to be a better way.

I was given a link to this site - http://www.cincopa.com/  You have to sign up to an account but it's free (if you want extra features, you have to pay but you don't necessarily need them. Currently I have a logo free version for 30 days - what the logo will look like after that expires I don't know). I'm not going to go through setting this up because it is really simple to do and the site takes you through each step to creating your own slideshow, plus you can preview it before using to make any tweaks. And this is mine -

...

You can add tags, captions, choose and customize your skin (the surround), link to specific URLs, add descriptions - it's awesome. And if you need to add images or update them, you do them on your account and you don't need to change the slideshow on your blog, website etc, so if you put the same slideshow on multiple sites, you don't have to go around updating every single one each time. I love it!

If you have any questions about the process or I haven't been clear on anything, please feel free to ask!

Additional: One thing I promised to do after my Dreaded Sales Word post was tell you about my sales. Well, they were down for October. In fact, I had no sales at all for the first week of the month, though this was slightly compensated for by a spike after BristolCon. My blog stats were also very down on previous months (they've been increasing steadily each month over the past two years, though I had a big dip back in April). This despite several guest posts, and taking part in several blog hops and online events. The fact that both have dropped this month despite extra efforts on all sides to raise both, I put down to the time of year. All the events (particularly giveaways) plus the holiday may mean book buying and online activity is less (I'm guessing here. I really haven't been selling books long enough to see patterns much). So with two more releases to go and Christmas approaching, I'm going to be watching both with interest. I'm also posting about how BristolCon went over at the SFR Brigade blog today if you're curious about the cold hard details.

Happenings

When Dark Falls is up for pre-order and releases on the 21st! Woo hoo! My superheroes are coming to save the city...or will they?!
EXCERPT | GOODREADS
Available at... Breathless Press

Amazon US | Amazon UK
Blurb:

In a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she's woken up with cuts and bruises on her body and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who's been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there'd be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark's regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis...or to save Kadie either.

***

I'm so excited! And this leaves me with just my futuristic UF No Angel to go before the end of year (pssst, that releases the 19th December, just in time for some Christmas reading). I'll finish 2014 with six titles released this year, and eleven since my debut in May 2012. And after that I have a WHOLE FOUR MONTHS until my next scheduled release. Or will I...? *snigger*

Ping Pong

Awesome Halloween photo Donna, and so much easier than having to clean all that makeup off later, huh?

5 comments:

  1. Excellent blog. I can only imagine the hours you spent trying the various things to find one that does the job. Your covers for your two latest books are gorgeous!!! And I agree that Nov & Dec are not great selling months. But we do what we can. This is a lovely effort.

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    Replies
    1. I've been hearing rumblings that sales are down all over, so maybe just a blip in the graph that will correct itself after all those Kindles and e-readers are received as holiday gifts. (We can hope!)

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    2. Thanks Liza! Yeah, it took a good day to do images, and about the same to get the slideshow I wanted (and that was with help too). But since I'm not in the zone for writing, at least it was time spent being creative. I'm really, really happy with those two covers - love them.

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  2. I'd say that all in all you had a very successful month, Pippa. Just not in the ways you were anticipating. Love the slideshow tutorial. I definitely have to try this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess it all depends how you qualify success, doesn't it? It's definitely had its bonuses, and it's still progress.

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