Should you download Free Image and Photo Editing Software

When William Aicher first told me about, I was pretty skeptical. “Free” doesn’t always mean “good” in my book, and free software tools are kind of hit-and-miss. I downloaded it anyway, thinking I’d give it a shot, and headed straight to their forums for some tutorials and how-tos.

It’s been years since I’ve worked in Photoshop or any other advanced sort of image editor that uses layers, and it’s one of those things that has been high on my list to learn. So I started by finding an image I wanted to modify through Flickr’s advanced search, looking for kitten photos in Creative Commons. This picture was taken by Andreas Solberg.

Cute Kitten on Flickr by Andreas Solberg

Using the layering functionality, I separated the kitten from the background and enhanced each layer separately to come up with this:

Cute Kitten Modified with

No, it’s not “perfect” and this was my first go-around, but it helped me get a feel for how easy is to use. I say “very easy” for photos, if you want to do something more advanced like blending and whatnot, then head over to the tutorials.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been 1,000 years or so since I first used graphic design and advanced image editors, so I’ll be looking for something a bit different out of this software than you might.

Do you have any other free software tips or programs to share?

My Thoughts about Online Self-Promotion

So admittedly I am not the best “self-promoter.” In fact, I’d say that selling my work isn’t something I do well. I’d rather have someone else do it, honestly. Part of the challenge is that I really can’t stand writers who sit there and tell me how great their book or game is without telling me “why.” Of course, the other part is that I’d much rather interact with a person–not a product–when I’m online. Sure, I don’t think any of us want to come across as arrogant or condescending, but it’s really hard to know what people’s impressions are of you unless you’re psychic or someone tells you.

Here are some of the things I look for when I either meet people online or read about them. I hope that my thoughts (combined with your feedback) will help shed some light on what might be a good “self-promotion” approach online.

    Your Online Persona is Transparent: If you are a writer and are promoting yourself as such, it’s more useful to me if you have the experience to back it up. If you don’t have the experience and are providing commentary — link to the articles and the people who do. I can’t tell you how many times an individual will talk about all these larger-than-life concepts only to find out they don’t have the street cred or the articles to back it up. Honesty goes a much longer way for me than if you try to “pad” your credentials, especially because I am actively seeking to promote my peers through this channel and through others that I might come across.

    You Don’t Tell Me How Great You Are or How Much You Think You Know: As a personal preference, I really don’t like pretenses. You’ll see this a lot with people trying to sell you something — they are exclusive, one-of-a-kind, different. Give me a break. Just because you are selling something doesn’t mean that your online persona has to be “on” all the time, nor does it mean that someone reading about you doesn’t already know what you know. Everyone is not an expert; in a lot of cases some of the folk selling what we want to buy are learning right along with you and me.

    You Remember that There is a Time and Place for Heated Discussions: Whether it’s the election or global warming, it’s easy to get caught up in discussions that can get pretty heated rather quickly. For those that know me, yeah I can be pretty opinionated but I also strive to be very open-minded. I intentionally keep those opinions off of my blog because I don’t want to exclude anyone, nor do I want to get into a heated discussion that makes both myself and my reader look like idiots. I feel that way about other websites and blogs I visit as well because the comments just seem to get completely out of control. To me, there is a big difference between ranting and having good content.

    Your Site Isn’t an Eyesore: If your site is a selling monstrosity that doesn’t offer any real content then I probably won’t stay on it for long. If it doesn’t have a search function and I have to navigate all over creation to find more information about you, then I’ll probably leave it shortly. I hate to admit it, but badly-designed (or outdated) websites and blogs are a really huge turn-off for me. Web design has changed so much in the last ten years. In a way, blogging has made the web more accessible — not less — so if your site isn’t more contemporary I have to wonder what other trends you’re not keeping up on.

    You Avoid Spamming Your Network: Yes, we all have personal projects that we like to promote. Unduly spamming your network of friends and contacts multiple times to promote your event or project really irks me. At the most, I’d like to see one–maybe two max–emails about your book or seminar sent in a very friendly and helpful way using phrases like “I don’t normally do this, but…” and “I just wanted to keep you in the loop about what I’m working on.”

    You Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Have you plagiarized other people’s work on your own site? What if you have worked on a project with other people and take all the credit for yourself? Or how about talking bad about people you’ve worked with in an online, public way? Sure, it’s nice to be validated but it’s even better when someone says something nice “about” you. (Rather than you having to take the easy way out and try to say it about yourself).

What are your thoughts on good versus bad self-promotion? Am I being too harsh or too critical? Are there any exceptions to the things I mentioned here?

How to Create a Facebook Page on the New Facebook

Do you have a profile on Facebook? Have you seen those pages circulating around Facebook where your friends can become a fan of authors, movies, books and more? You can create a Facebook page as a way to promote your book or game, too. I’d like to help show you how.

    STEP ONE: NAVIGATE — Click on the Create a Facebook Page link. If you have an existing Facebook account, I recommend not logging in to Facebook until the prompt appears.

    Please note that as of April 14, 2009, you will have to “verify” your account via an electronic signature. It appears that Facebook is trying to ensure that a live person is behind the page in a profile, so businesses can no longer appear anonymously.

    Here is what Facebook is looking for, in their own words from their “Help” section: “The name you enter as your electronic signature should match the name on your account. If you have a business account with no name or profile, or are trying to create an account when you create your Page, please enter your legal first and last name as your electronic signature.”

    STEP TWO: CHOOSE YOUR PAGE TYPE — Choose what kind of a Facebook page you want to create. The choices are: Local (For a company or business), Brand or Product (Self-Explanatory) or Artist, Band or Public Figure (Band, Musician, Writer, etc.) for a personal profile. For this example, I’m going to choose the third option.

    STEP THREE: NAME YOUR PAGE — If you’ve chosen “Writer,” you’ll want to type in your author name. I don’t have a pen name, so I’m going to create a page for me. Once you’ve put in what name you want to be referred to and searched by, click on the blue “create page” button.

    STEP FOUR: LOG IN — Log in to the prompt here, or create your Facebook log in.

    STEP FIVE: CUSTOMIZE YOUR PAGE — Now that you’ve created your Facebook page, you have the ability to customize it in a number of different ways, specific to the page type that you’ve chosen. Here are a few of the ways that you can choose to customize your Facebook page.

      Add a Picture: The maximum filesize for an image is 4 megabytes. I’ve found that a good picture size to use is 250 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall because there is a lot of white space on the page.

      Pull in Your RSS Feed: To pull in your blog or website’s RSS feed to ensure there is current content on your page, you’ll want to click on the “Add a Note” feature. On the right hand side in a small, grey box you’ll see “Notes Settings” where you can import your blog.

      You will see your full expanded posts in the “preview,” but this is not how the RSS feed will show up in your Facebook page. Once you confirm the import at the bottom of the page, your RSS feed will display in the “Notes” box on a per post, per title basis.

      Add Information: Underneath your profile picture is a place to add information about you, your brand or your product. I recommend adding one or two paragraphs of text written in a style appropriate for people who don’t know anything about you, your company or your product.

      Add Video: If you’re playing around with video, I’d like to mention that there is an extra “verification” layer to use that option and the upload is not immediate. One option would be to have a shorter video in the “Video” box, and offer a link to your existing video by posting it on your wall.

      Favorite Other Facebook Pages: If you are a company and have a product, you can add your product’s page as a “favorite” and vice versa. This is a good way to help your customers and fans become familiar with what you’re offering.

      Rearrange Content: You may be looking at your page wondering where you can find photos or videos to add. If you don’t have content for every box, I recommend rearranging the elements on your Facebook page so the boxes that you do have content for show up first. I also recommend posting on your wall with a personalized message so the spot doesn’t appear to be empty.

    STEP SIX: PUBLISH — After you’ve customized your Facebook page, you have to “publish” the page to make it live.

    STEP SEVEN: PUBLICIZE — Now that you have your new Facebook page, you’ll want to publicize it and get “fans.” You can do that either through word-of-mouth advertising, through a Facebook ad or by adding a Facebook badge to your website.

      Adding a Facebook Badge: To add a Facebook badge to your website once you’ve created your page, refer to the “Help” section of Facebook. In this series of articles about How to Create a Facebook Badge, you’ll be able to read more about it. If you’re logged in to Facebook, you can also click on create a Facebook badge and follow the customization instructions.

For an example of a recent Facebook page that I had created, take a peek at on Facebook. Remember, that getting fans and people to interact on your Facebook page will take time. Regardless, it’s a good idea to know what Facebook promotional tools you have out there not just because this page creation is free — but because Facebook continues to be a popular social media outlet that you may want to consider branching into.

Hope you found this article helpful in your quest to promote you and your work. If you have a Facebook page you’re looking to promote, either send me or post the link in the comments below and I’ll follow up later this week with a list!

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


Back to Top