A Picture’s Worth


What is a picture worth today?

“A picture’s worth ten thousand words.”

The phrase is attributed to advertising executive Fred Barnard of Printers’ Ink, who first used it in 1927. Almost a century later, a picture’s value is higher than ever.

Everybody knows that images make things pop. Tweets with visual content get more retweets; Facebook posts get more shares. Some bloggers add an image every 75 – 100 words to keep people scrolling.

Marketing research emphatically proves visual content pushes sales, increases click rates, and attracts attention way more than text alone.

  • Readers process visuals quicker than blocks of text. On average, users read only 20% of words, but add images and Presto! More engagement.
  • Eye-tracking experts claim that readers spend longer on sites that present information graphically. In fact, infographics can increase web traffic by 12%.
  • Images aid memory. One source found that adding an image to an audio clip increases the listener’s memory rate from 10% to 65%.
  • Social media marketers weighted images as their most important form of content. It makes good business sense when research shows landing pages that include videos have a higher conversion rate than ones without.

Or… Here is the same set of stats in an infographic I created.

Spilling Ink Sample Infographic from Canva Template (1)

Where did your eye go? Which did you unpack, the text above or the infographic?

So, if text alone doesn’t cut it, what’s the humble wordsmith to do?

Build a Web-Toolbox!

Not too long ago in a blog post here, I claimed that infographics were the domain of talented graphic designers. That was back in 2015, when when I was just discovering the wonderful world of graphic design. With powerful tools like the Adobe Creative Suite at their disposal, designers can create wonders and true works of art.

But the Adobe Creative Suite is a set of advanced tools that require pretty heavy-duty training and an artistic eye for best results. The Creative Suite is available as software or can be accessed by subscription online via Creative Cloud, but either way it’s super costly.

Write what interests you & you'll never run out of ideas (2)Good News for the Un-Artsy

There are lots of affordable options writers can use to create fabulous visuals—including infographics. Making graphics takes a bit of time, especially when you’re learning, but it can be fun.

I rarely write an article, story, tweet or post without thinking about how I can enhance it with visual content. Here’s one of the first graphics I made using a template from Canva.


Creating Gob-smacking Visuals

“Empowering the world to design.” That’s the logo of one of my favourite webtools, Canva. In addition to being a serious design tool, Canva is a playground for discovering and building designing skills. That’s attractive to me, a designer wannabe. I know my limitations, but they don’t keep me from  having fun—and indulging in creative procrastination.

I had a ball designing my own schmicko business cards and matching  invoices for my freelance work. I regularly use Canva to make images for Facebook pages and Twitter. I even had a crack at creating a logo for my new creative business venture with my writing buddy Kellie Byrnes. More on that another day, but until then, here’s a teaser. This is a placeholder I made for our Facebook page header while the business is under construction.

sm copy of Landing Soon

My Very Own Infographics

I’ve created a few infographics from scratch with not-too-bad results, but I’ve had better luck using Canva’s templates as a starting place. The results are more pleasing because layout is the tricky bit for the untrained designer. The “What’s a Picture Worth Today?” infographic above started as a Canva template. It took me less than an hour to customise it. I’m the first to admit a pro would do a far better job, but not every graphic deserves the finesse (and cost) of a professional designer.*

Favourite Canva Features

Canva comes with some features I really appreciate. It offers a free version for humble writers like me. Upgrade to the premium membership and you get a 30-day free trial period before you pay US$12.95/month or $9.95/month if you pay an annual fee. The paid version offers some important tools, like resizing and team sharing. Check here for Canva’s current pricing.

So far, for my basic needs, the free account has done the trick, although I often drool over the luscious images and icons I can’t access.

Here’s what I love about Canva:

  • It provides an ENORMOUS bank of elements to draw from – shapes, icons, images, and pictures. There are heaps of freebies like the ones I chose for the infographic above. Some have a small price tag (US$1), which you buy with credits. And there are really slick ones available exclusively for premium members.
  • There’s a nice variety of fonts.
  • The dashboard provides a tool to adjust kerning and leading (spacing between letters and lines). Big ♥!
  • Canva provides pre-sized templates for various social media platforms.

A few useful features are missing from (free) Canva:

  • Canva doesn’t provide (as far as I can tell) an eye-dropper tool for colour matching. This tool lets you “pick up” a colour from somewhere in the image, which is very handy. Colour matching is limited to the standard palettes or dependent on figuring out a particular colour’s code some other fiddly way.
  • Flipping elements is possible, but there’s no user-friendly button. Sometimes I don’t have the time to watch a how-to video.
  • Canva doesn’t group its fonts into categories, a feature that would make font pairing a little easier.

Canva’s How To

This video shows the basics of how to use Canva. For more instructional videos, check out the Canva Youtube Channel.

Ali’s Top Tips for Visual Content Creation

I source images from Unsplash, a wonderful bank of free, high resolution photos. Unsplash photos look fantastic, and some are suitable for adding text. Here’s a Facebook Page image I whipped up by adding text to an Unsplash photo.

Mondays are ruff withoutthe Roundtable

[N.B., TSW! (Time Suck Warning): I could easily piddle away half a day on Unsplash, scrolling through the gorgeous photography!]

Best of all, Unsplash images come with the following license:

All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.

I’m happy to credit their photographers, which I usually do at the end of my posts. One good turn deserves another, especially for fellow creatives!

Over to You

What are your favourite webtools for creating graphics? I’d love to see your handiwork, so pop a link in the comments.

* Outsourcing Graphic Design

Fiverr is an example of a company that will quickly create graphic design images for you, but don’t forget to think local and support your nearby creatives and graphic designers!

Image Credit:

Header: Photo by Brigitta Schneiter on Unsplash

Pug: Photo by Toshi on Unsplash

Why Writers Should Rethink Pinterest

In this digital age, a strong online presence is a must-have for most authors and (probably*) all aspiring writers. Facebook and Twitter are the immediate go-tos, but Pinterest is another social media platform every writer should consider.

In fact, if you look specifically at social media referrals to publishers, Facebook wins. However, Pinterest generates more traffic to publishers than Twitter, Reddit and LinkedIn combined. And it’s booming!

Beyond platform building, Pinterest’s versatility makes it a great tool for every stage of the writing process, from pre-writing to marketing.

Pinterest’s Top 5 Uses for Writers

  1. Skilling Up – Curate articles about writing craft and publishing, favourite authors, and literary events. Write Now is an example of one of my writing craft boards. I link to great websites about blogging and writing.
  2. Creation Tool – Use it for creating Vision Boards, where you collect images, words, quotes and more to fertilise germinating ideas. Pinterest rules as a tool for channeling creativity. As an example, I know one day I want to write a Gothic novel. Here’s my atmospheric vision board Good Gothic!
  3. Character Laboratory – Fewer than 20% of pins have faces, but that doesn’t have to stop you using Pinterest as a head catalogue. Everything from hair colour, clothing, and quotes can sum up the character you’re creating. (Tip: Pinterest offers private boards where you can secretly play Dr Frankenstein with your characters to your twisted heart’s content.) I used this board for inspiration and place-marking of images as I wrote my middle grade novel, Summer of the Silk Dragon. This face helped me envision my character Rudy. (I know. He’s ridiculously hot).
  4. Writing Community – You can generate traffic to writer-friends’ blogs and help them with promotion and sales by pinning their books on group boards (Be sure to link the pin to a bookseller of choice or GoodReads). It’s really useful to join group boards with huge followings, like this one called Interesting Books which has 435+ followers. (Yes, now you’re seeing the potential!)
  5. Author Profile – Promote your own work by linking to your blog and online articles. Pinterest links result in an average of 6 page views, hardly viral, but that’s 6 visits you might not have had otherwise. Here’s my board that displays my articles and a few choice blog posts.

Pinteresting Stats

  • Pinterest has experienced record-breaking growth–reaching 10 million unique visits in 9 months, which outpaced Twitter and Facebook by a social media mile.
  • Tweet-value lasts mere minutes, FB posts last an hour or so, while pins hold their clickable value for months. This is super news for authors. There’s something to be said for putting your social media effort into the platform that keeps working for you and doesn’t disappear into the ether in seconds flat.
  • 80% of Pinners are women. Good news if you’re writing for a female audience!
  • As of July 2013, the most followed board has 6.9 million followers and the most liked pin had 16,500 likes.
  • Pinners are also shoppers, spending on average $140-180 per order (compared to Facebook shoppers who spend $70-80).

A Word of Warning…

Pinterest is a powerful tool–maybe because it taps into our most basic hunter-gather instincts. If you haven’t started using Pinterest and you have even the slightest, most latent tendency toward hoarding collecting, be forewarned that Pinterest can be addictive–and highly time-consuming. It’s as soothing as flipping through a glossy mag or a fabulous catalogue. You can easily chew up hours of writing time if you’re not careful!

On a final positive note, Pinterest’s virtual hoarding is way cheaper (and less space hogging and did I mention less dusty?) than physical collections of Chinese tea implements and turquoise. My Pinterest boards have saved me a bundle by virtually satisfying my cravings for fine pens and irresistible stationery. (Okay, I may have ordered a drool-worthy fountain pen from Taiwan. And some luscious midnight blue ink.)

Just remember, if things get out of hand, you can request a pintervention by your closest writing buddies. (…Buddies??)


Check out my sources:

Mindboggling facts that will make you care about Pinterest

59 Amazing Pinterest Stats

Image courtesy of The Modern Mrs Darcy


* I know there are writers out there who refuse to board the “gotta-be-on-social-media-or-else-bandwagon” and some of them are doing fine and enjoying the luxury of privacy. The way I see it, social media is an opportunity–and an easily accessible, relatively inexpensive one at that. You can take it and wring everything out of it, or you can walk past it.