Canva (Tools of the Writing Trade No. 2)

Canva is a DIY graphic design site that can help your writing career.

Whether you’ve had books published by a traditional publisher, publish your own work, or hope to do either, part of being an author is sharing your work and letting people know about you.

Many of us are introverts, though, and/or dislike or fear being “salesy.”

Social media is one way to connect with potential readers in genuine ways, and Canva offers a good tool for making your posts more engaging and fun. Canva can also help you create book covers.

What You Can Do On Canva

Canva offers a Do-It-Yourself platform for graphic design.

If you’ve ever seen someone post an inspiring saying across a beautiful photo of a sunrise on Instagram or Facebook and wished you could do that, Canva is one place where you can. If you want to create a Facebook ad and aren’t sure how to put it together or make it the right size, the tools on Canva can help.

Also, on Canva I created this cover for my story structure book. While for my novels I hire a professional designer, I did this one to try out Canva and also to see if there was reader interest in the topic of the book before spending a lot to publish it. There has been, so later this year, I will likely have a new cover done. In the meantime, judging by sales, this one conveys the content of the book well enough.

How To Use Canva

The site provides free templates for specific social media platforms. Among others, there are Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram post templates, blog and Tumblr graphics, and ebook cover templates.

Canva also offers backgrounds, photos, and illustrations to use in those templates. Another option is to drag and drop your own images.

I created the banner on my author Facebook page using my Awakening book covers, and the banner atop this blog using Canva stock photos.

Most of the graphics for this blog were created on Canva. I plan to use the one on the right in an upcoming post. It combines three images I found when I searched for  “lists” and “categories.”

What Does Canva Cost?

You can create an account for free using your email address. As soon as you sign on, you’ll see many free templates.

Canva also offers multiple photos and illustrations free. Sometimes a particular image you want will be a stock photo that requires payment. The banner for this blog includes two photos I needed to pay to use, but it was worth it to me because I really liked them.

The cost varies depending upon use. If you are using a photo in one social media post, it may cost $1. If you want to use it continuously, the same photo may cost $10.

The single-use cost of the photo appears on the left when you are choosing to incorporate it in your design, but you don’t need to pay unless or until you download it for your own use. When you do, the license options will appear.

Occasionally it’s disappointing to discover that a photo you loved is out of your budget for long-term use. But that’s only happened to me a couple times, and given all the experimenting and free work I’ve done on the site, I don’t mind.

Also, you can usually download a free sample of your design to try it out. It will have the word Canva written across it, but it’s helpful to make sure you like what you’ve designed before you pay.

In the seven months I’ve used Canva, I’ve created two e-book covers, numerous blog graphics, Facebook and Twitter banners, and occasional social media posts.

All that has cost me less than $50, and I could have done all of it free had I wanted to search longer for free illustrations or photos.

I’ve likely only scratched the surface of how you could use Canva. If you check it out and find more amazing uses, please share in the comments.

Until Friday–

L.M. Lilly

P.S. See Your Book Will Be Judged By Its Cover for more on when to create your own covers and when to hire a designer.

Social Media For Authors

Figuring out when and how to use social media as a writer can be overwhelming. It’s easy to while away hours checking Facebook or clicking on links to articles or videos and then feel guilty because we “should” be doing something else, like writing or promoting our writing.

Also, many people dislike everything about social media. It can seem like a place people go to toot to their own horns endlessly or tell everyone that they had eggs for breakfast, and who wants to be “that person”?

Having Fun And Being Who You Are

Over the coming weeks I’ll offer some tips on social media. Today I’ll share a bit about how I use social media as an author (and a person).

My main rule for myself on social media is that I need to enjoy what I’m doing and genuinely want to connect with the other people there. Which I guess is two rules. If you follow those two, you’ll have a happier life and be less likely to come off as, or to be, that person who’s just there to try to sell people things or say how great you are.

As part of that approach, I stick with a few social media platforms I like and use for reasons other than my writing. I do sometimes make a few of them do double duty, which is a good way to get a little bit more exposure without more effort.


I got on Facebook in the first place because my nieces and nephews lived in other states. I liked being able to occasionally see a post about how they were doing and see photos of them, and they were nice enough to accept my friend requests.

After I started publishing my writing, I  started posting about it occasionally on my personal Facebook page. I try to share only big news or something particularly exciting. Recently, I shared that the first book in my Awakening series, which is temporarily free to publicize the series, reached number five on the Amazon Best Seller List for free books. I figured that qualified as pretty cool, and my friends were excited for me.

I also post articles on my Facebook page that I think might interest my friends or anyone else who stops by my page. My Instagram account (more on that below) also links to Facebook, so if I post a photo of my parakeet on Instagram it also shows up on Facebook.

I also periodically update a separate author page. There, I am more apt to list day-to-day developments in my writing.

When I use Facebook, I rarely read the newsfeed. Instead, I look at Pages of people I want to keep up with. That limits my time on Facebook and ensures that I enjoy it.


As you probably know, Twitter allows you to post very short comments (which is called tweeting) as well as photos. I love Twitter for connecting with other writers and people who share my interests.

This is the banner I use on both Twitter and Facebook.

I have occasionally bought or sold e-books through Twitter, but mostly I like it for the people and for finding articles on helpful topics. I met the producer/narrator who later went on to produce the audiobook editions of the last three books in my Awakening series on Twitter.

I also started learning about self-publishing there, as I searched for #self-publishing and found tweets and articles by authors Joanna Penn and Melissa Foster. Neither was very well-known at the time and both were generous about sharing what they learned as their author businesses grew. Now I tweet about the articles on this website, as well as about what I’m reading or watching. I still connect with and learn from other writers on Twitter.


Pinterest has online bulletin boards where you can tack photos virtually. I used it quite a bit for a year or two. I have several boards, including one for whenever I finally decide to remodel my bathroom and one of fictional female heroes.

I still visit For When I Remodel My Bathroom as I try to decide what to do and when. I haven’t been to the other boards very much lately because I have stepped up my writing schedule and that’s the social media platform that fell by the wayside. I still like it though and I’m sure I’ll go back at some point.

Pinterest posts can be linked to Facebook and other social media, so if you like it, it’s a good way to post on multiple platforms at once.


As I wrote about Friday when I recommended Goodreads For Authors, I love this social media platform. As a reader, I use it to track books I want to read and to review books or place them on my virtual shelves by category. I have an author biography there and I’ve made sure my books are listed.

As an author, I like reading the reviews of my books by Goodreads users. They generally include a lot more information about why they rated the book as they did and what they think about it. I’ve also done giveaways of paperback editions through Goodreads, I created an author blog, and when I review books, I include a paragraph at the end for other writers talking about what they might learn about fiction writing through reading that particular book.

Goodreads also can link to Twitter and Facebook, so every review I do also is posted on those social media platforms, which is nice. Reviews can be automatically posted to the author blog on Goodreads. So, it’s another nice way to do one thing and have it appear in multiple places.


Wattpad is a writing social media platform. Many people write chapter-by-chapter and post as they go. Others post finished work one part at a time, which I’ve been doing with The Awakening since last summer.

I also really enjoy seeing what other writers are doing. The platform skews younger, so for me there’s an added advantage in seeing what’s engaging to readers and writers in a different age range.

Whether Wattpad helps sales is hard to say, but I don’t see much downside to doing it. Once I spent a couple hours setting up my bio and learning the platform, the time commitment became minimal. It takes me only about 10 minutes to post a chapter each week. I usually spend another 10 minutes or so looking around the site and answering any messages.


Instagram is pure fun for me. So far as I know, nothing I do there helps me sell books. I mostly connect with people I already know personally or have met through Facebook.

My oldest niece, who told me about Instagram, once said that she loves it because everyone’s happy there. People typically post photos that make them feel good, and there is relatively little in the way of political commentary. I most often post photos of my parakeet or of really nice sunrises or sunsets or beautiful photos of Chicago streets and buildings.

You can put links to websites or products on Instagram and you can buy advertising, but I haven’t looked into doing either one. I like having a platform that is just fun.

Instagram does also link to other platforms, so mine was linked to Facebook and Twitter. Recently, though, I had to update my passwords and I actually haven’t figured out to how to make that connect again with Facebook and Twitter. Once I do, my Facebook page will have a lot more photos.

I hope this overview has been helpful. Please share in the comments what social media you like and whether you use any platforms I’ve missed.

Until Friday-


L.M. Lilly

Goodreads For Authors by Michelle Campbell-Scott

This Friday I recommend Goodreads for Authors, a book by Michelle Campbell-Scott. I love Goodreads as both a reader and author because it is all about books and is designed for, and filled with, readers. Step-by-step, Campbell-Scott walks you through how to use the social media platform.

The book tells you how to sign up on Goodreads, add or start a blog there, claim your author profile, review books, meet people, and set up ads, among many other things. If you’re already familiar with Goodreads, as I was when I read the book, you can easily skip to the parts you still need to learn. I encourage you not to do that, though, and instead to read the entire book. It’s a fast read, and Campbell-Scott is very thorough, so you may discover facets of the platform you missed on your own.

I listened to Goodreads for Authors on Audible. While that worked fine, I wished I’d bought the book instead so I could more easily flip or scroll to review certain sections. Also, there are links and checklists in the book that I would have found easier to use in ebook or paper form. If you’re too busy to read another book, though, and might be able to fit it in on audio, definitely do so. You’ll still get a lot out of it.

Until Sunday, when I’ll do an overview of how I interact on social media as an author–


L. M. Lilly