Your step-by-step guide to creating a cover, thumbnails and preview for
Your step-by-step guide to creating a cover, thumbnails and preview for
Hello, fellow teacher (or counselor, librarian, etc)! If you found this article I’m going to assume you’ve signed up for a sellers account on Tpt and created your first lesson. Now you’re ready to create an amazing cover and preview.
If not, please check out the first few lessons in my TpT University series:
Posting a successful resource on TpT entails creating a square cover that will catch a buyer’s eye. You need to title your lesson with the proper “keywords”. In addition to your cover, a few thumbnails are important. Finally, a preview is necessary to show buyers what they’re getting. Let’s do it, one step at a time.
Designing Your Cover
Jump over to Teachers Pay Teachers, type in any lesson topic and check out the covers. What do most have in common?
First of all they’re square. There are some — usually older products — that are rectangles. Notice how they don’t seem to fit in? Now standing out IS a good thing, but these don’t stand out in a good way; they seem unfinished or unprofessional.
My covers are 8″ x 8″ (it’s what I read somewhere in the beginning and works). You don’t have to do the same, but you do have to make it square. I know in TpT sellers Facebook groups some sellers use 12″ x 12″ and other dimensions, but all — yes, I’m repeating myself make them SQUARE.
Make Your Covers, Thumbnails and Previews in PowerPoint
Your covers can be created using different tools. PowerPoint is my go-to. Many sellers use Canva (there’s a free version). Others use Adobe, which I’ve never owned or learned, so I won’t speak to that.
It’s time to create a design template. Take your time with your first cover. You will be able to use the bones or basic format over and over in all of your resources (see the picture above).
The components of a cover are: color combination, the background, border, and title font. First click around Teachers Pay Teachers to get a feel for what you do and don’t like and jot down some notes. You are NOT going to copy another seller’s design, just getting a feel for what resonates with you.
Choose Contrasting Colors
How do you choose a color combination for your TpT cover? I think 3 colors is a good number. Choose a background color, font color and third color for call-outs and random stuff.
How do you know what colors work together and which don’t? The first basic rule is that you want there to be contrast between your hues. If you choose navy, denim blue and cornflower as your 3 colors they will blend with each other and not stand out.
You may remember your elementary school days, learning about primary colors, secondary colors, complimentary colors, etc. Maybe not. If you’re not confident choosing a color scheme there are places that can help. This post from 99 Designs offers several examples of combos to choose from.
A note if you’re working in PowerPoint. You have many, many colors beyond the choices that show up in font or background color. Two options you have are the eyedropper and “more colors”.
I am seriously in love with the eyedropper and use it ALL the time. You simply click on the eyedropper icon and then choose any spot or picture on your slide, click and it will replicate that exact shade. For example, I had a picture of President Clinton for one of my covers and he was wearing a yellow tie. Using the eyedropper I clicked on the tie and copied the exact shade for another part of my slide (notice the cover above).
The “more colors” option allows you to lighten, darken or add another shade to any color. Open it up and play with it if you’ve never tried before.
The background of your cover can be solid or patterned. There are many free downloads on TpT. They’re called backgrounds, or digital paper is another name often used. You can find free ones here.
I went CRAZY trying to choose a background for my first resource. Neutrals are my go-to in my home and clothes, so I figured why not do the same for my store? Black, white and gold seemed like a good choice. After looking at all the freebies, couldn’t find a gold background I liked.
Finally, in desperation, I looked at the curtains in my living room; they’re burnished gold and crinkly. That would be a nice background! So I got out my camera and started taking pictures. I edited the color and enlarged the “crinkles”. That’s how I created my first background.
I later decided, “Nope, don’t like it.” That will probably happen to you, too. It’s okay. So taking pictures of household objects was a little silly, but thinking out of the box is not.
Do you want a border on your covers?
Borders are not mandatory for your covers (nothing is “mandatory”). I started with a black border that was free on TpT. Check out yur options for free borders here.
One thing to remember as you design your cover is that it’s small, really small. Again, look at a page on Teachers Pay Teachers. The covers are little. They’re even smaller on a phone. Using a border takes up some of this precious space. Once someone clicks on your resource it will be larger and easier to see. But if someone can’t read the small version they won’t click on your resource page.
I say this so that you keep everything minimal. A thick, fancy border gives you less space to put other, more important information. Your title will have to be smaller. You picture, too.
On the other hand, a border can look really nice. And if you use the same border for all your resources it can be part of your “branding”. The idea is that once a buyer purchases — and likes — one of your products they’ll be able to spot others that you’ve created (because it looks similar) and click again.
Borders are more common on elementary covers, generally speaking. I use them occasionally, but usually prefer to use the precious “real estate” on my cover for other things.
What should you title Your TpT resource?
Here is my main caveat: do not name your resource a cutsey title. Mic drop, done.
Do you buy from TpT? If so, what do you type in the search bar? Topics, types of lessons, specific pain points are the most likely answers.
Your Teachers pay Teachers title should be as descriptive as possible. Use as much of the space allowed (approximately 80 letters/spaces). Nobody is searching for “magical math mania multiplication” or “is Hitler the most evil man to have lived?” That is a project I do with my kiddos, but I would NOT title it that. “Adolf Hitler Research Project Differentiated” would be much better.
Take the time — I know, everything takes forever — and type in logical searches for your resource. Hopefully, you’ve done this BEFORE you made your product (as explained in Lesson 3). If you’ve chosen a low competition topic (or key word) you will use it in your title.
Use Longtail Keywords in Your Title
Type in a title you’re thinking about. How many results are listed (it’s toward the top)? If there are thousands you’re in for an uphill battle. Your new lesson doesn’t have any reviews and will be buried at the bottom of results.
Look for a nice longtail key word. That means add more words. If “multiplication stations” is too competitive, try “Double digit multiplication actvities using manipulatives”. Fewer teachers will be typing that in, but for the ones who do you’ll show up on the first page and have a good chance for a sale.
Final thoughts on the title of your resource: it has been rumoured that symbols effect your ranking. I’ve heard this many times in the Facebook groups. One reputable, veteran seller said she tested it and seemed to be true. I don’t know for sure, but try to avoid using astericks and other symbols in your title.
How to create thumbnails of your resource
When you’re finished designing a cover for your product you need at least 2 thumbnails of what’s in your resource. You can post up to 4, but I suggest a minimum of 2, depending on how large the product is.
If you used PowerPoint to make the cover, simply create a few more slides to make your thumbs. Use the same background cover so it all looks cohesive. When choosing a background color click on “apply to all” and it will automatically make all your slides match.
Each part of your resource should be saved as a PowerPoint, jpeg and pdf. You will use the jpegs for your thumbnails. Just insert picture in your thumbnail slide and choose which pictures you want. Then size them down to look good on your slide.
Example of Thumbnails
If I made a lesson that consisted of a reading passage, a student handout and an answer key I would make 3 thumbnails, one for each.
I will copy the reading passage or all of the slides in my presentation if that’s part of the lesson, make them small (you can overlap) so they fit on the slide. Next I add a banner explaining the highlights.
The next thumbnail will be the student handout. Again, insert a picture of the pages and add a banner of important information.
The final thumbnail will be the answer key. Teachers LOVE answer keys; it makes their lives so easy (which is what we’re in business for).
Now save your PowerPoint as both a PowerPoint and jpegs. Be sure to label it “cover” and the resource name so that you can easily find it.
Creating a Preview for Teachers Pay Teachers
Not every TpT resource has a preview available. They should. I personally will not buy a product that I can’t clearly see. The title and thumbnails are too small and just not enough. They’re used to get the initial click over to your resource page. The preview should enlighten and sell your product.
There are different schools of thought as to whether your thumbnails should also be your preview. I use my thumbnails in my preview; it’s all 1 PowerPoint slide presentation. If a resource is in depth I add more slides for the preview that won’t show in the thumbnails, but it’s still all 1 slide deck.
Your TpT resource preview should give teachers an in-depth look at what they’re buying. Include as much of the product as possible. You want them to make an informed decision on their purchase. It’s better to lose a sale than to receive a poor review from a frustrated buyer.
Protect Your Work
You need to add watermarks for your preview. Teachers can download your preview, so it needs to have writing over it and not be usable (i.e. stolen). No worries, this is easy-peasy.
Some sellers use “preview” others use the name of their store. I like the latter. Using word art in the PowerPoint ribbon type your store name and enlarge it. Now rotate the words so they’re on an angle across your page. Finally, make the words transparent so that a buyer can see what’s underneath. Done!
Your preview should be exported as a pdf. That’s what you’ll upload to Teachers Pay Teachers. Don’t forget to clearly label it:)
Are you starting to think you made a mistake in becoming a teacher author? It’s way too early to make that call.
Hopefully, before embarking on this path you read about the pros and cons of selling on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Here are some things to keep in mind. Within a few months of selling I was consistently making hundreds of dollars a month. That’s despite the fact that the pandemic hit 3 months into my journey, making most of my resources obsolete. Also, I contracted Covid and was out of commission for a month. Then they cancelled Regents exams in New York (most of my products were — you guessed it — Regents based lessons). Sigh.
Hopefully you will not face these unusual setbacks. Even with the curveballs a little over a year in I’m averaging $500 a month (it’s seasonal and varies month-to-month). I hope to double that by the end of the year.
The Good News to Keep in Mind
Lessons you post today will sell for years and years. Veteran sellers often say their best sellers are 3 and 4 years old. If you give this endeavor 1 year of your time and never again lift a finger you will receive income for the forseeable future.
So when it takes you 7 hours to create a $3.00 resource in the beginning remember that it will get much faster and easier. Like driving a car, most of the steps will become rote.
And some of your $3.00 products will sell hundreds of times, maybe thousands.
I find it fun and exciting, as do many others. I hope you will, too.
Until the next lesson (posting your resource) be well.
Remember to teach AND thrive, Joan.
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