Tag Archives: goats

Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.

 

Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.

 

Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?


My Winter – as told by goats

All right, so we’re going to stray from the usual writing topic for this post. Partially because I’m not sure what to write about here, and partially because I want to.

As many people around North America are experiencing, spring time is here. (Except not in Oregon apparently, because we got freaking SNOW just earlier this month.) I thought I’d display my winter, as according to goat pictures… You’re going to be subjected to many pictures of goats. Goats in the winter. Goats in snow. Baby goats. Goat noses. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive the torture.

If you follow me on Instagram, many of these pictures many be familiar — but never in a fun story and all together like this!

Let’s start with a moment from Fall.

Three of my goats traveled to my parent’s house during the summer to clear some of their brush. As the weather turned, they came home. And it was a little comical. First, we had Phe and Duchess, who wanted to drive.

And then there was their expressions when they arrived…

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What… where have we been taken to!?

Phe and Blackberry immediately got into a fight, as they were herd bosses in their respective herds, and they had to work out who was herd boss of the overall herd now.

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They eventually figured out there differences and everyone loved each other again.

Now let’s talk about the holidays. Thanksgiving I ended up spoiling them. Look at this masterpiece of edibles I created for them. Apples, two kinds of grain, vitamins sprinkled on top…

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The boys were a little lost on how to eat the apples, but everyone else pretty much thought they’d died and gone to goat heaven.

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When Christmas came around, we (the humans) were a bit more selfish. We decided to drag all the goats out to my parent’s house Christmas Eve, so we could spend the night and not worry about having to run back home to feed them. I have many sides of the family, so the holidays become pretty hectic bouncing from house to house. Moving the goats made it so we didn’t have to run back to our house as well.

(Goat Brains: torn between eating the food
— and staring at the world as it sped by them)

They weren’t too happy about their small temporary enclosure, but they sure did like the walks that the whole family took them on for the days we were there. Things to eat EVERYWHERE. My parents definitely enjoyed their company, and my extended family was eager to meet the ladies I talk about so much…

(Sari is very concerned I’m leaving in the loud metal machine)

Not long after that, the first snow hit. I’m pretty sure that the goats have never seen snow before… or at the very least, never seen that much snow, where it actually stuck around. It’s too bad WordPress doesn’t support video files; I have a fantastic video of them racing back and forth with me once they figured out it didn’t hurt them.

No one wanted to leave the barn, but I kicked a few goat butts outside one day to make them get exercise. Needless to say, they weren’t really happy with me (Sari stood there pathetically while trying to only stand on two feet at the time).

And they had NO idea what to do with all the white cold stuff at their feet…

(Goat brain: Do we eat it??)

A month or so later, Beltane and Inanna became old enough to need to establish their hierarchy in the herd with each other, so that was a big day. (Note mom in the background making sure it doesn’t go too far.) I’m still not entirely sure who won. I think Beltane (the black one) did. Again — I also have a very funny video of Beltane playing king of the hill and refusing to let her sister get up on the brick mountain with her…

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And now that we’re halfway through MARCH, the sun occasionally does come out to grant us with it’s presence. The goats won’t step outside if there’s a hint of rain, so it’s a pretty big deal when the sky is clear.

It’s pretty great to go outside with them and read, too.

My summers are peppered with memories of napping out in the sun with the goats (who will lay with/on me and nap too), so besides the obvious I’M SICK OF THE RAIN, I’m pretty excited for summer to get here. I also can get a decent amount of writing done when I go outside with a laptop and watch them graze. They are fairly distracting when they try to jump on me and the computer of course… but that’s another story.

And don’t worry, I won’t blog TOO much about goats. Though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to post something when Sari and Blackberry kid (early May!), so look forward to pictures of brand new babies in not too long here…

Until then, toodles! I hope this was fun and entertaining for you all. Feel free to comment and share!

 


Oh Canada, Oh Canada…

So I’ll be gone for two weeks! My parents are taking my sister, my partner, and I up to Canada, to some city I can’t spell to save my life (the French, man), but it’s 2 hours North of Montreal. I’m pretty excited about that. Then we’re heading to a cute town called Poughkeepsie, and then we’ll be finishing our train ride to New York!

It’s going to be great. I turned in my FicFest revisions a week or two ago, and my mentor just gave back my first chapter and synopsis — and I’ll be getting the whole manuscript here in a few days. The deadline to get everything in is the 30th of June, so I’ll be finishing up all those revisions on vacation!

I’m kinda excited for that. I’m hoping that the first week of vacation will be relaxing (and adventurous, but relaxing). As much as I love my goats, I’m looking forward to not having to worry about waking up early for chores. I can sleep in, and mentally be a spaz, go exploring, and revise to my heart’s content!

I probably won’t be posting here for the next two weeks. Unless I feel the need to share the wonderful things I’ll be experiencing. But you should probably follow me on Twitter for that.

Getting on a plane at midnight! Now to get all my chores and packing done in time…


Camp NaNoWriMo

Hey, so, apparently November isn’t the only day to join up with pals and use word goals to kick your writer-butt in the pants. Only for Camp NaNoWriMo, you get to choose your writing goal. And you also are put into “camps” with other writers to help facilitate and make friends.

Mostly I really want to work on the project I’ve tasked for it. But I can’t, as I want to use the word counts for the month of April, and this project I’m working on can only be 17k words (it’s for the contest I mentioned in my last post), so I’m constrained that way. Which is actually kinda fun and I’m looking forward to it. But impatient for April to be here.

So instead of writing on the novella I’m writing this post. I probably should be outlining and researching for the novella, but I’m feeling too restless. Probably because it’s sunny and I actually should be outside working on the barn.

Because look at these faces that will greet me:


What is the Genre of your Novel?

Yesterday I was finally been able to sit down to write after almost a week of chaos. Two of the goats on the farm I live at kidded this weekend, leaving me with four cute factories running around the barn. The moms are taking care of them very well, thank goodness, but one has triplets so we’ve been lending a hand to make sure all her babies are doing well. The little girl out of the bunch likes my fiancee’s lap the most:

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Yes, I’ve been dealing with that cuteness for the past few days!

Anyway, I am attempting to get back on writing track, and obviously, to blog. I’ve gotten feedback from my first beta reader, and she’s absolutely loving my manuscript: she read it in two days, when usually she’s a slow reader who takes her time. We excitedly discussed plot, characters, and style non-stop for almost two hours straight.

So that was very encouraging, and I have a few more beta readers who are going to get their copies here shortly. I’m pretty motived anyway, but it’s making me feel a lot more encouraged to work on the second book, as well as working on lots of agent/editor research.

In slightly off topic but relatable news, I’ve recently run into a bit of an issue: I’m not sure the genre of my novel. It’s fantasy, for sure, with lots of magic. But then there are decent Steampunk elements; for example, advanced technology in a Victorian-like society. But my story doesn’t actually take place in the 1800’s – I’ve redone history with some big twists so it’s actually “current day” with advanced technology and Victorian era traditions. I hesitate to describe it as “Alternative History” because of the heavy amount of fantasy, and because I don’t think I’m anywhere near someone like Diana Gabaldon’s level of research.

Sooo I’m back to the simple “General Fantasy” genre… I just feel it’s more than that, and doesn’t cover enough of what my story is to really cut it. Currently my query doesn’t have a precise genre, but instead a fancier “a mix between this author and this author, appealing to fans who like their fantasy A, B, and C,” etc. I think it’s working decently well for it’s purposes, but I’m still are little perplexed. Before, when I read about agents complaining about authors who mis-identify their genre, I didn’t think it applied to me because the manuscript I worked on before was more cut and dry. But now… it’s looking like my problem.

What do you think? Are you have problems identifying your genre because of it’s odd little quirks? Do you have an idea of what my novel sounds like? Or maybe some advice on how to tackle this in a query? (Or do you want to squeee over the picture of the baby above?)


Animal Friends and Stick-Stealing

While out on a feeding frenzy by the trees, Sari, my newest dairy goat acquisition, decided to lay her head across my shoulders while I was sitting on the ground and snuggle. It was rather heart heart warming (even if it was after a half an hour of chewing cud in my ear), particularly since she’s kind of a prickly personality and a bit obnoxious at times.

It made me wonder about relationships with animals. Dogs, as we all know, are most commonly considered man’s best friend. They love you, try to communicate with you, (sometimes) listen to you. Even cats, though they’re often more independent than dogs, also create connections and emotional attachments with people. This makes sense because we’re all predators and have common ground to be friends. Trained to not pee on the rug and all that jazz.

But goats are prey animals. They have all these instincts and stuff. And yeah, I get it, my goats were raised with people and learned to trust us and have been domesticated, etc. But me, with clear predator eyeballs and scary bigness, can mess around with my lovely prey friends, grab their faces, pet their throats and near their eyes. Sari particularly was so not into that when she first came here. That she trusts me now, makes me stop and think about friendship and language across species.

Through love (or fear, unfortunately) animal friends learn what to do to please us. Our reasons for returning this affection is often varied. It seems like the more we’re able to understand each other’s wants and wishes, the more attachment seems to form – as in, “don’t poop on the floor” and “oh yes keeping scratching that spot” along with “guard the house” and “feed me” and other various desires. In a perfectly logical way, this symbiotic relationship is about understanding basic necessities and supplying them for mutual benefit.

But in my more existential moments, I wonder about cross-species communication on a different level. We as humans can declare superiority with our big brains and conquering the natural world oh yay, but a lot of time I think we don’t give our animal friends enough credit. If any of you out there work closely with animals, I think you’ll understand what I’m talking about. As much as our animal friends cannot speak our spoken language, I think that we cannot (or don’t spend enough time to) speak their language in return. Their own way of communicating is probably not in our range of immediately comprehension, so we dismiss it as inferior – I think wrongly so.

I think cross-species friendship can tap into understanding of each other that is not just communication of basic necessities. Something more; a not-quite-language created between two species. It might all be my imagination, and I’m not sure we can understand what really happens in their brains (particularly with prey animals), but that moment of other understanding that isn’t quite understanding so much as a suggestion, is rather magical.

Like I said. It’s probably in my head. Or applying my own ideas to actions that mean something else. Who really knows what happens in a goat’s (dog’s, cat’s, rabbit’s, etc) brain. Yet somehow I’ve gained the trust of three animal friends by paying attention and being receptive.

But anyway. In an effort to bring this discussion back to writing, I had this thought: language barriers, especially when dealing with sci-fi or fantasy where there’s aliens or robots or half-animal creatures or things that grew up in the woods, is not a complication to be taken lightly. Their brains  are literally different, complex, growing up with different assumptions and complex reasonings that are all tied back to chemistry, biology (or mechanics), and environment. Like with animals, maybe we just have no way of being able to understand what they’re saying. Or with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, there’s no real way of being able to access the network in which that species communicates. Or maybe they don’t operate the same way we do anyway. Or maybe being able to communicate means that we have to change the way we think, how we think.

But that might be a little extreme.

Any which and either way, communication problems between simple ol’ humans is bad enough – it’s even worse when you try to add a dimension that we’re, well, making up. However, language barriers, misunderstandings, and half-understandings can also really add spice to a story – and it can be really fun, too. It can add both comic relief (stretching and yawning in their culture is, whoops, actually a come-on) and conflict (delicate negotiations go awry because smiling is actually a sign of aggression), which is the life-blood of any story. Like many things in writing, communication (by culture and language) is something to be mindful of, and also a great tool if wielded effectively.

In other news:

I had a stick that I was using to flick at the goats so they’d back off from stuff they weren’t supposed to eat in the flower garden. The idea was born out of laziness because I didn’t want to get get up from my seat. I put the stick down for half a second and Sari ate it.

NaNoWriMo word count: 17,813