Tag Archives: marketing

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 Black Hole of Pessimism for Today

Somehow I found myself weeding out those I follow on WordPress a few days ago (Don’t worry, I only cut those hadn’t posted something for over several months). WordPress has this feature where they tell you a blog hasn’t posted in forever when you click on it in your ‘Following’ list, which is equal parts helpful and annoying.

The point of this, is that probably 75% of the no longer active blogs were writer’s blogs. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised: the market for writers looking to gain attention through blogging is thoroughly over-saturated, and it’s awfully discouraging just content-marketing out into the abyss.

The other day I read that marketing is two things: engaging constantly with your audience and being indispensably helpful (or something of the like). Of course, with so many people being so helpful, I wonder if it’s possible to gain any sort of truth out of that. At some point the amount of helpers is going to outnumber the demand.

It’s easy to get sucked into the pessimism of this. Self-marketing is so key to being successful as an author nowadays, but it seems like what exactly that means is some mystical unicorn (that requires a lot of hard work). Not to mention, once a way of marketing is invented, it becomes very quickly saturated with hopefuls jumping in. After that, using that new method becomes less impactful. Readers can become bombarded with this new method of marketing and end up becoming annoyed and leaving.

The harbinger of the next way to market, or publish, or whatever, seems to be the only who is able to use that method to it’s full advantage. At least, until the next ingenuous person figures out a way to make it just enough different to gain attention — or create a whole new method.

It’s so easy to feel that everything is so futile. I doubt I will be the next inventor of the next way to do things, as I don’t quite have those kinds of smarts; so am I just another would-be-hopeful desperately clinging to whatever method seems best for me? Am I lost in the sound of hundreds of writers chattering?

Despite all of this, I’m going to try to end on a positive note.

This came from another article I read, and for the life of me I can’t seem to find it again. He was talking about what successful means, and touched upon the above mentioned overwhelming job that authors have to get themselves out there (while being less whiny than me). His premise was pretty simple: you have to be the person who puts in more effort than the next.

To stand above the rest, you have to be willing to do a little more work. Spend a little more time marketing. Be a little more personable. Push for that extra few minutes of writing time. Read that one other book on how to improve your craft. Compete in that one other writing contest.

While this can seem pretty damn intimidating too, there is some solace that can be taken from it. If you’re not one of those crazy-smart people who think out of the box constantly and invent a new way to get their books in front of readers, the second route just requires effort and time. And that’s doable. It requires more than a little tenacity and maybe a hint of crazy, but the power is in your hands.

Go do it.

Thoughts? What thought-provoking articles have you read lately?


Organic IS Better (for book marketing)

This article has some great points, though part of me despairs by asking “then what AM I supposed to be doing to convince people to come see me?” It seems connected to the “pull not push” element that was discussed in these two posts here: https://awakedragon.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/two-great-articles-about-writers-on-social-media/

The Reblog button seems broken, so, to read this article by Author Chris McMullen, click on the link or image below: organic-is-better-for-book-marketing/

Source: Organic IS Better (for book marketing)


Thoughts from the Willamette Writers Conference: Part Three

Welcome to the next segment of my Willamette Writer’s Conference adventures! In my previous post, I talked about the first day and a half of the Conference, and what I learned about querying, researching for better authenticity in Historical Fiction, and World Building. You should go check it out, if you haven’t already. It was pretty great.

After the World Building class on Friday, I went on to a class called Beyond Book Signings: Making Book Promotion Fun by Kerrie Flanagan. I’m dreading the time when I need to be marketing my book, so I figured I needed to take this class. And actually, it was quite nice. Nothing revolutionary happened, but it was a great class for setting your mind at ease and realizing that marketing is not supposed to be painful. Her best advice, after discussing all the ways that influence people to buy books and all the ways you can reach people to buy your books, was this: pick one that sounds fun to you, and try it. Just one. Don’t worry about the rest. Don’t even think about them. Just do one. Do it the best you can. Because you’re not going to be able to do all of them.

Flanagan also said that the point of marketing was to gain loyalty. And there were 3 keys to gaining loyalty: connection, trust, and relationship. Connection is the start (finding a book on FaceBook, or having a conversation with someone who gets interested to buy you book), and then trust has to do with your readers believing they are going to get what you advertise: whatever drew them to you in the first place. As in, always putting out good quality fantasy. Or autobiography. Or romance. Whatever is your shtick. And relationship, the final one, is about engaging readers and making yourself approachable. Responding when someone says hey on twitter. Replying back to emails. Being connectable.

Her final note of advice about marketing was remembering these three things: Keep it Fun, Make it Memorable, and Build Your Tribe (of loyal readers). Overall it was good stuff, and put me at ease that marketing isn’t going to be complete awfulness.

After classes completed for that day, there was a social gathering dinner eating type event, and my brain felt like it was oozing out of my eyeballs. I could not believe how tired I was after learning and talking all day!

My newfound friend came back after her second pitch, which didn’t go very well. She was pitching a screenplay instead of a manuscript. and apparently film-makers are notorious for being uninterested and not getting back to people even if they request to see pages. Such a strange thing – I wonder why they come to conferences at all?

Anyway, after the dinner there was one last group of classes I decided to stay for. I ended up attending Tips for Terror, Hints for Horror, both because it sounded interesting and because I was curious whether or not my manuscript could be classified as “horror.” It’s an odd genre I don’t understand; I’ve seen books I didn’t think were that gross or psychological that were classified as horror, and vise-versa.

The class overviewed common elements and themes in horror, and then went through a few exercises where we did a mash ups of non-horror with horror to come up with crazy ideas. That was fun. Overall it was good info, but the most important bit was that my manuscript is definitely not horror.

By Friday evening I had a general pitch that I was decently happy with: it covered my complicated world in one sentence, the push of the story in another sentence, and then set up the personality of my characters and the dramatic line at the end. I was pretty happy just relying on general points to go with: I was going to come at my pitch with the attitude of a conversation. That way, I at least would engage and not be monologuing, which is never good. And if I memorized a speech, I’d just end up sounding robotic.

By the second day of the conference it was fun to be able to recognize people I’d seen around. It gave an easy excuse to start a conversation with someone. I ended up eating breakfast with the friend of the producer of The Amazing Race (who I also had met the day before) during the opening ceremony.

She and I both headed to The Pursuit of the True Final Draft by Larry Brooks. Since I’m at that stage in my manuscript, it seemed like a good idea. This class was… equal parts irritation and fascination for me. His personality grated my nerves a little, but he had great information to impart.

Brooks began the class declaring that you can’t write a story without knowing the ending. If you don’t know the ending, you’re not writing foreshadowing or the story itself. I’m not sure I agree completely, but he had a point, depending on what your story is.

The main gist of the class came from the idea that there 12 criteria you must master before your manuscript is complete. These separate into six core competencies (concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution, and writing voice) and six realms of story physics (compelling premise, dramatic tension, optimal pacing, hero empathy, vicarious experience, and narrative strategy).

Brooks went on to say that there were two main reasons a manuscript (or pitch) gets rejected, both because the manuscript isn’t final. The first is that that the story isn’t executed well enough, and the second is that the story idea itself isn’t strong enough. Then he started discussing the difference between concept and premise, which he emphasized were heavily different things. Concept has to do with the main idea of your story, the thing that is new or refreshing, and almost always has nothing to do with the hero. A story set in an alternative history, or on another planet. Or a story about ghosts. The hero can be the conceptual creation (superman, Sherlock Holmes), but most likely are not. The premise is the main, exciting “dramatic thread” that runs through the story: Character A has his life interrupted by X, has to accomplish Y by doing Z, but Character B (or environment, or whatever) stands in the way for PQR reasons.

Beyond that, you have your usual thread of storytelling, with the climax, plateau, etc, etc. Multiple premises can come from one concept (see multiple stories set in the same interesting world, like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and numerous other stories set on Pern), which is where you see series popping up and so forth.

Brooks kept emphasizing, over and over, that most people didn’t know the different between concept and premise and didn’t have the distinction in their story (thus, they get rejected by agents and publishers). When he started talking about concept and premise, it took him almost a half an hour to actually define the difference and tell us what he was talking about. I got really excited that I thought I knew what he was talking about, and got irritated that he wasn’t being clear about the definition.

So when Brooks finally got around to defining concept, I raised my hand, and like a complete smart-ass, asked: “Do I get a gold star that I knew what you were talking about before you defined it?” He asked what the concept was, and I gave him the one I had for my story (which happens to be the alternative history/world setting), and he told me I was exactly right.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear before going into my pitch. One, because it was encouraging, and two, because tweeking my pitch just slightly had my concept and premise defined and distinct from each other.

The next class was Own Your Time Like A Boss by Cheri Lasota, most of which I was going to be able to attend before I had to leave for my pitch. Lasota’s class was mostly about applications and software that can aid a writer in saving time while reading, collaborating with other writers, and editing. She talked about applications like Scrivner, Write or Die, Grammarly, PicMonkey, and so forth, which can do very different things to help a writer and author in their career. It was good information overall, and though I did leave about half an hour before it concluded, and she sent her powerpoint slides with links to the applications to anyone who wanted them. So I have that to still go through.

Anyway, so I left early and walked to the pitch room, replaying my pitch one more time in my head. The teacher of the Hints for Horror class was actually seated next to me in the waiting room, so we chatted briefly while I tried to breathe through nerves and make light of my cold and quivering hands. Making light of things always helps. Make fun of yourself. Somehow, it works. At least for me.

Then 11:40 hit, and we all walked into the pitch room.

Aaaand that is where I’m going to leave you until tomorrow’s part, just because I’m evil. Stay tuuuunnnnned. 😉