Think Outside the Book


June 2020  

Think Outside the Book

I’m talking brand. Your author’s brand is what makes you unique. It’s your image, your identity as a writer, your voice. It should be woven into every aspect of you as an author. So, how do you decide on a brand? First, you look at what your writing has in common, even if you write in different genres. Stephen King takes ordinary people and places them in extraordinary circumstances. Nora Roberts wrote category romance for years, until she expanded into suspense under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb. Does genre matter? It doesn’t have to. In Roberts’ case, her publisher thought it would be easier to brand her 200+ books if she became two different writers.

What if you write in different genres? In her article on author brands, blogger June Stevens Westerfield warns that as social media expands, “the ease of keeping up more than one author name has become more difficult. It entails maintaining websites, blog posts, newsletters and active social media accounts for each pen name. That is both expensive and time consuming. If you write within several subgenres, maintaining your pseudonyms would be unmanageable, and it would leave little time for writing.”

In “The Basics of Author Branding,” Theresa Meyers reminds us our image and even how we act need to back up that image of who we are. “When you are interviewed, you are not you, the author, you are the brand. It has to be in everything you do. That’s why it’s so important that it come from who you are and what you want people to remember.” She advocates branding yourself, not your genre. The one occasion when you may want to consider a pseudonym is when a second or third genre requires a different brand.

Meyers points out that Nora Roberts is such a prolific writer, she no longer needs blurbs, reviews, testimonies, or words on the backs of her books—just her picture. People know her, and they know what to expect. They’re familiar with her brand, the way she writes, the quality of her work. This is why you need to be consistent in building that emotional connection with your readers, marketing who you are at every opportunity, be it book fairs, on social media, or on the covers of your book. Meyers says when your brand takes off, “it will be the brand, not the book” the publisher wants. She warns you to deliver on the brand you promise.

Your cover art should carry the same message to your readers. If you write a series, brand each book in the series with similar cover art—maybe with different colored backgrounds but the same general theme. Put a simple logo in the corner. Number each book 1, 2, 3, etc. on the spine. Make it easy for a reader to find you on the shelf. Some publishers, especially in genres and subgenres of the romance category, have inundated the market with hunks and heroines as cover art, both in various modes of undress. If this isn’t you, you may want to rethink self-publishing to maintain the integrity of your brand.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in cover art, and don’t have a really good friend who has Photoshop on their computer and plenty of free time, you might want to search one of the many websites listing cover designers. The second option is to research a book cover you really liked to determine the cover designer whose artwork impressed you. Either way, you’ll get what you pay for ($100 to $1000) according to their level of expertise. Find someone you can work with and let them know what you’re looking for—what you see in your mind, what kind of mood you’re trying to represent. If you’re like me, you check out a title, the cover, the author, and the back of the book for blurbs and reviews.

Your brand should be the current that flows beneath an ocean of words that brings the reader home.

Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.

A Little Background Music, Please


April 2020  

A Little Background Music, Please

Or, as Sebastian said in The Little Mermaid, “we got to set de mood.”

Studies have been done resulting in the perfect background music to help students do their homework, to help people sleep better at night, and to stimulate the senses. But have you ever selected music for your novel?

When I was researching a scene in Book Two of my trilogy, I needed a duet for my main characters to sing together at the old piano forte in Wales in 1899. I mentioned it to a friend who was very into music (and like me, very Irish), and she pulled up a Welsh (Gaelic) folk song that sounded perfect, called “The Maid of Llanwellyn.” As luck would have it—or God’s perfect timing—I found a copy of it recorded by Kate Rusby, an English folksinger. It set up a contrast in my turn-of-the-century parlor and suited the country, the times, and the theme. Playing the CD in the background, I rewrote the scene until it brought tears to my eyes. And it was good.

If I’m cleaning, I like to put on music with the moves—like Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” or James Brown’s “I Feel Good” or my all-time favorite, The Temptations with David Ruffin doing “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” And if I’m reminiscing about the one who got away? Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer Than” or Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” or (if I really want to wallow) “So Sad The Song” by Gladys Knight. If I want to sing along (not very well, but my heart’s in it), then it’s John Denver— “Country Roads,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders, or “Annie’s Song.” And if I’m in a thinking mood? Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or Jesse Cook’s “Gravity.”

My play list is varied and covers all colors and moods, but I always see what I write like a movie, whether it’s a short story or a novel. And movies have background music. So, I try to “set de mood” by picking music that fits the moment. Put a CD on and WRITE!

Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.