Applying Professional Design Principles to Book Cover Design – Part I

Standing-Out-in-a-CrowdOur thanks to Carol Chiao for this first article in a DIYMBA series for writers. This is the second in a series of posts to provide perspective on the business of writing, leveraging a marketing professional’s experience.

In the last DIYMBA article, we defined brand as an author’s promise to readers. Design is the visual manifestation of that promise.

In the crowded space of a bookstore, real or digital, a book may only have seconds to break through to a reader. Good book cover design can achieve break through. Mediocre design can get lost.

This challenge is akin to a packaged good trying to grab attention in a grocery store filled with hundreds of thousands of products. So, what can we learn from packaging design principles? [Read more…]

Dekaaz: Can You Express Your Message in Ten Syllables?

Dekaaz-at-PubSenseThe opening master class at PubSense Summit featured a presentation by the stunning Rachel Bagby, creator of Dekaaz, a fascinating form of poetry — yes, poetry — that is catching fire in tweets across the twitterverse! She originated Dekaaz Facilitation®, based on an innovative poetic form that allows conference participants to galvanize the power of just 10 syllables to access their unique voices and distill vast amounts of information into sharable wisdom.

Why is this concept attractive to authors? Because it forces us to focus on the subject at hand and cook it down to its most potent message. A Dekaaz poem (Deka for 10 and A-Z for A to Z = Dekaaz) is just 10 syllables — two syllables in the first line, three in the second line and five in the third line.

Examples:

Authors / All About / Making Connections

Knowledge / And Action / Coming Together

Thank you / For the smile / You bring out in me

Write, speak / And share your / quotable wisdom

Pubsense / Avenues / Opportunity

Because they’re short and potent, these Dekaaz poems happen to make excellent tweets, too!

Several of the PubSense Summit participants got into the act and began a wall of Dekaaz poems. Want to see more? Head to Twitter and search #dekaaz #PubSense15 — you’ll see how quick, easy and clever they can be! (Shown above, a wall of Dekaaz entries from PubSense Summit participants)

Visit Rachel’s site at http://rachelbagby.com/dekaaz/ where you can submit a Dekaaz of your own!

Think you can describe your book in 10 syllables? Jot us a Dekaaz in your comment below and we’ll share your book and words on WWW’s Twitter page, too!

rachel_bagbyAbout Rachel

Rachel Bagby is an award-winning vocal artist, international speaker, recording artist and author passionate about mentoring women to unleash their voices as instruments of change. She has keynoted or presented in hundreds of venues on topics ranging from “Writing Lives, Writing Activism” for journalists to “Spirit in Action: The Heart and Soul of the Advocate” for lawyers, to “Voice Blessings,” part of Women, Love and Power with Marianne Williamson and Oprah Winfrey.

Rachel has penned numerous articles for leading publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Time, and Ms. Magazine and contributed chapters to several anthologies, such as The Columbia Documentary History of American Women Since 1941. Her first book was published by Harper SanFrancisco: Divine Daughters: Liberating the Power and Passion of Women’s Voices.

Spring Has Sprung: Is Your Book Blossoming?

author-work-blossomingAh, woke up this morning to the first wild blooms of the spring, on the first day of spring! Then, I realized it was the day before PubSense Summit, which to us here is a whole lot like Christmas Eve… Can’t wait to unwrap all the knowledge!

So, now that spring has sprung, it’s time to set some fresh goals to get your book blossoming.

  • Are you near completing your manuscript? Set a daily word or page count and let’s get this book beach-ready!
  • Are you shopping your book? Agents and editors come back from spring break ready and revived.
  • Is your book out and available? Tie-in some spring promotions, or look towards any spring book festivals coming up near you!

We hope you all enjoy the renewed enthusiasm that spring allows us to enjoy… Write on, and tell us how YOU’RE springing forward!

Blog Blocked? 3 Useful Sites to Combat Writer’s Block

tools-to-battle-writers-blockYep, we all encounter writer’s block, and that can be compounded when we know we have a deadline to meet because your blog subscribers are waiting on you! Here are three free sites we hope may rush to your rescue!

Give Me an Idea!

Portent Idea Generator lets you enter a topic you want to write about and then gives you instant headline ideas on which to create an article. Some headlines are, well, weird, so you may have to click the circular arrow reset button to get to one that works. We’ve shown an example below…

idea-generator

History_channel_logoThis Day in History

From the History Channel, This Day in History will clue you in to the historical relevance of any date, which can help you get a conversation started. 

For example, you may want to plug in the date of the post you’ll be publishing, or perhaps chat over a historical fact coming up in the next week.

bion-logo-retinaShock and Awe

For something a bit quirkier, check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not website… always fodder for conversation, whether on your blog or sharing a strange tidbit on your social media platforms.

Have a favorite “go-to” site you visit when you’re stuck for ideas? Share it with your comment below!

Do-It-Yourself-MBA (DIYMBA) for Writers: Insight for the Business Side of Writing

author-diy-brandingOur thanks to Carol Chiao for this first article in a DIYMBA series for writers: Article 1: Applying professional approaches to author branding.

Welcome to DIYMBA for Writers! I’m a professional marketer with an MBA and seventeen years’ experience building national and global brands. When I began my writing career, I started thinking about which aspects of business practices can apply to writing. Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learned.

This is the first in a series of posts to provide perspective on the business of writing, leveraging a marketing professional’s experience.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept and importance of branding. Other articles will share tips on the design process, naming considerations, and enlisting the strongest team.

Writers often complain that branding is a mysterious concept.

It doesn’t need to be. A brand is a concept that encapsulates the UNIQUE positioning, differentiation, relevance, and meaning of a person, product or service. Quite simply, a brand is a promise. Just like DOVE® Soap promises authenticity in its approach to beauty, an author’s brand is what you stand for. Your brand is what you promise to deliver. A brand is broader than the premise of any of your books, because it needs to live with you as your work grows.

The key is finding the right distinctiveness to differentiate from other authors while standing for something meaningful. For instance, Jojo Moyes’ brand isn’t distinctive if it’s just stated as “English romance writer.” Rather, her brand becomes more distinctive when it’s articulated as “English romance writer who explores controversial and deeply human dilemmas through the viewpoint of everyday, relatable characters.” Consider the cats above. They’re rather different brands.

Sally Hogshead posits that distinctiveness is critical because consumers are increasingly distracted, competition is fierce and whole industries are becoming commodities. She states that consumers’ attention spans have declined from 20 minutes in the agrarian age to just 9 seconds in modern times.

Importantly, brand is not the same as design. Some writers believe the look and feel of their book covers or website is their brand. They’re related but not the same. Design is the visual manifestation of your brand. Brand is conceptual. Design is tangible.

In both cases, consistency is critical. You’ll need to maintain consistency between your brand and your design, and consistency over time. Stay consistent for your readers to find and recognize you.

As you build an audience behind your author brand, your equity becomes worth more. JK Rowling demonstrated this when she published under the pseudonym ‘Robert Galbraith.’ The first book got great reviews but barely any sales.

That is, until the author’s identity was unveiled. Within days, Amazon’s sales figures shot up 500,000%.

So how can you determine what aspects of your brand should stay consistent? For career marketers, this is a both an art and a science. Here are some tools professionals use to define brand…

  • Brand framework. Most big brands employ a summary of attributes to articulate what they stand for. This helps ensure clarity between what’s important and what’s not. It acts as a filter for promotions and activities, to see if the plans are consistent with the brand. A brand framework acts as the ultimate reference for a myriad of people who touch a brand. What’s usually articulated?
    • Brand belief. What values or points of view does your brand stand for? Author Ben Starling writes about man’s impact on the environment. He has a point of view that people should be conscious of the choices we make and how that impacts the natural world. His brand comes through consistently in the subject matter of his books, in his blog and his social media postings.
    • Brand benefit. What consistent and meaningful benefit does your reader gain from your work? For example, is it an escape from everyday life, to be entertained or to learn something new? Stephen King’s readers gain the thrill of fear without actual danger.
    • Borrowed assets. What images or concepts do you consistently borrow from culture or commonly recognized references? These can be useful to continue to use as long as they don’t overshadow what’s unique about your brand. Amy Tan borrows assets from Chinese culture, and then provides a fresh point of view on them to craft her own perspective.
    • Distinctive assets. What are your unique visual or conceptual assets? For example, John Green is known for angst-ridden teen and young adult protagonists whose intellects act as a hindrance to social acceptance.
  • Archetype. Psychologist Carl Jung developed archetypes as models of human behavior and personality. They’re considered universal stories that are told throughout history. They include the Hero’s journey through transformation to achieve an outcome. Writers often apply these to development of their characters. But this can also be a helpful way to define your brand. Search “Jungian archetypes” and you’ll find a wealth of information about the twelve main types. Imagine the richness in developing your author brand by considering whether you’re a Magician who transforms worlds, a Jester who values humor, or a Rebel who explores counter culture.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.10.05 AMWhether using a brand framework, an archetype, or both, it’s useful to get input on your brand from trusted partners who are familiar with you and your writing. This could include critique partners, readers, your agent and/or editor.

To recap, your author brand is simply your promise to your readers. To break through, it should be distinctive. Use professional approaches like a brand framework or archetypes to articulate your brand. Get feedback on your brand articulation from trusted sources. Once it’s created, stay consistent over time. Before you know it, you’ll be able to communicate your brand easily whether you’re at a cocktail party, communicating with a reader, or assessing design.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what other concepts you’d like covered in DIYMBA. Contact me at twitter @carolchiao or facebook.com/carolchiao.

 

Sources:

Sally Hogshead, author of “How the World Sees You” published July 1, 2014.
“JK Rowling proves the value of brand equity” econsultancy blog by Louis Gudema. July 16, 2013.
www.archetypes.com

Carol-ChiaoBy day, Carol Chiao is a marketer, strategist and insights expert on global packaged goods brands. By night, she is a writer, wife to a great guy and mom to sweet and feisty twins. Together, they’ve lived in the U.S. and China, and fuel their sense of adventure with travel.

 

 

 

What Does it Mean to Be Well-Published?

Well-Published-PathA well published path paved with gold? Maybe… Graphic courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

In this age of DIY publishing and so many choices (more each day), the hard truth is that anyone with a keyboard can jump online and publish a “book.”

It may not be a very good book. It may suffer from as many errors as there are holes in baby swiss cheese, but it’s happening… and all too often.

Worse, we see authors who have unbelievably great stories being left by the proverbial roadside, unable to find the right agent, editor or publisher who will love their words. And again, all too often, they end up making a bad deal with a publisher who’s eager to grab their cash, but not so eager to make sure their words find a loving audience.

So, how do we pursue “well-published” in today’s market, this new “golden age of writers” that all too often produces tin? [Read more…]

Famous Writer Insults! (Infographic)

Insulting-other-writersOur thanks to “Aussie Writer” Amy Cowen for this amusing infographic! While we don’t encourage insulting fellow writers these days, you’ll enjoy the clever quips from those who have.

All through history, many of the most famous writers were brutally knocked out – and often by their renowned colleagues. Many of the best-known works of writing, from Conrad’s novels to Whitman’s poems, have been forced to bear some genuinely insulting characteristics…

Click on the image to view full size:
famous writers' insults

Forced to Self-Edit? This Tool May Be Your New Best Friend

Grammarly-for-authors-self-editEvery writer needs an editor. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, there’s just no way around it. A good editor will strengthen your work and find the errors that you’re too close to see. I’ve spent years editing other authors and still have little chance of catching my own mistakes.

But there are many times when it’s not practical or possible to access an editor, proofreader or second set of eyeballs on short notice. This is especially true for authors who are blogging!

So I was excited recently to hear from a publishing friend in the northwest that he had discovered an online app called Grammarly. Said Dale, “It’s interesting and is a lot better than simple spellcheckers.”

I checked it out and had to agree. The program lets you check and correct over 250 different types of grammar mistakes, spanning everything from double negatives to faulty parallelisms. It’s easy to paste in your work and correct it right there. The results are well-defined. (I tested this unedited post to produce the feedback shown in the above graphic). [Read more…]

New Launch of WriterPitch.com

WriterPitchdotcomThanks to author and WriterPitch.com creator Samantha Fountain for this guest post — looks like a VERY fun site for writers and agents (and sneak peeks for readers, too!)

There’s not another industry that has a community that takes care of each other the way writers do. Everywhere you turn there’s a helping hand extended. I want to be one of those helping hands. WriterPitch.com was built on the belief that we’re all in this together and writers and agents alike are looking for their “Perfect Match.”

I ran a blog event on February 10th that connected agents to writers, so spawned the idea of WriterPitch. This is a website where writers will have the ability to have their pitch/pitches read by literary agents. If an agent likes their pitch they can read the first 250 pages of the manuscript, which is only viewable by an agent. With the click of a button an agent can request their manuscript and instantly an email will be sent to the writer as well as a notice to their homepage.

Here are several of the useful tools for both writers and agents! [Read more…]

Marketing, Advertising, & Public Relations: Can You Have One & Not the Others??

marketing_prThanks to book publicist Claire McKinney for this guest post!

Although we are a consumer-driven economy and the competition for customers is fierce, most of us probably don’t know what is actually entailed in reaching a customer base. There are two major umbrellas that serve this purpose, and they are huge industries: Marketing and Public Relations.

Many things fall into these two camps. According to the American Marketing Association, Marketing is defined as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”   Hmmm. The one I found on Yahoo is somewhat clearer: “The strategic functions involved in identifying and appealing to particular groups of consumers, often including activities such as advertising, branding, pricing, and sales.”

For people who are trying to sell product, especially intellectual property which includes books, there are several ways to go about digging in to the marketing functions.  Let’s break the definitions down and identify what each piece is intended to do. [Read more…]