Author Branding

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This blog post is geared toward writers/authors, but please feel free to read if branding & design talk floats your boat 😉

In all seriousness, I have a lot to say, and I *think* (hope) that it’s fairly useful for writers trying to find their way around the overwhelming task of creating a brand. What is a brand, and why is this all so important? I’m by NO means an expert, but I’ve learned a lot in the last six months.

Simply put, a brand is what your audience (readers) can expect from you. It’s not just your books, or stories, it’s what’s in them, it’s what makes you, YOU. Steven King’s author brand is easy to recognize. You know you’ll get scary, right? What about Jennifer Weiner? Her brand has feminist appeal, plenty of snark, and some heart. Name any well-known author and you can probably see where this is going. Think of musicians, artists, etc. We know what to expect because we recognize their brand.

(Graphic from Pinterest)

There’s a lot of great information online from smarter people than I on the subject. There are people who work on branding for a living. But what I can tell you as someone who has focused on her branding (and refocused after I got it wrong) is that there’s several important steps to consider, and you can’t rush it.

Okay, so brand = what your audience expects from you as a product (your books/writing), right? Think about that further with just one more example.

Nike brand = athletic apparel, sports, work-out, healthy living, kicking ass. Their logo, the infamous swoosh, is beyond simple. Yet you see it, you recognize immediately who it is from.

This isn’t just about smooshing all your branding into one simple symbol, however. It’s about how we use each element of our brand design to create a package that is intriguing, consistent, and genuinely us. Or you, or whatever.

Let me back up for just a minute. I promise to be quick. My first book was published, and my publisher chose a cover (which I liked very much):

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After that I then self-published a few short stories. My covers looked like this all together:

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You can see if you look at them all together that nothing really went. Yes, they all had my name. And perhaps a certain whimsy (for some) but that was really it.

Then, a few months ago I decided I better make a logo and business cards finally. I had been learning bits here and there about branding, and I knew I needed to get something set. I was dreading it because as much as I do enjoy creative design, art, etc., it was SO overwhelming narrowing down what I wanted. I went with something that I thought fit my “brand” of work- writing that is emotionally-charged, lyrical, simple-whimsical, and overall feminine in style.

Now that might still be confusing, but you know when you pick up one of my books you’re probably not going to get sparse, stark language, much violence, horror, or fast-action scenes. You will probably get slightly poetic descriptions, hopeful endings (in general), character-driven stories that often use flowers, nature, beauty, and a hint of magic (for most). Now, my branding is probably harder than some other authors because I write cross-genre. I have to create consistent branding between my poetry, my fantasy (both YA and adult), and my Women’s Fiction (one novel, and a short story collection). I totally lean toward fantasy writing, because it’s where my passion lies, but I can’t say ALL my stories contain elements of magic, so I have to do my best. It’s even more of a challenge when you consider my audience. I might have fans of my Women’s Fiction who HATE poetry. Every time I post a poem on social media, I risk them unliking my page (and therefore losing valuable marketing and visibility), for one example.

Anywho, it’s harder to create consistent branding in that case, but not impossible.

I read a fantastically helpful article about branding covers, and I want you all to go read it right now. Go ahead. Please.

Okay, now that you have, is it making more sense? After reading that I looked at all my covers, and was like ruh-roh. It looked like books/stories from four different authors! Truth be told, I’m still working on updating covers. But, after tweaking font, images, and other details, so far…

Can you see where the covers I am set with (so far) are all looking more cohesive? And do you catch the hint of whimsy, magic, femininity, lyricism in them? It’s okay that the colors vary because the most important thing here to me is the style & feel. 

I wasn’t done yet, however (still am not) because I still had my logo to contend with. As beautiful as it was, really, and as much time as I spent on it—I literally placed those floral elements piece by freaking piece—it wasn’t quite ME. I could go off on a whole tangent here about knowing yourself, and even at 34 I’m still figuring out my style and who I am, but I’ll just say not to rush it. Really decide when you’re looking at something if you just find it beautiful OR if it really represents you. It could be clothes, or home décor, or design, or anything else. Is it something you admire or something that truly speaks to you?

I went from this

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to a much cleaner, simpler this

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I’m so much happier with it. It feels like a breath of fresh air. My logo and branding is starting to really reflect who I am. I’m using this to make all kinds of decisions in my life and home, even. My wardrobe is a mostly-neutral set of black, gray, white, cream, with a hint of blush or lavender. It’s what I’m comfortable in. My home is eclectic but I’m finding much more peace in more minimalistic décor. I like things to be pretty, but not fussy. Feminine but not fluffy. Simple but not stark. Check out

My Author Brand Aesthetic Board

And my Instagram feed is reflecting this all, too:

And it’s definitely not accidental. I’ve worked really hard to be consistent, and the result is something that makes me happy every time I see it. It’s me, it’s my brand, it’s my work, my hopes, all rolled together.

Some of you may not be published authors yet, or you haven’t started really figuring out your brand. You may not have book covers to design, or Instagram feeds to curate. You may think this is too much work, and that I have no clue what I’m talking about. Eek. But the sooner you can get comfortable with your brand I promise the easier it will be. Who are YOU? What kind of work do you want to create? What do you want just the sight of your logo to say to future readers?

Simple ways to start:

  1. Think of 3 keywords that describe your writing. If you have trouble with this ask beta readers, friends, critique partners, etc. I polled people on my author Facebook page awhile back. There were several keywords that were repeated. This helped me focus in on what my readers see. But you also have to keep in mind what you want. Perhaps you only write cozy mysteries but you want to venture into erotic romance. You’ll need to design around the future of your work.
  2. Look at other branding boards. Seriously, just hop on Pinterest, search “brand design” and see how well people pull all the elements together. Save the ones that speak to you. Are you drawn toward funky, colorful branding? Soft, floral? Bold, simple? You’ll start to see a pattern of what draws you in.
  3. Pick a color palette you love. Not just colors you love, but a palette that works well together, and is soothing to you. That doesn’t mean bold colors are out, by any means! But pick colors that feel good to you deep down. If you wouldn’t wear them, or decorate your home in them, then you probably don’t’ really love them. Choose no more than six colors. Mine? Charcoal gray, soft white, muted sage, lavender-gray, blush pink, black.
  4. Look at logo designs. Again, save some that inspire you. What kind of fonts do you like? What don’t you like? What shapes are you drawn to? What elements?
  5. Check out your favorite authors books. Do their covers have anything in common? What is it about them that you like?
  6. Save images, photos, greeting cards, scraps of fabric, or anything else to a mood board for inspiration. If your brand is truly reflective of you as a writer, then the mood board doesn’t just exist as a way to design your brand, but as an inspiration for your work! If you like, do this digitally on Pinterest.
  7. Seek professional help, if you have the means. I did not, so I made my own.
  8. If you make your own logo, cards, etc. there are several great resources. I purchased images from Creative Market, got free ones from Pixaby, and then used Canva to create my logo for no cost. I paid for some of my book images, but others were free stock photos. I used Zazzle to make cards.
  9. Try to expand your branding design to beyond just business cards, logos, or book covers. Don’t neglect your website, your social media headers, your author headshot, bookmarks, and even giveaway packaging. Even the way you wrap books to ship them to lucky readers who win your books should reflect your design. I haven’t yet, but I plan to purchase birch-paper wrapping paper, and lavender-gray ribbon to wrap mine in. See how that just fits right in? 🙂 
  10. Finally, take your time. It can be easy to rush into it, because yes it’s kind of fun. But I spent HOURS working on my busy floral logo, printing 200 business cards, and making headers, only to find it wasn’t ME. So first, get to know who you are, take time with yourself, and your desires.

That was really long, but I hope informative! Please comment below and let me know where you are at with branding. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks!

Amanda 

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Black Friday Sale 

Hey there! I have two ebooks on sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. If you want to buy yourself a little something, or give to a reader in your life, both Like Waves and Déjà You Kindle ebooks are on sale for just .99! 

As always, thank you for your support! And if you haven’t already liked my Facebook page please do. I’m *so close* to 1,000 likes and I plan to do a giveaway when I reach it! 

Have a great weekend 😄

Character Illustration: Aya 

I recieved the sweetest character illustration of Aya Haven from Witch Lessons by nataliaillustrations on Instagram. It is absolutely perfect. I can’t explain how cool it is as a writer to see my character come to life! 

To read my Instagram post, click here

Have a great week! 

Fan Art!

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Hi guys! So I’m geekily excited to share my first fan art from a friend (and reader) Jamie McLachlan.  I randomly drew one of her characters last week after a looong drawing hiatus, and she was so sweet to draw one of my characters in return! She recently helped edit With Lessons (still out with literary agents woohoo!) and this is how she imagined Thalia, the love interest of one of my protagonists Aya. Isn’t it good? I love the eyes– so intense– just like Thalia!

Don’t forget, too, if you follow me on Instagram and want to create any of your own fan art for me, use the hashtag #amandalinsmeiergiveaway to enter to win a sgned copy of one of my books. There’s more details in my giveaway post. Ends in a few days so get on that 🙂 I’ll be back later with a book review, and more this week.

Have a great Sunday.

 

 

Updating Stories Pt. 1

Hi guys!

I’ve been busy working on my new poetry manuscript, as well as Weightless, but in between those I’ve been re-reading some of my older work, and decided to go ahead and make some updates to improve the stories in general because I have grown as a writer, and I can see where I can fix things now that I’ve had time to improve my craft.  Its mostly small things (like, WHY am filtering so much, or this dialogue could be improved) but a few bigger issues.

The first book I have updated (so far just ebook) is Beach Glass & Other Broken Things. I tweaked the title story, because after pondering it for the last few months I decided I wasn’t the best person to tell Cody’s story as a trans girl. Though I had a sensitivity reader, and I haven’t gotten any negative feedback, somehow in hindsight, it felt icky for me to presume I would know what Cody is going through. Part of being a writer is putting yourself in others’ shoes, but also knowing what is your story to tell and what isn’t. After publishing, it just didn’t sit right with me. This is not about being “politically correct”; it is about not wanting to hurt anyone. I want to be considerate of young people who may be reading this story, who may be struggling with gender-identity, sexuality, or anything else. Though I was glad to strive for diversity in my story, it’s one thing to include a transgender character, and another to use their struggle as a plot point. It’s an important story to tell, but now I know it’s not mine.

I’ve changed a couple other little things, and the ebook is back up and on SALE! Please get a copy for just .99 while the sale lasts through the week.

 

Mehpdate

Yeah, idk. 

But hi guys! I am feeling quite meh but I will say I’m glad to be posting, and I’m sorry it’s been so long. I hope everyone is safe, happy, and healthy. 

So, why meh? I’m not even sure. I just have no zip. It may be partly due to me not refilling my thyroid prescription for the last week (I know. I KNOW). Or just the sense of overwhelm right now. But here’s a brief update on me and my writing:

Witch Lessons: has been professionally edited, and I participated in first #Pitchwars (where I received a full request but ultimately no mentor, though they gave fantastic feedback), and then #PitMad where I got 3 likes! I sent it off to 2 agents, and one passed. Besides those agents, I’ve sent queries to another 15 or so. I’m feeling good about it, and just praying I’ll find someone to fall in love. All the same, I do not enjoy the query process. 

Weightless: revision has been on the back burner while I’ve been focused on WL. And I definitely feel bad about it…

Poetry: I’ve written some new poems for Instagram contests, so that’s good. Also, my poem When My Arms Are Full was nominated for The Best of the Net 2017. I’m still building my collection for my next book. 

Book sales: Have been slow, so here’s a link to my Amazon page in case you’d like to buy this struggling author a cuppa coffee! 😉

Other: Just reading. More book reviews coming! 

Keep your fingers crossed for query success! Have a great day ♡

Publishing: The Aftermath

DUN DUN DUN

Hi. It’s a rainy, dark day here this Monday morning, perfect for writing in some comfy sweats, and not too bad for a bit of reflection, too. I realized recently I have this thing that happens to me after almost every single book/story/poem I publish. Without fail, it goes something like this:

-With completed manuscript in hand: Wow. I’m proud. I wrote this? It’s not perfect (nothing is) but I love it. I love my characters. I have to share this with someone. Maybe I should publish it someday…

-Pre-publication (months or years later): I’m soooo nervous! I’m excited! I’m thinking about all the tiny details, reading over every word, choosing carefully, hoping release goes smoothly, hoping I sell some copies, hoping people like it.

-Release day: Holy shit! I’ve published something! That’s amazing, and I’m proud, and I’m humbled, and can’t believe it. And yay- people are buying!

-Post-release: People are liking it?!?! Are they telling me the truth? Are they just being nice? All my confidence is gone. I’m embarrassed. I’d change so much about the story. What was I thinking? Am I a total loser? Is my story complete garbage? Why did I do it from point-of-view? Why did I filter so much? Why did I write it to begin with? What gave me the balls to think I should put it (and myself) out there like this?

-Post-release (long-term): Person: “Oh? You wrote a new book, right?” Me: ::Blushes furiously, fumbles with words, finally answers in apologetic tone:: “Um, yeah.”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

Really. What is that about? I get publishing-remorse after almost everything. I would say not my anthologies, perhaps because I am more confident in those stories. For the rest, I know in part it’s because having something put out in the world that is my creation, that opens my work up to criticism, is difficult. Particularly in the case of my poetry book– I’m still freaking out over that being live. Because what if I’m blinded by my own love and affection for each project? What if it’s really a mistake to publish? Despite having beta readers, critique partners, professional editing, etc, what if it’s just not good enough? What if I’m not?

It’s been almost two years since my debut novel was published, and since then I’ve published another 3 books, and numerous short stories and poems. Two years is not long. Maybe this feeling will go away eventually. I’m still a baby in the publishing world. I’m not sure if I just need more confidence, or a stronger sense of “what’s done is done” but something needs to change. It’s not that I’m not still proud, of myself, or my work. It’s not that I’ve been bludgeoned with awful reviews–because I am proud, and my reviews have mostly been very generous and kind. It’s just…I second-guess everything. I keep thinking of everything I’d change. I need to stop looking backward, take a deep breath, and take compliments better, instead of getting a sick feeling in my stomach every time someone tells me they’re reading my book!

Because really, so what if some people don’t like my books? My intent is to have readers love my work, so it’s hard to be cavalier about but the simple truth is not everyone will. And I won’t lie, I’ve had a couple of low reviews that stung. In general, maybe because they pointed out critiques that I myself have of my own stories. Like, damn it, they mentioned XYZ, and I had a feeling that was a weak point. It makes me want to smack myself a little, to be honest. But I am not perfect. And I never said my work was either. You guys know that, I’m sure.

Why do I keep forgetting?

With that said, please consider supporting this awkward, emotionally-complicated, yet lovingly quirky author by buying one of my books. Head on over to the Books & More tab if you’re unsure where to start.

Thank you for reading,

Amanda ❤

 

 

 

Bookloot July Unboxing! 

Hi! The excitement is real, people. I got my first book subscription box from BookLoot yesterday and was NOT disappointed! Scroll down for a full reveal of July’s box, themed “What Fate Awaits”… 

And….ta-dah! 

How gorgeous! I recieved:

-The Library of Fates, a book by Aditi Khorana, which was already on my TBR list and I cannot wait to read it!

-Blossom of Ash, a short story by Kennedy Vega– a Hades/Persephone retelling which sounds awesome. 

-A Cloud Atlas candle, very clean/soap scent

-A Raven Boys temporary tattoo 

-coloring pages and pencils

-A pretty Ink & Wonder wooden bookmark

-2 pieces of candy, already gobbled up by my monsters

-Insert card art and a button 

I am already signed up to receive next months box and my Bookish Box should arrive any day as well. I may have a new addiction, guys…

Getting There…

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer—it’s going so fast, isn’t it? Like always, I suppose 😄

Have I mentioned my disbelief and excitement at having already released two books this year? (LOL, maybe just once or twice?!) Well, book #3 is almost ready!

It’s now 30 days until Like Waves: Poetry is released. I’m anxious, nervous, and thrilled all at once. Also, you know, it’s a ton of work and it means I’ve had less time to revise Weightless or Witch Lessons. Speaking of which, both require more work than I thought. Weightless is only about 1/3 of the way into revisions (actually about draft #4) and I haven’t worked on it in a month. Witch Lessons just got returned from my editor and sadly, it’s not as strong as I’d hoped. Probably because I love the story so much, I’m a bit blinded by it. I have a bad habit of filtering (using I heard, I saw, I felt, I see, etc) and it’s creating a barrior between the main character and the reader. So, I’ll have to go through and fix the hell out of it. Again, haven’t worked on that manuscript for a good month. Why? Well, because I’ve been scrambling to get Like Waves in tip-top shape!

I don’t mean that to sound like it’s being rushed, because I still have a month to go and all that’s left is formatting, uploading and getting my proofs. All that goes really quickly. It’s just, I kind of underestimated how much work it would be to go through and rearrange the poems the way I wanted, and to check for duplicated words or issues, etc. Then it had to be edited. But phew, that’s all done now!

Besides that, I’ve been working for the last week on a brand-new short story called The Thorns of Sacrifice. It’s a YA fantasy, very loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, and I submitted it somewhere super cool (more on that later…like if I get picked!). I finally just sent it now, and I’ll hear if I was accepted at the end of the month. Fingers crossed. I really want to get an acceptance! The story was SO fun to write. But, for now, waiting time.

Alas, I’m relieved to say with Like Waves and that short story out of my hands for now, I can get back to work on my two neglected manuscripts. I’m thinking I’ll start with Witch Lessons. I’ve missed Aya and Darcy a lot, and though it’s daunting going through and clicking accept/reject on ALL THOSE TRACK CHANGES my editor Dani made, it’s also exciting. I get to make this manuscript better. I get to love it even more! And it’s all written, solid in most ways, so lots less work than Weightless. Once that’s all done, I’ll return it to Dani, and start hacking away at Weightless once more. I’m trying to follow my Book Bestie Jamie’s advice and only work on one project at a time. It’s hard because I naturally want to juggle everything and feel guity if I ignore something too long, but I have to admit, I finish each thing faster this way.

And I am making an informal vow that I will not be publishing anything for the rest of the year. It is amazing, and rewarding, but So. Much. Work. And I think 3 books in one year is plenty ambitious, don’t you? I want to get back to writing new things, to developing all these stories in my head, like this new Romeo & Juliet reincarnation YA story that popped into my head one night. Sounds awesome, amirite??

With that, I’m going to go pour myself a glass of wine, kick up my feet, scroll on Instagram (are you following me yet? You should!) and chill. I have definitely earned a night of vegging, and tonight I’ll watch a movie and read. In between all my writing work I’ve been reading lots of poetry, which has been incredibly inspiring. I’m switching between It Starts Like This by Shelby Leigh and The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. Besides poetry, I finally started A Court of Thorns and Roses. So far, so good. I’m ready to dive back in!

Have a great night everyone. And don’t forget to come back soon. I’ll be posting a giveaway in the next week or two!

 

Amanda