85: Thoughts on Author Branding
Updated: Jun 12
Howdy! I didn't exactly make a big announcement, mostly because without set publishing-dates, I wasn't quite sure what to say, but my books, Stem & Stone and Light Step, are going to be published with Tea With Coffee Media. While I am excited, I'm also super nervous, in general, all the time, about everything, but especially about all that goes into putting a product on the market with my name on it.
Anyway, Tea With Coffee Media recently held a seminar on author branding, and the speaker, Tyler Wittkofsky, greatly emphasized the importance of consistency, visually, tonally, across every public face of the author. Meaning that for every platform the author (me, in this case) uses, the color scheme, fonts, stylization of the imagery, and even the photo of the author, should be intentional, and hint at the genre and themes of the body of writing. There also needs to be an author logo. As someone who studied graphic design, I ~should~ already have a knack for all of this. And I do have some ideas.
Unfortunately, aside from not having access to the Adobe Suite at this time, with which to at least design myself an author logo, I'm also struggling to pin down a consistent genre, theme, or even a "vibe" in my writing. Without getting too specific or dropping major spoilers, here are some simple breakdowns for the novel manuscripts I have written, most of which need a lot more work:
Costly Gifts: New/Young Adult Dark Super Hero Fiction. Young adults with super powers were raised to empower their adoptive mother. As they inch from the nest, she fights to maintain control, while they struggle to integrate into society. In future revisions, I plan to remove super powers from the story altogether, but maintain the tense transition from having been raised in seclusion to struggling to integrate into society. I'll also be keeping the unreliable narrator and the darkness.
Soul Walker: Adult Paranormal Fiction. Eva of New Haven Connecticut is possessed by a motivated soul set on living his best life, but his best isn’t hers, and worse—Eva’s seeing spirits she must ignore, for fear of losing what tenuous links to society she has left, when the only means of exorcism is death. This story is quirky, veering into darkness, and, going by Save The Cat standards, falls under a Rites of Passage genre.
Stem & Stone: Young Adult Dark Fantasy. When Icelandic siblings Petra and Emil stumble into a magical world where enchanted humans lack free will, little brother Emil makes a terrible mistake, and Petra embarks on a harrowing journey to save him from a life in chains. Despite the youth of the protagonists, the story is too dark for mainstream Middle Grade. There is some gore.
Light Step: Adult Literary Fiction with Fabulist elements. Hugo fights for sanity when a storybook character haunts his waking moments. A figment, her dancing spurs a futile obsession he wants to forget. First his health, then his work suffers from insomnia until he’s forced to seek treatment. Then, learning she’s real, Hugo sets out to win her heart. The story is quirky, dreamlike at times, and leaves questions unanswered.
Mayflower: Adult Fabulism. The Scarlet Letter meets The Village. After years of suffering under the judgement of her peers for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, Agnes' only child dies. When the village chapel refuses to honor her daughters' brief life with the customary funeral and burial, Agnes rejects the community and their values, as she establishes her own. The story is quirky, dreamlike, with themes of motherhood, redemption, and the corruption of a religious establishment.
As A Mother: New/Young Adult Women's Fiction. Juno meets One Tree Hill's Peyton Sawyer. High Schooler Peyton has always considered herself an old soul, having basically raised herself, so when an attractive man asks her out, she finds it natural to round up her age by a couple of years. It's not until she learns she's pregnant that he admits he lied too, and Peyton has to face the same choices her mother made at her age. Frankly, the current draft isn't even dark so much as miserable. When I get back to this story, I intend to add some levity. Obviously, there is the theme of motherhood, but with a touch of wisdom through experience. This is another Rite of Passage story. The main character being named Peyton is a coincidence. I actually picked those comps today after not touching this story for months.
Bloody Maude: Young Adult Political Intrigue/Adventure. Avatar The Last Airbender meets Circe. Princess Maude accidentally reveals that she was the product of her mother's infidelity and her life is only spared thanks to the impassioned pleas of her uncle. Suddenly with neither family nor status, Maude must find her place among the peasantry beyond the border of the only land she's ever known. The story has themes of familial loyalty, classism, and there is a chosen one legend.
The Alleged Confessions Of Amber Jax: Adult Epistolary Horror: A binder of CDs were found in a park not far from where Amber Jax and her daughter disappeared, years ago. In order to renew public interest in their case, the contents of those discs are transcribed and published in book form. Therein, a woman claiming to be Amber Jax, details the deal she made with a demon when she was a child, and her efforts to protect her daughter ever since. The story is dark, verges on the taboo, and has an unreliable narrator.
The Great Tomorrow: Adult Epistolary Fabulism. New England's One Hundred Years of Solitude meets Tuck Everlasting. Henry's father passed away when he was quite young, but sensing his time had come, he left behind a letter detailing their family history. Only having recently been afforded access to said letter, Henry's struck by the fanciful assertions therein, namely, that his grandmother isn't just alive, but in possession of the tree of life. Rather than heeding his father's warning, Henry sets off on an expedition to track down the island and judge for himself the nature of the fabled tree. The story is quirky, occasionally romantic, and gritty.
Of those nine manuscripts, darkness and quirkiness are repeating vibes, but I haven't settled on any one age range nor genre. Motherhood, and the rejection thereof, come up from time to time. The majority of main characters, or narrators, are women. Color scheme-wise, I'm leaning towards purple and grey. Purple for the questions unanswered, and grey for the darkness, which is more dreary than violent. Of the two set to be published (Stem & Stone and Light Step), one is dark, and the other is quirky, veering on mysterious, so that duality is in play. I'd like to say all of my books include humor, and I'm working to make that true, but right now, that's not the case.
Can I bring darkness and quirkiness into my social media posts? Honestly? It's not hard coming up with 280 letter dark scenarios and shouting them into the void that is Twitter, but making them quirky too? I don't know. Right now, I have a long list of jokes, the majority of which take common one liners and mash them with popular media or ideas, known to millennials. Sometimes I overshare on Twitter, or rant about politics, though I have been working to leaning funny, as opposed to angry. The people I'm following tend to be leftists who are already riled up over the same issues as me. It's not like me sharing the latest aggravation is changing anyone's minds or organizing folks to take action. Though I'm always happy to promote calls to action.
I can cater my Twitter to share dark and funny scenarios instead of blending memes and pop culture. That's do-able. I don't have the slightest idea how I could be dark on TikTok. That's where I post me painting, or clips of my dogs. Once I have pr-order links, I will start posting character art on Instagram, my artist Facebook page, and Twitter, but it feels silly posting ads before then.
I've got to re-take my artist photo so there isn't a shadow in front of my face. I like the shadow. It's mysterious, but not in a creepy way. The recent branding lesson touched on how readers connect better with a full, well-lit, chest-up face shot of the author. I'll take the picture again while wearing purple and/or grey, to better emphasize the common themes in my work. The current red/orange does clash with the color scheme I have in mind so, even if not for the shadow, I'd have to re-take it.
It was mentioned that illustrations promoting an author's body of work should be stylistically similar and that the mediums should emphasize the themes. That's, frankly, limiting. Some days I want to watercolor, some I prefer collaging, wood burning maybe, or oils. On the face of it, watercolors work well for fading in, for a looser feel, they work for quirkiness, mysteriousness. Oils are bolder, at least how I use them, and work for darkness. Cut paper and collage can work for grittiness or quirk, but not so much mystery, unless I play more with tears as opposed to cutting. Anyway, I'll give thought to themes as I work, but I don't foresee myself sticking to one medium, let alone style, for all of my future illustrations.
Without the Adobe Suite, I can't make a logo. I'm not going to redesign this website until after I've made the new logo, so the fonts and color scheme all work together. Then I'll set up a media folder that will include the style guide, my short bio, a long bio I haven't written yet, my logo, a small version of my author photo, and a larger one. It's a lot of little things and I wish Adobe let users drop a lump sum, as opposed to a monthly subscription. I get away with Photopea for a lot of my painting mock-ups but there isn't a free substitute for Adobe Illustrator yet, at least not that I'm aware of.
Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!
Update 04.10.2023: Hi! I updated my author photo. I took over 400 photos over the course of a weekend, at home, outside, and around town. Hopefully this is a good picture!