Monthly Archives: February 2011

“Top Ten Tuesdays” — Please Welcome Judy Dunn of CatsEyeWriter.com

Welcome to our new feature, Top Ten Tuesdays, a series of guest blogs by winners of the “Top Ten Blogs for Writers” contest hosted at Writetodone.com

Your Blog as Stage: Building a Believable Author Brand

By Judy Dunn of CatsEyeWriter

When I teach blogging workshops to aspiring authors, eyes always glaze over when I get to the part about building an author brand. My students think of consumer brainwashing, of taglines and commercials— Coke (“refreshing”) and Apple (“Think different”).

“I don’t need a brand,” they say. “I’m not a ‘product.'”

Don’t confuse branding with advertising slogans.

Branding is simply the feeling you want your readers to experience when they see your name—the emotional connection you want them to feel with you as an author.

And a blog is a perfect stage upon which to build your author’s brand.

Your author brand is the character and your blog is the stage.

Like a character, your brand has a personality. It has a way of looking at the world. It behaves in a certain way.

Your brand is not the story, but your brand has a story to tell.

Your brand matters because it is how readers figure out who you are, what your message is and—ultimately—whether they want to buy your book.

Like well-crafted characters, good brands are:

Consistent- Did you ever read a book where a character did or said something that was so not who you thought they were that they became unbelievable? When your brand’s character shows up on your blog, who it is should not change.

Clear- Be sure you know what market niche you fill and how you are going to communicate that. Knowing your audience and your message helps you get clear with your brand.

Convincing- Share the character that is you the author—and you the person. It’s where readers get a sense of who you are and why they should care about you.

How to use your blog as a branding stage

1. Get the look right.

Your story’s character has an exterior and so does your author brand. On a blog, that would be what we first see when we land on the home page: the look.

But unlike a fiction character, who might mask her inside with an exterior that sends another message, your brand’s look should mesh with your story, message and content of your blog.

A good brand can be ruined by bad design.

Choose a style and tone that’s consistent with your brand. Even the font types you choose tell something about your author brand: playful? dramatic? quirky?

Consider your blog’s colors. They should not clash with your brand, whether you have identified it by genre, by audience or by something else. For example. a writer of stories of the old west would probably not use pastel colors on her blog.

While you’re at it, get rid of every sidebar widget that doesn’t relate to your blog’s focus. You may love the “Top 10 Songs by Decade” widget or the one that shows the daily rainfall in Belize but they just water down your brand—and confuse your readers.

2. Define your audience niche.

You may focus on a certain market (readers of historical fiction) a character in a series (think the TV detective show Monk),  a region (stories set in the deep south), or your own personality (“thriller novelist with a sense of the absurd”).

But the way you define your niche determines who your audience is—and what you will blog about. So nail down the thing that makes you different, and highlight that in your branding.

In other words, be clear.

One of my coaching clients, who is testing the book publishing waters with her blog, has branded herself as The Erma Bombeck of Grief. She blogs about the unexpected death of her husband and being shoved into single parenthood, but her posts are infused with humor. Sad subject. Interesting and unusual take on it.

And within ten seconds of landing on her blog, you get who she is, what her brand is and who her audience is.

3. Consider a tagline.

Movie trailers do this well.

Think of the taglines for the film The Fight Club: “Mischief. Mayhem. Soap.” Or Mission Impossible: “Expect the impossible.”

But unlike movie taglines—unless you are John Grisham and everyone on the planet knows you—your tagline should be specific enough to let your visitors know up front what they can expect to find on your blog.

Take Larry’s tagline here on Storyfix.com:

get it written. get it right. get it published.

When you land on his home page, you know right away what Larry the blogger is all about.

He gives his readers tips on how to manage the writing process and get the work done (get it written.). He teaches form and structure so your plot doesn’t fall apart (get it right.). And he helps you explore publishing options and find the right one for you (get it published.)

With those three bold statements, I get a sense of his brand: he is a no-nonsense guy and he’s not going to sugar-coat things.

4. Find and claim your blog’s voice.

Your brand has a voice. It can be elusive, but when you’ve finally claimed it, your branding is complete.

Your blogging voice should be congruent with what you write and how you write it. As people get interested in you, your blog and the things you write about, they are going to want more.

And where will they go? To the bookstore, of course, to read more of this author with the unique voice.

5. Show your real, three-dimensional self.

Your author brand should be convincing.

More than your newest book, more than your recent reviews (although these are important), your blog’s readers want a  ‘behind the velvet rope’ moment. They want to see who you are, what you are passionate about, what makes you tick.

They want to know—to be convinced—that this is the real you.

Let your readers in close. In addition to a compelling, authentic about page, consider a bio box of the sidebar of your home page with an engaging, brand-centric photo and a few sentences about who you are, what you write and the things you care about.

First-time visitors will appreciate this introduction-at-a-glance because they are deciding in scant seconds if they want to hang around. Help them out.

What about you?

Do you have an author blog?

Do you know what your author brand is?

Judy Dunn is a blogger and a content marketing specialist. She serves up tips and advice at CatsEyeWriter blog, one of 2011 Top 10 Blogs for Writers. She also blogs at bestbloggintipsonline.com. Her upcoming webinar is 30 Design & Content Secrets to Skyrocket Your Blog.

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Day Zero: The Morning Your Book Hits the Street

Allow me to be completely honest and transparent here. 

I’ve been looking for a way to notify my 4000 or so Storyfix friends when my new book, “Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing” finally launches.

So let me go straight at this:

It’s out.

Actually, the fabled “publication date” is a bit of a ballpark thing these days. 

The Amazon listing for the book, which has been up for about six months, had listed today, February 24th, as the “Publication date.”  But it’s been for sale there on a pre-order basis for about two months, and they began delivering on those pre-orders about two weeks ago.

As for the bookstores, they’re typically late to this party.  Some may have the book now, but the ones I checked at dawn this morning – yeah, that’s how it goes on Launch Day – didn’t have it yet.

I encourage you to ask your bookseller to get with the program.

If you’ve been here for a while you’ve had your share of my previews and references and links about Story Engineering.  A good number of you have already opted in, and for that I thank you.

By the way, the book has already visited the #1 spot on Amazon’s “Top 100 Bestsellers” within the fiction writing category (if there’s a book out there, it has  a category;) for both the trade paperback and the Kindle versions.  It’s bounced around the Top-15 for a few days now (it’s currently #2 on the Kindle list as I write this), but it’s a long road ahead and chances are I’ll be checking in there about every 90 seconds or so.

That’s how it goes from the writer side of this process.  It’s what you’ll do, too, when your book reaches launch day.

Any writer who says she/he doesn’t check is lying.  Any writer who says they don’t care is named Jonathan Franzen (inside joke, Google him and Oprah in the same line and you’ll get it).

So here we are.  The book is out. 

I hope you’ll pick one up.  It’s the whole six core competencies enchilada, complete with extra spicy sauce and examples right off the bookshelf.

Dare I say, it’s the book you’ve been looking for to wrap your head around turning a story idea into a publishable manuscript.  There are many other worthy and wonderful titles out there in this arena – including the work attributed to the names below — but you should know that Story Engineering offers a completely new paradigm and model on how to get it done.

We never get too much insight into things that are both hard and worthwhile.

For now, I’d like to offer you a few blurbs from some famous names.  Terry Brooks, Christopher Vogler and Jim Frey kind of famous.

I told you I didn’t make this sh*t up. 

I just broke it down, then re-interpreted, re-engineered and repackaged it in a way that’s never been done before.   

The Blurbs

“If you’ve been searching for an accessible, well-reasoned explanation of how the story building process works, look no further. Here is the roadmap you need to understand the craft of writing.”  Terry Brooks, author of more than twenty five bestselling novels including The Sword of Shannara

“Nobody on the planet teaches story structure better than Larry Brooks.  Nobody.” — Randy Ingermanson, author of Writing Fiction for Dummies

“Story Engineering is a master class in novel writing. Reading it is like getting an MFA, without the pesky admissions process or student loans. This book will make you smarter about the craft. Period.”  Chelsea Cain, New York Times Bestselling author of  Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart

“Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering is a brilliant instructional manual for fiction writers that covers what the author calls the `Six Competencies of Successful Storytelling.’ The author presents a storytelling model that keeps the writer focused on creating a dynamic living and breathing story from concept to the `beat sheet’ plan, through story structure and writings scenes. It’s a wonderful guide for the beginner and a great refresher for the pro. I guarantee this book will give you new ways to fire up your creativity.”  – Jim Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel

“A useful guide explaining how to transfer screenwriting techniques to the craft of novel-writing. Good for screenwriters, too, summarizing the essence of entertaining commercial storytelling with great clarity.”  – Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure  for Writers

“Larry Brooks’ groundbreaking book offers both novelists and screenwriters a model for storytelling that is nothing short of brilliant in its simplicity, its depth, its originality and its universality. Following his unique process is guaranteed to elevate your writing to the highest professional level.” – Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell, and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds

“Save yourself years of fuzzy workshops and failed drafts. Here is Story revealed with clarity, inspiration and simplicity. A masterful guide to the novel.” – Kay Kenyon, author of Bright of the Sky

Thank you, Storyfix readers, for making this book a reality.

Larry’s son, Nelson, has one more college year to go , so he hopes you’ll give Story Engineering a try.  It’s unconditionally guaranteed to enlighten and empower your storytelling process, so if you decide you want your money back… see the clerk at Barnes & Noble.

Kidding.

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