Author Angel Payne reveals insights and follies from her self-publishing journey and shares must-read advice about delivering professional-quality stories and a classy image.
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Parting the Mist: Creating and Strengthening Your Brand
Yep, I’m really going there…hoping to catch the wild, insane creature known as “branding” in her natural habitat, where we can observe all the innnntersting traits that make her become magical, beautiful, and yes, perhaps, easy to understand for all of us…
Okay, just kidding.
The truth is—honest to freak—I’m still tracking down that freaking elusive bitch, hoping one day to at last capture her, force her to look me straight in the eyes, then mesmerize her into forking over every speck of her dazzling, turn-me-into-a-bestseller pixie dust. Until I do, however, there’s just a few things I’ve learned about the beguiling beastie, and I’m happy to pass along those tiny tidbits to you now.
In short, maybe you can learn from my mistakes…*wink*.
First: What do you stand for?
Straightforward, right? Or is it? When I first decided to take my career into the indie realm, I wanted to do it with military Dominants—my WILD Boys of Special Forces. I geared my covers that way, and had an artist do a super edgy logo for my brand:
I loved it—for about 2.5 seconds, before I realized that my imagination would one day burst beyond the realm of writing simply military guys. Don’t get me wrong—those WILD Boys inspired 10 pretty hot books and a lot of awesome adventures—but the logo wasn’t where I eventually wanted to be. I needed something that could go on a book about a ballerina as easily as a GI. Edgy and elegant.
Today, my logo is this:
Now, there were about eight or nine different incarnations between example 1 (which is still gorgeous, but wasn’t exactly what I wanted to stand for) and what you see above—which leads me to…
Point two: Don’t be afraid to switch it up
Let me repeat that.
DO. NOT. BE. AFRAID. TO. SWITCH. IT. UP.
I have not met one single bestseller in this industry who hasn’t said, at least a dozen or more times, “I should have done that differently,” or “I should have tried that too.” The biggest, most successful authors I know are the ones who don’t lead conversations at all. They are the ones asking the most questions, doing the most nodding, taking the most notes. Nobody has the winning formula at all times—so don’t be deluded into thinking that if you’re on a path and it isn’t working, you can’t try something else. Don’t like pink as your brand color? Switch it up. Hating the website? Switch it up. Are you a Twitter girl more than Facebook or IG? Then go be the best damn Twitter goddess you can be, and be that consistently.
Ohhhhh! Another awesome segue to…
Point three: Consistency
(That could almost be an excellent Gwen Stefani lyric. Just sayin’.)
If you’re going for a branding switch-up, be sure that messaging is clear across every platform your name is on. Time-consuming? Yes. A pain in the backside? Yes. But saving yourself from the eagle eye of that oooonnnnne reeeaaaderrr who’s going to notice the discrepancy? Worth a million bucks.
Now back to the good stuff…
Magic number four: You get what you pay for
This is, by all means, not advocacy for taking out a second mortgage on your house and sinking it all into cover art, an editor with a Masters degree, and a slick corporate logo package. But on the other end of the spectrum, your cousin’s best friend from the office, who draws anime in his spare time and knows Photoshop a little, may not be the best choice for designing a look that will be analyzed, picked apart and, hopefully, adored by thousands of readers. Concurrently, your buddy from yoga class who loves to reads and has an “eye for detail” is not the same as a professional editor who’s been trained in terms like passive writing, split commas, and nuances in character voice—just three elements, among many, that may be the difference in how your words are consumed by discerning readers.
(Disclaimer: I’m one of the hugest anime lovers on the planet, and who’d give my left boob to be able to draw a Nico Yazawa that doesn’t look like a pregnant caterpillar. Concurrently, I would give same said boob for any of my yoga class friends—but they still can’t be my editor.)
This is a commercial for doing your homework—lots and lots and lots of homework—and then seeking out the industry professionals you’d most like to work with on crafting a look and feel for your work that’s polished, professional, and as high-class as you can possibly make it. There are no do-overs on first impressions. (I can’t take credit for that; it belongs to Lexi Blake, and it’s a good one.) Take the time—and yes, spend the money—on getting your name, your brand, and your product the absolute best it can be right now.
That being said: Point two still stands. You might have to go back and switch stuff up. Times change. Readers change. Cover art gets dated, or you may simply want to rebrand an entire series (I’ve personally paid to have nine titles re-covered so far, and have released 2nd and 3rd editions of books after extensive editing reworks. I felt better about doing all of this after learning Diana Gabaldon did the same exact thing with Outlander, so yes, Jamie Fraser would approve.)
I’ve paid to have nine titles re-covered and have released 2nd and 3rd editions of books after extensive editing reworks. Diana Gabaldon did the same exact thing with Outlander, so yes, Jamie Fraser would approve.
On the subject of approval…
Point five: Objectivity is your new best friend
Well, at least when it comes to crafting and honing a marketable, vital brand. This means no more asking your best friend, your mom, your dog sitter, or—yep—your yoga class buddies what they think about your “fab new logo”, unless every single one of them is an industry expert who’s really ready to tell you that the “gorgeous” cover model you adore has a glaring gap in her teeth (#realworldpain), or that the guy in your hot new graphic looks constipated (#realworldpainthesequel), or that the artwork on the beautiful table drape for which you just shelled out two hundred bucks isn’t nearly visible enough for book signings (#yetmorerealworldpain).
These people, my friends, are the ones who will become your best and closest friends when the branding rubber meets the proverbial road. The courage in their honesty when you get it wrong means the exhilaration of their thumbs-up when you get it right. The road to that “right” isn’t always going to be the easiest, the cheapest, or the clearest—but in the end, know that you’re worth it. More importantly, know that your stories are as well.
The road to that “right” isn’t always going to be the easiest, the cheapest, or the clearest—but in the end, know that you’re worth it.
These are open to US & international readers! Leave a comment on today’s post, then fill out the prize widgets below to enter to win these fantastic prizes! Not sure what to chat about?
- Authors: What branding and self-publishing struggles have you faced? Have you worked through branding and editing challenges like Angel has? What were your strategies?
- Readers: Which author brandings stand out to you as eye-catching and professional? Do you value high quality editing and polish in a self-published book?
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