Leaping Lemmings! is a funny picture book about peer pressure from writer John Briggs and illustrator Nicola Slater. Larry is one lemming who won’t jump off cliffs with his friends. He thinks they’re nuts. But how does he stop them? This fast-paced, laugh-out-loud picture book, filled with colorful illustrations and an independent hero, teaches kids to think for themselves and never, ever be a lemming!
God Made Us Monsters is a powerful blend of religious and historical fiction. Father Damien arrives on the island of Molokai to treat the lepers imprisoned there, only to find that this beautiful paradise is a hell for him and the souls he’s come to save. Based on the life of the real Saint Damien, this story gives us a demonic British colonel manipulating the lepers in a surprising effort to unseat two global powers. God Made Us Monsters is a tale of two monsters — one being aided by a servant of God and the other fervently opposed to his power.
Create your author brand and make it stick.
When most people consider branding, they think Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, but these days, that’s less branding and more commercial juggernaut. People know what they want and expect from such authors, and when they don’t get it, they don’t buy (see Stephen King’s attempts at romance novels and J.K. Rowling’s post-Harry Potter novel).
Of course, there are plenty of authors who are masters at author branding. It doesn’t just mean your ability to create merchandising and film opportunities (in fact, that’s a very small part of it)—it’s about your ability to create a consistent image, niche or writing style. People want to recognize your author’s voice when they pick up your book. In short, they want to know what they’re getting ahead of time.
For example, you know what you’re getting when you pick up a Dean Koontz or John Grisham book. The same is true of Mo Willems, Nick Bruel, Doreen Cronin, James Patterson and plenty of other top-notch, top-selling writers. But local authors can develop big audiences, too, by developing a brand.
Let’s look at how two New Author Editing authors did it using two very different approaches.
- Zackary Richards. Zackary Richards has a brand that meets his personality. He’s brash, opinionated, loud and straight out of the Bronx. Sorry, da Bronx. His books are fast-paced with unforgettable characters, otherworldly plots, a bit of sex, a lot of violence, and intricately woven plots with turn after unexpected turn. This style remains consistent even when he changes genre. Zack mostly writes science fiction, but he’s written it for adults and young adults. He’s been able to use his brand to develop sci-fi, fantasy, religious themes, and even non-fiction. How is his brand different than his “author’s voice?” Simple: voice can change from book to book, branding does not. When readers pick up a Zackary Richards’ book, they know what they’re getting, regardless of subtle shifts in genre, reader age, narrator, etc.
- Tommy Moore. Comedian Tommy Moore used an approach completely different than Zack’s. His brand – clean, fun, funny, friendly and sentimental – existed long before he wrote his book A Ph.D. in Happiness from the Great Comedians. Tommy had nearly 40 years in stand-up comedy when his book came out. His voice, his brand, and his platform existed. All he had to do was capture what he’d been doing on stage, TV, and radio and put it on the printed page. He did it beautifully, allowing him to bring the two together and naturally promote the book through his stand-up and media appearances. Tommy is known as The Professor of Fun. Notice how his book offers a Ph.D. in happiness? That’s a terrific extension of his brand. Everything is tied together nicely.
Steps to Establish an Author’s Brand:
- Have a consistent voice. Whether you’re being interviewed, writing a blog, telling a story, Tweeting, etc. have a consistent voice. If you write funny books, try to give lighthearted interviews. If you’re philosophical, be poignant. If you check out Zackary Richards blog, you’ll see how consistent it is with his novels. His readers pick up his books because they feel like they know, and fans of his books with turn to his blog to get updates on his work, etc.
- Have a consistent style. This doesn’t necessarily mean your voice within a story (first person vs. third, optimistic vs. pessimistic, male vs. female, etc.) but you need to maintain certain qualities. Even Mark Twain (another master at branding, despite changing voices drastically between stories), who changed American literature and writing style in his shift between Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, kept certain parts of his brand alive: life on the Mississippi, a reflection on American culture, and wry observations on subtleties in human behavior.
- Know what your readers want. It’s almost impossible to jump from genre to genre, voice to voice, once you have a following. Change can happen, but it has to be subtle. Perfectly executing a radical change simply takes a genius most of us don’t have. (I know, disappointing, right?
- Know who you are. Exaggerate the parts of you that are on the page. Be consistent. You don’t need to become an outright character or caricature of yourself, but make yourself as memorable as the characters you create. If your books are funny, be funny. Gritty, be gritty. Homey, be homey, etc.
- Use your expertise. If you’re an expert in something, include it in your book. Write what you know. It will be believable, increase your interview and speaking opportunities, and help you carve out a niche in the populated world of popular authors. Start by reaching out to local organizations that share your interests, or schools that teach your subject. Use your expertise, like comedian Tommy Moore. Make your expertise your brand.
Being a “brand” doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen with the right approach. Your brand is your bond. Don’t break it.
If you look through the books I’ve edited, you’ll see plenty of best-selling and award-winning authors like Zackary Richards, Meg Xuemei X, and David Antocci, so why do I choose to work with so many new authors?
Simple. It’s thrilling.
I know – hard to believe, right? New authors often require the most work, from content editing to proofreading, so why invest so much time in them?
Why I Like Working with New Authors
- Authors are excited about their first book. Ask any editor what the best part of his or her job is and they’ll most likely say, “Seeing an author’s excitement when their first book is published.” They are palpably excited. By working with new authors, I get to feel that excitement all the time.
- New authors need the most help. This might seem like a drawback, but it’s not. I love what I do, whether finding plot holes or minor mistakes in grammar. New authors give me the chance to do what I love and do best – playing with the language.
- Discovering new styles. Veteran authors almost always have a developed voice; first-time authors are finding theirs. Some new writers may be copying their favorite author or writing the way a 10th-grade English teacher would like, but most are experimenting, looking for new ways to say something. They’re looking for new ways to tell a story that’s dear to them. As an editor, I love to see new approaches to stories, and usually that only comes from new authors.
- I wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, I considered becoming a teacher. Well, I haven’t gone down that road, but editing is a form of teaching. I love seeing revised drafts (or a second book) where the author clearly learned from past mistakes and my suggestions!
- New authors never know how many books they’re going to sell. Heck, editors and publishers have a hard time figuring it out. Some books are surprising best-sellers, while others, despite commercial panache, fail to click. In a future post, I’ll explain how I can keep my editing prices so low, but for now, know that as a new author, you won’t pay a fortune to get a thorough line edit. You should be investing your time – not all your money – in your book.
New authors are a blast to work with. They’re excited to have a finished book, and I’m excited to work with them. Who wouldn’t want a job like that?
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