What is an Author’s Brand… and How Do I Get One?

Today’s blog post is for writers who are in the same boat with me. I’ve been working on a novel for years. I hope to get it published in the next several years. I am trying to learn all I can about the craft of writing as well as the craft of being an author. In the 21st century It’s not enough to write a 100,000-word piece of earth-shaking fiction. An author has to have a brand and build a platform.

To tell you how far I’ve come in the last week, a few days ago I didn’t know the difference between brand and platform. I have a hunch I’m not alone in my confusion. I do not claim to be an authority on this subject. In fact, I’m far from it. Today’s post grew out of my need to try to figure out author brand and author platform.

 

What is an author’s brand?

After searching online for explanations of an author’s brand, I have concluded that my brand as an author is who I am, what I choose to share about myself, and what I want readers to think when they see or hear my name.

 

What is an author’s platform?

The best I can tell, an author’s platform is his or her visibility and ability to sell books.

 

How do brand and platform mesh?

An author’s brand underpins his or her platform. It’s part of the foundation. Brand, therefore, must precede the building of a platform.

 

When should I design my brand as an author?

Today, or perhaps yesterday.

 

How do I establish my brand as an author?

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Identify what readers of your genre are looking for
  • Determine how you are different from other writers in your genre
  • Feel comfortable in your own skin as a writer
  • Don’t be shy about telling your own story
  • Find your niche and focus on it
  • Take care to manage how you are perceived
  • Explore ways you can turn readers of your genre into fans of your work

 

How am I perceived?

How potential readers perceive you is created by a variety of ways. Everything from website, logo, social media presence, business cards, any printed materials, to your photo affect how you are perceived. In other words, be consistent in how you project yourself.

 

How can you learn from my mistakes?

Unfortunately, when I had my website set up, it was primarily to showcase the three family genealogies compiled in the 1990s by my sister and me. I knew I wanted to be a novelist, but at that time I really knew next to nothing about writing fiction.

I set up a Facebook account on June 14, 2011 in order to keep up with community events and news. Much later (August 12, 2014) I added a Janet Morrison, Writer Facebook page as a way to publicize my public appearances to promote my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

In 2010, I started half-heartedly writing a blog. I struggled with content and how often to post. It wasn’t until 2014 and the publishing of my vintage postcard book that I got serious about blogging.

Kicking and screaming, I created a Twitter account on April 11, 2016.

I did all these things in piecemeal fashion as I struggled to learn what an aspiring novelist should do in order to get noticed. The operative word is “piecemeal.” There’s nothing wrong with taking a gradual approach, but my mistake was that I did not have an overall plan and, therefore, I was not systematic. I was focusing on the individual trees instead of the entire forest. I did not understand author brand as it relates to author platform. In conclusion, I tried to build my platform without supporting it with a brand. I got the cart before the horse.

 

Where do I go from here?

With my website, blog, and Twitter account already in place, I have no choice but to keep forging ahead. Otherwise, I will lose my momentum and many of the followers I have. (I experienced that this summer while I had shingles in my eye.)

While I forge ahead, though, I know now that I need to design my brand. I have written the manuscript of a historical mystery. Although Arcadia Publishing reminded me during the editing process that my postcard book was not intended to be a history book, I believe it did help people to perceive me as a writer and historian.

My plan for the coming weeks is to hire a professional editor to evaluate my historical mystery manuscript (working title is The Spanish Coin) and to take the steps necessary to design my brand.

I don’t expect this to be easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Researching and stating facts and theories about author branding is one thing. Putting that knowledge into practice is altogether something else.

 

Some of the resources I used in writing this post are:

I would be remiss if I did not disclose and provide links to the online sources I used this week in writing this blog post.

 

A call to action

If you find this blog post helpful or if you wish to contradict or correct any of my statements, please leave a comment and give JanetsWritingBlog.com exposure by clicking on the social media icons below.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read and, If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

10 Things I Learned about Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Although the name of my vintage postcard book is The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, one of the chapters is about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Qualla Boundary. One of my blog posts in August was about the Eastern Band Cherokee Indians. Their land is the Qualla Boundary.

mountain-trip-aug-16-003
The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison on a shelf at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC in August, 2016.

 

In today’s post I want to share 10 things I learned about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as I did the research to write my vintage postcard book.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Swain and Haywood Counties in North Carolina and Blount, Sevier, and Cocks Counties in Tennessee.

2. A gap is a low point in an Appalachian Mountain ridge. Gaps are called notches or passes in other parts of the United States.

3. A new gap in the Smoky Mountains was discovered in 1872 more than a mile from Indian Gap. The newfound gap was aptly named Newfound Gap.

4. Although Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at an elevation of 6,643 feet, Mount LeConte is the tallest mountain from base to summit in the Great Smoky Mountains. Mount LeConte’s elevation is 6,593 feet, and it rises 5,301 feet from its base to its peak.

5. When a grassroots effort to raise $10 million to save the Great Smokies from logging came up short, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the $5 million needed.

6. President Franklin D. Roosevelt allocated $1.5 million in federal funds to purchase the last of the land wanted for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

7. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.

8. It is illegal to willfully get within 150 feet of a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

9. Newfound Gap Road (US-441) tunnels under itself at one place, forming a helix.

10. Much of the forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been ravaged by the balsam woolly adelgid, an insect imported from Europe.

Want to know more about the Great Smoky Mountains? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It can be purchased online from Amazon or at some wonderful independent bookstores. If your favorite bookstore does not have the book, please ask them to order it from Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. It is also available for e-readers.

mountain-trip-aug-16-004
The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison, (center of photo) as displayed at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC.

I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to find my book still prominently displayed at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, North Carolina. This fabulous bookstore is located in the Grove Arcade Building, an iconic 269,000-square-foot downtown Asheville destination built in 1929. An image of a matte-finish postcard of the building is included in my book.

I hope you’re always reading a good book.

Until my next blog in a few days,

Janet

Save

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Writing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina was educational for me and I hope it is for its readers. Today my blog post is a list of 10 things I learned about The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as I did the research for that vintage postcard book.

Mt. trip Dec.11-14,2014 037
My book on the shelf at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC.
  1. The legal name for the Cherokee people in North Carolina is The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
  2. Because “Native American” can refer to anyone born in America, The North American Indian Women’s Association recommends using the term American Indians.
  3. The Great Smoky Mountains lay in the middle of the Cherokee Indians’ territory in the mid-1600s when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto arrived.
  4. In the 1820s, a Cherokee by the name of Sequoyah invented the Cherokee syllabary, making the Cherokee one of the first American Indian tribes to have a written language.
  5. Cherokee women have always had much power within the tribe, owning property, and administering justice.
  6. Descendants of the Cherokee Indians who hid out in the mountains to avoid the 1838 forced march to Oklahoma known as the Trail of Tears lived on a land trust called the Qualla Boundary.
  7. The land the US government gives to an American Indian tribe is a reservation. The Cherokee do not live on a reservation. The Qualla Boundary is 57,000 acres of land purchased by the Cherokee Indians in the 1800s and held in trust by the US government.
  8. A papoose is a type of bag or apparatus for carrying a child. It is offensive to the Cherokee for others to call one of their infants a papoose.
  9. The Cherokee Indians never lived in tipis. They have always lived in houses.
  10. Cherokee Indians have played a ball game called ani-tsagi or anetso for hundreds of years.

Want to know more? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in your local bookstore or online. It was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2014.

Janet's Bk Trip to Mts. 12.14 003

You can help me get the word out about Janet’s Writing Blog by telling your friends about it and by sharing it on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. According to WordPress, my blog has been seen by people in 10 countries!

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have productive and rewarding writing time.

Janet

10 Things I Learned about the Blue Ridge Mountains

In the course of researching and writing my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the following are 10 key things I learned:

1. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935.

2. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps did much of the landscaping and construction cleanup along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

3. The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina are divided into a number of sub-ranges including the Black Mountains, the Great Balsams, and the Plott Balsams.

4. The area in the southwestern corner of North Carolina is known as the Snowbird Mountains.

5. The Nantahala National Forest covers 500,000 acres.

6. The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness contains 13,000 acres in the Snowbirds area.

7. More than 100 species of trees are found in the old-growth forest in Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.

8. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed in 1967 except for the “missing link” on Grandfather Mountain.

9. The Linn Cove Viaduct — a quarter-mile long engineering marvel that hugs Grandfather Mountain — completed the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1987.

10. Linville Gorge Wilderness covers nearly 12,000 acres in Burke County, North Carolina.

Want to learn more? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It can be purchased from Amazon.com or perhaps at your local bookstore.

Should I Self-Publish My Novel?

I have always wanted my historical novel, The Spanish Coin, to be published by a publishing house. That desire was based on my thinking that would be a stamp of approval for my writing skills. Being published by a publishing house would validate me as an author.

My thoughts have changed recently. The publishing business is changing so fast that self-publishing is becoming more acceptable. I’m not getting any younger, the road to securing the services of a literary agent and eventually (maybe) getting my manuscript picked up by a publisher, and something like 18 months later seeing the book in print make me rethink things.

My main reason for writing is not to make money; however, reaching the point where my income from writing escalates from the Internal Revenue Service categorizing it as a “hobby” to recognizing it as my profession would be rewarding. The royalties earned by self-publishing appear to far exceed those paid by publishing houses.

I write because I’m compelled to do so. As a child, I kept diaries. Diaries in the early 1960s only provided a space approximately one inch by three inches for each day’s comments. I quickly outgrew that format and took to using notebook paper. That way I could write as much as I wanted to each day. I kept such a journal during middle and high school, some during college, and sporadically throughout my adult life. It always surprises me when I hear someone say they don’t like to write. I can’t imagine!

The fact that the self-published author has to do his own marketing is often labeled a detriment when writers list the pros and cons of that route, but the other side of the coin is that the author has full control over getting the word out about his book. Although my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was published by a history book publisher, most of the marketing of the book fell on my shoulders.

The more I read about self-publishing, the more I think it just might be the way for me to go. Before I make that decision, though, I must do some research to determine how readers of historical fiction prefer their books. Do they prefer e-books or traditional books? If they prefer e-books, I must research all my self-publishing options — which already seems like comparing apples to oranges — so I can make an educated decision.

Like so many facets of the business of writing, sorting through all the options of publishing can feel overwhelming. For now, I need to concentrate on finishing The Spanish Coin and getting it professionally edited.

I plan to blog about my progress on my novel the end of every month.

Janet

 

Accents in fiction writing

One of the multitude of issues I’ve faced while writing the manuscript for my historical novel tentatively titled The Spanish Coin, is how to use accents. When I started writing fiction, I tended to go overboard with accents. It has been a long process of learning just how much to incorporate accents into my writing, and I’m not confident that I have it right yet.

Scottish & Scots-Irish

Most of my characters either hail from the lowlands of Scotland or present-day Northern Ireland or are first generation Americans whose parents came from those places. In writing for such characters, one needs to strike a balance between using accents too much or too little.

In The Spanish Coin, I want the reader to know the accents of my characters without those accents being a distraction. If an accent or dialect pulls the reader out of the story, it works as a detriment instead of adding flavor to the reading.

African-American

George is an African-American slave in The Spanish Coin. The year is 1771 in the Carolina backcountry. When answering a question, I have George say, “Yessum” or “Yessuh” instead of “Yes, mam” or “Yes, sir.”

Clarissa is a free woman of color in my novel’s manuscript, so she speaks with less of an accent than George or the slave, Caesar, from a nearby farm. Subtle distinctions make each character’s personality shine through.

French

One of the characters I enjoyed creating for The Spanish Coin is Monsieur Jean LeBlanc of France. He passes through on his way to and from Salisbury, North Carolina and Charles Town, South Carolina. His accent was fun to write. When writing or reading his dialogue, I invariably hear the voice of French chef Jacques Pepin in my head.

Summary

Part of the joy of writing historical fiction is selecting words and accents from a particular time and place. The challenge is to use those words and accents enough — but just enough.

A renewed urgency to write

I have a renewed urgency to write, to get my historical novel manuscript for The Spanish Coin in the best shape possible, and secure the services of a literary agent to help me get the book published. Just three days after Christmas, one of my first cousins died after a 48-hour illness. Another one died this week. Three have died in the last 10 months. Life is short.

What made my cousin’s death in December different is that he was only five months older than I. Wally’s death was a wake-up call for me. I believe I will value each day in 2016 more than I did in 2015.

Carpe diem!

Some books I read in February

On February 21 I posted a blog about some of the books I read in January. I think in the future I will blog about the books I’ve read in a given month at the end of that month or first couple of days in the following month. I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those!

“Exploring North Carolina” is one of my favorite shows on UNC-TV. The host, Tom Earnhardt, never fails to educate and entertain as he explores the varied and rich geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the state. Although the vast majority of my books come from the public library, Mr. Earnhardt’s book, Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt was a book I knew I wanted to own. It’s the kind of book from which one can learn something new every time it is read. As if I needed any encouragement to visit every nook and cranny of North Carolina, this book makes me wish I could spend all my time doing just that.

Now that Sue Grafton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I decided to start reading her books. I read A is for Alibi in January and plan to continue reading my way through her popular alpha series. I couldn’t help but notice how telephone communications have changed since A is for Alibi was published in 1982. It almost places the book in the historical fiction genre.

Another case that falls into the “so many books, so little time” category is John Grisham and his books. I finally got around to reading Gray Mountain. (Yes, Sycamore Row is still on my “want to read” list — which is growing far faster than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gray Mountain. I love the way Mr. Grisham gets his points across regarding social justice issues without beating us over the head. In Gray Mountain, he puts a human face on how surface mining has scarred so much of our nation’s coal-producing region.

I was delighted to win a copy of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Johnathan Wilson Hartgrove. I participated in the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina in the summer of 2014, so I was eager to read Dr. Barber’s book. Even though I pride myself for staying informed about local, state, and national politics, Dr. Barber’s book opened my eyes to some historical connections that I had not made. This book shines a light on dirty politics in North Carolina but gives strong hope that this current grassroots movement will persist.

The Dark Road to Mercy, a novel by my fellow North Carolinian Wiley Cash, is primarily set in Gastonia, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is the sad tale of two young sisters abandoned by their father and then left in a children’s home when their mother died. Long lost Dad shows up and wants his daughters. Thus begins a tale that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and what the final outcome will be. If you want to read what inspired Mr. Cash’s book, read his author page on Amazon.com. I’ll be on the lookout for his next book.

David Baldacci’s The Guilty was the next book I read in February. Mr. Baldacci did not fail to give the numerous twists and turns for which he is known. This whodunit is a true page turner. As a Southerner, I think the accents were at times overdone, and I was surprised he made the mistake of having a character ask another character, “What do y’all want” when obviously speaking to one lone individual. Also, I’ve never heard a Southerner use the term, “Yous.” On a positive note, he did spell “y’all” correctly, which is something some Southerners don’t do. The deeper I got into the fascinating story, the less I noticed the vernacular. Not sure how I’d feel, though, if I were from Mississippi.

Perhaps I am just sensitive about the accents because use of accents and brogues in dialogue is something I’m struggling with in my fiction writing. I’m dealing with Carolina backcountry settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and France and slaves from Africa in my historical novel manuscript titled The Spanish Coin. Since I’m a novice writer, who am I to criticize someone like David Baldacci? I’m striving to strike a balance between giving characters authentic voices and overdoing vernacular to the point that it distracts the reader from the story. It is a writing skill I must master.

Now I’m afraid this post is too long. Do I need to blog about what I’m reading more often than monthly?

I love getting back into the process!

I love getting back into the process of writing my historical novel, tentatively titled The Spanish Coin! Having a computer again and making time to get reacquainted with my 97,000-word manuscript has been fun and reassuring.

A few days ago I started with the first chapter and went to work tweaking words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. I have changed the layout of the house that Nancy Craighead Richardson lives in based on some things I saw in October in a house at Hart Square in Catawba County, North Carolina. That necessitates making consistent changes in the book as people move from room-to-room or can or cannot hear conversations taking place in another room. As I work my way through the manuscript for the umpteenth time, I still search for more precise words, more vivid descriptions, and tidbits to add in order to make my characters come alive.

The first hurdle I had to jump before plunging back into my manuscript was to once again come to grips with the fact that I am writing historical fiction. The historian in me was faced (once again) with a conundrum. When I write a history article or nonfiction book, I am a stickler for making sure every fact to checked and double-checked. Writing historical fiction based on a person who actually lived 250 years ago is a challenge for me. My fear is that someone will read The Spanish Coin and fall into the trap of thinking it is all based on fact.

In my manuscript I took a 1771 Carolina backcountry event and the lore that grew out of that event to weave a “what if?” story. In fact, I visited the Lancaster County SC Public Library in Lancaster on Friday just to make sure I had not overlooked something in my initial research for The Spanish Coin.

If I am fortunate enough to get my manuscript published, I must trust the readers to read it and appreciate for what it is — a work of fiction.

A Change in Course

As of yesterday afternoon, I’m making a change in course. I mentioned in my last blog post that I had submitted a nonfiction book proposal to a publisher. It was a long shot — which I knew going in. The editor notified me yesterday that my proposed project was not a good fit for the company. Again, I knew that going in but figured I had nothing to lose by trying.

If the publisher had wanted to pursue my book proposal, that is what I would have devoted my time to over the next months or year. I will continue to write, but I plan to turn my attention back to my historical novel manuscript. There are some sewing and quilting projects calling my name, too, so I look forward to writing and sewing as winter approaches.

I share the positives as well as the negatives that I experience in my journey as a writer. Perhaps someone else who is struggling to get published will read one of my posts and find encouragement. At the least, he or she will discover that they are not alone.

It is a thrill to see one’s name on the cover of a book as the author. I was the co-compiler of three genealogy books, and Arcadia Publishing published my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, in 2014. I hope to someday see my name on the spine of a novel published by a book publisher, but I know it won’t be easy.

One blog that I follow is Random Jottings by Richard L. Mabry, MD. He is a physician and a writer. I copied the following from one of his recent posts and have it taped to the bottom of my computer screen so I can read it every day: “Remember, it’s all a matter of timing — not yours, but God’s. And, as I’ve said before, if no one but you ever reads the words you’re putting on the page, you’ve at least reached one person. And maybe that’s the plan.” — Richard L. Mabry, MD.

Some things you just have to do for your own enjoyment and edification.