Saturday, 17 September 2016

Hate the phrase 'Author Branding'? Forget the words, get visual...

For those that have visited this blog before, or are regular visitors, you'll have noticed some significant changes, which kind of act as a bit of a spoiler to this post...

In my last post, I told you about the 4 day retreat I had been on in Paris with NCWR headed by Janet Wallace of Social Deviants and UTOPiA Con. It wasn't a retreat to write, but to explore the idea of visibility; a definite concern in a time where there is literally a tsunami of authors out there shouting to be heard.

One of the early images from
the original Knight Trilogy website.
circa 2008.
The message was clear (if not
beautifully executed) 
There was so much that I learned, evaluated, reflected on as a result of that retreat, that there was too much to put into a single blog post - so here as promised is a post that continues on from the last - and it's about the idea of 'Author Brand' - god, how I hate that phrase. I don't know about you, but as a creative, I have an abject horror of 'defining' myself, of being limited by a single, cohesive definition of myself.

I've always fought viciously against labels, and types, and 'brands' - I am a passionate autocrat of my own identity, and yet... growing older (hopefully wiser) I have come to understand that pinning your colours (quite literally in this case) to the post isn't always a bad thing.

So, as an author of several series, and a writer of multiple genres, always putting the story before the market, I had resisted the urge to create a 'brand'.

When I first started, nearly 10 years ago, it was easy. I just had the Knight Trilogy, a contemporary Arthurian romance - the website design was easy; it was high gothic romance, deep purples, red roses, knights, and white horses. The fashion was for high paranormal, and so I threw myself into the rich and OTT design. It worked. The Knight Trilogy was a bestseller; there was a clear communication between me as author and the reader. When
a reader clicked onto the page, they knew exactly what they were getting.

BUT THEN... I finished the Knight Trilogy series and wrote something that didn't have knights and white horses and red roses; I became increasingly aware of marketing, and design and social media, and so I began to neutralise my site - something fresh, white, slick, minimal, classy, sophisticated ----- STERILE. Yes, that's what it was... STERILE, but I thought it was great. It was on point for current trends, it fulfilled everything I had been told about looking 'professional', but it wasn't working, and in that process, the communication between me and author began to fade.

It's funny how things come full circle in life - and it's also funny how we don't realise that things are actually coming full circle until it smacks you in the face.

The previous author logo. designed to convey the fierce
feminine, the shadowy figure, mystery. The use of Henny Penny
font, a youthful, playful outlook - and yet it communicates
nothing of the sense of poetry and strong links to the past. 
Things come full-circle. The colours and whimsy
of the new Knight Trilogy banner hark back
to those early amateur days
At the retreat, we were asked to really reflect on who we were as authors. What message did we want to convey to the universe, and was that message clear? Were we being true to ourselves or being clipped by perceptions (often warped) as to what we thought we should be, or how we 'should' be presenting ourselves. OMG, my head was spinning. I still didn't understand how I was meant to marry up Arthurian legends, Witchcraft Paranormal, Victorian Dreadpunk, and hard-hitting contemporary YA...

A snapshot behind the scenes shot
from the photoshoot in Monmarte, Paris taken
on the NCWR retreat. 
Interestingly, it wasn't words that forced me to really encapsulate my author brand, but the process of having my official author photographs done. One click of the camera. One visual image that had to define my 'author self'. When I wordestormed my preferences for fashion, it was interesting; rich, luxuriant, sensory, lace, velvets, precious metals, precious stones, blues, teals blacks, greys, dark greens, deep reds, victoriana, embellishment, orname

When asked who my fashion icons were, I gave Helena Bonham Carter, Dior, Kate Winslet, and Nicole Kidman.

And okay, so most days I wear jeans and a t-shirt on the school run, because it's practical, but that butterfly inside the caterpillar....

When I had my photographs done (the final versions will be with me in a month or so) the jarring realisation came that they were totally, utterly incongruous with my current website; there was no relationship at all.

Cat Espinoza (our fashion / image consultant) talked about the process of mood boarding (which she still does old-school) with an actual board and printed out images. It was something I used to do a lot when I wrote the Knight Trilogy, and yet it, like many things to my detriment was something I 'grew out of'.

Inspired, one of the first things I did when I got home was pull together a printers board and then make a moodboard of all the images. I printed it off. I needed to see it in front of me - and then in a 48 hour intense, crazy, creative blitz, I applied the S*%T out of that moodpboard across all my social media platforms, website... even the books themselves. Nothing has escaped that moodpboard.

Using Pinterest, I gathered together images that sang to my soul; wings,
champagne, sisterhood, nature, flowers, adventure, romance, whimsy
sexuality, sensuality, infinite possibility.
And when I surfaced for air, wine and to hug the kids (No judgements please about that order) I sat back and looked back through it and realised....... I had come full circle. The visuals are the grown up version of those early sites. I have embraced the heart of me and my writing, and I have ignored everything the hipster millennial social media guru generation have been telling me.


The very first
The Forest of Adventures
cover. The cover that led
(unbelievably) to it becoming
a bestseller in 2010

The new cover for The Forest
of Adventures - harking back to the
core elements of the original. 
When you've got this mood board, and try not to overthink the gathering of those images, just select images that really appeal to you or that you connect with your storytelling voice. Try and gather at least 30-40 images to really create a sense of atmosphere - and then create. Let the same richness of imagination you apply to your stories, fill up those social media spaces.

Come over and visit the new look website and see the 'brand' in action.