Wednesday, August 12, 2009

But What About Personality?

So let's say you've decided on a way to focus your web presence. You've joined a group blog and are planning on incorporating some of your research material into your website and quarterly newsletter. What is next?

These points of contact between you and your potential readers are only the starting place. Next, you might give some thought to how you will present yourself through those channels.

If you're not sure how to do this, try this. Ask your critiquing partners to give you three adjectives to describe your manuscripts. Are they thoughtful or funny? Moody or upbeat? Dark or light?

The answers can help you find the right tone for your online presence. Chances are, your books take on a certain tone that's consistent with your native personality, so this won't be too hard to do. But thoughtful, sober people can sometimes turn out to be incredibly clever and funny on paper. The point is not to pinpoint your personality, but your book's personality.

This will also be part of your author brand, so it's good to understand this even if you end up not using it in your PR. (Why wouldn't you use this in your PR, you ask? What if you write ultracreepy, ultragory horror novels? You might not want your readers to think you're equally creepy in person. There's a difference between a serial killer and the person who studies serial killers.)

Why ask your writing partners? Why not just figure it out for yourself? Because you might not have a perfectly accurate handle on how your work is coming across. Getting an independent (but skilled) observer to reflect it back to you might enlighten you as to what you're actually accomplishing on the page. And it might lead you to shift your PR efforts in some subtle but important ways. For example, what you think is uproariously funny might be clever and witty (more cerebral, that is) to others. By all means, continue to laugh at your jokes, but think about the difference in tone when you're choosing graphics. Avoid cartoonish or clownish graphics -- which might work very well for another writer -- and try for something that captures the tone of how people will respond to your books.

Now that you have your three key words for your brand personality, the next step is figuring out how to translate that into a web presence. So, in the comments, let's play with an example. I'll give you two to choose from.

Option A
Your books are witty, intricate, and charming.

Option B
Your books are edgy, compelling, and tense.

For these options, consider the following questions.
- What color scheme would work well for the website?
- What kind of extras or add-ons might work on such a website?
- Are there any experts who might make for good guest bloggers there? Any to avoid?
- How do the adjectives influence your choice in graphics?

I can't wait to hear what you come up with.

Theresa

23 comments:

Murphy said...

I'm not going first...

em said...

Murph, why not? Your's would be easy to do.:)

Mine would be light and fun (I think I'm option A ) so I'd go with bright colors reds and yellows. I'd want fun and up beat people to guest blog. Authors who write similiar books as mine. Add ons are easy. Links to writing groups and publishers.

Now that I read what mine would look like I think I'd rather do Murphy's.:)

JewelTones said...

Oooh I love this kind of stuff. It's like building a constellation of images for yourself -- or rather, yourself as "character."

Let's see.

Option A
Your books are witty, intricate, and charming.


Color Scheme: Lighter, brighter, more etherial feeling colors but still sophisticated. No monochromatic schemes, but complimentary in nature.

Playful color combinations -- sunny and fun. Romantic combinations like a shell pink and white. A powdery blue and white/silver. Butter yellows. (I'm avoiding too intense/bright a color for ease of reading, of course. Don't want to hurt your eyeballs or require you use sunglasses when you visit my site). The colors need to be fun and light, reminding me of outside a lot. Cotton candy, fresh lawn, and seasides. Spring flowers and sunny days. I might also lean toward a textured background to play up that "intricate" feel. No textures like rock, marble, coarse fabrics, but more dreamy or abstract. A nice repeating pattern -- nothing to harsh or close togheter. A mid-sized pattern or something classic feeling or victorian wallpaper.

Extras & Add-ons: - Homey graphics, romantic graphics -- flowers and buildings like cottages. I'm horrible with addons and extras since I've never really done a site, so I'm kind of guessing what this means. But a blog. Fan #s. Maybe vids about my books. Vids that fans have made about my books. If I have a series of characters or a place my books are set, I'd have a section on my site where you can explore that -- character histories, family trees, an interactive map of the town, etc, etc. Oh, music playlists to accompany each book. Extra "bonus" excerpts or chapters/epilogues of the stories that didn't wind up in the actual book but readers might like.

Experts/Guest Bloggers: I'd invite "like" authors that I know, editors I've worked with who can talk about my genre or the industry in general, I think. I'd avoid anybody outside my genre as it seems a lot of romance readers don't cross sub-genre lines. I'm not one of those readers, but I'd err on the side of caution. If I'm writing lighter, wimsy romances with some serious sizzle to the sex scenes I wouldn't ask someone who writes inspirational/religious romances on as a guest, nor would I turn to someone who, say, writers Urban Fantasy either. Too much "to the extreme" on either side.

How do adjectives influence...graphics? Traditional buttons and graphics following the color scheme. Maybe a picture on the button that's along that "whimsy" line. Something cute without being childish. Romantic without being overly seductive. It's use a looser font -- not to formal in the cursive writing, not too rigid or straight so that it reminds you government letters or engraved wedding invitations. A nice, warm, friendly, social font. Graphics such as pictures, banners, etc., would follow the lighter theme. Seamless transition from banner to background color to avoid harsh edges. Lots of feathering. I'd go for expansive, light, breezy, very "big space" feeling pictures over something more closed in, formal or hard-edged.

JT

P.S. I hope the formatting doesn't go all wonky with the HTML. Sorry if it does.

JewelTones said...

Okay back for Option B: Your books are edgy, compelling, and tense.

Color Schemes? - Trendier, edgier monochromatic color schemes leaning toward an "industrial" feel -- metalics. Ice. Glass. Silver. Blues. Plasters. Bold reds. Stark whites. Black. Shades of gray. I'd be thinking "city-scape" for these themes and I'd turn to concrete, metals, natural rocks and marbles for my color inspirations. Technology meets functionality.

Extras and add-ons? Definitely a blog, but one without cute stories about my cat or kids or my favorite muffin recipes. I'd talk more current events, but non-confrontational topics. More philosophical events. I'd talk about the newest writing hardware, e-readers, gadets and gizmos. Advancements in discoveries, music technology, etc. I'd have dossiers on my characters, an iPod music list of stuff that inspires during my writing (and they wouldn't be classic music or anything near Frank Sinatra but groups like Vast or The Newlydeads. Groups and music "in the now).

Guest bloggers/ones to avoid?I'll repeat my answer above -- people in my genre who don't swing too far to one side or the other from what I write. No people who write fluffy dogs and a houseful of kids or romantic comedies.

How do the adjectives influence your choice in graphics? I'd go with harder lines, more industrial looking textures like metal weaves, links, and logical, recognizable patterns vs. the abstract and soft. Cool and hard over soft and fluffy. Instead of flowing water and easy streams, I'd choose ice. Instead of leafy trees and bright green grass, I'd choose rock, concrete and skyscrapper. My fonts would be straightforward, not at all fussy, loopy or handwritten. They'd be hard and straight and lean and in no nonsense bold colors - black, dark blue, a deep charcoal. Any pictures used would be modern -- no castles or seaside cottages here. Towering buildings, modern electronics, cell phones over rotary dial. No lace or feathers or silk need apply here. No pencils or quills or inkwells either. iPods, Netbooks, keyboards and mice (wireless, of course)

Okay I could go on forever. Shutting up now (and keeping the fingers crossed on that HTML thing)

JT

Jami G. said...

JT, You have some great stuff there, can I steal it? :)

My work would definitely fall closer to the Option B stuff, but not quite as techno-edgy as some of JT's ideas. I was thinking that my website theme would be blues with misty nature scenes, definitely not city-scapes.

I already have playlists for my WIP that I'd link to, more stuff about characters, excerpts, etc. I might have stuff for writers, but that wouldn't be the main focus. I haven't decided about a blog. I write under a pen-name, so I definitely wouldn't go all personal - that would kind of defeat the purpose for me - but I'm not sure what I would include.

Jami G.

JewelTones said...

LOL Jami! Feel free.

I was thinking that my website theme would be blues with misty nature scenes, definitely not city-scapes.

It's all about tone and shade. Some blues scream Navy! Official! Business! while others say "mist" or "fog shrouded ocean" or rolling, babbling brook. I'm a big fan of soft blues and those muted blue-grays for that relaxed Zen feel. Especially when they're combined with creams (just off whites).

I'm of the same mindset you are on the not too personal stuff. That's why I'm always stumped on the idea of a blog. Nobody wants to know what I had for breakfast and readers won't really care about craft/writer issues. What DO readers want to know when they come to a site? What books you wrote, maybe where you get your ideas, more about your characters, maybe what you like to read. But honestly, I'm a big reader but I'm not a big "author website" kind of girl. Long as you write a good book, I don't care about the rest of it.

Though I will say that Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle has a really interesting idea right now with her Arcane Society series (historical, contemporary/futuristic genres) where she's opened an online "museum" where you can see different artifacts from her novels, read about the society, the people in it (essentially character bios) as well as visit the "Museum Shop" where you can buy stuff like t-shirts and bags and coffee mugs pimping the line. Very clever idea and actually a very similar one to an idea I had for a series of contemporary romances I've been putting together. :)

JT

Jami G. said...

JT,

Yes, since I don't usually go to an author's website as a reader I have a similarly hard time knowing what would be interesting. As you said, the ones that seem to be successful are ones with a series that they can make their website an extension of their "world" (which is kind of what I was figuring to do with mine).

Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

I love the idea of linking to play lists! Does anybody do that? I'm not sure I've seen it, but it's such a fun idea.

Theresa

Jami G. said...

Teresa,

I'd come up with the idea before knowing how to do it. I originally thought about footnotes, or just a list of songs on my website, but I finally figured it out when I saw Stephenie Meyer's (yes, that Stephenie Meyer) website. She has playlists embedded for each of her books. (www.playlist.com)

I now have a playlist with 2 songs for each chapter of my WIP that I could do the same on my eventual website. I love creating playlists to go with my story. Sometimes the songs match the mood, sometimes the lyrics add another layer of meaning, it's fun. :)

Jami G.

Babs said...

Great post. Lots of great ideas.

Murphy, you shouldn't ever have to go first.:)

Em, You're definately option A.

JT, are you sure?

Jami, I can't imagine you as an option B.

What about Wes? And Murphy, you haven't done your's yet.

I'm definately option B. I like dark colors. Silver and black would go nicely with the paranormals that I write. Beyond that I'd have to hire a professional to work out the details. I guess for now that's why I live web darkness. I can't make a decision what I want to be besides the colours.;)

Jami G. said...

Babs said:
Jami, I can't imagine you as an option B.

Err, you can't? I'm almost afraid to ask how you do see me? Certainly not all butterflies and rainbows, I hope. Boy, between Murphy calling me Poindexter and you calling me an Option A, I'm beginning to think I might have multiple personality disorder. Guess it's a good thing I do the pen-name thing then, eh? Then I can have as many personalities as I can come up with names for. :)

Hmm, maybe a good exercise for us here at the blog would be to see how much your public persona matches what you think it does... :)

And my trilogy WIP is an the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type paranormal, so yeah, definitely not pink. :)

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Option A: The visual for me? A breezy summer day at a beach-side cafĂ© - a few women and several glasses of wine. Hey, I don’t know why I’m seeing this but I am - in the graphics put forth by the adjectives and about those graphics? You should always start there. They’ll nicely tie in your colors and the theme of what you’re going for...

So, color scheme for my A:

Beach glass colors. Turquoise, and sea greens in the background - a creamy yellow - maybe a brush of burnished rose in the foreground and definitely a splash of red to make what I want to pop - pop (it’s proven and you don’t screw around with what works:)).

Extra add ons for this one - I’d go with word games and information. Fun facts, like where we came up with certain terms - cold shoulder? I love the history of that term. Maybe some anagrams or crosswords...things that engaged the reader to participate on the site by themselves first - until they’re ready to take a further look at the site. The longer they’re there, the more curious they are and if they take the time to read your very interesting post and they learn just one thing from their visit? They’ll be back..

Guest bloggers to invite. Sorry guys but strictly writers, publishers and editors aren’t who I’d be inviting - oh, sure on occasion, that’s great - but what about other interesting people? Surely there are other interesting people, right? Doctors - lawyers - Indian chiefs? If you feel the need to tie this into your writing endeavors - have the brilliant doctor answer questions on physically possible things (and no not of a sexual nature...well okay, that too - but how about consumption, malaria – drugs to put a guy out so your heroine can go meet up with her lover, kind of stuff?) The point? Regular Joe public can participate if they want to...and who are we trying to ‘charm’? Other writer’s - our already well-established reader base? No. It’s that stranger who is new to our site that we need. Maybe if they find the site interesting they might click on that tasteful button that says: purchase some of my titles...right?

The B option? Makes me think of the inner city at night with Vampires roaming the streets...and hey, I write vampire stories and I’m an option A kind of a gal - so looks can be deceiving -- choose wisely...I’m still thinking.:) Great post Theresa!

JewelTones said...

I've seen authors list the "soundtrack" for their books (songs they used while writing scenes or chapters) on a ton of websites. More recently a few of them have started linking to, say, iTunes and the like if you want to buy it or to the artist's website so you can watch the video. I'm a video geek. I love the idea of having book trailers too but authors are so limited with song and picture/film copyright. Kind of takes the wind out of the sail, if you know what I mean.

I'm trying to think what other bells and whistles you could have that readers might enjoy. Beyond the occassional raffle and giveaway (which are always fun), I can't think of much.

Oh! Maybe doing a 5 Question "interview" every so many months. Readers can submit a question to the author on anything they want to know. The author picks 5 and posts the answers on the website. That would be a nice interactive feature.

I've seen author websites with message boards and I've always wondered how those work out. Discussion forum by book with general areas for other discussions like book signings & appearances, reviews, etc.

JT

Murphy said...

Jami:

I meant the Poindexter comment in the very best way possible because around here, that's actually a good thing.:)

But hey, if you want me to spell out your public persona I'll give it a whirl. You game?

...Wait, does that mean that you'll be giving me your thoughts about my public persona? I don't really have one, you know. I'm very reserved and...okay, you're not going to buy that - so let's just forget I mentioned it. Okay?

Murphy:D

Jami G. said...

Murphy said:
I meant the Poindexter comment in the very best way possible because around here, that's actually a good thing.:)

But of course! :) I assume you were recognizing how hard I've worked to learn all the dangling modifiers/gerunds type stuff around here. Hee!

Yeah, in order for everyone to tell each other what we really think about our personas, we'd probably all have to comment anonymously. :)

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Jami about the persona/anonymous idea?

Exactly! But I get to do Theresa! (Insert me clamping my hand over my big mouth, here) Do you think she heard...?

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

You are so lucky that we're dealing with mature, professional adults here... Otherwise, someone might point out your third sentence.

Jami G.

Murphy said...

And if anyone was wondering where I came up with the term -- here it is...Poindexter!

LOL, Jami!

But the simple truth here, is that Theresa makes me laugh. Did you read her heathen comment? So, if I'm gonna do anyone on this blog it has to be her! You pick someone else, okay!

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

You're in trouble if the main criteria is picking who makes us laugh - because you'd have a line out the door signed up to do you. :)

Jami G.

em said...

Good suggestions. It is odd that we're talking pubic persona and reading a couple of these I went I wouldn't have guessed that.
Jami, I have to admit that Babs and I were thinking the same thing. You were an option A. I don't know why exactly.:)
And Murphy? Always with the surprises. I really liked your comments about who the website is designed for. I didn't think about it this way when I was doing the exercise and I should have.:(
Are we going to do the anoynomous persona game? LOL that sounds like it would be a lot of fun!:)

Edittorrent said...

My website would be easy to design. Build it from platinum and diamonds, and it fits me perfectly. ;)

Theresa

Jami G. said...

Em said: Jami, I have to admit that Babs and I were thinking the same thing. You were an option A. I don't know why exactly.:)

Okay... I'll run with that. :) Um, maybe it's because I'm friendly and welcoming to the newbies. And, as much as Murphy will say "I told you so", I have to admit that I do have the following-the-rules Poindexter thing when it comes to grammar and my perfectionism with learning this writing craft. :) How's that?

But you obviously didn't notice the purple streaks in my avatar's hair. Hee!

Maybe this way would be less offensive to people (but it's hard for me to tell since it's almost impossible to offend me). Someone posts what they think their public persona is, and people give a Yea/Nay. :)

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Jami, you say:
because you'd have a line out the door signed up to do you. :)

I say:
And that's a bad thing?

T says:
Build it from platinum and diamonds

I say,
No wonder I picked her...

Jami, you say:
Murphy will say "I told you so",
I say:
No I won't because you already said it for me. Thanks!:D