3 S.R. Johannes: Beware of your Shadow Brand!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Beware of your Shadow Brand!

Contest Update
Whoa - you people are Krazy! Lots of competitiveness out there. I am loving the comments and meeting new bloggers. keep it up. If you are just coming - the contest goes all month. here's the original post. To all you players - lets' see who can keep up this pace all month long! :0)

Beware of your Shadow Brand!

This past weekend, I spoke at an SCBWI conference in Atlanta on Getting past your fear of branding/marketing. I promised I would blog about it as a recap.

Befor eyou decide what your brand is - you need to be aware of the brand you are giving off.

Beware of your Shadow brand - Be aware of what type of vibe you give off. I'm not talking about if you just have a bad day. I mean the "consistent shadow brand" you may be projecting. Are you scared, frustrated, desperate, confident etc. If you don't know what it is - ask your critique group members.

Develop your own Author branding. This is your personal brand as a writer/author. You do not need to be published for your author brand. You only need to know your writing. What do you write? what is special about it? What colors represent you?

What do you need for your author brand?

  • Web site ( a must!!!!!). Go for some variation of your name. (yourname.com) If you can't get it throw in your middle name or initials. You want your name as your author web site - it is easier to find that "YAbookauthor.com"
  • Blog (Andrew Karre, Editor at Carolrhoda, said yesterday that he prefers active blogs to stagnant web sites.)
  • Begin networking - what can you do for other people. Do this where you are comfortable - online or in person.
  • Decide on your colors/logo/look - keep it to 2 or 3 colors and figure out your style.
  • professional looking biz cards (try to stay away form white and definitely stay away from printing them yourself with perforated edges. You can get printing very inexpensive these days.
Don't be baffled by Book branding. This is the brand of your published books. No one really needs to book brand until they get published. Although your topic appeals to a marketing segment, the book cover also plays a major role in the branding.

What do you need for your book brand?
  • all of the above
  • develop a marketing strategy plan that is specific (not too generic)
  • do have marketing materials - book markers, postcards etc
  • If you have a series - you can always start a "book web site" "bookseriestitle.com" like harrypotter.com
  • Of course - expand your networking and always follow up!!!
Cheapies to get you started

  • Web sites - I prefer godaddy - you can get a good site for under 15$ a month. They also sell domains for about 6$ a year. There are free web sites but they will not show up in search engines and they do not have as much of a professional look.. IN addition, usually your url will have their site in the title. Like srjohannes.googlepages.com.
  • Blogs - blogger or livejournal tend to be the most popular ones
  • free Blog templates - http://www.templates-blogger.com/ or http://btemplates.com/
  • Social networking - free (facebook/myspace/goodreads etc)
  • Twitter - free
  • Business cards - you can always design them and print them at vistprint.com or iprint.com. keep in mind the design is not totally customizable.
  • Other materials - again vistaprint.com allows you to upload documents and print for very inexpensive. (postcards/brochures/flyers).

Should you ever spend money?

I say not if you don't have to. (my hubby and accountant are killing me right now :)

If you ever decide to spend any money on marketing - I would highly recommend hiring a graphic designer to custom design your web site, biz cards, and other marketing materials. You do the copy and printing yourself. If you pay a graphic designer to put it together, be sure you ask and receive the print ready files. That way, you can print inexpensively on vistprint or iprint.

For those who asked - I give 20% off to writers and 30% off to SCBWI members. I will also promise to always beat your other estimates by 10% (assuming their prices are in alignment with the Graphic Artists Guild Pricing Guidelines and Ethics.

Hope this helps!


Corey Schwartz said...

I agree. I spent a decent amount of money on a web site ($500 ballpark) and now I can't change it myself! Blogging is so much better. If I could do it over again, I think I would not have hired a designer.

beth said...

This may sounds stupid, but beyond conferences, I've never had an opportunity for or need for business cards... could you suggest some uses for them?

Lapillus said...

I already made a comment on what I *think* my shadow brand is, but this might have to be a question for my blog. It's practically impossible to know how others perceive you.

I'll start thinking about my author branding. I feel like I have more control over that, which is nice.

Great tips, as always!

Carrie Harris said...

So here's a question for you: Do you think it's a problem if your website has a middle initial but your books don't? I'm publishing as Carrie Harris, but carrieharris.com is taken. If I do a middle initial, they'll be different.

Not like I think the world will end if they don't match, but I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

You know, I do think this conversation is important but it's one that should probably only be had AFTER the art part of the equation has been addressed. I mean, esp after conference, I can't imagine someone as gifted as Kathleen Duey every stopping to worry about what brand or image she is projecting. Or maybe that's the "brand" she gives off because she is already so successful. I just wonder about the cart before the horse stuff...Vicky shecter

Robyn said...

So should I seek out to become a certain brand?? And what in the world do I use the business cards for?? Pass them out at conferences and you're still left with a bunch of them. Once published, I guess you could pass them out at schools and book stores and places like that.Robyn

Anonymous said...

Another thought. Kathleen Duey (SKIN HUNGER and like 70 other books!)says she never uses business cards. Instead, she prints oversized postcards showing the cover of whatever book she is promoting. She said these work great with librarians and book buyers because cards get so easily lost. FYI. V.shecter

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Yet another thought. I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to discover that National Book Award Finalst Kathleen Duey (can you tell I was her angel at Springmingle and am a huge star-struck fan)to discover that Kathleen pays for her own postcards and such. Dayum! How big do ya gotta get before the publishing company springs for a little marketing support?????

Corey Schwartz said...


I know you are probably too busy right now, but let me know if you have any interest in a PB manuscript swap. I'd love feedback on my new story. It's in rhyme and it is always tough to get the meter perfect, so that offer is open to anyone who writes PBs!

Robyn said...


My author brand is beginning to open up but I still go back to my post yesterday which was:how do I bring more traffic into my blog?? I am visiting other blogs already. Just keep doing that? Or am I missing something?


Shelli said...

corey - that stinks on the web site - that is how alot of desoigners get you. why I do it for people on godaddy.

beth - i would say ANYONE you meet anywhere. You never know who they know. Put your book blurb you are selling on the back. Maybe you'll meet someone who has an agent for a brother ;)

casey - what is holding you back from being published - that is probably a shadow brand.

carrie - how about carrieharrisbooks.com

vicki - i dont think it has to be linear - i think this is something you can work on when you cant write. ;) and yes - only 10% of authors get 90% of marketing dollars. :(
thx again for commenting! Im loving it!

Kim Kasch said...

"Don't spend money." My husband would love you.

"I would highly recommend hiring a graphic designer to custom design your web site," that's why I'm here ;-)

Doraine Bennett said...

Quick question: Do you keep up with the amount of time you spend reading/commenting on blogs? It's very easy to get pulled into this online world and realize you've used up your writing time and not written a single word on the current project. But you made lots of friends!

holly cupala said...

This is so Jungian of you, Shelli! Which I personally think is quite fascinating. Now I'm all paranoid about the panopticon. ;)

holly cupala said...

This is so Jungian of you, Shelli! Which I personally think is quite fascinating. Now I'm all paranoid about the panopticon. ;)

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that you give quite nice discounts to SCBWI members. See what happens when you go back and re-read something? You find stuff you missed the first time. I think that is extremele generous of you.

Sarah Campbell said...

I have found that marketing materials are cheaper than I thought they'd be; but then I also have an in-house designer.

cindy said...

great post! thank you for the info, shelli!

Kim Kasch said...

Another ? for U: What if you want to write Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, articles for magazines, and maybe an adult novel or two?

What kind of brand would that be?

Carrie Harris said...

And this is why you make the big bucks. Or you should. Thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Coffee? check. Shelli's blog? check. Commenting? check. May actually have brain operating when coffee kicks in...

Corey Schwartz said...

Well, this contest seems to have gotten you Followers. I see you are up to 17!

Shelli said...

robyn - visit blogs, comment, do intervieews. Find a platform to write about. It takes some time to get a buzz going. keep doing it!

Dorraine - I give myself about 30 min to blog and 30 to surf/comment on others. You have to stop yourself or you'd be there all day.

holly - yup you got it Jungian is my shadow brand :0) panopticon - now you are just showing off tee hee

Kim - think of what kind of writing you do. For example: I always have humor and some kind of adventure. what elements are always in your writing. It can be a simple as the colors you stick with. Dont get book branding confused with author branding :0)

A - I like to give back - its called karma ;)

Anonymous said...

Karma-, karma-, karma-chameleon...I just totally dated myself, didn't I?

Anonymous said...

Your description of networking is fascinating: "Begin networking - what can you do for other people?" I think that's the first time I've ever seen it expressed that way. Normally it's "so what can you do for moi?" To ask what you can do for others...well dayum, that's very JFK of you...
Vicky Shecter

King of my Throne said...

What is my Shadow brand? Lets take a look at your examples. Is it fear? Yep. Is it professional? Nope. Is it approachable? Yes, kinda like a excited puppy.
This might take me my entire life to fix. Maybe I should try to learn a better way to portray it. All of those are the real me. I am not a confident person, just persistent.

Corey Schwartz said...

Based on my school visit yesterday, i would say my shadow brand is "animated and expressive" (certainly not 'professional" since I presented without my shoes on :)

Anonymous said...

Just reserved a domain name for my upcoming book (next year) with Boyds Mill. I don't know why that seemed so damn overwhelming. Thank god the one I wanted was still free.

e said...

I had never heard the term "Shadow Brand" and that really resonated with me. Learn something new every day!! Really enjoyed your speech at Springmingle!!
Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Tina Anderson said...

You are just an incredible teacher. Every time I read your blog recent or older posts, I find myself with a new revelation. Thank you for doing this contest. I don't think I would have quite realize just what a wealth of knowledge you are.

Betsy said...

Ditch my "fear" shadow brand. I am off and running.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have this fear that all my posting is actually pissing people off (including you, Shelli!). So my Shadow Brand here would be...uhm...The One Everyone Wants to Shut UP already?

Of course, the other Shadow Brand could be Incredibly Persistent and Extremely Focused. That one's not a bad Shadow Brand...

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm working my way through the blogs on the right. Starting with the agents. It's cool there are so many to check out and read. Makes me feel hopeful. But also overwhelmed--like all the blogs in the world are this morass of time-sucking, writing-avoidance, escapism. Then part of me says...So?

Anonymous said...

It's been days since I last commented on this post (what can I say, I like to go back to old posts!). I have a question about the templates for a blog, the links for which you include here. What if you wanted to have a different design, like you have? How would I even do that?

Anonymous said...

I've got to put in a plug for Wordpress here. It's different than some other blogging software because it allows you to create multiple pages. Sort of like having a website. You're limited in the layout and color scheme, but it's so incredibly easy to make changes to. I've heard horror stories about writers who couldn't get their webmaster to update their web page in time for a book release. Yikes!