SUCCESSFUL COVER ART

The award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive

Successful cover art is the product of teamwork. In November 2018, Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery] won several awards. Notably, it won Second Place for Published Fiction in the 2018 Arizona Literary Excellence Contest. This was due in large part to the superb editing of Viki Gillespie, who has helped to refine each of the books in the series. Like Prospect for Murder, MOMD also won First Place for Cover Art Design in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, where it was also a Finalist in the Cozy Mystery Category.

 Let’s examine how the winning cover art for this series has been achieved.

 TEAMWORK
Regardless of what you do in life, one of the major keys to your success is teamwork. Even when you are the primary producer of a product, you will be relying on the merchandise, talents, and skills of others. If you are an artist, you utilize a variety of products to create your art, and usually employ a framer to present your finished work to the world. Authors, whether self-published or working with a publisher, are likewise dependent on the output of others to finalize their creations. First, capturing their thoughts depends on a variety of manual and electronic tools. Succinct editing services are also required. Then there is the issue of layout, fortunately provided to me (along with overall publishing skills) by Geoff Habiger of Artemesia Publishing. Of course, he cannot complete his work without the final art designs brought to fruition by fine and graphic artist Yasamine June.

MY APPROACH TO ARTISTIC PROJECTS
While I possess some skill as a design consultant and can produce certain graphic art elements for marketing materials and my websites, I lack the tactile skills to produce truly refined artistic images. So where do I begin art projects? First there is the overall concept, generally driven by text I have already composed. For a book cover, the first consideration is determining the images that will evoke the essence of the story I need to highlight.

Fortunately, when I began writing the series, I composed timelines, chapter synopses, and descriptions of settings and characters. Even a cursory review of these elements reveals a list of those that may be appropriate to a book cover and supportive marketing materials. While some authors create new art for each of their works, I chose to present certain images with consistency including Miss Una, Natalie’s silent but fleet-footed feline companion and images like palm trees and ocean waters reflecting Hawai`i. In addition, I have conceived a recurring gold frame based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry. I also utilize pagination folio art that I designed, and a gold hibiscus flower that Yasamine has refined. At the point that I have a list of elements that might be good for book jacket art, I begin roughing out a tentative layout in a graphic art software program.

ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT
As I examine my list of suitable artistic elements, I manually draw a few pictures that fit the requisite portrait layout of a book cover—knowing that the final product can easily be converted to a square layout for an audio book. So where did the award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive begin?

First of all, Natalie’s life has shifted from a high rise in Waikīkī to a cottage in the beach community of Lanikai on the windward side of the island of O`ahu. Next was consideration of the fact that the murder in this story occurs at night. What does this add up to? A nighttime beach scene which includes the Mokulua islets, the moon, a palm tree, footprints in the sand, and Miss Una. Additionally, although I will not be completing the design, I try to allow space for the insertion of Titling in my signature Peignot font so that there will be no overlapping of images and text. Here is the initial layout I sent to Yasamine.

How did Yasamine’s magic polish this concept?

Since this is the second book in the NS mysteries, I had been through the publishing process for the series once. Additionally, I was able to draw on my experience as art director for the well-received multi-author anthology, Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert. For that project, I featured a picture I shot of the desert at sunset from my back lānai.

Whatever your artistic needs may be, I urge you to be involved in the process, even if you are unable to finalize the images yourself. The input you provide to a professional artist will ensure a product that reflects your own work and the goals you may be setting for future projects…Here’s a look at the before and after images for the forthcoming Murders of Conveyance, being released in early 2019!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 2

All the World’s a Stage…and it awaits the imprint of your brand!

The success of any branding program rests on harmonizing the look, sound, and feel of all of its elements!  That includes the setting in which an author appears. And while you may not be able to control every aspect of the physical environment of your presentations, you can enhance the positive impact of some aspects to boost the effectiveness of your overall book marketing program.

The Venue
If you have never spoken at the venue, you’ll be relying on the event’s organizers to provide the correct information regarding lighting, voice amplification, and projection of materials you’ll utilize to highlight your speaking points. In addition, they’ll be scheduling the podium, table, and/or chair from which you’ll speak.

If possible, visit the venue in advance of the event. While this may be easy in your home town, it can be impossible when you’re working in another city [let alone country]. Therefore, it’s good to arrive a day in advance of your presentation. If you’re lucky, you will be delivering your remarks at the hotel in which you are staying.  As this is seldom the case, travel with the basics you require to be effective.

From a Stage or…
Depending on your height and weight, and position in relation to the audience, you may need to modify your hair, clothing, shoes, and/or accessories to maximize your facial and overall visibility. Speaking engagements often occur in rooms with a stage that is at least a step above the floor on which the audience is seated. This enhances your visibility as a speaker, but it means you must look good from the top of your head to the bottoms of your shoes. And although many stages are carpeted, older wooden or tiled stages may have uneven surfaces, for which you will require sturdy and slip-resistant footwear.

Solo Performance
Sole presenters in a public venue usually have access to a podium. Free-standing or table top, it should offer sides that mask your script, notes, watch, and other items you may need to reference. Unless a free-standing podium is constructed of a tubular frame, it is probable that you’ll be visible only from your chest up. That gives you more flexibility in your stance and movement of your feet. If the podium is comprised of a hollow frame, or positioned on top of a table that has no tablecloth, you will not have that luxury.

Whispers to Screams
The quality of your natural speaking voice can be either an asset or detriment in public speaking. Depending on your audience, even the strongest of voices expressed in the wrong tonal range can be hard for some listeners to hear properly. Many podiums are set up with a microphone fixed in position. If you learn you’ll be using a hand-held mic, you may want to obtain a small stand in order to free your hands for gesturing, pointing to overhead projections, etc. Having said this, I must note some presenters like to speak off the cuff rather from written material and prefer a hand-held or wireless mic so they can roam freely—sometimes even moving within their audience.

Be aware that the effectiveness of the microphone you use [especially lavaliere or headsets] can depend on your neckline, arrangement of hair, and any chain or necklace you wear. Also consider that dangling earrings and loose watches or bracelets can interfere with sound projection.

Having a strong voice may lessen the need to provide your own electronic equipment. However, if you are embarking on a lengthy tour, you might consider acquiring sound equipment that can make you more independent of the facilities in which you appear—if it is compatible with the speakers to which your equipment will be connected. In making such a decision, you will want to seek the input of an electronics specialist.

Inviting Displays
Will you be able to set up a display that greets and enlivens your audience? At the minimum, you should be able to drape a banner over the front of a podium [using double sided tape, if nothing else]. I carry the banner from the release of Prospect for Murder, first of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. I also travel with varied sizes of boxes on which I can place color-coordinated tablecloths to create heightened surfaces for displaying signage, products, and handouts. And I carry stands of varying proportions to maximize visibility across a room. Do be cautious about displaying valuable items which could disappear…

Enlargements of colorful book covers, pictures of previous appearances, and banners with both your image and the works you’re presenting make a wonderful background for highlighting sales sheets, future project descriptions, and business cards. Since Murder on Mokulua Drive has an embossed jacket front, I present it on a stand, as well as on the table top to invite people to pick it up.  If there is a theme to your work, you can add decorative items that reinforce that reference. As most of my work centers on Hawai`i, I display a shell lei or two, a golden fish business card holder, and tablecloths that harmonize with my book cover colors.

Ensuring You have What You Need
If you’re speaking in your home town and have checked out the venue, you’ll know what you need to carry with you. The one thing that may affect your preparations is a change in the size of your audience, thereby impacting the number of books and handouts required. When traveling to a long-distance destination, you may be able to send a box ahead to a friend, colleague, or the hotel in which you will be staying. Regardless of whether that is an option, strategize the items that you should carry personally, rather than check into a luggage compartment.

I recall my gratitude for arriving in Hilo (after flying back from the U.S. mainland) two days in advance of a performance of Scottish Highland Dancing, since my costumes remained in Honolulu by mistake. I now keep the following items with me personally when traveling to author appearances: memory sticks and a master copy of materials needed for display and distribution; one copy of pertinent books and project samples; one small tablecloth and a shell lei to personalize a display; one copy of a short biography; two 3 x 5 inch cards with an introduction of me and my presentation; a brass name badge and any pertinent professional badges; a beautiful artificial orchid for my hair; and, one elegant jacket to dress up even an emergency wardrobe purchase if my luggage does not arrive with me!

This is the second of three discussions of Public Speaking Engagements.My next blog will address the ways in which public speaking engagements can enhance your branding as an author, and will be featured at Hometown Reads .

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Drawing on Sense Memories

What are your earliest and favorite sense memories? Most of us think of the five physical senses as we are experiencing them. The toast looks and tastes all right, but it has a slightly burnt smell. I wish the kids would stop screaming, my ears are starting to hurt. I love this faux fabric, it almost feels like my cat’s fur…

The Creator’s Sensory Perception
As a writer, or other creative person, sensory perception can be an important element in preparing a stimulating picture via words or graphic images. We may not be aware of it, but the way an image or scent impacts us personally can greatly impact or work. One of the most effective devices for creating believable images is by consciously drawing on our memories. This is because referencing something we’ve encountered personally provides a depth of authenticity in whatever work we are undertaking.

The Truth of One’s Experience
This does not mean that we have to reveal our personal circumstances in order to truthfully share a sensory experience. Of course, that may not be true if we are presenting a work that is a memoir or similar personal expression, for which we are obligated to reveal this aspect of our lives. The truth of our sensory experiences can be shared without revelation of the circumstances in which they occur.  Isolating the experience from its original circumstances, can encourage us to revisit the specifics of what we saw, smelled, heard, touched, and/or tasted with greater accuracy.

For example, while we may wish to describe the beauty of a star-lit night from our honeymoon, we do not need to provide details of the circumstances in which we viewed it. Even when we need to describe something we have not experienced, it’s good to seek out the concrete memories of those who have. In describing Shanghai in the 1920’s for Prospect for Murder, I drew on images shared by people whose fascination with the city transcended the actual era in which they traveled. And despite their degree of positive or negative reactions, I was able to utilize their perspectives to provide images of the bustling streets and even the scents they encountered in their sojourns.

In Murders of Conveyance, the third book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, my heroine overhears a conversation in Chinese from outside of the building in which she stands. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve  accidentally overheard a conversation, whether in a language we speak or not. When I moved to Honolulu at the beginning of the 1970s, there were many occasions in which I heard languages I couldn’t understand, nor even identify. Because I needed my heroine to feel connected to foreign dialogue, I inserted phonetic sounds that allowed Natalie to guess the speakers might be referencing someone she knew.

Stimulating Vocabulary
Sometimes we are fortunate to be able to utilize vocabulary or pictures that effectively mimics the images we wish to share.  I find the following words and phrases can bring clarity to a description, sometimes reaching beyond a single sense: wispy; screech; a snapping branch; wrinkled; razor’s edge; staccato; fragmented; shrunken; glassy; whispered; fiery.

The perception of other words often relies on those who read or hear them. Reference to an Upscale dining experience may arouse the taste and ambiance of a five-star restaurant to one person, and a fast-food joint to another. While the phrase Opulent jewelry signifies a strand of synthetic pearls with rhinestones to one reader, someone else may envision weighty crown jewels. Vintage clothing could generate a disco scene from the 1970s for a millennial, whereas someone my age may picture a flapper dress from the roaring twenties—the 1920’s that is. Similar variances can arise with an author or artist’s use of color and shape, as well as a composer’s insertion of pauses, changing rhythms, and escalating tones.

I’m fortunate that many of the images I wish to share in the O`ahu setting of the Natalie Seachrist mysteries practically write themselves: the sparkle and whooshing sound of incoming surf on a moonlit night; the stickiness of teriyaki sauce on a barbecued chicken thigh; the fresh fragrance of a flower lei, the stench of rotting plumeria blooms beneath an aging and neglected tree. But although I bring personal insight to such images, I must avoid cliché verbiage that will bore the veteran traveler. 

Your Target Audience
This brings us to a brief discussion of one’s audience…one’s target market. If you’re working within a recognized genre of literature, art, or music, there may be standards to which the majority of your audience will expect you to adhere. If you are striking out on your own to create a variant or wholly new artistic expression, you can move in any direction you wish…keeping in mind that you will need to attract some degree of a following in order to achieve any degree of success.

Accordingly, I sprinkle snippets of pan-Pacific and world history across my mystery plot-lines.  And while I present a fair number menu items within each book, I place actual recipes on my author website, rather than completely bogging down a story.  As to the cast of characters, folio art framing page numbers, chapter aphorisms, and linguistically and historically detailed glossaries, the reader can choose to appreciate or ignore them…

Wishing you the best on your own creative ventures,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Interview and Oral History Projects 4

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

You’ve successfully conducted an interview!  Regardless of whether an interview is the first or the hundredth, I hope you will feel a sense of accomplishment while parting company with whomever you’ve interviewed! By this point, you should have an audio (if not visual) recording of the dialogue, plus notes you’ve composed prior to and during your conversation. You should also have a signed interviewee release that can allow you to draw from the experience indefinitely.

The Significance of Your Relationship with Your Subject
In my last discussion of general and oral history interviews, I noted that it is good to impress your subject positively.  Doing so includes: projecting a pleasing appearance and voice; demonstrating the level of your commitment, as shown by your research and organization of pertinent questions; and, your sensitivity to their physical, mental, and emotional circumstances.

That last issue is one that is often neglected by professional, as well as novice, interviewers.  Too often a sense of righteousness on the part of the interviewer as truth teller can prevent development of a significant rapport with the interviewee.  While it is important to maintain a professional relationship, the lack of a rapport with your subject may lead to a diminished level of trust and desire to reveal themselves fully.

Your Parting Words
As you prepare to depart from an interview, you will want to leave the door between you and your subject open to further communication.  After all, they’ve trusted you with a part of themselves and they want to know that you’ll value what they have shared with you. Even if you have not established a warm relationship, you will want to facilitate future communication and assure them that they will have an opportunity to view a transcript of the interview.

This does not mean you are relinquishing your role as the interviewer, nor does it imply you are going to change revealing the realities of your conversation. However, if errors are found by either of you, there should be a means for adding explanatory notes. This is especially useful in clarifying names, relationships, numbers, dates, and sequences, which may have been transposed or mistakenly described.   

Editorial Procedures
During the transcription and editorial process, you may need to communicate with your interviewee to gain clarity on numerous points. To maintain accurate records, it is good to receive replies to your questions by email or other written documentation

This is especially useful if there are conflicts regarding the meaning of a passage. After all, the interviewee is relaying answers to your questions through the lens of their point of view.  While you  may never agree with their explanation, the transcript and your notes will allow future readers and/or listeners to experience a close approximation of the event and draw their own conclusions.  This is why clear records of all your communication and notes are so important.

The method[s] of annotation you choose for your transcript can take several forms. This is where your creativity comes into play.   Personally, I try to avoid footnotes.  Instead, I employ bracketed statements for minor clarification and section endnotes for issues dealing with proper nouns and other facts that may stimulate a future reader to pursue answers to their own questions.

Although the interviewer should not remove actual dialogue, you can provide clarification of key points by including a glossary of foreign and specialized vocabulary, as well as an index. Some authors dislike the use of indices if they plan to publish via a downloadable vehicle that may render pagination inaccurate and irrelevant. However, readers of a work published on the Internet may be able to utilize a find/search tool to locate terms they wish to revisit and readers of a hardcopy edition will be pleased with the inclusion of an easy reference tool at the back of the work. 

Another means for heightening the usefulness of your final product is separating your transcript into sections. If the interview was conducted during multiple sessions, utilization of chapter breaks is quite logical. Even when the conversation was held on a single occasion, separating sequenced questions and answers provides natural breaks.

Such a layout should facilitate communication between you and your subject[s] as you review the nearly finished project. Once you have completed editing and annotating your transcript, you can proceed to shaping a final format to meet any requirements for publication. [See my previous blog, Interviews & Oral Histories #3, for the closing  discussion of interview publication.]

Future Interviews with The Subject
The potential for scheduling future interviews may depend on issues beyond a mutual desire to do so. For example, if the interview is part of a larger project controlled by someone else, you may be limited in continuing your relationship with your subject.  And, although the current publisher may express an interest in further interviews, shifts within their organization may preclude future publishing through them. Even when you are working on a wholly freelance basis, your ability to publish may depend on your finding a new source willing to take on the project. And if you decide to expand the initial work into a series of articles or even a book, the task may become even more challenging.

As I’ve noted before, planning, executing, and publishing an interview is a unique experience. Even without the permanency of the Cloud, an interview lives far beyond the event itself! The effort you put into researching your subject’s life and work may prove of interest to people far beyond your targeted readership.  The dialectical elements of the conversation, introductory remarks, annotations, and other explanations will serve not only to illuminate your subject, but also your own life’s work.

In my next blog about interviews, I will discuss the renewal and publication of oral history interviews I conducted more than 25 years ago with a dear Hawaiian auntie whose family history is very interesting…The title is, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Here are my offerings on interviews and oral histories.
Overview of Interview and Oral History Projects, June 2015
Researching for Interviews, July 2015
Conducting Interviews, May 2016
After the Interview, August 2017

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

BALANCING TEXT AND SPACE

The peaks of your power

What are the limits of your wordpower and design acumen? In my career, I’ve often had to alter text to maximize its appearance in the space allotted to it.  Sometimes this is disappointing, as the words I initially selected were ideal to the purpose and tone of the project.  Nevertheless, the goal in any written work is to create a product that is most appropriate for communicating with one’s target market. 

 As I generate promotional materials for marketing Prospect For Murder [the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series], I’ve frequently had to revisit this basic activity of editingsubstituting vocabulary to fit the available space.
Value of a Professional Wordsmith
One of the greatest values a professional wordsmith brings to a verbal project is their knowing when and how to adjust text to maximize readability.  This ability to edit within varied  parameters demands the flexibility as well as the skill to replace verbiage to accommodate the allowed space.

In the past, when a client decided my composition met their needs, they usually took the text to a graphic artist and I never saw it again—at least not before the final product was printed, uploaded to a website, or sent forth in emails.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the presentation of my work looked awkward because of justified paragraphing and/or the lack of breaking syllables at the end of paragraphs, which resulted in wide gaps or crammed lettering.

If I remained in close contact with the client, I sometimes had an opportunity to rectify the situation.  At a minimum, I could alert them to the problem which was bound to recur until their process of production was changed.  If I had the opportunity to work with the artist tasked with incorporating my text, I could suggest potential means for enhancing the overall layout by:

~  Changing words that were too long or short
~  Altering the paragraph structure
~  Adjusting the number of columns or their size
~  Repositioning and/or resizing artwork
Subliminal Influences

Harmonizing Product Packaging and Marketing Materials

Regardless of the sophistication of a project, balancing art and typography can truly maximize the sensory experience of your readers.  It is a vital key to synchronizing a product’s packaging and the marketing materials that accompany it.  As may be expected, this can help determine a reader’s initial response to the product being represented, thereby affecting whether it will be purchased or bypassed. 

Even the information presented in a dentist’s pamphlet should be designed to flow in an harmonious manner.  The next time you have an appointment at a professional’s office, glance through the materials in their waiting room.  If you find odd looking paragraphs, it’s probably because a graphic artist took the text and simply dropped it into their design—usually without the copy writer having the opportunity to re-edit their text.

Designing Promotional Materials & Websites
In my blog on the layout of books, I discussed the various issues I faced in the design of covers for the hardcover and audio book editions of Prospect For Murder.  All of the spatial challenges I’ve just explored in this blog were applicable in both editions.  I’m very grateful that my artist and typographer were the same person [you can visit www.yasaminejune.com to view her art].  This meant I was able to work with her to balance elements of concern.  Of course, working in this manner requires mutual understanding and sufficient time to accomplish the necessary edits.

Artwork & Titling in Secondary Projects

From Hardcover to Audio Book Format
Transforming the images and text of the hardcover book jacket into that of the audio book required more than re-positioning and resizing the many design elements.  Most notably, the mysterious moon above the apartment building had to be deleted to accommodate the resized and realigned titling.  In addition, the book synopsis and my author bio had to be shortened to allow for book reviews.

Postcards
Recently I reworked the 8.5 x 5 inch promotional postcard I am using for several purposes.  As I now have a growing number of positive book reviews I wish to highlight, I needed to edit both the book’s description, as well as my bio to accommodate snippets from the four reviews I wanted to feature on the front of the card.  And because I may wish to employ varied greetings, I had to allow room on the backside to place labels with personalized messages.

Letters
It may seem needless to mention that each letter that one sends out via snail mail or email is an entity unto itself.  However, writers are just as prone as other professionals to remain wedded to verbiage for which they have an affinity.  Generally, effective letters should be limited to a single page.  This means that the need to resize the length of one’s text arises quite often.  Sometimes simply reworking the size and location of a logo and decreasing the dimension of margins will suffice to reuse a favorite piece of composition.  At other times, it’s also necessary to:

~  Combine paragraphs
~  Reduce the size of the font used for text
~  Use left justified paragraphing without indentation
~  Use an even smaller dimension for line spacing between paragraphs

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Further discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Author Media Relations, 2


Media Relations Dos and Don’ts

Applying the art and science of writing is only part of the equation for achieving  professional goals and objectives as an author. Successful branding rests on myriad authoring strategies…including positive media relations.  Like most aspects of your work, you will need to invest time, effort, and occasional infusions of money into researching, establishing, and maintaining good relations with the media.  As you think about preparing your outreach to the media, remember that you are moving into the realm of commercial writing, which requires you to employ concise verbiage that directly addresses the needs and interests of a specific audience.

Get to Know Your Media Outlets
A key element in any branding program is determining which media outlets [ranging across print, broadcast, and On-line platforms] are appropriate for shining a spotlight on the current project.  Once you’ve completed compiling notes of interest about each—including the demographics of their patrons—you will need to establish relationships with their journalists and perhaps one or more of their department heads.  Regardless of whether you’re going to contact staff or management, a personal salutation is always good.  After all, looking to the future, there’s no telling what a person’s next job may be…or how you might reconnect with them to your mutual benefit.
Expanding Your Media Relations
Networking with Media Contacts
With your background work complete, you’re ready to launch regular rounds of communication with media contacts.  Despite interaction you may have had in the past, you will need to follow up on any leads you’ve just uncovered.  Is there a department or individual journalist for whom your current or future work will be of particular interest? Is there a community event for which your work fits well?  Can you make a donation…or otherwise interact with a newsworthy non-profit or organization which may be participating in the event?  Can you send out a tasteful PSA focusing on the group while increasing your public visibility?

As an author, it’s easy to rely heavily on your effective writing rather than speaking skills when examining how to broaden your community involvement.  But when an opportunity arises to visit with a media specialist personally, you can broaden your talent in the genteel art of verbal communication.  Through such contact, you should be able to affirm the media’s awareness of you and glean new facts about their individual needs and desires.

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to meet media representatives you plan to contact, you can begin sending out press releases highlighting your noteworthy work.  What constitutes a newsworthy announcement?  Chiefly, the topic you address must be appropriate to the specific media outlet and their concrete as well as virtual community.  For example, you wouldn’t send a notice about a program for elementary school children to a magazine for Seniors—unless that demographic is notably involved in the activity. 

Generating Timely Media Releases
If there is an element of time involved (such as a holiday event), it’s more likely the media outlet will grant you attention IF you’ve contacted them with sufficient lead time.  There are two simple ways to determine each media outlet’s deadlines:  Pay for a subscription to a detailed media list; or, build your own record for each of your preferred media outlets.  Even if you have an annual subscription to one or more media contact data bases, the information can quickly become outdated, so unless the provider of a list sends out updates, you’ll have to check with each media organization periodically. 

If you’re creating a media list yourself, you’ll need to gather the following information:  The names of each organization and their key personnel; a street address for drop-offs; a mailing address if it differs from the physical address; phone and fax numbers and email addresses for pertinent departments.  As you become acquainted with individuals within each organization, they may provide you with additional contact information. 

The creative process an author uses to facilitate communication with their audience must be dynamic.  Consider the following scenarios that can motivate you to communicate with local, regional, national, Internet, and even international media outlets:

Win a Contest, Award, or Scholarship?
Media outlets are always interested in stories of success, especially if they address a segment of their niche market.  Make sure you indicate the importance of the organization recognizing you with an award.

Participating in a Special Event?
Even if the organizers of an event are sending out media releases, you can submit your own in a distinctive format that highlights your particular contribution.
political campaigns
Awarded a Noteworthy Position, Contract, or Commission?
Send out a media release, including copy that demonstrates the stature of the individual, business or organization granting it to you.  You can also provide periodic releases reporting on significant stages of progress in your work Be sure to mention newsworthy persons who may have become involved in the project.  This could include a high profile woman or man whose image will be associated with your final product, be slated to read your text in an audio publication, or perform as the MC at an event you are managing personally.  By the way, this includes political, religious or volunteer activities in which you may be involved.

You may be wondering if there’s any way of ensuring your media release will receive positive attention and be acted upon as you desire.  The simple answer is no.  Admittedly, it helps to get your information released if you’re prominent in your field.  Your main concern should be avoiding being perceived as wasting a media professional’s time.  If your material and its content doesn’t appear relevant, not only will it minimize the possibility of coverage of your current plea for attention, but it also decreases the likelihood that your next outreach will be greeted with joy.

When selecting between two or more potential news items to promote, you should remember that the most popular topics for garnering media attention are connected to children, elders, or non-profit organizations That’s why it is beneficial to team up with such groups within your community on appropriate projects.   Not only will such associations gain media attention, but they will bring loyal followers to your future projects.… And word of mouth promotion is the most beneficial form of advertising!

Making a Good First Impression
Regardless of how important you view your message, you must consider how a media outlet will judge its potential value to their customers.  As a promotional consultant, I’ve often worked with writers and artists who view their work as being of the utmost significance.  They begin nearly every communication by speaking of themselves and their status.  This is in direct conflict with the media’s need to serve their patrons Rather than opening your plea for coverage with “I” (or even your name if the piece is written in the third person), begin with something that will appeal to your reader and encourage their interest in learning more about you.

Shaping a Strong Media Release 
Most of the media releases I see are one or two pages of single-spaced paragraphs headed, “For immediate release.”  These releases have no sectioning, no titling, and no use of bold or underscored text.  And if the opening of a long document is not auspicious, the recipient probably won’t finish reading it.

If you bore the recipient, how have you benefited from the effort…and cost, if you’ve mailed hardcopy?  Even if the release is read, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will act upon the information.  If you’re lucky the bare bones of your information will be published.  However, unless there’s a very slow news day (with a large “ news hole),” the full text of a long release is unlikely to be included.  If only part of your text is published, there’s no assurance that the details you deem pertinent will be included in the news piece.  

One way to short-circuit these problems is the use of the classic inverted pyramid for news writing. This means that the most important facts must be placed at the beginning of the release. With each succeeding paragraph, the importance and relevance of the information contained decreases.  Many editors are grateful to receive material they can merely drop into their layout.

 Sending Out Media Releases
You must, of course, follow the instructions a media outlet provides for sending press releases.  However, some organizations allow some flexibility in their instructions.  To increase the number of people who see my releases, I place a note at the end of emails stating that a FAX or even hardcopy will follow Since so few people bother with anything but emails today, there’s a good chance several people will read your copy when its sent in more than one form.  Of course, you cannot control how the media will respond.  Even if they decide to publish your message, you can’t be certain of how they will treat your copy, so keep in mind that providing less text gives an editor less to delete or re-sequence If they’re interested in learning more they’ll contact you.

And don’t forget to send out another media release when you’ve completed your current project.  Highlight the event’s outcome, mentioning any noteworthy person or historical context which will distinguish the activity as being of general interest in your community.  You can even send out subsequent releases to announce the results or consequences of your work.

The Benefits of Polishing Your Media Writing Skills
With careful research and repeated practice in writing media releases, you’ll enhance your ability to work efficiently with the media A successful program of media blitzing rests on gathering facts and then presenting them in a way that builds interest in your topic.  Many times your challenge is in establishing a rhythm to the words you use to present the facts you have carefully laid out. 

As __________’s youth face another summer seeking entertainment …
The enclosed image shows reality television personality _____ donating her time at…
Jane Smith, winner of the 2015 _____ award has been named presiding judge in the forthcoming spelling bee for elementary school children in the _____ School District. 

Remember that if you are involved in an event benefiting your community, you might be the ideal guest for an early morning drive time radio talk show—one of the best ways of getting a large number of people to become aware of via free media coverage.

Despite your best efforts to enhance your connectivity with the media, at some point you may be forced to invest in advertising.  To maximize the results, your branded message must be positively memorable.  From the words you use to the colors and shapes that accompany and frame them, you must strike an accord with your target market.  In today’s tough marketplace, you will need to look beyond traditional ads and commercials.  Appropriate saturation of social media outlets, YouTube videos, and even infomercials have all been used effectively by authors seeking improved community relations.  As you contemplate your options, you will have to evaluate whether you have the skill set to design and implement a branding program without the assistance of advertising professionals.

Wishing you the best in your wordsmithing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Media Relations for Authors may be found at:
Know your Media, June 2015
Media Relations Dos and Don’ts, November 2015

For examples of concise print and broadcast media releases, please see
Media Release samples on my marketing website, where you’ll find
more branding tips Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Author Design Dilemmas 3, Color



What visions dance in your dreams?Inspiring Rainbows of Color

How many colors are in the rainbows you paint? There are many perspectives on the use of color in the art and science of writing.  But even if I were an expert, this short space wouldn’t allow a comprehensive discussion of color theory [the traditional theory for mixing three primary colors to derive all other colors] or colorimetry [analysis of human color perception]. 

Variables in Color Perception.  Most people can see three distinct ranges of color.  Due to genetics, some women [called tetrachromats] are able to see four ranges of color.   Sometimes a temporary inability to see some or all color is caused by illness, allergies, medication, or hormone replacement therapy.  Even sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] may notice a decrease in perception of color.  And, did you know that one out of twelve men and one out of two hundred women have color vision deficiencies? 

Choosing Color Palettes For Artwork to Accompany Text.   As discussed in my blog on engaging a reader’s senses, I believe that analysis of one’s genre provides the answer to many publishing questions and can help solidify authoring strategies.  Empowering your words as an author can take many forms.  One author I know brings a minimalist approach to her creative process in selecting art for a children’s book.  She believes that faint sketches without full form, shape, or color will encourage children listening to or reading her prose to bring images from their own minds to their reading experience.  This minimalist approach may be ideal for poetry and historical fiction.  However, it would be at odds with the hard-nosed writer’s voice usually employed in a police procedural and would lack clarity for many non-fiction projects.
Art and Science of Writing
While minimalism is a specific art movement, the term may be used generically to describe the overall expression of modern art in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Beyond an escape from classic realism, modern art focuses on the artist’s desire to interact with the minds and life experiences of his or her audience members.

Consider More Than Personal Preferences When Selecting Color.  If you are new to wordsmithing, you may not be thinking about branding.  But you might want to consider establishing the foundations of the brand for which your writing will be noted someday.  And just as an effective editorial process dictates that writers carefully select modifiers to create a scene rich in sensory images, a distinctive color palette can be one element in a design aesthetic that harmonizes with and even intensifies the impact of text.
Writers’ Guidelines
Beyond technical research you conduct regarding coloration, there are several issues to consider.  Does the style of your writing reflect your taste in art?  Do you like the detail of classism or the sharp clean lines of modern art?  Are you drawn to bright primary colors or muted subtle tones?  Do the peach and aqua tones of a sunset in the Southwest reflect your taste and your work? 

Regional Coloration.  Differences in regional color can be indicated by the dialect[s] of your characters, as well as the scenes you describe.  Growing up in Oregon, I was accustomed to the dark green of Douglas fir trees and the mosses that grow on them.  The palm trees in Hawai`i are pale in comparison.  In Arizona the array of green is mixed, depending on topography, season and the amount of rainfall.  So which green would be most appropriate to your project?

The Juncture Of Style And Color.    In children’s books, hard-edged cartoon-like solid color images (like those a child might create) may be ideal.  But regardless of the style of art you select, the bright saturated colors associated with modern art are popular with and stimulating for young children.  Conversely, the sometimes dark tones of animè lend a sophisticated note to projects for both adults and older children.  For most genres, classic realism is appropriate.  To present images realistically, considerable detail and subtleties of color are usually required.

Articulating Your Artistic Vision is vital.  Since it is unlikely that you will be the artist shaping the images that will highlight your writing, you must be able to describe your desires to whoever is in charge of publication.  I suggest writing a paragraph outlining the specific elements you are seeking.  As with a journalistic endeavor, an inverted pyramid structure is useful.  Begin with an overview of the style you desire and then move on to specific issues like color.  If possible, use technical terms an artist or printer will understand.  For instance, consider specifying the tones and shades of colors you prefer. 

When viewed under varied lighting, a color’s tone [intensity of color] or shade [how bright a color is] will be perceived differently. Personally, I have found it challenging to use what I have termed a plum color in artwork for Prospect For Murder [the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series].  While my artist Yasamine June [view her work at www.yasaminejune.com] generated a wonderful color for the book jacket, subsequent applications for the audio book and some promotional materials have deviated from the color and/or tones she utilized.

Samples Of Your Preferred Palette and style will greatly aid the person executing your artistic vision.  These can be drawn from many sources:  websites; books and other printed material; fabric and clothing; pieces of art.  Consider offering the images of famous paintings.  Simply naming a type of art or an easily referenced artist will communicate your wishes.  Personally, I am drawn to the delicate images of classical Asian paintings, as well as the neo-classism of Maxfield Parish who was known for his use of saturated color.  Unfortunately, since his work ended mid-twentieth century, a young artist may be wholly unaware of his work.

You can also provide numerical descriptions of colors.  Paint Stores offer samples of colors, with numerical coding as well as alphabetical names.  Printers can provide numbers for the Pantone® colors of ink used in most hardcopy printing.  And remember that you do not have to access a graphic art program to provide the color model numeration of computer font colors.  Simply mark a section of text within a word processing program and examine the ranges of colors available under the drop down arrow for font color.

I should caution you that identifying a color is no guarantee of how a printed product will arrive at your doorstep.  Have you ever seen two editions of the same book, printed by the same company following the same instructions?  Even in hardcopy printing, variations in color can occur because of differences in batches of ink or toner, the moisture content of the paper used, and production executed on innumerable types and conditions of equipment.

A final consideration in our discussion of color printing is publication via downloading from the Internet.  If this is how your work will be published, you should consider using colors designated as “web safe.”  Again, there will be varied results in what is viewed by your readers.  If nothing else, variations in monitor settings can prevent uniformity in how myriad viewers will experience a color on your website or in your book. 

Before we leave the topic of color, let’s consider the historical and classical interpretations of color.  Some colors, like the royal purple from Tyre, Lebanon, were originally drawn from rare and precious sources.  To produce even small amounts of the Tyrian colorant, thousands of Mediterranean sea mollusks [scientific name, murex brandaris] were needed for the dyes with which luxurious garments for ancient royals were fashioned.  Another historically rare color was the crimson worn by Roman legionnaires and wealthy matrons.  Traditionally associated with power and wealth, this color was obtained from the kermes vermilio planchon, an insect that grows on the kermes oak tree [quercus coccifera] of southern Europe.  Although the means for obtaining and utilizing dyes and paints have changed dramatically through history, their inner meanings have remained linked to aspects of nature.

 Yellow and Orange – Associated with the sun and gold, these happy and bright colors are used for many attention-getting purposes.  Depending on their tone, they may be linked to base and deeply discounted items, or conversely, to the richest and most valued products.

Red – Traditionally linked to sunsets, fire, blood, Mars the planet and Mars the Roman god of war.  Red is now often associated with signature holidays like New Year’s, Christmas, and St. Valentine’s Day and certain nations like China.   This vibrant color calls attention to anything depicted in it.  It is sometimes associated with licentiousness and the concept of Satan.

Purple – Blending blue and red, this rich color is remains linked to the concepts and value of royalty, power and wealth.

Blue – In its deepest shades, blue speaks of clear waters and skies.  In many religious expressions, it is associated with holiness and purity.  This color is often utilized by financial and insurance institutions, as well as myriad industries dealing with healthcare that wish to be considered honest and dedicated to be wellbeing of their clients.

Green – Representative of health in nature, itis often used for health and environmental topics, products, and services.

White –  Reflects light and embodies the presence of all colors of light.  While many substances in nature are white, animals having pure white fur are rare, and therefore their pelts were historically associated with the power and wealth of royalty.  Once difficult to achieve in pure form, white colored clothing was often valuable regardless of the type of fabric.  The color is historically linked to purity, cleanliness, goodness, and perfection. 

Black – Absorbing all colors of light, it is actually the absence of color.  Obtained by the mixing of all primary colors, black is sometimes associated with darkness and evil in historical religious written materials.  It is an excellent background for both vibrant and subtle colors.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For examples of sample color palettes, please also visit:  https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/color/plays_on_color.html
Additional discussion of the nature and impact of color is provided at: https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/wearing/wearing_your_brand.html.

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

Communicating with Every Sense

Sense Memory:  Words For The Eye and Palette

Are you communicating with all of your senses? The art of communication largely relies on visual and aural stimulation.
An author communicates with the written word.
~  A dancer creates a visual message with his or her body.
~  Actors and public speakers communicate with the spoken word and their bodies.

In the past, the sense of touch helped to share the message of written words, as finely tooled leather-bound tomes invited the reader’s fingers to trace the lettering on a book cover.  Even the sense of smell may be involved, as the carved leather fostered anticipation of the remarkable thoughts within. 

Today, all five of the senses of the writer’s audience may be involved through the communication tools of our multi-media civilizationBeyond the realm of streaming radio and audio books, there are audio messages being sent into space that may not be heard for thousands or even millions of years.  We are also at the brink of attempts at smell- or taste-athon forms of entertainment. 

The goal of any communicator is to ensure that their readers, listeners, and/or viewers will respond positively to their message.  Sometimes the process for achieving this is straightforward, even mechanical.  At other times, the gathering of ingredients for connecting with one’s audience seems happenstance if not magical.

A successful advertising campaign is an example of how this process can work.  Most of us are accustomed to extending our minds beyond a limited promotional image and message to the full experience enjoyed when actually partaking of the featured product or activity.  Whether viewed in a full-page magazine ad or television commercial, the sight of a glistening golden turkey on a platter is expected to invoke memories of holiday feasts shared with our loved ones…rather than the reality of a studio of near-strangers focused on taking pictures of an artificial bird glued to a platter and painted with an oily brown glaze.

Sadly, the perception of truth can be more important than truth itself.  For example, I recall being instructed about the art of opening doors, shaking hands and kissing on stage.  I quickly learned that the natural ways of performing these tasks were irrelevant. The actors had to adjust their movements to make the audience feel comfortable with the actions necessary to theatrical performance.

To ensure our audience will be accepting of the images we have created, the artful wordsmith must do more than employ accurate vocabulary.  This is one reason that translation of text from one language to another is so difficult.  In fact, in addition to being an editorial process, it is a fine artMerely selecting a word that correctly describes something does not make it a successful choice:  The descriptive word you eventually choose must evoke the most appropriate image to both your genre and your audience.

Consider how you might employ the following words and phrases:  Azure, blue, and sapphire; highlighted, revealed, and shone down upon; bright, luminescent, and sunny; juicy, moist, and succulent; boar, ham, and pig.  Depending on the scene being described AND your audience, the text you compose from these words will differ.  While the word blue may be appropriate for an advertisement, a children’s book and a romance novel, the same cannot be said for luminescent, azure, and succulent.

As adults with sophisticated English vocabularies, we may envision immediately the magical sparkle of a luminescent sky and the moist deliciousness of a pork loin described as succulent. However, these word choices would be inappropriate for a children’s book intended for a beginning reader.  Our creative process may draw on a rich palette of images within our mind’s eye, but it must be tempered by the realities of the genre in which we are working.

Refining our writer’s palette is one of the most important authoring strategies we can employ, regardless of whether we are working on fiction or non-fiction projects.  In my work as a practitioner of the art and science of writing, I seek to create a juncture between language and the sensory organsI do this by striving to balance carefully chosen nouns and modifiers within an appropriate structure to provide my targeted audience with a rich sensory experience that they will accept within the current genre.  

There is, of course, no right or wrong decision in the scenarios you create as a writerThe options are many.  The choices are yours.  But as you work on any project, consider the demographics, as well as the expressed responses of members of your audience.  In the end, your word selections should be guided by determining the effect you wish to create in each passage…

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For examples of sample color palettes, please visit:  https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/color/plays_on_color.html
Additional discussion of the nature and impact of color is provided at:
https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/wearing/wearing_your_brand.html.

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.