EMPOWERING BIOS

Jeanne Burrows-JohnsonWith 2019 quickly unfolding, authors and artists face a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Beyond financial planning and tax preparation, this is the ideal time to strategize and schedule events, design and/or revise our websites and social media outreach, and shape marketing materials to support these endeavors. While professional service providers can address many of these issues, there are expenditures that can be avoided if we are able to do some of the work ourselves. The essential question is whether we possess the skills and artistic vision to do so…as well as the time that will be required. Fortunately, like book synopses, several elements of biographies can be utilized repeatedly. Your picture, logos and slogans, descriptions of your work, and biographies of varying lengths and emphasis will all prove useful eventually. Today, I will suggest requisite elements of effective biographies.

WHEN WILL YOU NEED AN EMPOWERING BIOGRAPHY?
You are invited to view points raised in a humorous discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html. The gist of the piece is that everyone, both in and out of public view, has a need for one or more biographies…ranging from single sentences of self-introduction, to paragraphs for professional publications, and even a lengthy eulogy that will enumerate key aspects in one’s life.

WHERE TO BEGIN SHAPING YOUR BIOGRAPHY
By reviewing hardcopy and electronic files that contain materials addressing your life and work, you can gather facts, as well as previous stylistic choices from which you can draw. In addition, I suggest you create files of bios that have impressed you. These can include materials from colleagues and co-authors, as well as the brochures of professionals whose offices you visit.

Regardless of whether you work on a computer, or with pen and paper, begin listing words, phrases and other verbal images that you find attractive and worthy of positive public attention. At this point, do not be concerned about the length of your notes, their chronology, or even the vocabulary you are utilizing. For example, if you were writing a physical description of yourself, you might begin with the basics of hair and eye color with simple words like “brown” and “black.” You can add interest later by replacing “brown” with more dynamic words like coffee, chestnut, or charcoal.

IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH FOR A biography?
If you are a professional, you will interact with colleagues and the general public in differing ways. Each time you are required to produce a new bio, you will face varying requirements in length and style.

~ A casual meeting or elevator speech requires a single sentence of self-introduction in a first-person voice

~ Casual reference by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Your brief self-introduction, should be about three sentences in a first-person voice

~ A brief introduction by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Detailed self-intros often range from a paragraph to a page, written in a first-person voice

~ Complex intros that are to be delivered by someone else should be similar in length, written in a third-person voice

  ~ Anything longer can be used for slow elevators or tall buildings 

BIOGRAPHY ELEMENTS
Regardless of usage, I recommend you utilize verbiage that expresses your personality, as well as the products or services you offer. This allows readers or listeners of your promotional materials [especially prior to an event] to feel they have actually met you. You should consider including the following.

~ Education and training
~ Career highlights and focus of work
~ Professional accreditation and affiliations
~ Photographs are optional and may be appropriate to only some uses. Authors can be photographed holding one of their books and artists may wish to show a sample of their art. Head and bust shots, as well as images of you standing on a stage or at a podium will all prove useful someday. If you have action shots featuring other people, you should obtain a signed release from them.

BIOGRAPHY LAYOUTS
Biographical layouts vary with length and purpose. To maximize harmony with other promotional materials, your biography should utilize elements from your style sheet with your signature font[s], colors, logos, slogans, etc.!

USAGE OF BIOGRAPHIES
Once you have created biographies of varying length and style, you can utilize them in numerous places. Bios can be placed in several places on the internet, including: One or more pages of your website[s], your blog; Facebook and other social media sites; a framed copy can face visitors to your office or studio.

I send copies of appropriate bios to organizers of public speaking engagements twice; once when arrangements have been confirmed, and just prior to the event. I also carry copies to the event in case the host does not have one. Depending on the purpose of the engagement, the bio/intro may be short or long. If short, I print it on cardstock, as well as 8.5 x 11- inch stationery. I also carry a copy with bulleted key points in a non-glare archival quality sleeve in my presentation folder…for those unexpected occasions when I end up having to introduce myself. [With bulleted data, I can choose to add or delete points that I may decide are, or are not, appropriate to the day’s audience.]

FYI: I recently received a call from a radio personality wanting to interview me. For a mere $125 per quarter of an hour, I can be featured on a drive-time radio show…This has reminded me of other [free] opportunities I have had. Not only am I glad to have varied bios at the ready for those I choose to pursue, but I’m thinking about preparing a series of questions that I might want an interviewer to ask…

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

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QUALITY BOOK PRODUCTION

The art of communication is as varied as its practitioners.  Success in your creative process usually rests on the degree of your inspiration.  For any professional, it also reflects perception of the desires of your target market. And, if you are an author, success also depends on the writing skills to which you have been introduced…and have mastered. There are many comprehensive sources of writers’ guidelines available online and in print. I will sometimes mention issues in the writing process, but in most of these blogs, I am attempting to share snippets of authoring strategies as they arise in my own wordsmithing. 

Many publishing houses restrict the amount of input an author may have in the printing process.  But as a writer, you should be able to express concerns you have about the production of a work that will carry your name.  As someone who has assisted in the process for other amateur and professional writers, and served as the art director on a collaborative effort, I am somewhat familiar with aspects of producing a high quality book.  

Now, as a debut author of fiction, I am entering a new phase of professional experience.  While the following areas of concern may not be presented in the sequencing of a publisher or art director, they represent my thought process while preparing for the publication of Prospect For Murder, the first book in the new Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.
branding program
Unified Appearance in a Series
Career longevity for a writer often rests on their successful book branding and advertising. These issues bring us to the appearance of one’s product; in this case, books.  There are many design dilemmas facing authors and the people who will introduce their work to the world.  Personally, I enjoy reading a classic hardbound book, so my contemplation of quality book printing rests on my perceptions of what constitutes a fine hardcover edition.

The Reader’s Experience
While the design elements of a print or on-line artistic project may vary in several ways (sometimes because of the genre), some issues are common.  In general, the test of a book’s initial appeal is its cover.  Does it draw the eye of the potential reader?  I say the reader, rather than the buyer, because with the constant rise in the cost of hardcopy books, library patrons represent a large segment of the public that may read your book.  Of course, to reach that readership, you will first have to appeal to the buyers of books that line library shelves.

Book jacket design is one of the most important elements that concerns marketers.  Therefore, I encourage you to seek an artist whose skills in fine and graphic art (as well as typography) will meet the needs of myriad projects.  Fortunately, I have found this breadth of talent in the work of Yasamine June.  

I do not claim to be a specialist in color theory, but generally, bold colors and print in product packaging are believed to help maximize sales.  In book publishing, successful cover design does not rest solely on these elements, or even on the overall quality of the artwork.  In publishing, the book’s genre is also vital.  Prospect for Murder is clearly a mystery.  In this genre, the coloration employed in book art often features dark colors, sometimes enhanced with the use of chiaroscuro [the effective contrasting of shadow and light]. 

To facilitate communication with my readers, my artistic vision embraces continuing historical and cultural features within the content and artistic accents that unify the appearance of the books.  Because my stories center on Hawai`i, I am using Island-themed framing based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry for each book’s cover.  This repeating image, plus ones that are pertinent to each story, will serve to meet potential readers’ expectations by unifying my branding, thereby increasing the public’s recognition of each new addition to the series.

In classic format, I have included a cast of characters, chapter aphorisms, and a notes and acknowledgments section.  In addition, because of the inclusion of considerable foreign language and historical references, I offer a guide for pronouncing Hawaiian words and a glossary of non-English and specialized vocabulary.  For emphasis, the aphorisms are presented in italic fonts and a distinctive hibiscus-based image frames each page number.
formatting tips
Empowering Your Words Through Readable Text
The next concern I have is readability.  Given the length of my books [PFM is 92,000 words], concerns about the cost of printing could lead to printing decisions based on saving paper: Margin size can be reduced; spacing after periods can be decreased from two spaces to one, blank pages between chapters can be eliminated, and the weight of the paper reduced.  Such choices might reduce the overall size of a book and conserve paper; but they would not enhance the sensory experience of the people reading the book. 

Beyond these general considerations, my target market is older, well-educated women and men who are as interested in character relationships as they are intriguing plotlines.  Many readers within my target market may wear eye glasses or contact lenses.  Nevertheless, I am told that with the lack of certain vocabulary and situational elements, the inclusion of historical references and multiculturalism, my series may be appropriate to students in advanced placement courses in secondary school.  These students may not be as concerned with the layout preferences of older readers, but they too will benefit from easy-to-read text.

Regarding my recently published book, I have agreed to a layout that includes single spacing following the end of sentences, despite the continuing use of two spaces by many publishers both here and abroad.  To compensate for this, my publisher has used a larger font that enhances the readability of the text of the hardcopy.

Audio Books and Public Readings
With a trilogy of books already completed in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series, I have already completed an audio edition of the first volume.  In general, I knew I had to employ a believable voice for each of the characters.  As the series is written in the first person, the most important voice is that of the protagonist, who is roughly my age.  For Natalie’s inner narrative, I use a measured and calm voice; for her interaction with other characters, I employ tones and rhythms appropriate to each scene.  Other characters are presented to showcase their unique profiles.

In preparation for reading portions of Prospect for Murder, I recorded descriptions and samples of each cast member. The text for each was printed in a distinctive color.  In addition, I utilized a 14 point font and 1.5 line spacing. I also used varying spacing and marks to indicate pauses and emphasis. 

For instance, I use: upward and downward arrows for changes in tone; ellipses for the trailing off of my voice; and long dashes for abrupt breaks.  For vocabulary or phrases about which I was concerned with correct pronunciation, I inserted underscoring and added hyphens between syllables.

In future blogs, I’ll report on the response to the decisions I have made in this phase of my practice of the art and science of writing!

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design 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

To learn more about the Conversations with Auntie Carol, the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

FOLLOW ME:
Facebook
Amazon

Apple Books
Audible
Authors Den
Barnes and Noble
Blogarama
Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited
Good Reads
Hometown Reads
Midpoint
Smashwords