SUCCESSFUL COVER ART

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 Murders of Conveyance!

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

author, narrator, design 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

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.

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

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 1

So lovely to have my editor Viki Gillespie join me at a speaking engagement!

PROMO MATERIALS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING

Today, I am using the phrase “Public speaking” to cover several means of communicating orally. First there are traditional public addresses, usually delivered from a podium. The Internet, radio, television, video, and other methods for presenting your image and words can also be included within this classification. Within a broader context, I believe it’s also appropriate to consider audio books and interviews.

PUT SOME ZING IN YOUR PROMOTION!
In my blog on Author Appearances I summarized some of the necessary preparation for successful public readings of an author’s work.  My comments encompassed a few basics for evaluating, seeking, scheduling, and marketing potential engagements.  I also skimmed over aspects for preparing yourself visually and vocally.

Today’s blog offers suggestions for preparing materials you’ll need prior to and during speaking engagements as an author. Some of these items may be useful in garnering opportunities for public addresses; others for shaping a rapidly-arranged display; and, some for quick reference during Question and Answer moments. All of them will be subject to constant redesign, as pertinent text and images evolve over your writing career.

Aside from the free-flow of dialogues with interviewers, you should be able to control most aspects of oral presentations—with the understanding that the mechanism by which your words are captured and projected can affect the tone and quality of your voice…

Self Introduction and Promotional Materials
There are several support items you should have available for general marketing, as well as for your public appearances and speaking engagements. Some of these may be appropriate to share with the event organizers in advance of your talk. Depending on the venue, you may be able to set up a display, which I will discuss in Part III of this series, Public Speaking to Enhance Branding, to be featured on Hometown Reads in September, 2018.

~ Business Cards. Consider double-sided, or even folded cards, to promote multiple facets of your work. As the author of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, I now utilize  a folding card that allows me to mention my authorship and marketing consultancy on the outer sides, and two published books on the inside.

~ Biographies. To meet a variety of needs, the length may range from a sentence to multiple pages. See a discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html.

~ Résumés. Having résumés of varying lengths and types (sometimes on  letterhead stationery) is useful. As I periodically provide marketing advice to executives and their organizations, I have résumés that address that aspect of my work, as well as another offering information on my authorship. Go to imaginingswordpower.com/resume—career-tips.html to view résumé and career tips.

~ Handouts. Depending on your audience, these may range from key talking points to reference data. 

~ Fliers and Sales Sheets. These should feature specific books and other products you wish to promote. At this time, I am utilizing a double-sided flier. It features Prospect for Murder and Murder on Mokulua Drive. I also have one describing Conversations with Auntie Carol, an oral history project planned for publication as both an audio and print book.

~ Media Releases. I use a format highlighting the Ws of journalism–Who, What, When, and Where. View samples for both print and broadcast media outlets at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

~ Photographs. Large and small, some should show you holding one of your books.

~ Posters and Banners. These can range from you and your current work to previous events.

To Script or Not to Script Your Delivery…
With regard to your actual presentation, let’s consider the text of your talk. Do you require a formally written speech in order to provide an effective performance? Before you answer, consider the environment in which you’ll be speaking and your audience, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. Personally, I find that while I may wish to use a scripted opening and closing, I like to refer to a detailed outline during most of my talk. In addition, I prepare a list of key points and facts to reference during Question and Answer sessions.

I carefully prepare all text that must be read accurately. Knowing that electronic devices can fail during a performance, I always carry hardcopy of the material I will present. And, while some speakers choose to read directly from published materials, or manuscripts, I employ the following guidelines to maximize the flow of the reading from scripted text:

~ To minimize the number of pages, I use 1.5-line spacing and half-inch margins on 8.5 x 11-inch paper.

~ To maximize readability, I utilize 14-point fonts, with Underscore, Bold and All caps as needed, with Seraphed Fonts for general text [unless you have a vision problem] and Non-Seraphed for titles.

~ To enhance the flow of your reading, end pages with the completion of paragraphs and quotes.

~ Present character voices in colorized text. To facilitate pronunciation of regional accents and foreign words, insert ellipses, commas, hyphens between syllables, and/or other marks. For the Southern accented voice of Lieutenant John Dias in Prospect for Murder, I modified the text I read:

            Book:  Ariel will be coming to the apartment tomorrow.

            Script:  Ahr-iell will be com-n’ to the ap-ahrt-ment tom-mar-ah.

Organizing Scripted Pages

~ Insert single pages of your text in low-glare archival sleeves. This actually kills the rustling of paper.

~ Put sleeves within a solid colored three-ring binder. The front can feature one of your book jackets.

~ Position each sleeve uniformly on either the right or the left-hand side of the folder. This will minimize the movement of your head while turning pages. This will be less distracting to your audience and minimize variations in the sound quality at a podium microphone.  

~ Place clearly labeled dividers between sections. This will facilitate spur-of-the-moment shifts you may wish to make during your presentation and Q&A follow-up.

~ Convert softcover editions of your books to spiral binding for quick reference and reading in less formal settings. You can insert sticky notes or other markers for passages you wish to access.

In my next blog, we’ll consider aspects of space and equipment during your public appearance…

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

author, narrator, design 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

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.

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

BOOK PROMOTION AND EVOLVING ART

The award winning first Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery

 As I examine the months since the launch of Prospect For Murder [the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series], I realize I have not posted a blog regarding the never-ending art and science of writing for a long time.  I’ve started several, but details of the publishing and promotional processes have interfered with my sharing new author strategiesSince addressing the topic of my artistic vision for the book layout for Prospect For Murder in a previous blog, it has been released in hardcover, downloadable audio and ebook formats, and a 9-CD as well as downloadable audio book. Preparing for the promotion of each version has required re-examination of artwork and descriptive text, as each format varies in size and may appeal to a different target market

successful advertising and branding
Evolving Art and Text That Unifies Book Branding

Authors may separate their work into categories of writing, publishing, and marketing, but each of these activities should unite under a shared roof of unified branding.  And while today’s book marketplace includes many self-publishing authors choosing to offer downloadable rather than printed books, such works must still be accompanied by attractive art and typography to maximize their appeal to the sensory experience of potential readers.

There are many ways to make the appearance of a book pop within the massive listings of any genre.  As mentioned in my discussion of art for PFM, I have chosen to use an Island-themed gold frame based on Hawaiian heirloom gold jewelry to distinguish my book and the promotional materials with which I market it.  

Hardcover, Downloadable E & Audio Books, and CD Audio Book Art

Hardcover Books
Book jacket art
for the hardcover edition of PFM was the first design project I undertook.  After the evocative gold frame was completed, I realized it could be utilized for the entire mystery series.  And, with changes in the metallic color, it will be ideal for other book projects as well. Below is the first version of the book jacket, which was clearly too dark!

Prospect for Murder...in written and audio editions...the first Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery

9-CD Audio Book Albums

After I completed recording the 9-CD audio book, it was time to modify the book jacket art.  For the CD albums, my job was to shorten text describing the book and me, as well as the snippets of reviews.  My artist and typographer Yasamine June [you can view samples of her work at www.yasaminejune.com] then adjusted the size and proportion of her original artwork and dropped in my edits.

Downloadable Ebook and Audio Editions
The next task was designing website icons for sites offering the downloadable audio and ebook editions.  Our goal was to enhance a visitor’s recognition of the products being offered.  Therefore we created a conjoined image of the hardcover book jacket and a square edit resembling a CD case.  Wherever possible, this paired image is used to signify that Prospect For Murder is available in multiple formats.

Designing Promotional Materials & Your Author Website

The art of communication is one of the most vital skills a professional in any field can develop to help them in achieving goals and objectives in both their public and private living.  The following tools can be refined to maximize messages to colleagues, friends and the general public.

Artwork
I use the iconic paired image of the print and audio editions of PFM as artwork for both printed promotional materials and my author website.  Without intention, the colors for Prospect For Murder and Imaginings Wordpower were nearly the same, which has greatly simplified my choice in color palette. I am still contemplating where and how I will utilize the gold frame.

Titling
I have used the Peignot font for my promotional business, Imaginings Wordpower [www.ImaginingsWordpower.com] for many years.  Therefore, I chose to use it for the titling of book jackets, my author website, and all promotional materials for the Natalie Seachrist series.  This decision is especially appropriate since many of the historical details used in the series predate World War II.  The Peignot font is an art déco [or style moderne dating from the 1920s], sans-serif display typeface designed by A. M. Cassandre in 1937 for the Deberny & Peignot Foundry in France.  While this font is too stylized for lengthy text, it makes a viable statement for titling and headings.

Author Business Card
Unexpectedly, I discovered that the standard size of a business card and the dark haunting color of the hardcover and audio book art was not suitable to my new double-sided author business card.  To resolve these problems, I created a new image.  I did this by overlapping the frame of the hardcover edition with that of the downloadable audio edition.   In the lower right-hand corner, I inserted the gold hibiscus found in the corners of the frames.  This has proven effective, since the image is always accompanied by text providing my name and the title of the book.

Author Stationery and Forms
With use of the paired image of the print and audio books, plus the Peignot font, there were few decisions to make in creating my author letterhead stationery.  For most purposes, I place the iconic art image in the top left hand corner of the page and all contact information centered at the bottom.  This layout works for both letters and business forms [such as invoices]. 

Communicating Through Emails
Every piece of communication you generate is a marketing opportunity.  And while you may not use an outgoing email layout paralleling your letterhead stationery, you can strategically position artwork, logos, and other information to draw the recipient’s eye.  I put the paired book image and purchasing information in the top left-hand corner of each outgoing email.  For the signature section for all outgoing emails, I have added a link to my author website [www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com] my Imaginings Wordpower website [www.ImaginingsWordpower.com] and this blog [www.Blog.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com].

Logo Notecards
For many years I’ve used what I call logo notecards to extend invitations, express gratitude, and confirm appointments.  For both portrait and landscape layouts, I place a logo in one quadrant of an 8.5 x 11 inch layout, with text positioned diagonally and upside down from the artwork.  The printed result is a sheet of paper that can be folded into a 5.5 x 4.5 notecard that will fit an invitation-sized envelope. 

Postcards
After discovering that postage was the same for a couple of sizes of postcards, I chose a dimension of 8.5 x 5 inches for my author’s promotional postcard.  Beyond displaying recognizable book cover art, this ensures sufficient space for a synopsis and book reviews, plus purchasing options.  The art and descriptive text pop against a simple white background, with a high gloss finish on the front side for durability and flat finish on the back, which facilitates use of a pen for personal messages. 

Sadly, I discovered a typo after receiving an initial order of the postcards.  And having continued to receive positive reviews, I realized I should have printed a small number of the cards initially, to allow for subsequent corrections and additions.  As my publisher has declined to reprint book jackets with the latest reviews, I’m glad my second run of postcards allows me to send out books as samples, or for review or sale with up-to-date information.

Other Promotional Considerations

Websites Displaying Prospect For Murder
As the release date for PFM neared, the number of websites featuring the book increased.  Unfortunately, some had received galleys displaying artwork devised as a placeholder for the book jacket art that was to come.  Without proper notification, these sites would continue to display the galley image as being representative of the published book.  Therefore, I suggest that authors releasing books through publishers or on their own, remain vigilant in cruising the Internet to ensure that the words and images describing them, as well as their work appear as they intend!

In addition, authors need to be aware that many popular websites selling and promoting books do NOT offer an easy means for having books reviewed or even displayed in categorical listings.  Most of the time, an author’s work is only visible if the visitor to a site knows the author’s name or book title.  I strive to see Prospect For Murder displayed under the following categories for each of its several editions:  Hawai`i; Hawaiian mysteries; cozy mysteries; cat mysteries; female authors; female detectives; female sleuths. If you have any tips to help me with this situation, please drop me a note through the contact form on one of my websites…

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 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

ACKNOWLEDGING MENTORS

So lovely to have my editor Viki Gillespie join me at a speaking engagement!

Acknowledging our mentors and consultants is a key authoring strategy!

There are so many aspects to the art and science of writing that it is easy to lose focus of mechanical details while completing a project.  Empowering your words fully means having access to technical experts for fiction as well as non-fiction.  Sometimes when we think of the people who’ve advised us about our work—or regarding life in general—it’s difficult to remember them all.  But the demands of book publishing eventually require authors to compose an acknowledgments section. Beyond being a gracious act, it can be a key authoring strategy in gaining the respect  of those who help you, as well as your readership.

In my own experience, I have learned that it is not good to wait until the end to begin documenting everyone who has contributed to your final product.  The simplest solution to this aspect of the editorial process is to keep notes on the people and organizations that are of assistance to us as a project develops.  As I have moved from Prospect for Murder to Murder on Mokulua Drive, and from Murders of Conveyance to Yen For Murder, I have copied the Notes and Acknowledgment portion from one manuscript into the next.  After removing references that are not pertinent to the current work, I continue to make quick notes as I progress through each book.  By the end of a project, I may not have beautifully composed text, but I have complete references that will allow me to polish the section. 

The easiest citations to track are for people connected to a library, institution, or government agency.  Of course, such organizations often have considerable turnover in staff.  That means you’ll need to verify whether a person remains in the job you’ve cited. Strategically inserting a phrase like “at the time” allows you to recognize a person’s help, even if you cannot verify their position as you go to press. 

During a professional writer’s research, some individuals will provide meaningful counsel for several years.  In my case, this category of advisers includes both generalists and specialists. Having described my protagonist Natalie Seachrist as the widow of a naval officer, I’m fortunate to have a husband who is a retired Lieutenant Commander.  When unexpected questions about ships and naval protocols have arisen, he’s been able to answer them quickly at unusual times.

There are also people whose contributions move beyond their specific area of expertise. For example, the late Kevin C. Horstman, PhD (who specialized in geological sciences and digital image enhancement) has shared concise knowledge of the realm of geology.  In addition, he’s provided understanding of geographical features and general scientific terminology.  This invaluable input strengthens my ability to write descriptively, and has inspired writing of passages I had not foreseen.

Through appendices and footnotes, an author can reference the contributions of such technical, scientific, or artistic professionals in non-fiction pieces.  Unfortunately, this is not appropriate to most works of fiction.  However, fictional wordsmithing can utilize prefatory remarks, or dedication of a book or other major work to recognize such people.  For even if you do not realize it, a reader’s expectations usually includes a desire to gain insight into how you have researched and shaped the work you are presenting to them. This is particularly true in the case of a series in which you will hope to gain a following from one book to the next.

Audio books require additional levels of attention to enhance the sensory experience of listeners.  As I prepared to produce the audio recording of Prospect For Murder, I remained alert to aspects of production that could fulfill a listener’s expectations. A major consideration was providing precise chapter breaks, so that listeners know where they are within an audio book.  It was also important to provide a distinct voice for each character.  As someone trained in the theatre arts, I know it is easy for a solo performer to become confused in presentation of multiple characters. 

Fortunately, I work with Jim Waters of Waterworks Recording. His experience in audio production positioned him to serve effectively as my director, as well as my recording producer and engineer.  One of the best formatting tips he shared with me for preparing recording scripts was ensuring each page concluded with the end of a paragraph and/or an individual character’s voice.  In addition I utilized various formatting to indicate how each passage was to be read.

As this first book in the Natalie Seachrist series reached its release date at the end of July 2016, I prepared Internet announcements through Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com, plus a new author website, Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com and a Facebook page designed as a simple billboard for announcements.  For these and other purposes, I’ve needed a professional photograph to accompany cover art and promotional text.  This task seemed straight forward.  However, on the day of the shoot, the weather was muggy, the activity took place in a space using evaporative cooling rather than air conditioning, and I was definitely having a bad hair day.

Perhaps I should have paid a cancellation fee and rescheduled the event.  But with deadlines looming, I proceeded.  At the end of the shoot I learned that the digital photographic firm could make image enhancements…at $35 for each element they adjusted.  By the time I would have had them amend several parts of the picture I’d selected, I could have spent as much as for the shoot itself.  Fortunately, a friend’s daughter, provided graphic art fixes.  While this valuable service does not fall within a normal range of publishing credit, in the future she may become one of my advance readers, and I’ll be able to acknowledge her professional services in my notes section.

In summation, there are varied means by which you can thank and give credit to those who help you present your thoughts to the public!

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.

FOLLOW ME:
Facebook
Amazon

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

Interviews & Oral Histories, 3

Conducting Interviews

Few people willingly give up control of their personhood to allow a stranger to delve into their inner thoughts.  But those private thoughts are what an effective writer must access to produce a true facsimile of each interview they conduct.  For as a professional or even an amateur writer, your goal is to meet your listeners or readers expectations that they are sharing your sensory experience while gleaning the particulars of why the highlighted individual is worthy of their attention. 

There are four statements I can make about my perspective on the interviewing process:

~  The interviewer has one chance to make a good first impression
~  The interviewer may not get another opportunity to interview their subject
~  Despite a subject’s agenda, an interview should encompass a non-fiction record of fact
~  Regardless of the premise for an interview, the subject may become reluctant to speak about topics previously authorized for discussion

The Importance of Preparing for Interviews
In several blogs, I’ve stressed the importance of preparation to conduct both general and oral history interviews.  In contrast, there are some writers who feel that research and other preparation is unnecessary, or even unwarranted.  I strongly disagree.  I believe research is vital to empowering your words in the interview process.  It will also help establish your credibility as a wordsmith who has mastered the art and science of writing.  In short, it’s one of the best ways of demonstrating your skill at the art of communication and making your subject trust you.

Contrary to the theory that “winging it” in an interview demonstrates you are a “common man,” and therefore likely to establish a connection with your interviewee, I’ve observed the results of people who conduct interviews without appropriate research.  For when an interviewer demonstrates little knowledge of their subject, their interviewee may judge them inconsequential.  If that is the case, responses to the interviewer’s questions may be superficial.  In fact, the subject  may be thinking, “If you don’t care enough to do your homework, why should I care about your project?”  So I’ll just keep the kernels of my truth to myself until the right interviewer comes along.”

Summarizing Your Research
By the time you’re ready to conduct a cogent interview, you should have completed a great deal of fact checking in several areas of your subject’s life, including:

~  The historical era of their life and the category of work they’ve performed
~  Their biography and career…as reported by them, and as available in public sources
~  Materials they’ve published, and speeches and interviews they’ve given previously
~  Comments their colleagues and other contemporaries have expressed about them

 Shaping Your Questions
The bulk of your questions will be determined by the purpose of your project. In some cases you’ll need to conduct interviews with multiple persons.  By asking parallel questions of each, you can compare and contrast their views of the primary subject, as well as one another.

Regardless of whether there’s any obvious controversy you must address, beginning your interview with general questions about the unfolding of the subject’s life, can assist in putting them at ease…if their mental processes are fully functioning and there are no hidden elements in their early life.

By delivering the early portion of your questions chronologically, your interviewee can mentally relive moments with which they should be comfortable. Additionally, taking them through the recognizable patterns of the decades of their life may trigger remembrance of small details.  This will not only enhance the interview itself, but also add color to your subsequent reporting of the event. This can, of course, lead to some sidetracking, but you should be able to steer the conversation back to the key points you need to cover.

Prior to, or during the interview, you may uncover facts about your subject’s life and work that are at odds with information the person has released in the past.  In this case, you’ll have to decide whether to directly question these inconsistencies. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that true or false, the opinions of others may have colored the public record.  Also, the perspectives of most people change with time and life experience.  And, whether we like to admit it or not, everyone has gaps in their memory, without necessarily being conscious of it.

Approaching the Interview
It’s nearly show time.  That’s right.  I said show time.  While serious scholars and journalists may dislike hearing me say it, an interview is usually a semi-public performance.  Unlike a play, the dialogue is not set in stone; unlike an evening at an improv theatre, it’s not without direction and form—for that’s your job.  But like a play on Broadway, it will be frozen in time, even if you conduct subsequent interviews.

Location of the Interview
It’s been my experience that interviewees often set and control the location of the interviews they grant.  This may not be the case for broadcast media and bloggers with sets in which the subject is expected to appear, but you are probably not working in these situations. Admittedly, it’s best to conduct an interview at a site to which you’re both agreeable, but sometimes you must accept interviewing your subject in their office, home or other location of their choice.  Nevertheless, there are things you can do to balance the situation so that you’re able to subtly declare your professional standing, while still putting the person at ease. 

There are many authoring strategies that can help to distinguish your work as an interviewer.  Establishing a good rapport can be the key to making the interviewee trust you with the information they’re imparting.  To do this, you might bring something with you to enhance the experience.  This could be an edible item, or, if you know they are fond of a particular author, you might obtain a copy of that writer’s work to share with your subject.  Please note that I’m not suggesting you spend a significant sum of money to buy your subject’s cooperation.  But small acts of kindness can help warm the atmosphere, demonstrate the thoroughness of your preparation, and make the entire experience positively memorable for both of you.

Interviewer Anxieties
Anxiety will undoubtedly arise, regardless of your preparation.  Despite previous contact you may have had with a subject, being in their presence (even by video conferencing or telephone) changes the balance of your relationship. There is another factor that may detract from your rapport with your interviewee:  If there’s an aspect of their lives that makes them suspect in the eyes of the public, they may be hesitant about granting you an interview.  They may be apprehensive about information you may have uncovered already…or what they might reveal in conversation with you. 

The Atmosphere of the Interview
Even when you have secured the location for holding the event, you cannot be certain of being able to completely control the environment.

~  Despite previous agreement, additional people may be present during the event
~  As recording devices can fail, carry a back-up unit, cordage and microphones with you
~  Regardless of their response, your subject may be distracted by ringing telephones and other interruptions

As you set up your equipment, be aware that recognition of the permanency of the record of their interview may be upsetting to your subject. Even if you have provided them with a copy of your primary questions, they may dislike seeing the list set out before them.  They may also have negative feelings about seeing any reference notes you’ve brought. But since such materials should be in easily read styles and sizes of fonts, you’ll be able to quickly reference pertinent facts, while maintaining eye contact and keeping the dialogue between you as natural as possible. 

The Ebb and Flow of Your Interview
Establishing and maintaining a smooth flow of conversation is a primary goal in the interviewing process.  Regardless of whether your personal views are in accord with those of your interviewee, it’s important to approach what they have to say with a calm, if not fully open mind.  This does not mean that you have to forfeit your role as the honest broker of truth.  However, you can adjust your personal style of behavior and other elements to maximize a positive atmosphere. After all, as in any natural conversation, your subject will periodically lead the discussion. That’s fine as long as they do not deviate greatly from the purpose of your dialogue, or delve into personal details of your life.

Be Prepared for Shifts During Your Interview
After opening pleasantries, you can help direct the flow of the interview by verifying the amount of time you’ll have with your subject.  This establishes a guideline for both parties and should make your periodic redirection of topic easier to explain.

Although you’re guiding the overall direction of the conversation, information will arise that may surprise you, or at least call for cursory examination. This may occur because the man or woman to whom you are speaking may have talking points of their own that they wish addressed.  If that’s so, let them express their concerns, and then try to deftly redirect them to the specific information you need in order to complete your project.

The Editorial Process
Sometimes an author feels stressed about the relationship between the creative process and editing As you review an interview, you will not only want to envision how you will shape an accurate account of the event that reflects truly inspired writing as well.  One thing that can help you achieve this dual pronged goal is to remember that the way in which you report your findings may be wholly different than the substance and sequence of the questions you posed. 

For example, if you’re part of an oral history project, there may be a specific format for you to follow.  This generates a record that harmonizes with the results of other interviewers within the larger body of work.  Typically you’ll prepare a transcript of the actual dialogue between you and the subject—often with punctuation or other markings to indicate accents, pauses, stresses, and other notable features of your conversation.  You may also write an introductory passage explaining your methods of preparation and your evaluation of the results you’ve achieved.

If you’re working on assignment for a media outlet, you might have the opportunity to write a personable article containing both dialogue and narrative prose. In this case, you may be allowed to offer your candid view of the person you’ve studied.  Be aware, if you’re working as a freelance researcher and writer, you may need to prepare multiple versions of your report in order to secure one or more appropriate outlets for its broadcast or publication.  I should note that there are situations when an interview will be available to only a select audience, or may be held in private for release at a future time.

As you finalize your work on an interview, you’ll want to remember that in this day of permanency in data recording and retrieval, the words you shape after the interview will live as long as the event itself.

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

For further information on interviews and oral histories see:
Overview of Interview and Oral History Projects, June 2015
Researching for Interviews, July 2015
Conducting Interviews, May 2016
After the Interview, August 2017

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:
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Authors Den
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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:
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Amazon

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

AUTHOR APPEARANCES

Writers’ Guidelines
Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you will need to consider elements of successful advertising and branding for authors.  The skills you have developed as a wordsmith will help you facilitate communication and networking with individuals and organizations that can help you increase your public visibility.

Author Appearances & Readings
You’ve completed a large project in fiction or non-fiction and it’s been published. You’ve made great progress toward achieving your goals as a writer.  And if you’ve written an award-winning book, you’ve reached a major milestone in successfully practicing the art and science of writing. 

Thinking the heavy work is over? You’re wrong.  Seriously wrong. You’ve simply turned the corner from building a product to marketing it in tandem with your publisher…That is, unless you’re entering the world of independent publishing.  In that case, you’ll be responsible for self-marketing, and need to maximize a branding program that relies on dynamic but cost-effective authoring strategies and advertising messages. 

Regardless of how your work is being published, you’ll need to make promotional appearances.  That process should include opportunities for your readers to hear your words, as well as to ask you impromptu questions about yourself and your work.  Even if you do not have a strong voice or dynamic style of presentation, the public will want to get to know the mind and personality that has generated the material in which they are interested.

Venues for Author Appearances
In preparation for your work to the public personally, you can refine your oral reading skills by practicing with a voice recording device in front of a mirror.  You can also hone your skills at a writers’ group, where you could work on timing selected readings.  If you find yourself uncomfortable reading aloud, appearances at a small book club meeting may be ideal for warming up for larger audiences.  

Once you’re ready for general audiences, you’ll find there are many venues at which you might share your writing.  Some are directly related to publishing, such as book fairs and literary and artistic festivals.  Depending on your reputation as a writer, your local radio or television station may have programming featuring local writers.  This is especially true of public broadcasting in radio and television. 

Since your goal is to sell books in every form you are publishedhard- or softcover print, Ebooks, audio books, or online websites and blog sites—libraries and bookstores [local and national chains]  are ideal for promoting current work and for attracting potential long-term followers.  Again, your personal reputation and the involvement of your publisher may determine the ease with which such appearances can be booked. 
Media Relations Dos and Don’ts
Expanding Media Relations
In previous blogs—and at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.comI’ve discussed the importance of connectivity with the media.  With each public performance opportunity, I suggest you prepare an advertising message that can be adapted to public service announcement [PSA] messages.  These can be utilized promoting the non-profit organizations (i.e. schools and libraries) at which you might appear.  For while you may have expectations of selling copies of the work you’re promoting,
your authoring events may be deemed worthy of mention in the calendar of non-profit community activities within your local media outlets and platforms, as well as virtual communities.  They may also be of interest to followers of social media and blogs featuring interviews.
s
Cost-Effective Media Relations
As you expand your community relations and get to know your media, you may be surprised by the amount of free media coverage you can obtain.  It all depends on your practice of the art of communication, and I don’t simply mean effective wordsmithing.  Hopefully your writer’s inspiration will aid you in establishing strategic media relations.  Much of this will rely on pithy PSAs prepared as broadcast, print, and On-line media releases [you can find samples at my marketing website, Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.
You should also be prepared to attend business, social and community activities that will introduce you to members of the media, whose own work you may have been enjoying for years.
Empowering Your Words
Enhancing the Listener’s Experience in Your Public Performance
Let me again state that you have one opportunity to make a good first impression.  Remember that each time you appear in public, you’re making a statement about yourself and your work.  And although your written work may be inspired and employ a rich palette of words, you must now present it to people who will be judging you on their sensory experience!

Where you present your work should direct your preparation Will you be speaking in a large or small room?  Will you be standing or seated?  How much of your body will be visible to the audience?  Will you have a microphone?  Will you be introducing yourself?  Will someone be monitoring the time you’ve been allotted for speaking?  Are you the featured speaker at the event, or one of a group of presenters?  And how will you handle stage fright?  I encourage you to remember that stage fright is not a phenomena experienced solely by actors

~  The quality of your voice.  Once you know the size of the room and whether you will be utilizing a microphone, consider how well your vocal quality matches the venue.  Remember that unless you are providing your own Audio Visual equipment, there’s no way you can be assured that the equipment provided will work as desired.  Therefore, think about whether you have the vocal strength to project your voice throughout the designated space if you end up without a sound system. 

Although no one wants to give a reading on a day when they are not feeling well, you may not be able to cancel an appearance.  If you are unable to read your material, you may need to take a friend or colleague to actually present your work, but it would still be good for you to show up (as long as you’re not contagious).   When in doubt about your condition, check with your healthcare provider.  If you just have a tickle in your throat, you can always try drinking warm tea or munching your favorite fruit to produce a clearer sounding voice.  

~  Your appearance Many artists and writers feel there’s no need to be concerned about their appearance or their behavior.  But if you want to be taken seriously, I believe you should demonstrate respect for yourself, your work, and for the public who awaits you.  What you wear may be dictated by where you’ll be speaking.  If you’re standing on a raised platform, consider how your legs and shoes will look from the audience.  Women may want to wear a longer skirt length than they normally do, or even a pantsuit to ensure they aren’t sending the wrong message.  And don’t forget that use of makeup is not limited to women.  Men, (especially those who are bald), are just as susceptible to having a glowing face that detracts whether they are on stage or on video.  Also, the eyes are key to projecting a performer’s personality.  A touch of eye liner below the lower eye lashes gives your audience a sense of being closer to you.

As to style, the casualness of ragged denim, faded hoodies and unshaven portions of one’s anatomy may seem representative of the artistic world.  But ask yourself whether they best represent the work you are introducing.  If you’re beyond the first two decades of life, consider more sophisticated choices in attire and overall self-presentation. Personally, I usually top skirts and dresses I wear to public events with a vivid Asian style silk jacket.  Not only is this in keeping with my normal wardrobe, but since the Natalie Seachrist mysteries features references to Asian culture, this choice sets the stage for the stories that I will be addressing.

Introducing Yourself
You should have several empowering bios by the time you’re launching a book.  [You’ll find a summary for writing one on my website at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html]  You should have brief versions in one or two paragraphs in both first and second person voices.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be an MC or other person to introduce you, and hopefully they’ll read your bio without inappropriate ad-libs.  However, regardless of your advance planning, there will be times when you must introduce yourself.  And while it is important to have a well-written bio, it is useful to be able to speak off-the-cuff without any notes. 

Your Performance
That’s right.  I said Performance.  That’s what an author’s appearance is.  You must present yourself so that you are memorable and believable as the author of the work you have produced.  And just as there are many styles of writing, there are many ways in which you can present your work.  In my opinion, the top rung of professionalism holds those rare authors who memorize portions of their work and perform it like a play…that is, sans script. 

One of the most likely venues in which you’ll see this type of performance is Cowboy Poetry.  One of my favorite entertainers in this genre is Bill Black, whose warm vocal tones are accented with more than a hint of North Carolina.  From the moment he steps onto a stage with his cowboy shirt, hat and bolo tie, the audience is wooed by both the stories he relates and his personage as their author.

At the next level are presenters who place text within a folder.  This is where I fall in terms of performance.  I try to avoid treating my audiences to the rustling and flopping of loose pages that can separate easily and cause the reader confusion.

A Single Performance Among Many
At some time, you may be charged with scheduling a group of authors to read.  At a recent gathering of writers, I found that despite instructions to “read for about five minutes,” there was great variety in the lengths of the readings.  Even when a presenter has timed their work in advance, the pressure of public performance can produce variations in the actual length of a reading.  I believe that setting a measurable standard (i.e. three to four pages, double spaced).  While some will read faster or slower, the overall time of the readings should even out.

Does an Event Warrant a Media Release?
Event organizers will normally generate media releases.  That’s wonderful, especially if they follow the details of a bio you submit.  But there’s nothing wrong with sending out your own media releases if you’re a featured participant.  You should include general information about the occasion, your role in it, and other newsworthy persons who are involved, so that your effort does not appear wholly self-serving.  In fact, the sponsors should welcome your boosting the likelihood of media coverage.  For information on this topic, see earlier blogs, as well as sample releases on my website at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

 In addition, you can send our post cards, letters, fliers or other announcements.   Recipients should include people you expect to attend, as well as those who may not be able to participate but should be aware of your involvement.  If event is open to the general public, distribution of your promo information via mail, email, and social media may add to the number of attendees. 

No matter how well you think you have prepared for an event, something can happen to derail a public appearance.  Once it is over, hold your own private event autopsy, if the event organizers do not have one.  And don’t forget to send out a post-event media release.  Again, make a point of mentioning any noteworthy persons or historical context who are of general interest in your community.  Finally, upload a sample of the reading you gave at the event on your website or social media, even if you have to record it anew.

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

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

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 your 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 mediaA 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 creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design 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 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.

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WINNING LOGOS & SLOGANS…

…For authors and artists as well as corporations!

What are the elements of your brand?

Design Dilemmas for Authors

While logos and slogans are usually associated with corporations, they can facilitate communication with the public and be key branding elements for any business endeavor, regardless of size or tax status.  And, yes, that includes professional writers wishing to facilitate communication with their readers, listeners, and/or viewers.  The memorable branding messages of successful authors echo the rich palette of words and images used by Fortune 500 companies! 

What comes to your mind when you think of a successful logo or slogan?  Perhaps the first is the iconic image of a cola company that has been in business for over one hundred and twenty-five years.  There have been many artists who have brought their own creative process to the company.  But while its logo has changed in minor ways, the bright color palette, signature font, and swirls of one type or another have remained ever present.  

In contrast, its slogans and other commercial text for their signature product have been altered periodically.   This is not surprising since marketing styles and considerable linguistic evolution have occurred within the same decades.  But with each change, the artistic vision of the company has been consistent—to provide a pleasurable sensory experience to the product’s target market.
Formatting Tips
In addition to any artistic icon, the color choice and fonts utilized in shaping the outward image of a viable brand must be memorable. They must also be appropriate to the product or service, as well as the demographics of the target market.  However, since a business can select a specific slice of their market to target, the style of two businesses within a particular industry can vary considerably.

Consider snack foods intended for children.  Generally, bright, happy colors, images, and simple easy-to-read—or even cartoonish—text fonts are appealing to that market.  But when the ingredients are organic, the use of colors associated with nature is the norm.  In addition, with growing concerns for the environment, recycled and/or recyclable packaging is becoming preferable…at least to parents.

When you know the demographics of your target market, your first decision in establishing your brand may be deciding whether to use your personal or business name without an accompanying image. This may be appropriate if your name distinguishes your business from others that offer parallel products and/or services.  However, the use of an artistic design element not only clarifies what you do, but demonstrates the style in which you operate.  Thus, a black, profiled outline of a woman with luxurious hair, standing in high heels against a deep plum color may convey an ideal image for an upscale salon or spa.  If the figure of a man in a tuxedo were added, an iconic image for a ballroom dancing studio would emerge.

Let’s now consider how we might design a logo for a company we’ll call Inner City Painting.  Beyond the simple use of text, one could use an upturned paint brush with a splash of paint for each of the i’s in the text.  At the next level of complexity, a simple line drawing of a home or a string of commercial buildings could declare the firm’s niche market. 

Aside from clean, non-seraphed text, three primary colors might convey a no-frills provider of basic painting services.  Conversely, sweeping art strokes, an elegant font, and an exotic color palette would suggest a more artistic enterprise.  [See DESIGN DILEMMAS FOR AUTHORS, Part 3:  COLOR, May 30, 2015, regarding the use of standardized colors to ensure uniform coloration in both print and electronic publishing.]

Several years ago, I was working with a local printer whose family had been in the industry in a large city for several decades.  Although the familial entity no longer existed, the branding artwork remained.  It depicted a happy cartoon character inviting the public through their doors.  The style of the figure, his attire and shoes all pointed to another era, but the idea of a friendly chap greeting customers was still a viable concept—especially in this age of impersonal mega-corporations.  With the help of a graphic artist, the image of your friendly neighborhood printer was updated and served to introduce the firm to a new generation of clients seeking full-service printing design and production.

Equally important to an effective branding program is the choice of a slogan, for both individuals and organizations.  Notice that I am using the single noun, S L O G A N.  Too often I find promotional decision makers attracted to complex images and multiple descriptive phrases.  This simply muddies the waters and presents a jumbled NON-MEMORABLE image to the public.

Consider artist John Smith.  He might present himself as:  John James Smith, portraitist.  In this case, his middle name separates the artist from other men named John Smith and the word portraitist specifies his specialty.  Additional, qualifying words and phrases can offer further information that will attract appropriate clients to him.  The following is a simple representation of Mr. Smith and his classic painting:

Portraits in Oil Offered by
John James Smith, M.F.A.

Another issue to consider in textual aspects of branding is punctuation.  Instead of shifting font or using italics, some promotional decision makers complicate a design by ending slogans with punctuation.   I suggest saving punctuation for actual sentences and paragraphs of descriptive text.  I find that the shortest path to memorability lies in simplifying your words and design elements.  

One way to ensure simplicity is by working with branding elements in the sizes you are most likely to see in print.  That means that although your graphic artist may be thrilled to present you with an 8.5 x 11 inch design, have them offer you samples in the sizes of dimes, nickels, quarters and silver dollars.  When you do this, you will quickly see that extraneous strokes and other details are lost in such dimensions and can even prove distracting to the message you are trying to convey with a business card or advertisement.  The size of fonts used for your name and any slogan will naturally have to be proportional to the size of the icon being presented.

With the publication of Prospect For Murder, the first Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery set in Honolulu, I have been sorting through old files.  In examining the progression of my own branding, I see that for over a decade, I simply used my name and a few bulleted words to describe my work.  In 1995, I launched use of the word Imaginings in my business name while completing edits for an article I co-authored for Broker World Magazine.  Since I was moving from Honolulu to Tucson, it was part of an authoring strategy for introducing myself to a new locale for my physical business, as well as potential regional, national or even international audiences.  [You might find it interesting to note that at that time I was sometimes told that there was no such word as imaginings.]

Through the years, I have offered clients several products and services to enhance their physical environs, as well as their promotional representations.  While previously using merely a textual presentation of myself, a couple of years ago I decided to design an iconic image that would represent several elements of my career:  Commercial writing, design consultation, and floral art.  I knew that utilizing a pen would clearly represent the largest area of my work.  As I sometimes provided faux painting of accent walls to commercial clients, it seemed natural to also include an artist’s brush.  Finally, as I have offered floral designs to both friends and clients, some form of floral image was indicated. 

What are the elements of your brand!

This icon has evolved over time is used in myriad ways.  Some variations have been necessitated by hardcopy printing vs. electronic presentations:  Boldness and detail; portrait and landscape formats; framed and unframed; isolated or with text.  Despite these differences, the use of gold, blue and plum colors have been consistent and the icon is becoming recognized.

With my writing shifting from commercial writing to fiction, my personal name may become more recognizable.  Nevertheless, I like the elements of this image that sums up my work to date.  However, I think it’s time for the hand of a graphics professional to finalize my signature icon, so that I can empower my image as well as my words as an author.

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

author, narrator, design 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 Hawaiian 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.

FOLLOW ME:
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Midpoint
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The Value of an Index

Making Non-Fiction Text User Friendly

Empowering Your Words
In both fiction and non-fiction projects, there are many aspects of the art and science of writing that can go unnoticed in the creative phase of composition.  I heartily concur with the idea that as writers we need to focus initially on capturing our inspirational thoughts prior to addressing details of the editorial processNevertheless, it is good to have the overall design of a literary project on the edge of our consciousness whenever putting pen to paper.  And, when we do don our editorial caps, writers need to be cognizant that that work empowers the words already set down.  Regardless of the target market, readers have expectations, and the skills of a wordsmith determine whether those expectations will be met.

During the publication of the anthology Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert, I was pleased to receive positive mention in an review for my comprehensive index.  As the artistic director for the project, part of my authoring strategies was to ensure that future as well as current readers would find the work user-friendly, as well as an enjoyable read.  Despite my vision, some of my five co-authors have been less than enthusiastic about the value of indexingIn fact, one of them was involved in another anthology for which an index was deemed irrelevant since including one would have reduced the number of pieces from one of the book’s prolific authors. 
Significance of The Lack of an Index
When I examined that book’s table of contents, I realized the work had frequent references to historical events and high-profile people.  Unfortunately, the lack of an index precluded a reader’s ability to analyze the work fully.  This was especially true if a reader wanted to compare text provided by multiple authors on a particular subject.  And, with the passage of time, even someone who has read the book and is familiar with its topics would find it difficult to re-access specific references—at least in hardcopy.  And it is true that reference searches in material in electronic format can be facilitated by utilizing a find or search command.  But to accomplish a comparison of various authors’ views, the reader would have to create a separate listing of those citations that pertained to their interests.

Since one can never know how a work will be used at a future time, I believe there is one simple argument for indices in non-fiction:  If it is logical that some reader may wish to locate a specific reference, there is a need for an index.  Even when a book’s contents are directed to a specific audience, future developments within the field under discussion—let alone the unfolding of history—may yield an unexpected group of readers for whom an index will be invaluable.

Structuring an index usually begins by listing proper nouns contained in the work—meaning all people, geographic locations, and events of sufficient worth to have been named.  Most word processing programs can help you gather and list such terms, even if they lack an actual indexing feature.  Another tactic for refining an index is analyzing terms included by other authors addressing a parallel subject.

As you delve into your indexing project, you may find topics requiring in-depth analysis.  In looking at the nouns you have initially listed, consider related names and topics that can be grouped under a general category.  For example, a discussion of lions, dogs and parrots suggests that a general topic of animals would be appropriate.  Of course, some words may not have such an obvious association.  One area of complexity is persons of varied professional accreditation.  If you lacked sufficient numbers of therapists, physicians and dentists to provide these individual categories, you might use a comprehensive term such as healthcare professionals.  Consider the terms highways, access ways, and trains.  While they do not all relate to forms of roadways, they might be listed under a general heading of transportation

If you tire during the indexing process, consider returning to your analysis of the work of colleagues.  For although you may have accessed the works of many authors during preliminary research, you may not have closely examined their indices.  This semi-final exercise may not only reveal an approach to indexing you have not considered, but it may also reveal gaps in topics or subtopics within the body of your own work.  Even if you decline to broaden the scope of your piece, you may wish to consider some additions to your afterword or bibliography.

Before I leave the topic of indexing, I should offer one cautionary note for avoiding a mammoth appendage to your actual composition:  When in doubt about including a general category, consider whether you have a minimum of three words to list within it…

The art of communicating with readers requires diligence in refining your skills.  It is as demanding an element in non-fiction as in a fine work of fiction.  So, beyond indexing, what other tools of wordsmithing could enhance your reader’s experience?

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

Operational tips to help writers are available in the following blogs:
Fear of Losing Files, July 2015
The Value of an Index, August 2015
Taming Clutter, April 2016

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