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Marketing for Writers Made Simple - First Impressions

So you’ve published a book, article, or even “just a blog”? Congratulations, author, you are now a brand!  Marketing your work is directly an extension of marketing yourself.  Your name is now a brand name, which you can (and should) work on selling as an image synonymous with excellent writing.

Where to start? Well, that’s actually an easy answer: by building your image, literally. Even before you build a website, and probably before you even publish your work, having a quality portrait (or other image if you choose to not use an actual photo of yourself) is the first step in building your reputation as a writer.

That old saying about first impressions is true for writers as well, threefold.  You already designed your book cover with that in mind, and wrote your first paragraph to grab and hold your reader. The author photo follows the same rule.   It should at very least be professional, in your own personal grooming and in the quality of the picture itself.  It should not be a selfie snapped after an hour at the gym (even if you write about fitness).  That’s not to say that you, the starving artist, need to spend a fortune on a professional studio photography session.  Just make sure that you look nice, and have someone take the photo that knows what they’re doing!

If this is all you do, this is sufficient.  But some of the most successful authors take it a step further.  Why not take a little extra effort and follow their example?

In today’s sound-byte culture, especially if you will be marketing through social media, a terrific photo that speaks for the image you are trying to sell can be a tremendous help in initially catching people’s attention.  It can help them understand without thinking about it who you are and what you write about.  If your image is in line with their own interests, they will be much more likely to take additional steps to learn more about you and read what you write.  If they cannot tell what you represent, they may pass you over in favor of someone else’s image that they can instantly recognize as promoting what they’re looking for.

So what do you want to project for potential readers?

Do you have a genre or topic that you write about?  Heather Pace uses a simple prop of one of her beautiful (and delicious – you can tell just by looking at it!) desserts to draw you to read her blog Sweetly Raw.  Her appearance is friendly and comfortable: no chef’s coat or hat, simple clothing and make-up, suggesting a girl-next-door attitude that anyone can follow her recipes.

Do you write about a variety of topics? Brainstorm some adjectives that link them all together, and use a photo that captures that idea.  Tim Ferris writes about health and fitness, self-employment, and other topics dealing with practical self-empowerment, from a rather unique perspective.  His profile photo is confident, strong, and taken with the unique perspective of only half his face.

Do you co-author your works, write under a pseudonym, or wish to symbolize your writing image more than a portrait could possibly achieve?  You don’t actually need to use a photo of yourself! Thug Kitchen has demonstrated this quite well – their debut cookbook is a New York Times Bestseller, and in no part of the cookbook or on their social media outlets do they have an actual photo of themselves.  Their portrait is instead a simple but iconic kitchen knife. 

With a little forethought and some creativity, you too can put your best face forward to draw in your future readers!


Learn more about marketing your writing at Sierra Writers on May 13th at 6pm.  For more details, check out my upcoming class calendar.

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