I’ve recently been too busy with editing to get the next blog posts written. So I thought I’d write something shorter instead on the genres I’ve recently edited.
Right now I’m working on a developmental analysis of a memoir.
While I usually work on fiction, I have worked on memoir (often called creative non-fiction) before. These manuscripts can vary in terms of topic and style, but one of the most memorable I ever worked on transported me back to the 1960s counter culture and underground of Seattle and San Francisco/Berkeley.
For the weeks I worked on the memoir, I felt like I walked the streets with the author and her young friends. Because the writer also included musical references, I will never hear Dionne Warwick’s Say A Little Prayer without thinking of those long ago summer days.
Memoirs can be some of the most memorable manuscripts precisely because they are based in reality and personal experience.
Some memoirs deal with darker topics, where the writer is working out their past and bringing attention to serious issues.
As for fiction, so far this year I’ve worked on:
Three science fiction novels
Historical novels – in three different centuries
A WWII espionage novel
A stand-alone romantic novel from a writer I’ve worked with before (on a trilogy)
A literary novel set a few decades ago
Most of these projects have been either full developmental edits or manuscript critiques. One was an opening chapters developmental edit, and another was an analysis of an extensive novel outline.
Novels I’ve worked on in the months prior to these included:
A cosy mystery
Another historical novel
And a thriller
Sometimes I’ve worked on two rounds of developmental editing for the same manuscript. Some clients like three rounds. These are always indie authors who want to ensure their manuscript issues have been ironed out. Sometimes with the developmental editing clients, the final round is a report only. Basically a final check.
Because I often work on multiple rounds – if that’s what the client wants – I try and keep my prices within an affordable range. Payments can be spread over two rounds.
My next booking (as of 15th September 2023) is for November. I also have a client who has indicated they will likely contact me at some point about a second book they’re working on.
This means that currently I am free from October to the end of the first week in November.
This timescale allows for
a full developmental edit, or
up to two manuscript critiques
Opening chapters developmental edits cover the first 15,000 words (or 10K, etc) and don’t take as long. Those projects can be slotted in sooner.
So if you want detailed developmental feedback on a manuscript (memoir or fiction), feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can discuss your project and your intentions (self-publishing or submitting to an agent). If we seem like a good fit I can offer you a range of editing and pricing options.
Please note that I specialise in developmental editing and do not offer copyediting or proofreading services. I do give some line editing advice, but only as part of a developmental edit.
Self-publishing indie authors are in a unique position to control their author branding. With no publishing house breathing down your neck, you get to choose pretty much everything. Your book title, the cover, any editors you choose to work with, and your website design.
This freedom can come at a price: the huge overwhelm of so many options and even an inability to see how these different elements – title, cover art, website design, and more – need to be tied together into an integrated author brand. One that, over time, will become identifiable to readers and potential readers.
Author branding includes a number of components:
Genre, including subgenre
Cover art (which should match genre)
Book titles can also fit in with genre and brand
Your website, social media banners, and marketing
Branding colours – which can also tie to book cover art
Voice and tone of your language – romantic comedy will have a very different tone and voice from gothic horror
Vocabulary – for example, for children’s books your vocabulary will be simpler
It’s important for these elements to be consistent across the board. That’s how you establish a distinctive author brand.
Let’s dig deeper into these different components to see how they work.
Genre and subgenre
If you work in a single genre or subgenre, you have the advantage of a consistent marketing category. If, for example, you write cosy mysteries, then your author brand should reflect this.
You should check out the competition in your own category, especially the most successful authors, to see what is commonplace. This includes the kinds of book titles people use.
While you don’t want to copy someone else’s title, by looking across the genre you can get a feel of what works best.
Cover art and titles
Your cover art and book title should work within your genre.
It obviously wouldn’t make sense for a cosy mystery book to have a dark, blood-splattered cover.
Likewise, the book’s title can be important when it comes to conveying the genre and tone of the book. Title and cover art should work together, giving each other context.
For example, if you had a novel called Death Comes to Oxford, the image will contextualise the genre. Is it a lighter cover? It might be seen as a cosy mystery. If it’s darker, with more violent imagery, it will look like a completely different type of book. Even the font will influence a reader’s perception about genre.
How does your title interact with your cover art? Some titles will fit more than one genre and the cover art gives the clue to the genre.
Cover art is very important in drawing a potential reader’s attention. It is the first thing they see. The human brain processes visual imagery much faster than text. But the cover art must fit into the author branding – this includes the genre.
Your website and social media banners
Ensure that you use consistent colours and tones and images across your website and social media banners. You could develop a set of brand colours associated with the colours you use in a book cover. Or the dominant colours you use in your cover series.
One thing you can do is run an image through an online program to extract the hex code numbers for the colours. Some apps give you the basic dominant colour palette.
Once you have your basic colour scheme for your brand, you can keep a note of the colours in your own brand guide. This guide is for your own use when you’re updating parts of your website or adding new material.
Different business brands can have their own preferred fonts which they will list in their own brand guides. Are fonts so important for indie authors? Well, when it comes to your banners, website fonts, etc, it’s best not to use something radically different! You don’t want comic sans, for example!
Fonts are also important for your book covers. They should be consistent with genre and if you have books in a series, the entire series should be using the same font. Ideally, all your books should be using the same font if you want to maintain brand consistency.
Voice, tone, vocabulary
The language you use in your marketing should reflect the tone of your books. If you write breezy contemporary romances, then your marketing language and the voice, tone, and vocabulary should reflect this on your website.
A darker tone, pessimistic and depressing, isn’t going to go with a lighter-toned novel!
Benefits of consistency in branding
So what are the benefits of author branding and consistency in branding?
Over time your brand will become familiar and easily recognisable to those who’ve seen it before
It shows consistency and professionalism that matches mainstream publishing
Your brand colours and imagery, plus your taglines and titles, can immediately flag your genre or subgenre
If you write in more than one genre, author branding might seem more intimidating. Certainly, it could be a problem if you publish different kinds of books under the same name. Especially if those genres are very different in tone – again, gothic horror versus contemporary romantic comedy.
Some authors choose to use different names or variations on the same name to differentiate different genres. Think Ian Banks versus Ian M. Banks. If you’re only dealing with two major writing tracks, that could be your best option.
There are writers like the late Tanith Lee who wrote across genres – science fiction, fantasy, horror – though these all have certain things in common. They are fantastical, and her lush prose was there regardless of genre. That was part of her author brand. Fans didn’t expect her to write in a completely different style for each genre. Her distinctive voice WAS a major part of her author brand.
So, have you figured out your author brand yet?
Indie authors are already up against a lot of snobbery in the publishing sector. That’s why, where possible, it’s better to produce polished books with good covers and a good marketing strategy. This benefits the reputation of indie publishing.
But it’s hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Readers are inundated with choice. When you think strategically about branding and marketing, you give yourself a better chance at standing out. You become recognisable.
It’s important to remember that single exposure to your marketing will not usually net a new reader. It takes many points of contact usually to convert someone to your product or service. However, an integrated author brand will already help you stand out from the crowd.
So, have you figured out your author brand yet? If you haven’t, it’s time to give it some thought.
Ready for a manuscript critique?
If you need feedback on your novel, I have openings. As well as manuscript critiques, I can do full developmental edits. On a budget? You can opt for an opening chapters developmental edit which is full of useful advice you can apply to other parts of your manuscript.
You can check my services page here for more details:
Normally, in the world of marketing and advertising, these ads are part of a wider sales funnel. They are not usually sending traffic directly over to a sales page because potential buyers don’t know who you are yet.
When I was studying the Facebook and Instagram ad course at Copyhackers, one thing that came up was how people these days react to ads.
In the old days, people scrolling tended to notice ads more.
But over time, they became acclimatised to them.
One piece of research showed that subjects in a study didn’t even look at the ads on a page. Their brains had filtered the ads out without even looking at them.
So, how do you get people to notice your ads? Some people adopt ad styles that are more native to the platform. For example, they might have a photo cropped in a way that’s similar to ordinary users and not a professional. It then looks less like an ad.
Another method is to aim for pattern interruption. If a lot of ads are in colour, then black and white might stand out more. This is not in relation to book ads, just ads generally.
Illustrations might also stand out more where photographic images are more common.
Basically an ad which is different breaks the pattern and the viewer is more likely to notice it.
As a Twitter user, I find myself mentally filtering out book-related ads if there are too many of them one after another.
I’m not talking about ad posts coming from the same account. I’m talking about many authors tweeting their books into a hashtag.
Of course, authors have to get their books to potential readers somehow! It’s perfectly understandable that they will post on Twitter.
But for the ordinary Twitter user, or even someone interested in books, it can become a stream of image-based posts that start to merge into one another.
This is why it’s important to have a great cover, a catchy title and tag line, and to post interesting text in your tweets where possible.
But it’s also worth remembering that people who don’t know you are unlikely to buy your book. They are ‘cold prospects’.
You need to build up a relationship over time. That might mean you first of all have to tweet content that will make you interesting enough to follow. This content can be about your book, book research, etc, or it can be more personal.
Getting people to engage with you as a person is a good way to get them curious about what you write.
It’s also not a good idea to bombard followers all day with book ad posts. At the same time, different people will be online at different times, and because of the algorithms, many won’t see your post the first time.
This means you need to tread a careful path between extremes. Mix up content. Show you have a life beyond your books. Remember pattern interruption. Remember that the overly professional-looking ad can look too much like an ad at times and that people are now used to mentally filtering them out.
Also, and this is very important – Facebook in particular has rules about paid advertising. It’s a good idea to check out what the current compliancy rules are since they can change over time.
The only time I ever felt comfortable in front of a camera was when I was too young to care.
Once I hit adolescence, that awkwardness you see in pre-teens and teenagers was there. I was never happy.
And this is true of many people.
So what happens when you have a business or you’re an author and you need a professional headshot? Or even just a high-quality selfie? What do you do?
If you have a real dislike of having your photo taken by others, you’re unlikely to look relaxed and happy.
A professional photographer might know how to get you looking your best, but they cost money and you still have that fear of cameras.
Maybe you don’t even believe a professional could make you look good.
Low self-esteem and self-consciousness can really block someone from getting a professional shot in the first place.
Of course, you have the option of taking a selfie.
But what if you still hate the camera, still look awkward, and it’s still ten thousand deaths to take that photo?
And even worse, you see great selfies from other authors, but yours somehow come out badly. You might wonder if they’re using filters – and it’s entirely possible.
Then again, maybe they’ve learned how to use a mobile phone camera to best effect. They could have done it through trial and error. Or they could have followed a photographic influencer on Instagram or YouTube.
There is a mountain of information out there for people too shy to have others take their photo.
One interesting influencer on both YouTube and Instagram is Sorelle Amore.
You have to sign up – the cost is fairly low – and you’ll learn about camera settings, lighting, posing (what works and what to avoid), clothing, and much more.
Each lesson is only a few minutes at most. Then you can go off and try it out.
There is a community of posters, leaving questions, answers, and comments.
Among the comments, there are repeating themes of low confidence, fear of the camera, and not liking it when others take their photos. Their past experience has made them camera shy.
The selfie course teaches them to be more relaxed in front of the camera, to take their time getting to know their best angles, to learn about the right colours to wear to flatter their skin tone, and so on.
The course creates a safe space for people to experiment and post the results if they want – they don’t have to post anything.
Seeing others struggle with self-image, unhappiness with their appearance, and self-consciousness in front of cameras shows that many suffer the same issues. You’re not alone.
But the usefulness of taking great selfies goes beyond working on your confidence and self-esteem.
It also goes beyond saving money on professional headshots.
If you’re someone who would benefit from having high-quality selfie photos for marketing, this course will help you build up a good catalogue of images that might otherwise be pricey.
And you can use these images on your author website, Facebook page, Instagram, Amazon page, Twitter, and more.