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Public Face

Cedar Sanderson

This is Cedar, posting for Kate. Kate staggered into the Mad Genius Club yesterday evening, looked around and asked for help – she’d had a rough day at work and her brain was fried. I looked around, Sarah and Amanda were busy elsewhere, Dave is incommunicado… so I volunteered. You know what they say about volunteering. I don’t have Kate’s knack with snark, although I’m taking lessons. But I can try to be informative, if nothing else!

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Cedar Sanderson

Headshot: In this case, just a nice snapshot. It doesn’t have to be an expensive pro shot, but for heaven’s sakes don’t use a photo that is obviously very old, badly scanned, or a pet. Good, or not at all! 

As an author, you need to have a public face. Whether you are indie, self, or traditionally published, you are still the biggest promoter of your own work. So how do people find you? If you are out and about and someone wants to learn more about your book, what do you do? Finally, and perhaps most important, do you present a dirty face, or a clean one to the internet audience?

Most authors are aware, in this day and age, of the need for some sort of online presence. It might seem daunting at first, but there are a lot of options, and many of them cost nothing but some time. Websites, blogs, facebook pages, and other options like Amazon’s author pages, or Goodreads authors… there are so many things you can do. One of the first things to keep in mind is that whatever you create, it will be public. I know that seems obvious, but sometimes we forget that the internet sees all, and never forgets. If I search for myself, I can still find results from a now-defunct mommy blog I kept.

Blogs are a good way to interact with your readers, but unless you have the time and energy to spare on updating them regularly – say, one day a week – then don’t bother. I found that upping my blogging from weekly, to three times a week, and finally to a daily update, has had a huge impact on the number of readers who come to me on a daily basis, and by watching where they come from, and what searches bring them to me, I can know both what content works, and that I am indeed putting my blog in front of people who don’t know me otherwise. It’s a huge investment in time and energy, however, to commit to a daily blog. Most of you don’t want to get into that. What may be a better option for you is to set up a website, which can be updated periodically with interesting events and news, but not a commitment to regularity.

A website of some kind, whether static or blog, is essential for sending new readers to. If you are at, say, a con, or even just going through your daily life and you want to talk about your book, what are you going to do? Say, hey, google me? Or look me up on Amazon? A much better option is to be able to hand your new friend a bookmark or business card with your web address and other information on it. I use a business card, full color, front and back. I have them done along with my other business card, and they cost me three cents a peice. I can afford to hand them out like candy, and I do. One one side I have the front cover of Vulcan’s Kittens (I’ll do another batch soon with Pixie Noir), and on the other I have my name, web address, a qr code that can be scanned to send them immediately to my blog on their phone, and a tiny blurb about the book. I may have a bookmark made up at some point, as well.

On my blog, I have an “about me” page, a buy my books page, and the blog posts themselves. Because I’m an avid amateur photographer and an artist, I can create my own visual interest on the page. If you are setting up your own site, and you can’t do that yourself, be sure that the images you use are not copyrighted elsewhere, and if you use creative commons images, credit them properly. Don’t be like this, um, person (I have not yet confirmed what lies behind the stolen images… Like the man behind the curtain, I’m not sure I want to know).

In that case, an image search led to the discovery that far more was wrong with the public face than a simple desire to appear more attractive than reality. In any and all dealings online, consider yourself in public, and keep your face clean. When you search for your work, or even just your own name, on a regular basis (what, you don’t? But how will you know if someone pirates your work, whether that is text or for us artists, images?) take note of what you find. Blog comments, facebook conversations… it’s all out there, mined by google and turned up on the trash heaps of the world for anyone to see. You might think it’s a flippant remark, but someone else may not.

Above all, never make fun of  your readers. Look at the example of literary agents, who decided a couple of years ago to publicly mock their aspiring authors. In an appalling display of arrogance and cruelty, they laid bare the private failings that they perceived in their potential clients. Seriously, your readers are who give you money, just as authors are how agents make money, and if you make them unhappy with you, they will complain, and your public face will have mud all over it. Unless your readers are all masochists, treat them with respect in public, keep your dealings with them professional, and above all, don’t fling mud. It splashes back as you throw.

15 Comments
  1. TXRed #

    Thanks for the info, Cedar. I’m in the planning states with my blog, and your experience gives me some ideas (and things to avoid).

    December 5, 2013
    • It’s a topic that deserves deeper treatment, but without knowing what my audience needs to hear, it gets too broad. So if anyone has questions, i’ll try to answer.

      December 5, 2013
  2. So you don’t think a mugshot of a plushy Cthulhu will work for an author picture? It’s my favorite, and so, so symbolic of the real me 😉

    and a question about blogging–if you really can’t manage more than one post a week, is it worth it? Or should you just go to a static site?

    December 5, 2013
    • I think as long as you can manage a consistent schedule, and have it posted, it should work. But any less often than once a week and it begins to fall into the why bother having a blog? One good thing, with the ability to schedule posts (I know, on WordPress. Not sure abuot blogger) you can write stuff, queue it up, and not worry about it. I highly recommend creating a buffer so if you get terribly busy one week, you don’t have to miss a post.

      December 5, 2013
    • Oh, and plushy Cthulhu is adorable as an avatar, but probably not as a headshot on the website or books… 😉

      December 5, 2013
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        There is a fanfic writer that I’m very fond of. The only picture that I’ve seen is of a Cthulhu plushie.

        December 5, 2013
  3. I’ve tried hard to blog about different things, Cedar, as well as my own writing. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it’s who I am and it mostly seems to work. Providing I blog a few times a week I seem to do better than when I don’t . . . not sure how any of this will translate to story sales as the anthologies I’m a part of either have been up a long time (so any promotion on my part is unlikely to help), are from a small press and my small amounts of help don’t seem to have done very much, or are forthcoming (so the promotion hasn’t really started yet), my novel isn’t out yet, and Michael’s two stories just went up.

    The big problem I have now is trying to find time to get up something as an author page at Amazon — not just for me, but for Michael also. I’ve got a solo picture of Michael that’s from before he and I were together, but it’ll work if I want to use it . . . still deciding. I have _no_ pictures except a few that didn’t turn out well (photographer, a friend of my Mom’s, wanted to take indoor photos and maybe I should’ve put my foot down as indoor light tends to wash me out), or pictures of me and Michael that, while find for most practical uses, seem too personal for such a thing. (We had no public photos taken of us, just a few private moments. Neither of us was big at such things.)

    I may have to see if Mom’s friend will try again, perhaps in outdoor light . . . I don’t know.

    December 5, 2013
    • If you can’t successfully have a photograph done, defaulting to an image from one of the book covers might work. I’d steer clear of a cariacature or that sort of thing unless you are writing humor (Elfy might count, Michael’s definitely not). Have a logo done is another thought, as you are a collaborative writer.

      December 5, 2013
      • TXRed #

        Since I’m under a deep pseudonym, I’ve opted to skip all images of me. I do plan on having the cover art from my books and short stories on the site, though.

        December 5, 2013
        • I’m sure you know this, TXRed, but I want to emphasize that if you are using a deep pseudonym, you must be very disciplined in its maintenance. Never cross pollinate between your own identity and the pseudonym, keep the circle of people who know your identity carefully chosen. Otherwise, in this age of the Internet, it will be discovered very quickly.

          December 5, 2013
          • TXRed #

            I agree, Robin. Six people, plus me, know of the connection. One is my editor, one is my cover artist, one is in the TX secretary of state’s office (because of registering the name for tax reasons), one is my alpha reader, and two immediate family members who know not to reveal.This is probably too many people (“three can keep a secret if two are dead”), and I’m sure at some point down the road, there’s a good chance that someone will try to find out who “I” am, just because, but for now I think I’ve got things locked down pretty well.

            December 6, 2013
      • If I can get a good cover that’s striking and memorable, I probably will use that unless a logo strikes me and I can get someone to make it (possibly in exchange for an edit). I like both covers for Michael’s stories, but I know the sea story cover will not work as a snapshot and the other probably won’t work, either.

        I appreciate your advice, Cedar, because this is something I’d thought about but didn’t know how to even phrase the question. Thank you so much for this blog.

        December 6, 2013
  4. “if you use creative commons images, credit them properly. ”

    Be very cautious with Creative Commons licenses. There are many variations and many do not allow commercial use. Look very carefully at exactly which CC license is used for an image. And yes, an author publicizing their work is a commercial use.

    December 5, 2013
    • Thank you Robin. As I’ve said elsewhere in the comments, I simply didn’t have room to touch on everythign, but this is a very important point. Part of the reason I almost exclusively use my own photographs and art is to avoid issues like that.

      December 5, 2013

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