Depending on how long you have lived, your career field, or how social you are, at least a hundred versions of you exist in the world, right now. No, I don’t mean sci-fi/fantasy, multiple parallel universe versions of you. I’m talking about the versions of you as perceived by others who have crossed your path throughout the years.
Everyone from your parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and so on, have their particular perception of you. Even the person who makes your coffee each day, the mailman, or the kind soul who held the door for you last week at the gas station, created some kind of persona of you based upon their brief encounter(s). The surprising thing is that most of them are true even though the personas may be quite different from each other.
Although I said these people in your life have created these versions of you in their mind, it is not exactly correct. The fact is you, whether you realize it or not, are the real creator of every persona others have perceived about you. We have a habit of behaving different ways with various people, situations, and places – for a number of reasons. For example, personality traits and behaviors that work for us with our mother, do not fly with our boss, spouse, or the clerk at the bookstore. Probably a reason those “Your mother does not work here!” signs are seen so many places!
From a young age, we learned to adjust behaviors, how we interact, and physically present ourselves in order to influence and align positively with different people. We also proactively adjust under varying scenarios and even locations. Does this mean we are falsely representing our true self? Not at all. Adjusting our persona to accommodate who, what, when and where we find our current dealings can be attributable to the survival instinct ingrained in our DNA from ancient ancestors. They did not act around the campfire in the same manner as when on a hunting expedition. Different survival situations. Right!
Whether for survival, comfort, or influence, there is no question that the technique of self-presentation in the ways we interact with others is also effectively applied in the author capacity. Unfortunately, importance of developing an author persona is often disregarded and regularly lacks conscious attention and nurturing – ultimately causing some setbacks.
This neglect is the reason some social media accounts, blogs and websites are overlooked as professional author entities – because the authors give little or no clue. When they finally post something relating to their ‘secret’ author identity, I have been shocked at the revelation, and literally clicked over to their bio’s for verification. Low and behold, a brief description of their authorship! With all the pictures and videos of kiddos, dogs, cats, flowers, concert attendance, endless memes, cosplay costumes, or rants about politics – who knew they are an author with an exceptional book – or two, or three – available to purchase?
Listen, a low-key, ambiguous alter-ego is great if you are a superhero – or a villain – not wanting to be found out. Works great for Batman! However, if your superpower is writing and you want to sell your published works – it is necessary for you to have a known presence in that capacity. Whether we want to admit it or not, being an author is a business, and exposure and recognition are two primary keys to success.
A successful author persona tells a specific story of who we are and what we offer in order to interest and draw the ideal audience (book purchasers) to them. Professional accounts, websites and blogs of authors with well-defined personas showcase skills, personality, and what they offer their ideal audience(s). The way they communicate, what they share, even how they appear builds a consistent relationship with readers as well as the writing community, which are the greatest tools for marketing books without costly ads. You see, the key to selling books is not selling books. It is about selling you. (Memorize this!)
So, let’s get down to it, my fair author, and get you styled up in six easy steps!
1. Be Yourself Only Better – Take who you are and amplify your best, most engaging characteristics. The idea is not to be something you are not, but to take your standout, positive traits and bring them to the surface. Like panning for gold, you want to shake out the sand and odd bits to reveal your most appealing self – the gold of who you are.
- Query others: If you aren’t sure about what your best traits are, you can ask your family and friends to tell you what they love best about you.
- Make a list: Write down the responses from those you asked to provide input. Which traits came up the most often? Siphon out the top three positive characteristics. These are your best core personality characteristics.
- Determine your focus: What is the best representation of you as an author that you can consistently present to the public? The key here is consistence. If you have a wicked sense of humor, enjoy helping others, love to inspire and motivate, put your focus in these areas if they are aspects that come naturally.
- Stick to it: Be consistent, your audience will appreciate receiving what they expect from you on a regular basis. Stephen King’s author persona as a spooky, wise, and humorous guy is well developed and recognized by the public. He is probably not that persona all the time depending on situations, other people, or his location. Could be he is a hard-nosed businessman when dealing with marketing, publishing and finances. He may be lazy, messy, chocolate chip cookie binger when not writing. We don’t know because different aspects of himself that are negative or not beneficial to his public author life, are kept private. We know what Mr. King wants us to know!
2. Choose a Clear Stance – Decide what topics you want to include, discuss, or share. Keep in mind that your readers are human beings with plenty of their own problems. The last thing you want to do is post things about yourself that come off as insensitive, negative, or a call for pity or validation. Your audience looks to you for entertainment, information, and interesting engagement. Stay focused on doing good for your audience, fulfill a positive expectation that leaves them feeling good after engaging with you and has them looking forward to the next time!
- Personal opinions, disputes, and ailments: We all have our bad days, hard-boiled beliefs, moods, and life history, but some things are better kept to ourselves when it comes to your author persona. You will need to firmly decide what topics you are planning to include as part of your repertoire. Whatever it is, you should be consistent. The worst thing you can do is present yourself as a kind and inspiring motivator for weeks or months and suddenly fly off the handle with an angry rant over something in the news, politics, a bitter breakup, or your mental health issues. Even if it seems popular or trendy to go on a tirade, support one side or another of a heated debate, or cathartic to drip in monologues about your continuing mental or physical malaise, I do not recommend unless this is relative to the kind of books you produce.
- Stay Neutral: Keep in mind that at least half of the people currently following you, and the same amount of potential new followers will not agree with your political, religious, or moral high horse. So, unless you want to alienate approximately half your possible book buyers and writing community friends – avoid controversial topics – unless this is how you want to relate to potential readers. Why can’t you just say what you want and act the way you feel on any given day? Because of your audience’s expectation and the chance that negative slips can turn off your following. If the work you produce revolves around your personal life, mental health issues, politics, religion, social activism, etcetera – then go for it. Otherwise, steer clear of shooting off into these realms because whatever current following you have – I guarantee – not all of them will agree or appreciate these types of downbeat deviations and you will lose them. The goal is to be appealing to many, even those who may not ordinarily read your genre of books (they may do so, simply because they like you).
3. Consider a theme – Many authors connect a repeating theme with their persona. Here are a few examples of how you can create a theme that is consistent and compatible with who you are as an author. Remember, you don’t need to stay irrevocably committed to one type of presentation for your social media or blog posts. Mix it up a little and be sure to employ the 80/20 rule – 80% of your posts entertain, educate, or offer solutions to problems and 20% is explicit to promoting your business.
- If you write fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, or thrillers, you can make your posts relate to your specific genre. This method is a great way for authors to stay on brand, as well. For example, an author who writes historical romance often posts lovely vintage style images and pretty antique teacup arrangements on Instagram. The aesthetics are relative to her books. Horror writers can talk about all things horror, including books, movies, events, memes, best and worst horror anything. Same for Sci-fi authors. Use your imagination to work your genre or book related theme into your posts. Have fun with it! I recently posted a game on Instagram, “How Villainous are You?”, to help promote my book, “Villainous Minds: Psychological Thrillers”. Had a lot of fun creating and having followers take part in the game!
- If you are an animal loving author, you can share funny or cute animal related posts. Just ensure you slip something writing related into your content, like writing updates, book status, or teasers from your WIP, etcetera – so followers do not forget you are an author!
- Authors who love to cook, can share their meals, cooking reels, and ‘how-to’s’ for cooking certain foods. Apply the 80/20 rule and include posts about your books 20% of the time.
- If you love reading books in your genre, share your book reviews for books you have read. This is great because you are also helping to promote other authors!
- If you want to show your sense of humor, often reflected in your story telling, you can post jokes, quips, and quotes.
- For more audience engagement consider sharing helpful wisdoms about writing, or best utilizations for social media, or start a monthly posting challenge. Ask a daily question or post a picture of what you are up to and ask others to respond with what they are doing. Engagement is an important aspect of social media, and ensure you are also interacting with other’s posts as well.
4. Appearance of the persona: You know the sayings, “Looks aren’t everything.” And “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Regardless of the good intentions behind these thoughtful, feel-good aphorisms, people do judge. So, before you make that reel, or take that selfie, try at the minimum to portray yourself in a manner you plan to stick with. If the shlubby, frazzled hair look of an exhausted writer is where you’re going with a persona, great – go for it. If you prefer something more put together in a certain kind of style – more power to ya!
I know of an author who posts pictures of herself as a tough, no-nonsense, goth girl, always dressed in black, long, sleek black hair, and goth make-up. This persona is perfect for her because it matches the style of sci-fi goth books she writes. Are you a country bumpkin? Let it shine! Maybe you ride Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the gear is part of who you are. However you want to represent yourself, do it consistently – but do it!
Far too many authors are completely camera shy. They simply do not like to show others what they look like, for whatever reasons. I won’t say this is a mistake but will say people like seeing people. They want to know with whom they are interacting. It’s not just the clothes you wear, or how you comb your hair, it is your smile and your unique voice. Seeing and hearing you makes your audience feel closer to you.
5. Don’t get too personal: Your author persona should also work as a shield between you and the general public. Anyone in the public eye should protect themselves as best they can in this day and age. The persona allows you to show a selected glimpse of who you are without revealing too much. Try not to give others too many details about your personal life. People who do not have your best interest at heart may attempt some nefarious deeds against you, such as harassment, stalking, etc. So, keep the window into your personal life high and small. Your unique author identity should be relatable and compact but leave a memorable impact.
6. Use your website as a hub: If you have been pouring your whole heart and author persona into social media without investing in a website and blog…STOP!
- Social media platforms are owned by companies who are making money off the guarantee that you generate the interaction. You own nothing there. At any moment they could close up shop, shut everything down and if there is the only where you have established your presence, you and all your hard work vanishes.
- Invest in a .com –You do not need to be a technological genius to have your own home base with your authorname.com. Obviously, I use WordPress for my website and blog, and everything was very simple to set up – with plenty of room to grow. You can use any website host you prefer, of course. Once you start working with and tweaking the setup the way you want it, you can publish your site and start creating and drawing your audience to you. Use social media as extensions of your primary, home base, your hub –the website domain you own. Basic plans are free. All you pay for is the domain name which is relatively inexpensive. From the website you can create and connect to other platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
- Blossom on your website hub – Your full-fledged persona will develop beautifully on your own website where you can share your books, write a blog, create a community and so much more. Why be restricted to five second glimpses of your funny meme, book teasers, or poetry, or fifteen second video, when the opportunity to draw and interact with a growing audience, specifically interested in what you have to offer, exists at your fingertips!
I hope you found this article for developing your author persona helpful. As you can see, many ways exist to help you create and project a desirable image that accentuates your best authorly self. It may feel awkward in the beginning, and it may take time to nail down exactly how you want your audience to view you, but it will happen quite naturally – because you are still being you, after all – just in a more specific and conscious way.
Have fun, my fair authors!