Tag Archives: gravatar

Promotion 201

I really struggled on whether to post this one, or not. I don't want to come across as singling anyone out, or being negative, but there are some things people just aren't teaching. These involve what not to do. Most good lessons explain the various promotional options, they encourage us to do certain things, but they never go into what not to do.

Keep in mind this is only one man's opinion. Nobody has to agree with me, and some of you probably won't. I'm going to write this without photo examples, because I don't want to pick on anyone.

I'm going to write this from the perspective of an author, because that's what I do. Maybe you want to accomplish something else, but the ideas still apply.

To start with let's drop a couple of lines about why I think the way I do.

  • Mom always said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
  • As a writer, a common lesson is to never give someone a reason to say no. This applies mostly to traditional publishing, and the process of shopping a manuscript around. There are lessons here for the rest of us though.

First up are author pictures. These come come in two varieties that I'll loosely define as a photo, and a Gravatar.


I believe an author photo can be almost anything, but it shouldn't turn people off. It's fairly common to see an image where the camera is looking up at the author, they're standing there with their chin up, and their arms crossed. (One of my author friends told me my singular use of they is back in style this week, and I'm going for it.)


I'm sure the photographer, or the author, thinks this is an image of someone who is a master of their craft. It shows confidence, and charisma. I think these photos also translate a raised chin into looking down your nose at me. The crossed arms are defensive and protective. In fact, I think the photos look downright arrogant. It's almost like holding up a palm and saying, “Talk to the hand.” I've seen plenty of multi-level marketers, pyramid schemers, and get rich quick guys projecting the same image.


Personally, I tend to bounce right by those kind of sites. I wonder if others do the same? If they're too good for me, maybe I'll go hang out with people more my level and buy their books. PS: I review the books I read too.


Then there are the ones who try really hard, but don't pull it off. As an example, there is a fine line between mysterious and creepy. I see a lot of guys looking up from under their eyebrows. This can also be done with the brim of a hat. Many of these are in black and white, but not all of them. To be real honest, they look angry and even mean. Isn't the point to attract people to your blog/books/Etsy store?


I've seen one that seems to do all these at once. It involves an over the shoulder look with a furrowed brow, in black and white.


I try to do one of three things; smile, be myself, or be corny. I actually use three pictures that reflect one of each. In one, I'm wearing a tie and smiling. (Yeah, I have a full beard, but you can see it in my eyes.) My arms are crossed, but they are leisurely resting on a countertop. I'm also leaning slightly forward. No arrogance here.


The second photo is me at one of our regular hangouts. I'm hoisting a beer while wearing one of my fedoras. I'm still smiling, but it's a natural environment image. I also pushed the hat back on my head so people could see my face. Who wouldn't want to have a beer with that guy?


The other one is my bronze bust. This image is kind of dour looking, but it's quirky as hell.


Dean Koontz writes some scary stuff, but he usually has a really nice picture of himself with a golden retriever. You can't dislike someone with a golden retriever.


Any of these images are unlikely to scare people away, and that's the point. Don't give someone a reason to say no. If they do read, it isn't because they're looking to disagree with me. Open mind, open heart…open wallet.


If your natural environment might be somewhat controversial, maybe don't project that until you know someone a little bit better. Remember what Mom said in my first bullet point. Holding up a dead opossum by the tail and saying, “The other white meat,” might be something to hold back for later.


The other kind of picture is what I'm calling a Gravatar. These are the little calling cards we leave all over the Internet. These don't have to be pictures of you, but if they are, the same concept applies. Make sure to create one as soon as possible. Nothing is easier than blowing right past the Twitter generic egg symbol. It screams “I don't care enough to actually participate.”


If I click on a site, it's because I want to read something you've written. I really detest being assaulted with pop-ups. If you are on something like WordPress.com, like I am, you don't have control of the advertisements. At least they don't have pop-ups yet. If you have your own site, like with WordPress.org, it's clear that you chose to make me deal with a pop-up before I can read your post. Sometimes I just move on. If I haven't signed up for your newsletter the first couple of times I visit your blog, I probably never will, but I still get assaulted with the pop-up. It doesn't make me feel welcome. It makes me feel like prey.


Twitter has its own version of this. I follow someone, and immediately get a direct message asking me to buy, read, and review their book. At least kiss me first. It tells me I'm the least important person at this party, and I'm welcome to leave my money on the table and get out.


I'm convinced that I am the brand around here. What I am selling is myself. If enough to people decide they like me, they might turn into consumers too. I don't want to drive them away before they get the chance to see what I'm all about. I've actually struck up a friendship or two with people who've never bought any of my books. I'm okay with that. Friendships are wonderful, and that's a big win too.


Filed under Blogging

Meanwhile, back at the writing cabin

I tried to sleep in this morning, but I was pretty uptight about the formatting on Arson. I fed the old pit bull, made the coffee and logged in. The book looks awesome. The promo pages in back don’t look like what I uploaded. They’re serviceable, but not how I wanted.

I started on a task list when Old What’s Her Face* said, “Oh no you don’t. We’re going to the farmer’s market today. I want to find some fresh green beans”

I didn’t panic, I always enjoyed the farmer’s market. I may have to chock it up to a fond memory though. See, some of the vendors stared fighting with the establishment, and with other vendors. They branched off and opened a different farmer’s market. This is about the third time this has happened.

The old farmer’s market just isn’t as good as it used to be. I don’t care to spend forty bucks driving all over the valley to check out all the other options. I’m willing to visit one good location in hundred degree heat, and that’s it. One of the others might even be better now, but I like everything in one place. We never found any green beans either. No problem, the Boise Co-Op had plenty. Sorry farmers.

I didn’t get to the cabin until about 11:30 today. Lisa** and Lindsay*** were outside having tea on the porch. They both wore billowy summer dresses and huge straw hats. The tiny insects were reflected the sunlight across the meadow like a scene from a beautiful old movie. Awesome background for the tea party.

“What are you two doing?” I asked.

“We stayed up all night gabbing,” Lindsay said. “I never realized Lisa is a robot. The fact that she can drink tea is amazing. All the robots in my world a just data servers or vacuumes.”

“She was set up to pass for human. The tea goes–

“Stop.” Lindsay held up her hand. “I don’t want to know. She’s cool, and that’s enough for me.”

“And Lindsay hasn’t tried to burn down the cabin, or to burn anything really,” Lisa said.

I went inside and brought back a coffee mug. “Hit me with a snort of that, then I’ve got to get to work.”

Lisa poured the rest of their tea in my cup. Lindsay’s face sank.

“It’s okay, I’ll make us a fresh pot,” Lisa said.

“Maybe later. I still want to go for a ride in your motorcycle,” Lindsay said.

I left them to their fun and got down to business. There are plenty of things to address after a new book publishes.

I spent an hour trying to remember how I loaded a cover image on my blog that allows folks to download the book. It’s all set up and works now. Go ahead, you know you want to try it. Maybe I screwed up, you’ll never know if you don’t click on the cover image. (Subliminal message, click on the cover art. It will make you happy. It will make me happy)

I updated my Gravatar, but I’m not real happy with it. I added links to the bio section and posted cover images as art only. You still can’t shove a rectangular image in a square hole. I’m not too happy with the results, but I’m thinking about what to try to improve it. I’m open to suggestions.

The Harley rumbled down the road and I went to work on my “about me” page. I changed the fact that Arson was coming soon to “available now”.

Then I checked my Amazon author page and made sure Arson was listed. That went well, but it can take up to five days to display my author link on the Arson book page. I don’t understand such things and deserve instant gratification at all times. Guess I’ll have to be patient.

I also sent an update to the Rave Reviews Book Club. I’m allowed three books in their catalog, but only two with cover art. Seems odd, but Them’s the rules. I told them to strip the cover off Wild Concept, leave Panama alone, and add Arson in all it’s glory. (Don’t tell Lisa, she’s stronger than I am.)

I didn’t get everything finished. Now that I have an Amazon link, I need to add a page to the back of Panama and Wild Concept to tell future readers about Arson. I’ll work on it, but I think I’m done for today.

I filled up the old kettle and put it on to boil. The girls would appreciate more tea when they returned. I sat outside with my iPad and watched them wander across the meadow. They made floral decorations for their hats. It really was a soothing and beautiful scene. Good clean fun, not a fire in sight.

* Not my wife’s actual name.

** Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and helps me at the cabin these days.

***  Lindsay Pennington is a supporting character in Arson, available via that awesome cover art on the right. There is more to her than meets the eye.

I’m thinking of deleting some of the widgets in my sidebar. I’d like some comments from my blog friends. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a regular to offer an opinion. Does anyone think the monthly posting roster adds anything? Does anyone think the most popular posts is worth keeping? I’ll leave them if they’re uber awesome for some reason. I suspect new people may click on the most popular posts.

In my mind, the categories have to stay. Most of you like the Muse category, but some people are more interested in finding morels or cooking with sourdough. This lets them find what they prefer in a hurry.

I’m thinking about a bit of a redesign and would like to hear from you. I’ll give myself a day to bask in the glory of my accomplishment, then I have to start on my epic fantasy, The Cock of the South.


Filed under Blogging, Muse, Writing