Sunday, April 26, 2015

Your Public Persona (Do You Need One?)

This last week I unveiled a new cover for Petals and Thorns, which was my very first erotic romance, first published back in 2010.
It came out with Loose ID at first, then I got the rights back after two years and I self-published it. When an author does that, she has to get a new cover as the rights for that stay with the original publisher. That's the cover to the left. And yes, I used the pen name "Jennifer Paris" on that, which I abandoned and never used again.

Her Facebook page still gets likes, however, which I find both boggling and instructive.

I liked the cover I self-published it with just fine. It got nominated for some best cover contests, which means it's a perfectly fine cover, but I never felt like it WORKED all that well. I'm not sure why.

Thus the reboot. Because a cover is important. Vitally so.

Yes, yes - we can all point to the adage to never judge a book by its cover, but the fact that it is cliché points to our very human tendency to do exactly that. We are visual creatures and are hardwired to make decisions based on what we see. We're also culturally trained to read in certain cues from images. Particularly as readers, we assimilate all sorts of cues about what a story will deliver from a cover.

Which leads me to the topic at hand, whether authors need a public persona.


Oh. My. God. YES.

And it amazes me just how many authors don't seem to get this.

What's key to remember is that, for an author, our brand is not our product. We write many books over the course of our careers (we hope!). Very likely we'll write in multiple genres. The one consistency is ourselves. The brand is us, who we are.

Thus our public persona is essentially our personal book cover.

It needs to be attractive, enticing, give hints about what kinds of stories it will deliver. And it needs to be not obnoxious.

In kind of a funny coincidence, I was chatting over email with a friend yesterday about a couple of authors we both know who have been abrasive on author loops. Spamming with promo on email loops with specific rules forbidding that. Complaining on forums about other professionals in the community. All with the combined effect of making us not like them very much - which means we're disinclined to help them when they ask for it.

What's that you say? That's not a public persona?

Think again. I'd argue that any time we step online, just as any time we leave our homes, our faces are exposed to the public eye. The internet has made the world small in both wonderful and scary ways. How we appear to be echoes out in endless ripples.

It pays to make sure that face is the one you want people to see.


  1. LOL I actually came here ready to disagree with you because I've seen so many authors whose opinion on public persona is something akin to "yours needs to be just like mine" which...doesn't work. Instead I found myself nodding with everything you said. How you present yourself in public definitely should reflect your work. The way I usually say it is that every decision has consequences. No matter how you present yourself, someone isn't going to like it, and that's okay. It's their right. Our responsibility as authors is to make the choice to have a persona that 1) is in keeping with what we write (not necessarily genre, because that does change, but...tone, attitude, etc), 2) that we can maintain (which is one reason the "you should be just like me" doesn't work for me) at all times or at least the vast majority of the time.

    For myself, my persona is all the stuff that's in the tagline on my website: quirky, snarky, sexy. I sometimes fail on the execution of the sexy part, but damn it...I try ;-)

    1. How funny! I totally do that, too, Julie - pick a fight with the title and then am happily surprised when I agree. I so agree with you that our public persona should reflect who we are and what we write (which should come from who we are). It should be us on our best behavior - not someone else entirely. :-)

    2. I'm not sure I fully agree with "best behavior." To me, that's church behavior. There are reasons I only go to church with the family a couple times a year :P I prefer the term least-offensive-honest behavior. But now I'm just picky nits, which is kind of gross. *runs back to edits*

    3. LOL! Well, since I don't got to church at all, I don't have that association. ;-) But your point is taken - sincerity is important, too.