When new author Kat Michels came to us to create a custom blog design for her, like all clients, I had some questions. A publishing consultant had recommended she start a blog as she finishes her first novel. Sage advice. Blogging can help a new author build an audience, and it goes without saying that “bringing your own audience” is looked upon favorably by agents and publishers. But I had to ask, “Are you sure?”
I don’t think blogging is a universal solution for every author, and I never want to build something that won’t work for a potential client. Designing the blog is the easy part… once it launches, that’s just the beginning: “If you build it, they will come” does not apply.
Blogging is a huge commitment. It’s a lot of work, and there’s a hell of a lot of competition. And because I like to get cheesy, I often tell clients that blogging is like a cocktail party — people will know if you’re not having any fun, and you’re not going to make any new friends if you’re not a good conversationalist and are uncomfortable mingling and working the room. You gotta really bring it — write well and write often, go out and find your readers and keep them coming back for more, measure your results and have an enormous amount of patience and diligence.
Some questions to ask before you decide to use a blog to build your author platform:
- Why are you doing it? What are your specific goals?
- Who is your audience, where are they, how will you reach them?
- How much content can you realistically create?
- How much time can you devote to blogging?
- What will you write about?
- Does blogging and engaging with your readers sound like fun to you? Or is it a chore you’re dreading?
Kat assured me: “… a prolific blogger I will become . . . and I will like it . . . even if it kills me!”
Kat was committed, so we dove in. The design process started by reading an excerpt from her novel, and we talked a bit about creative direction. I presented the initial mockup following that brief, and well, um, she kind of ….hated it.
With good communication it’s rare that I have to go back to the drawing board, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that sometimes you have to see a visual before you can better articulate who you are and what you want. And blog designs, probably more than any other kind of design, are intensely personal. This design needed to reflect not just her subject matter, but it had to communicate who Kat is — as a writer and as a person.
After seeing my first interpretation, we were able to take several steps back and get to the nitty gritty of what that means. In order to get a better feel for what visuals represented her personal style, I showed her some textures and asked her to respond to them. She gave me some incredible feedback and a mental picture was taking shape for me, very unlike our initial direction. She opened up and talked about how she writes — the messy hand scratchings and spilled coffee, how she loves that her jeans are ripped in her author photo, how “disliking orange” (in the original brief) only applied to some contexts, not in others. All fuel for a designer’s visual mind. Easily, the second concept took shape and there were virtually no revisions required from there. Nailed it. Arm-pump gesture.
Nothing thrills me more than translating “who a person is” visually and it’s why I’ve always gravitated toward blog design and working with writers. It’s something so personal and the collaborative process is incredibly rewarding.
Furthermore, I know that loading up your website and feeling excited that it represents who you are and something you can be proud of makes it a little bit easier to sit down to the task of maintaining that blog on those days when it’s not always so easy.
Congratulations, Kat. Please give her a warm welcome to the blogosphere! Best of luck to a wonderful client, we know she’ll do great, she’s doing all the right things. We’re very proud to see her blog off to a great start and we hope you enjoy reading her stories.
Finally, some thoughts from Kat about her new home on the web and working with Launch the Book:
I have been asked by several people why I chose to go with a professionally designed custom website for my blog as opposed to going with something like Blogspot. The answer is simple; professionalism. John Grisham has a custom website, J.K.Rowling has a custom website, George R.R. Martin has a custom website.
Professional authors do not use Blogspot, they have custom websites. My novel is not finished, I am not a professional author . . . yet. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t look like one online.
Working with Taughnee was great! At this point, I am not promoting or trying to sell my novel. I am promoting myself and my writing so that when my novel is ready to hit the market my name and my writing style will not be wholly unknown. Therefore, I wanted a website that showed off my personality, and we discovered very quickly that I really had no idea what that looked like! Taughnee was amazingly patient. She had me look at patterns, graphics, colors, etc and then listened to what about them I liked or disliked. She listened as I told her about how I like to work – pen and paper, coffee shops – she listened as I told her what about my chosen genre intrigued me. She took all of this, waived her magic wand – I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that! – and showed me an absolutely beautiful design that spoke to everything that I wanted. Taughnee delivered exactly what I need right now, and I have no doubt that when I’m ready to expand my site to promote and sell my novel, she’ll be able to deliver that just as beautifully.