Friday, September 27, 2013

AM101 Graphic Design Case Study

Morgan here with a quick case study on our Author Marketing 101 graphic design. Almost three years ago, Therese and I started meeting to chat about the publishing industry and book marketing. We certainly have come a loooonnnng way, since those initial meetings. 

I remember us preparing for our first big presentation as a marketing maven duo. We spent hours designing the graphic below using the basic drawing tools available in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Our original graphic created
in Microsoft PowerPoint.
Here are some of the thoughts that went into our graphic design:
  • We often say and write "PUSH, PULL, POP" in that order. But POP is at the top of our graphic, because POP is the top goal - the sale. Most of what authors do for promotion (bookmarks, giveaways, book signing set ups, etc) are specific for the point-of-purchase.
  • Former advice for authors on how to Push their books was to be "shameless" in their promotions and most authors cringed at being so crass. The marketing "shame" is Wrong! 
  • Pull marketing was misunderstood by most of our audience - and hard to explain even for those of us who understand the process.
  • The circles represent that POP, PUSH, and PULL are all balls to juggle and with some practice can be easy and fun to do.
  • PERSONA is truly the dynamic core of all your efforts. Your Persona ties your books and your career together, since YOU are the creative life force of both.
  • Your Banner is like any flag or pennant, so fly it proudly wherever you go online or in person, and put it on everything so it's easy to find you/your books in the crowd.
  • Your website is a Point-Of-Purchase and your home base to Push and Pull your career.
  • Social media allows you to Push out information and Pull readers to you.
  • The large circle represents "Seamless Self-Promotion."
  • I must admit, the color choices were kinda random. Therese is a water bound chica and I just love this hue of orange. Blue is cool and calm, Orange represents heat and flash. We each have loads of blue and orange in our respective closets - go figure!

The first version produced
by our graphic designer.
As we began to work with Gazebo Gardens Publishing on the cover design for our book, we asked the designer to jazz up our graphic. And, indeed, he really jazzed it up!

While fun, we thought this was a bit too much for our audience. PUSH and PULL both seemed overwhelmed by their icons and 'Banner' got lost in the shuffle. But, this initial reboot did get us thinking. Here's where all of our debates and planning for our initial design really came in handy. We were able to step back, think about our audience, and focus on how this graphic is a visual representation of a process that has many layers and flavors, but is all-inclusive.

Below is the final version of our newly revamped graphic.<Ta-daaa!> Now we have two different blues and orange to work with in any future collateral designs. {Notice that the blue in the outer ring is also the primary blue for our book cover and is now the background color for our new website / blog header. It is also the color for the font used on our navigation bar.}

Why so much thought? Well, we knew we were going to share this graphic for many years. So, we wanted to make sure it represents our process at First Glance. That's also part of our message - that First Glance is your chance to catch a readers attention. This graphic also has deeper layers. Notice that we purposely put an extra space between 'social' and 'media', since it is your socialization through a variety of media (online networks, TV, radio, print) that are your Push & Pull. This concept goes beyond what we narrowly define 'social media' to be, today.

The final version of our revamped graphic. Woo-Who!!

Now I know you are thinking, I write fiction, how does this topic pertain to me? 
I have one name for you: George R. R. Martin. HBO created a Join the Realm website to allow users to create their own Game of Thrones family symbol / banner. Okay - I know that we all don't have HBO's deep pockets to back us up on our world building. And I also know that we all don't write fantasy stories. Think outside the box for a second and consider the following:
  • Maybe your story features a group of women and/or men in some sort of club. Does that club have a symbol? or a pair of 'traveling pants'?
  • Maybe the small town that is the setting for your contemporary romance uses some sort of symbol to represent the town. (My claimed hometown of Portland, OR is also known as The Rose City.)
  • Perhaps there is a high school or boarding school in your book. (The Harry Potter Series has symbols / logos for each of their school houses.) Maybe a mascot or symbol could provide a hint about a character trait / flaw or plot twist. (Slytherin snakes or Gryffindor lions, anyone?)

Questions to Ponder:
  • Do you use any symbols, talisman, crests, or shields in your writing? If so, what do they mean? Have you added this information as extra content to your website?
  • Do your covers represent your stories well? Are there any hidden meanings layered into the design?
  • Does your website represent your writing and genre well?
  • Have you ever considered creating a logo, symbol, talisman, crest, or shield for the series of books you are writing?


  1. I do like your graphic. I'm glad you didn't make quite as cartoon-like as the first attempt.

    I understand your ideas but they are still specific to a single book or a series of books. The difficulty I have, and other authors who write in more than one genre, is how to use colors and symbols or pictures to represent the entire gamut of an author's work.

    Because data around discoverability indicates having more than one author name decreases chance discovery, I've decided to put all my author names into a single website. Getting all the books and everything there is fine. The problem is the branding. How do you brand a site that represents an author who does both non-fiction and fiction? And the fiction is multi-genre and includes both young adult and adult?

    This is the primary reason I haven't completed my new site which combines all of my personas. I can't make up my mind as to how that is represented. However, I also don't want to continue to maintain three different sites, three different FB pages, three different twitter accounts, etc.

  2. Hi Maggie,

    Let's take a step back from an individual book or series and examine your entire body of work. You are the link that ties them all together, so they absolutely all have something in common.

    On a piece of paper (or in a spreadsheet) make a grid that has three columns. The number of rows will depend on the number of genres and nonfiction topics you have published. The first column is the genre or topic. In the second column, record any thoughts, themes, or colors that come to mind. In the third column, think about how the first two columns will apply to your Persona. Examine that Persona column and design your website around your Persona. You can do separate pages linked to a drop down menu for each genre, but your Persona based website would be your 'home base.'

    Also check out what Paty Jager and Sabrina York are doing on their websites. If I think of any more authors that would be good examples, I will post them here and shoot you an email.

    In the mean time, I would be happy to help you with brainstorming your site design over coffee or (your favorite adult beverage) beer. :D It's the least I can do for a great friend!

    C. Morgan Kennedy