Purposeful Persona Pursuit: Who are you as an author or professional?

On a busy tradeshow exhibition floor, I was once surprised to spot a woman wearing in a rich jewel-toned velvet cape with some kind of matching hat – possibly featuring a feather — and I was intrigued but mystified.

Then a more experienced colleague explained to me that some authors take on a persona and show up at events in costume.

That didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I remembered learning about an old actor’s trick of letting a costume, or one item of a costume, move you into character.

Then I felt my view shift and I suddenly saw that busy tradeshow from a new perspective, one that could well have been terrifying to an author whose work is in people’s hands for them to evaluate.

Then I could see the wisdom and security of having an author persona.

But even if you don’t feel the need or have the opportunity to show up in costume, if you are an author, or are working your way there, you also have some decisions to make about how you show up to others in the world.

And this also applies in other life and career decisions. Seeking a professional job more responsible than the one you have now? The classic wisdom is to stop showing up in flip flops and jeans and dress like the professional role you want to play in an organization as you prepare yourself to be ready to handle more responsibility.

But back to authors.

For some people, becoming an author is a natural outgrowth of their business, ministry, or profession. They understand a bit about branding and know they need to set the tone and look of their website, get new business cards and other printed pieces done, and possibly even establish another email address.

Quite a while ago now, we talked about having your own business cards and bookmarks, and once your book is published and you start doing signing events and speaking events, a pull up banner.

But here are a couple of other ideas for you to throw in the hopper as you plan and prepare.

Of course you’ll need a website and please don’t make the URL or web address the title of the book, unless you plan to have multiple websites. Even if you are convinced now you will never write another book, chances are you will write another book, or you might decide to redo the first book and change the title. You can still make your website all about the book without the URL being the title. I usually recommend you use SusieSmithAuthor.com. You can even buy the URL of the book title if you want in addition to the Susie Smith one and have them both send people to the same website for now. And these days, people can find you and your book pretty easily without the need to put that book title in the URL.

Then there’s your email address. Some folks use something humorous that refers to their fondness for motorcycles, cats, or gardening, or use a college nickname. And for those of us old enough to remember the days before we had email, quaint as it seems now, when people were first getting email, it was common then for a family or a couple to all share one email address. I just recently saw a secondary email for a bookstore owner that was something like SmithFamily@gmail.com.

Some of you authors out there might be thinking you don’t have to worry about this branding stuff now, this can wait until you get a bit more well known before you have to bother with these details. That’s like showing up in jeans and flip flops.

You may be so used to being catladyandroses@aol.com that you no longer even notice this casual approach to your email. But is that really how you want to show up making a first impression when you communicate with people about setting up a book signing or placing your books in a local shop? Or presenting yourself as the expert you are and trying to persuade them you should be a speaker for their organization?

And let’s be honest. Your resistance to making changes might be masking your internal discomfort with considering a new view of you as an author.

You may feel as fake as that author in the hat and cape, but you need to think about your professional persona and move to get comfortable with the new you, you the author, and purposefully decide how you will present yourself.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on July 22, 2022.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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