Recently, I spoke at StokerCon at the Queen Mary in Long Beach and the Sisters-in-Crime conference in Sacramento, about developing your brand. There are some key elements into doing that. They include writing a strong bio, creating an interesting personality on social media, having a professional headshot of yourself, and mastering an overall tone that marries you with your books.
First, and foremost, it should be written in third person. I’ve seen many, and when I fist started wrote mine in first person, but when sending out to professional publications, and organizations, please, please, please, keep your biography in third person.
Secondly, the length of the bio is also important. In the age of hurry up and wait, our attention spans have shortened considerably. Most writers I’ve come across are the best skimmers in the world. It’s why my good friend, and President of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) always barks that writers don’t read. In itself, that’s a conundrum. We read to inhale, and write to exhale. The entire process of reading work, and then writing our own is how most writers breathe creativity.
A professional bio can be up to three paragraphs of four to five sentences each. However, most publishers and literary agents prefer one short paragraph in a query for them to review your work.
Just as the rule of thumb (before you master writing and can break the rules) is that you never, ever use adjectives and adverbs in your novels and short stories. That also applies for your bio. Gimmicks or adjectives about how incredible your story is, won’t impress, but rather turn off the reader of your bio.
If possible, include your achievements in one or two sentences, tops. Of course, if you’ve published in one or two major print publications, include that, but if there are many, then summarize your body of work in a sentence that best details it. Always include any awards your books or novels have won. Some authors like to keep a humorous tone to their biography, and that’s fine. Personally, I feel that if it reflects your writing, it’s appropriate. If not, subtly match the tone of your writing. Branding yourself means continuity.
For this, I only have one rule: Never argue with anyone on social media. Additionally, when I had dinner with Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Robert J. Sawyer, a couple of months ago, Jerry said to me that its better to not talk about your books as much as keeping the focus on you. “The more interesting your life,” he said to me, “the more you can expect to sell books.” I try not to spam everyone with my work, but that’s a hard one. It’s why it’s truly better to do book and blog tours; the word of mouth is spread by others.
Please spend a few bucks at Sears (so sad, so many are closing) or hire a professional photographer at no more than $150, and get yourself a good headshot. I’m so tired of seeing writers’ photos of them on their websites and promotional swag of them in front of a garden with their cat, or somewhere where clearly, everyone knows he or she used their iPhone and a few Instagram filters to deliver that less-than-professional picture. Continuity is key so match the tone of your book with your look. This is branding. Even if you write about gardens and cats, get your pics done professionally. Writing is not only something you do, it’s your business. Invest time and money into your writing business and stamp your brand on the world.
Ace Antonio Hall (born July 4th, 1966) is an American urban fantasy and horror writer. He is best known as the creator of Sylva Slasher, a teenage zombie slasher who also raises the dead for police investigations, which includes novels and short story collections. He was born in New York, but grew up in Jacksonville, Florida with his grandmother, Sula G. Wells. He is the youngest son of artist and jazz songwriter, Christopher Hall and RN Alice Hall (Thomas). A former Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan Learning Center, Hall earned a BFA from Long Island University. While teaching English, he studied to be a certified ACE personal trainer with the Equinox Fitness Club one summer, but never pursued it professionally. Hall currently lives in Los Angeles with his bonsai named Bonnie.
TweetAce Antonio Hall graduated from Long Island University with a BFA. He is a former NYC middle school English teacher who can’t get enough of zombies and Spider-Man comic books. When he’s not in the gym working off the extra calories from eating way too many donuts, Ace writes young adult horror fiction. His YA zombie novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher was released by Montag Press on April 14, 2013.
Time to chat with Ace!
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Yes! I was so honored to have taught an intensive 3-day writing workshop at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Convention (LOSCON 40) at the LAX Marriott at the end of last month, November. Each day was three-hours, and marked the first time I worked in the capacity as a teacher since 2006, when I was an Associate Director of Education at the Sylvan Learning Center in Northridge. I hope it was the best LOSCON had ever seen and they will ask me back for 2014. Fingers crossed.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Well, Lisette, I’m so glad you asked me that question. As a matter of fact, yes! My publisher came up with the moniker/sub-genre ZOMBIE POP, really by mistake, to describe to the new illustrator how the artwork should ‘pop’ off the cover for the second edition, and Emilio, who did an incredible job capturing the essence of how I envisioned Sylva Slasher, latched onto the name and used it on the cover.
It opened my imagination to tap into the cultural world of the youth for my young adult series. My first novel, which was recently released, Confessions of Sylva Slasher is Zombie Pop, Volume 1, and the next book, which I’m half-way done with, Sk8board Xombies, or Skateboard Xombies, will be the next in a four-part Sylva Slasher series.
Being that Sylva rides BMX bikes and skateboards, the second book is going to be one heck of a roller coaster ride with plenty of twists, turns and cliff-hangers—even more than Confessions.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Got Zombies? Sylva Slasher does. Teen for Hire or Zombies Love A Girl With Brains! My publisher is working on tee shirts to market, right now, as you read this.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I can say that I love character building, world building and creating visual scenes the most. I get a real kick out of seeing all of that come together when the characters walk out of the page and speak to me in vivid language and imagery. Add Christmas, Halloween, German Chocolate cake and falling in love together in one big bowl of excitement and that would pretty much summarize how I feel developing those aspects of my story!
The least? Editing sucks. I spent fifteen hours straight reading my entire novel and cleaning up edits to turn the manuscript into the publisher to meet the deadline. My butt and back were mad at me for weeks after that … but I’d do it all again, because it was part of my dream becoming reality, and the end result of my feelings from seeing my book published can’t even be put into words. If I did it would sound something like, “Yesssyesssyesssahhomigodexpialidociousbooyahzzzzzmmtt eyemmsoolovingituh!”
… See? Can’t be put into words.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
Tons. The funny thing about research is that I can have two pages of research that will show up in only one or maybe two sentences of the novel. I love to use experts and specialists as consultants to make sure that I’m providing sound logic and intelligent continuity. It’s important to me that, even though it may be fiction, it has a basis for reality.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
For the most part, I write them in order. I will usually lay out some kind of skeleton, or structure from beginning-to-end of the story, and then change it, as my imagination flows freely. Alexandra Sokoloff and Christopher Vogler’s ideologies have been the backbone of my structural processes.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Yes, because I come up with so many ideas, I’m all over the place. Knowing the ending of the book keeps me focused, and the title, which usually changes by the time I’m halfway finished with the book, or have gone through a few rewrites gives me direction.
How would you define your style of writing?
Fun, fast-paced and spine-tingling. I am a very visual person, so I try to bring my set pieces to life so that no matter what age-level of the reader, they can see what I paint on the page. Since I am obsessed with the Twilight Zone (one year, on my birthday, which is July 4th, I stayed in bed and watched fifteen hours of a TZ marathon), I love speculative fiction, as well as psychological thriller and infused elements of each into my stories.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
I am obsessed with words—love to write, read and recite them over and over. I believe they have such great power! Names, to me, are just as powerful! They dictate invisible energy that can be received and processed in so many ways. Many cultures believe names to have spiritual significance, and I share that same thought process. If you look at how powerful pseudonyms, stage or pen names are, you will begin to see how important they can influence success. Have you ever noticed how many very successful celebrities have names that are so uncommon or unique that if anyone else decides to use that same name, they seem unoriginal, at best?
I go to great lengths to find names that bind the character spiritually, mentally and physically to create a persona that is unique to their experiences in my novels. For example, Sylva’s first name is because simply, her mother fell in love with her gray, or silver eyes at birth. Her last name, Fleischer, means butcher, which of course is synonymous with Slasher. Being that I’m a huge comic book fan, Sylva Slasher rolled off the tongue as easily as Silver Surfer. It just felt right, and I went with it.
I think my favorite character names are Luke Skywalker, Hannibal Lecter and Cruella de Vil. Magnificent names. Don’t you think?
(Yes, I do! Fantastic, legendary names!)
Would you like to write a short poem for us?
Aw, Lisette, I would absolutely love to:
One day the moonlight said to me
To make my mark before I leave …
Was more her faith in me to be.
She said be a significance
In someone’s life beyond my kids;
I have been doing ever since.
For life gives us a choice to make
To play the rules and some to break …
The daring brave do choose their fate.
I choose to think out of a box
And sometimes do what some will not …
And some place go where some cannot.
Better to be significant
Than leave a stench of a vial scent
And face an end of poor time spent.
For there are those who leave a mark
Only to die without a heart
And left on stage without a part.
Better to leave a mark today
And touch a life in special way
Through pen, and voice, and character, create.
Let’s call that poem … let’s see … um, I think … THE WRITER’S CREE … yeah, that’s it!
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
I live in South Pasadena, but would love to live part of the year in Hawaii, and the other part in Venice, Italy!
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
I would spend the mornings watching Stephen King’s process and absorb as much as I possibly could whenever he spoke to Tabitha, or anyone he communicated with. I’d follow Jackie Chan around, hoping to catch him working out, or practicing, and video tape every single one of his moves so I could translate it into Sylva’s martial arts technique. And lastly, I’d spend the evening skinny-dipping in the island waters of Hawaii, floating, chillaxing and watching the moon, breathing in the air of imagination and fantasy.
If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.
Stephen Spielberg. He understands how to capture magic, fill our hearts with wonder, and drive the world into fascination. I’d love to be able to master that.
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
The South Park movie. Wasn’t my cup of tea.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Indeed! Donuts. I love donuts. Especially, the big fluffy ones sold in Mom & Pop stores in Los Angeles. My Nana used to make them from scratch when I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and there wasn’t anything that could match the taste of those donuts, hot off the stove … except the donuts in Cali. I’ve had them all up and down the east coast, but will work out six days a week, and run six miles a day, just so I can eat as many Los Angeles pink-boxed baker’s dozen donuts as I can eat without the added tires to my waistline.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Ride flying skateboards, vote for a lifetime supply of free beer for all Dallas Cowboys fans, and lobby at Marvel Studios for Stan Lee and the studio executives to contract Sylva Slasher to become an animated/anime series, comic book line, and hit television series featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a mentor and guest star. Okay, so I’m a big dreamer. Never, ever quit, and always dream big!