Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lessons in author branding from ANTM cycle 15

What can models teach celebrity authors (you!) who are about to step into the spotlight? Judge not for they can teach us mere mortals a lot. 

In every cycle of America's Next Top Model, the models-in-training must endure a make-over. Hair is weaved, cut, and dyed. Why? It's not just about being prettier. It's about bringing out the uniqueness of each model. This is branding in action!

This week the top 4 models competed on ANTM cycle 15. As Tyra and the panel deconstructed the art and science of modeling, it struck me that these are exactly the things my writing stars should know.

The braces were worth it!
1. Practice taking pictures. With a mirror and a digital camera as her only tools, my daughter Ayanna practiced taking pics all throughout her high school years. Now she can't take a bad picture. Tyra tells her models to tilt chins up and down, turn this way and that. They have to learn the best ways to move their bodies for the cameras, and they have to learn how to play with light, shadow, and angles for the camera.

What are your best features? Do you know your best side? Well you should. Let's say you have to speak at a banquet and everyone wants to take a picture with you. Suppose you're doing a book signing and a photographer for Business Week, Essence, or Vanity Fair snaps your photo with you unaware. (It could happen.) You don't want any of your publicity photos looking like mug shots!

During one photo shoot, Tyra told the models to whisper their names as the camera clicked. The visual effect was beautiful. If you want to take a good picture, don't say "cheese" or "money." Whisper your name!

2. Nail your first impression. That old cliche is true: you may never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. Before going on their go-sees, the models took acting lessons to learn how to project their unique personalities. Ann, the tall shy one, really struggled with this exercise. She reminded me of some writers I know. 

Sometimes you have to be more of yourself. Talk a little louder, smile brighter. Even if you have to fake it, project confidence.

Whether you're speaking before a large crowd, doing a workshop, networking, or doing a media interview, don't lose your energy. Be full of yourself. Don't let shyness or fear give folks the wrong impression about who you really are.

I believe in role playing, visualizing desired outcomes, and practicing how you look in the mirror. Practice!

3. Let competition motivate you to be the best you can be. I enjoy reading success stories about authors who are miles ahead of me. They show me things I didn't even know were possible. I may not be in their sphere yet, but with faith and perseverance I will. Folks think competition is about beating the other guy, but really, competition challenges us to fulfill our own potential.

4. Always look good. Even if you're a jeans and t-shirt type of guy or gal, make sure your clothes are always clean and neatly pressed. Make sure your hair and nails are always done (preaching to myself here). You're a celebrity author, so don't go out in public looking crazy. During "panel" on ANTM, the judges don't only look at the models' pictures. They also look at how they're presenting themselves on the runway at panel. If their clothes and hair aren't right, they're called on it. This feedback (which can be brutal) trains them to be true to their unique brand as a model.

When my books first came out, I was doing a lot of media. I've been recognized many times in the street and even in the grocery store. Not bragging. Just saying that you've got to be prepared to meet your public. You don't want folks walking away with the wrong impression of you. They may not buy your book and ultimately that's what stepping up your game is all about.  

Donna Marie

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