SJ Duncan

The Tipping Point Blog


“Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that's the truth in people's minds.” – Steve Young


Welcome to part 3 in our 3 part series on successful self-publishing.


In part 1 we discussed the basics of creating a book (your product).


In part 2 we covered websites, social media, and email marketing (your platform).


Now it’s time to think about your angle of approach.

Step 3: Finding Your Angle


Before you can find something, you need to know what you're looking for. So what, exactly, is your angle?


Your angle is the story of you, but I’m not talking about the bio page on your website.


It’s the perception you create of yourself, the author, as told through images, social media posts, interactions with fans (or potential fans), and any number of ways you present yourself to the public.



Anytime we meet someone we create a composite of that person in our mind. This mental profile is based on the few details we know; face, body-type, demeanor, linguistic characteristics. This ultra-shallow mental image is then filled-in with a slew of assumed information.


Like it or not, we stereotype like crazy.


Why is this important to recognize?


Because to everyone who first encounters you, your website, or something you’ve posted, you are the new individual. And the perception you create can determine how quickly (or slowly) you grow your audience.


So how do we create an honest yet appealing perception in the minds of the public?


You can think of this as a combination of two things: Your images and your demeanor.


As a writer, you think in words. Writing is your talent. Crafting beautifully moving, well-written prose is your passion.



Online, however, images offer an immediacy that text doesn’t, and it's often that initial pull of an image that will get someone to give your prose a chance.


So what kind of images should you use and where do you get them?


Profile Image



Your first key (and crucial) image is your profile pic.


Although there are exceptions, writers are often introverted, self-absorbed, and overly critical. To top it off, we can easily (and rapidly) fluctuate between wild narcissism and unreasonable self-loathing. As a result, many writers shy away from pictures of themselves.


Your readers, though, are curious (and not nearly as critical of you as you are of yourself), and a good profile pic sends a signal that you are serious about your work, and they should be, too.


So get a sharp, clear headshot and use it consistently across all social media platforms. In branding, repetition is key, and people like to put a face to creative work.


Most photographers will have a set rate for a simple, clean headshot.


Or with a backdrop and some well placed lights you can DIY it. The headshot above was taken in my office with an iPhone. The backdrop is an off-white drop cloth clipped to a bookshelf. Total investment? $10 or less.


Banner Images





Most social media sites will have space for a banner image. This image could be another pic of you or an ad for your latest book or anything at all which relates to you or your work.


Other Images




Most of us know how to upload and share memes, even if we’re not sure how to create them. Whether it’s a meme or an ad or an image illustrating a story, you’ll need to learn how to properly size images. Kevin King has a handy social media size guide to help you get it right.


NOTE: Images you don’t own or create are protected by Copyright law. While there is some gray area in regard to sharing and meme creation, you can’t directly profit from an image (i.e. use it for your book cover) without obtaining commercial rights, either by buying the image from a stock photo site, or by downloading from a royalty free site where permission is already granted by the original creator of the image.


When you sit across from someone for the first time, you pick up on a number of non-verbal cues.



Posture, mannerisms, eye contact, the degree to which they fidget or talk with their hands.


Online, however, we gather those social cues in different ways. Is this person positive or negative? Encouraging or discouraging? A happy camper or a complainer? To what degree do they use slang? Is their phrasing simple or trendy? What kind of memes do they share?


There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to your online demeanor, so my advice for this is simple: Be the best you you can be.


After all, you have the market cornered when it comes to being you. Now all you have to do is decide how to present that authentic self to your waiting public.


But remember. . . 


Growth Takes Time

Growing a successful self-publishing career is no different. And just like growing up, there are stages.



There’s the clumsy infancy. You’re going to fall a few times and a lot of the (self-publishing) world won’t make sense just yet. But you have to keep getting up. It’s the only way you’ll learn to walk.


Then there’s the awkward teen years, where you start to see your potential, but just aren’t sure how to realize it.


And finally there is the fully formed adult, who has learned to deal with adversity, ignore disappointments, and get stuff done.




Helpful Skills:


Basic Photography

Photo manipulation and correction (i.e. Photoshop)

Basic understanding of marketing concepts

Basic understanding of human psychology

An unshakeable belief in yourself and your abilities

A desire to create good work and share it with others

The ability to weather disappointments and criticism

PRO TIP: It’s easy to do the fun stuff, the creative work, the parts that fall within your comfort zone, but that will only get you so far. It’s your willingness to do the parts you don’t want to do that will determine how far you go.



Final Thoughts


Anything worth doing requires time and effort.

Yes, self-publishing is hard work.

Yes, there is a learning curve.

Yes, you will have to broaden your horizons and expand your skill-set (and step waaaay out of that comfort zone).

But that’s not a bad thing.

You'll get frustrated. You'll try a lot of things that don't quite work. And then, through that trial and error, you'll find what does work. But it takes time, and it takes effort.

So start where you are, with what you have, and have faith you will find your way.

Because you will.

One step at a time.




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