A Writer Toys with Creating an Online "Brand"

Jane Friedman is in so much trouble. In a recent post, she introduced me to Canva, a design tool. Thanks, Jane. There goes my productivity.

When it comes to work, I am single task and detail oriented to the extreme. When I worked for NPR way back when, I loved splicing actual tape together for broadcasts using an exacto knife. For this past Launch Lab session, we created an exercise on author branding and I spent hours designing the slides. Placing every little arrow, sizing every little picture, picking fonts--it was heaven.


Last year, I decided that my letters, invoices, status reports etc were too boring, so I created this:


Not bad. Adds a little pop to my correspondance and is easy to read. But now, thanks to Jane, I've discovered a tool that REALLY allows me to play around with design. Once I start noodling around, I get the idea to use the header from my website as a kind of banner on newsletters or info packets I share with my students. A way to link my various communications stylistically. 


This website banner is quite busy, so a real designer would probably tell me that using it is a bad idea. I know this but I keep going anyway because once I have an idea I want to run with it. What if I superimpose my name on it, and let the images fade into the background a bit?


Not quite right. So I try this:


The color is better but the stripes? Nope.

I can't figure out the fair use rules for a copyrighted image of crumpled paper I'm using. As I tend to do the instant a technical issue starts to bore me, I give up. I can take a picture of a piece of paper! I can create a FREE background! I end up with this: 


Still not right. How about this? See how the background is a little less prominent in this next one? All the tools on this site are intuitive. You can play around with every element of the design.


Now click on it. Cool huh?

I don't know if the design works, but I think it was time well spent regardless. I am doing what all writers should be doing: figuring out what kind of online vibe I want to project. There's no reason why my newsletters, emails, business cards, flyers, handouts shouldn't have a coherent branding element. 

Even if you don't like design, it's important to think about what your online presence says about you. What is your Twitter handle? What are the prominent colors on your website? Does your (informative, helpful, non-salesy) newsletter fit stylistically with your website? Are you identifiable in some way? Memorable? These are all part of creating a name for yourself so you can, hopefully, sell your books one day. 

What matters most is your work, of course. Is the writing good? Is the story intriguing? Are the ideas helpful or empowering or moving? But beyond that, people have to know you exist. Readers build a sense of who you are through everything you do online. And that means images count, too. So have at it. Have some fun designing your literary brand.

And please, if you have ideas for my banner, let me know. It's still a work-in-progress... as is everything in life. 

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About the Author

Katrin Schumann is the author of The Forgotten Hours (Lake Union, 2019), a Washington Post bestseller; This Terrible Beauty, a novel about the collision of love, art and politics in 1950s East Germany (March, 2020); and numerous nonfiction titles. She is the program coordinator of the Key West Literary Seminar. For the past ten years she has been teaching writing, most recently at GrubStreet and in the MA prison system, through PEN New England. Before going freelance, she worked at NPR, where she won the Kogan Media Award. Katrin has been granted multiple fiction residencies. Her work has been featured on TODAY, Talk of the Nation, and in The London Times, as well as other national and international media outlets, and she has a regular column on GrubWrites. Katrin can also be found at katrinschumann.com, and on Twitter and Instagram: @katrinschumann.

See other articles by Katrin Schumann
by Katrin Schumann


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