GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Building a Modern Author Brand: My Mis-Adventures in Perfecting a Platform by Derek Taylor Kent + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Building a Modern Author Brand: My Mis-Adventures in Perfecting a Platform by Derek Taylor Kent + giveaway

My Mis-Adventures in Perfecting a Platform
by Derek Taylor Kent
Hello, readers! My name is Derek Taylor Kent. Come with me and venture to worlds where brave young children fight 200-foot-tall dragons, where a lonely puppy searches desperately for a family, where an autistic film student unravels diabolical puzzles to find a lost treasure, and where a young boy is taken to the far reaches of space by a friendly alien so he can pass his astronomy test. 

These are brief descriptions of my children’s books that I have been writing professionally since 2009. While I had been writing crazy humorous stories and books since I was seven years old, 2009 was when I first got paid for them and thus the first time I considered myself a professional writer.

I grew up the son of a professional artist named Melanie Taylor Kent and I watched her create one of the most successful artistic brands of the 20th century. And yet, when it came time for me to launch my own brand as a different type of artist, I wasn’t sure where to get started and made countless mistakes that I’ve learned from and have helped me reach the point where I’m just beginning to get the hang of it.

My first big mistake was that I thought that my first book was going to be my “brand.” It was called the Scary School series and received a three-book deal from HarperCollins back in 2009, with the first book released in June 2011. At the time I believed this was going to be akin to A Series of Unfortunate Events, where I would almost certainly end up writing dozens of hit Scary School books that would carry me through the rest of my life. Thus, I wrote the series under the moniker “Derek the Ghost,” creating a mystery around my identity and writing as “author as character,” similar to Lemony Snicket. I also made my main website and centered my business Facebook page around Scary School. Even my Twitter and Instagram were @DerektheGhost.

The series did well, but sadly not well enough for HarperCollins to want more books after the third. I leveraged my existing fan base to self-publish a Book 4 of Scary School, but after that came out in 2015, I was left with an entire identity and business model based around an author name that wouldn’t work for non-horror books and a web and Facebook presence that was practically useless.

In the meantime, I had secured two new book deals: one for a bilingual picture book called El Perro con Sombrero, and another for a thriller called Kubrick’s Game, both now written under my real name, Derek Taylor Kent. Because I’m not the type of writer who sticks to one specific genre or even age group, it was already difficult for me to build a consistent readership that would lead to an avalanche of sales. The audience for Scary School is not the audience for El Perro con Sombrero, which is certainly not the audience for Kubrick’s Game.

So, I had to go through the long process of re-branding my author career by creating a new website,, new social media pages using @DerekTaylorKent, a new mailing list, and a whole new Facebook presence. After building a platform of 10,000+ fans and followers of my Derek the Ghost/Scary School platform, it felt like falling down from the near summit of Mount Everest and having to climb back all over again, but what choice did I have?

Another big mistake I made was being too much of a “commercial” or “ad” throughout my online presence. Whether it was Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, almost all of my posts seemed to be either a promotion for my books or were centered around my book events.

Luckily, when I met my wife, best-selling author Sheri Fink, two years ago, she opened my eyes in the most inspiring way. I saw that she had created one of the most successful author brands, especially amongst children’s authors, and she was 100% independently published. Her brand was called The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink and everything in it was in perfect alignment.
She taught me that nobody really cares about your books and what you’re selling. What they care about is your message. What do you stand for? What are you doing for the world? Why should I pay attention?

Her books were just a medium for her message.

Let’s examine another author you may have heard of — JK Rowling. While her books were about fantasy and magic, her brand’s messaging is focused on tolerance and acceptance. When you think about it, the Harry Potter series is really just a vehicle for her to deliver this message that she is clearly passionate about. The struggle between “pure-bloods” and “mudbloods”, Harry versus Voldemort, is really the struggle between acceptance versus prejudice. Her announcing Dumbledore being gay fits in perfectly with her messaging when viewed in that context. Her social media feed is dominated by outcries for social justice and calling out bigotry where she sees it. One might assume that her platform would be built on magic, fantasy or even children’s literacy, but actually, it’s build solidly on themes of tolerance and how she’s trying to affect positive change in our culture.
Along the same lines, the message of Sheri’s books can be summed up in a simple phrase that she shares at events, interviews, and signings: The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink is about inspiring and delighting children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem. Her Little Series of books are deeply emotional and heartfelt and teach kids valuable lessons that help them through the tough times of childhood.

When I studied her platform, I noticed that her social media pages were not about selling books, they were about embodying and sharing her message of leading a whimsical, magical life and making a positive impact by helping children through volunteer work, readings, and leading by example. Even though she is a professional author, books are really just a small component of her overall brand, which has limitless opportunity and potential within the themes of wonder, whimsy, and kindness.

I thought about my writing and realized I couldn’t clearly define it as Sheri had. When Sheri questioned me about what I was passionate about and what I was trying to accomplish most through my writing, I realized that the answer was to make kids fall in love with reading through laughter and imagination. My books also had an educational angle with titles like Simon and the Solar System and my newest, Principal Mikey.

Sheri and I got married six months ago and this year we created a new brand that integrates all of our books and missions, calling it simply Whimsical World. We have combined the messages of our platforms into a new mission statement: Whimsical World seeks to inspire, delight, and educate children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement. 
I’ve only just begun, but I have finally started to build a brand on the solid platform of my passion and positive messaging. I want to make children fall in love with reading (and in a greater sense, life itself) by making them laugh on every page, learn with every story, and leave with a feeling of motivation that fuels their imagination.

Just like before, it looks like I’m in the process of rebranding myself for a third time. This time, however, it’s so wonderful trekking a new path with the love of my life. She makes the journey no longer arduous, but fun and exciting. I may have fallen off Mount Everest again, but this time I’m riding a roller coaster back to the top!

Principal Mikey
by Derek Taylor Kent (Author), Paul Louis Smith (Illustrator)
May 15, 2018
Age Range: 7 - 11 years
Grade Level: 2 - 6
Hardcover: 170 pages
Publisher: Whimsical World 
A hilarious S.T.E.A.M. chapter book for fans of Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, this heartwarming story is perfect for any 7-12 year old. Mikey McKenzie is an expert at using the scientific method to solve problems in his neighborhood and school. The only problem he can't solve is that he's just 10-year-old and nobody takes any of his ideas seriously. But everything changes when the kooky Principal Walker appoints him as the new school principal when she gets called away, much to the chagrin of the stern Vice Principal Sherman. It's a dream come true for Mikey to finally have the power to implement all his great ideas to improve the school. However, when the power goes to his head, the new job strains his relationships with his best friend and his sister he looks up to. On top of that, the district is threatening to close the underperforming school unless they ace the new standardized test. By the end, he'll have to think outside the box to find solutions that will save the school and his most valued relationships. S.T.E.A.M. concepts: problem-solving, scientific method, educational technology, health/medicine, and social emotional learning.

About the author:

Whimsical World
Derek Taylor Kent is the author many best-selling, award-winning books, including the Scary School series, El Perro con Sombrero, Simon and the Solar System, Kubrick’s Game, Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse, and his latest, Principal Mikey. His new bilingual picture book, Perro Noel/Doggy Claus, comes out November 2018. He co-created the children’s brand Whimsical World with his wife, author Sheri Fink. You can view the evolution of Derek’s websites at,, and

Sheri Fink and Derek Taylor Kent
#1 Best-selling, Award-winning Authors, Inspirational Speakers, and Creators of Whimsical World | |

print copy of Principal Mikey

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  1. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak

  2. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, of course.

  3. No, I didn't but my boys had FOREVER as a favorite and THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY.