Friday, January 20, 2017

What Authors Can Learn From Tyra Banks

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

Last night I watched an old episode of America’s Next Top Model. (Series 16, ep 6 available at It was from one of the seasons that still seemed professional and serious. Very little girl fighting, lots of modelling. No male contestants for dirty hook ups, no weird online voting. Just young women with a dream and industry professionals challenging them to reach for it.

There was a great moment when Tyra Banks came to their model house and had a serious conversation with the contestants. She talked about the unique archetypes of models (like genre for our books) and showed the girls how to identify which archetype they were. Then she taught them how they needed to move and act as that archetype to successfully book jobs. The author parallel here is obvious:

Learn what your book is, what your voice is, and how to write compelling fiction for that audience. 

Models have to study Vogue (luckies!) but we get to study books (even luckier!) For the indie, we get to break molds, but, as your old art teachers used to tell you, you need to know the rules to break them effectively. So be the author of Amish Vampires in Space (lucky!) so long as you know as much as you can about the Amish, about Vampires, and about Space.

Break the fourth wall, have an omniscient POV, head jump, love your adverbs. Do and be whatever you want to be as an indie author, so long as you are doing it well-informed about why most people don’t, what makes it effective versus ineffective, and what you are bringing to it that elevates it from an outmoded style to the thing that makes your book awesome. 

After that Tyra talked about autographs and that’s when I just knew this lesson from Tyra was meant to be an author parallel. She discussed how the models had to have a unique autograph that wasn’t goofy, that that they could repeat over and over again. She didn’t mention the most important thing though: Have an autograph that isn’t the same one you use to write checks! Protect yourself in a broken world.

And…add some character to it. Make that signature fit your voice. It’s a funny thing to think of, but the visual of your autograph speaks to your style. It would be pretty jarring if Stephen King had the handwriting of  an elderly kindergarten teacher.

Authors also often quote lines from their books, or have a saying or Bible verse they add to their book autographs. I think Tyra would approve. Use this opportunity wisely and touch the hearts of readers. And speaking of hearts, Tyra says do as she says, not as she does! Don’t draw a cutesy little heart next to your name!

I will probably never be able to break the habit of watching reality TV. But that’s okay so long as it continues to teach me to be a more effective author. 

What authors can learn from @TyraBanks - via @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

"Learn what your book is, what your voice is & how to #write for that audience" @TraciTyneHilton (Click to Tweet)

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at


  1. I almost didn't read this, but so glad I did. Proved all over again that I DID have time and that I WOULD learn from reading it. Interesting, especially the part about adding character to autograph. Thanks.

  2. Today, of all days, I can see why an article about Tyra Banks wouldn't be a big draw. A lot to listen to, watch, and read that has a pretty big impact on our country!

  3. great article, Traci. I love Tyra Banks. and because I write about identity issues, I sign my books with "To thine own self be true" and Romans 12:2

  4. Thank you, Traci. With the correct POV, we can learn from anyone.

  5. Very interesting twist! Love how you pulled this together. :)