If you’re a writer, at some point you’ve daydreamed about success and what that would look like.
- Your book topping at #1 on the best-seller lists.
- Your name popping up on blog posts and news articles, along with praise for your masterpiece.
- Fans sending you emails and posting reviews daily, gushing with enthusiasm over your book, and expressing eagerness for your next release.
Oh, the fame and fortune and glamor that await …
But … you know that for these dreams to become reality you have to do more than write a terrific book. You have to create a brand. A what? you ask. Maybe you’ve heard the term “platform,” but you haven’t considered developing one for yourself. You may believe that “platform” and “brand” are for nonfiction writers, and you write fiction.
But all writers have to establish themselves in the marketplace to stand out in a unique way.
And potential readers, coming across your website or your book on Amazon, are going to get a quick impression about you, what you write, and what your new release is about.
And this is where an author brand comes in.
Simply put: your brand is you.
It’s the face you show the world. It’s the way you engage with others on social media. It’s your personality that seeps from the words you write—on your website, your blog posts, and your marketing materials.
The purpose of author branding is to create an emotional connection between writer and reader. Having a clear understanding of what your target reader loves and expects from a book like yours will help you design your brand to give those readers what they desire.
Why Your Author Brand Must Highlight Your Genre
Having a professional brand that is framed by the genre you write in is the key.
Because your book fits in a genre, and your brand is part and parcel of that genre.
You aren’t going to see Stephen King’s promotional materials full of cute pink and orange bunnies hopping across the pages (unless they are dripping with blood). He writes horror, so everything about his author brand is going to reflect that—fonts, colors, and images.
When you look at promotional copy for an author, it conveys a mood, and the combination of elements evoke a feeling in the person viewing them.
What is your genre? When you look at best sellers most similar to your book, what do you notice about those elements? When you go to these authors’ websites, look carefully at the layout of the text and images.
Read the copy on these authors’ pages to see how they promote and describe their work.
Look at the endorsement blurbs and note what comments are made that speak to their genre.
What Are Some Branding Challenges You Will Face
But what if you write in different genres? You’ll need to consider this carefully.
I write in numerous genres, and I was told years ago by literary agents that I was doomed to fail. That I had to pick only one genre, stick with that, and center my author brand on it.
I was incensed by the thought of having to narrow and confine my creativity, and I ignored their warnings.
I published many novels of various genres, some with traditional publishers and others via self-publishing, and I struggled with how to brand myself, and it caused a lot of problems and frustration.
In hindsight, I believe I should have used a pen name for each genre.
I know of many romance authors, for example, who have multiple pen names for every romance subgenre they write in. They do this because they want to brand each “author” a different way to target a different audience segment.
In other words, writing in multiple genres poses multiple challenges for the author’s brand.
With my historical Westerns, I came up with a pen name and created an entire brand for Charlene Whitman—including a website and social media pages and a mailing list.
It takes a lot of work for me to maintain that brand, but my Westerns require it—and my fans—and these books target a much different readership than, say, my fantasy novels or relational dramas.
If you’re just starting out as an author, I highly recommend you stick with one genre for a while.
At least for the first three or four books—whether fiction or nonfiction.
Get that brand established, then consider creating a new one.
How To Build Your Author Brand In 5 Steps
No matter what stage you’re in with your book and online presence, your brand is something you can continually tweak and improve upon.
A strong author brand will convey credibility, expertise, and talent.
There are two specific focuses with branding: your identity and brand awareness.
Before you can showcase your brand, you need to define your brand identity. Then everything you create to help promote your presence as a writer is part and parcel of that identity.
Your brand identity expresses who you are, who your readers are and what they want, and your career objectives or goals.
As I mentioned, it’s not just about what you say about these things and how you say it, it’s about creating a visual ambiance using colors, fonts, and images–and one that must complement the type of books you write.
Here are 5 steps to building a strong brand identity:
1. Define what makes you unique—your personal story.
How does your book compare to and contrast with those best sellers? What key aspects of your life and/or personality do you want to showcase to the public?
You wouldn’t believe how many fans have written to me over the years saying they also love pygmy goats (I had a commercial pygmy goat farm for a decade) or raise Labrador retrievers and that’s what snagged their interest!
Your personal stories make you real and connect you to readers.
2. Decide on a brand “tone.”
When you look at the websites of successful authors, note the tone they get across.
Are they gregarious, playful, upbeat, humorous, or teasing? Maybe they’re serious, studious, contemplative, informative.
Your tone should be reflective of the kinds of books you write.
It’s all in how you convey information to your readers at your website, in your email blasts, and on social media. Keep in mind that your tone also defines you, so you’ll want to be authentic in a way that is true to your values.
3. Get a professional photo made.
Don’t use a selfie or a grainy image to present yourself to the world.
Your photo should be of professional quality and best reflect the persona you want to convey with your author name.
It should match the colors you choose to brand with and the mood or tone you need to get across to align with genre.
That’s not to say you must have a stern or severely serious expression if you’re a suspense writer. But take a look at those top authors’ professional photos and see what kind of emotion or mood they convey.
See if you can identify how their photo aids to the brand they are promoting.
4. Be consistent with your branding materials.
Use only one photo of yourself everywhere—that’s how readers will identify you.
If they repeatedly see that photo all over the internet, in time your brand will be immediately recognized.
Think about using one specific image or blocks/shapes of colors on all your promotional materials, including headers for your website and social media platforms.
5. Consider creating a tagline or catchy phrase.
Taglines are a great way to not only hook readers with curiosity and interest but they help with name/brand recognition.
We are all familiar with product slogans, like Nike’s “Just do it.”
Many authors borrow from this effective branding technique, such as suspense author Brandilyn Collins with her trademarked “Seatbelt Suspense” or Ronie Kendig’s “Rapid-Fire Fiction.”
My tagline for my pen name Charlene Whitman is “Heart-thumping Romance.”
To create brand “awareness,” think about what your target readers expect and want from a book like yours.
Look at the blog posts and social media posts similar authors write to grow awareness of their brand.
What stands out to you? How can you do something similar but different?
How To Grow Your Brand over Time
As part of your overall marketing strategy, you’ll want to include ways to grow and promote your brand over time.
Strategize the kind of content you want to produce and how often and where you plan to release it, utilizing all those consistent brand elements.
Continually look for new markets, platforms, and media to tap into to spread your brand wider.
Treat your writing as a career, even if you are just starting out in this publishing endeavor. That professional approach to your brand will pay off over time in the form of respect for your work and your name.
Your unique and compelling brand will be one of the main factors of a successful writing career, so take time to creatively craft it so that it perfectly showcases you and your book.