You Are What You Write: Building an Author Brand

I’m back at the kitchen table today–thank the computer gods for making laptops–so that I can connect to the Internet. The last two days I’ve been discussing author branding, and despite living on a ranch and owning two different brands, I am not talking about taking authors out back and branding them with hot irons. Okay, the image is just gruesome. Ick.

I’m talking about making a name for yourself in the reading world. Yes, you heard me right, reading world. Why not the publishing world? Because not all of us have to answer to publishers and their impossible dictates. Some of us only have to answer to our muses, ourselves, and sometimes our readers. Although the opinions of readers are rather subjective to tastes, so that doesn’t always work. I don’t know how many times…tangent. Tangent!

I’m trying to curb this habit of jumping from topic to topic without rhyme or reason. Some form of blogging ADD perhaps. But those are tangents I’m not touching today.

Back to Author Branding. What is it you ask? I’ve explained it in Author Branding? What is that?  and again in Author Branding: Overview. Look back and read those posts if you don’t know what Author Branding is. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

While they are gone, I want to thank Andrew Mocete, Ruth Ann Nordin, and Joleene Naylor for your impute on Author Branding. You guys are awesome.

Now we’ll discuss how to build your brand. An author brand is more than logos, color schemes, taglines, or message points. Though those things do help create an ambiance.

1. You need to have a great book. This isn’t the NaNoWriMo novel that you slapped together in four weeks and never touched again. This is the book that you revised, edited, and proofread. This is the book that you sent out to beta readers for feedback. This is the best version of the book that you created, and finally let go into the world, only to think of more things you could have done better. Like the Underworld in my novel could have been darker and more gloomy at first, oh and there was that part…

2. Define what makes your brand unique and stick to it. Find a distinctive word or phrase that defines an aspect of what you do and then make it yours. I’ll take my writing as an example. At this moment I’m a fantasy and paranormal author that dips into romance and erotic romance, maybe someday I’ll try my hand at SciFi, horror, historical, or erotica. So what would be my brand? What should I focus on? Romance? Fantasy? Paranormal?

Actually I focused on none of the genres. I noticed that my story ideas all have a common thread. Every single story idea is based on a creature from myths or legends. Every single one of my ideas has a romance running through it. So that’s what I focused on. Myths. Legends. And Love. Notice my tagline above, “Where legends live. Where myths walk. And where love is eternal.” I says everything about what I write.

3. Grab the emotions of your readers. I discussed emotional attachment yesterday. Basically readers will buy a book on the sole fact that they feel attached to and think they understand the author. My best examples were Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

4. Build every aspect of your brand equally. These are your actions as well as your visual and verbal elements. Your message points that should be used in every spoken and written communications. This would be your email signature, you sign off at forums, reviews, and interviews. Your visual elements would be your website, your letterhead, and your professional photo. Think about that one for a moment. People are judgmental; it’s just part of our nature. We judge a book by its cover, a website by its look, and an author by their photo. So take a good look at your website and author’s photo. Do they reflect the image you want to send out to others? Do they look like other authors in your genre?

Okay I can see the confusion at that last question. Just like book covers have a certain look for different genres, so should your websites and author photos. Take a look at a few of your favorite authors. Then look at some that aren’t in your chosen genre. See if you can tell the difference. And if not, look for my post on author websites, author bios, and author photos another day.

5. Be consistent on marketing your brand. Just as publicity works better than advertising in the beginning to get your foot in the door. People who visit your sites need to know what you are marketing, which means that you need to communicate with a solid core message. Your brand should be in all that you do. But I’ll agree with Andrew, in that I enjoy interacting with people even if it’s not shop talk. I want to be able to connect with people on a personal level not just because I want them to by My Lord Hade (transmit subliminal message: Buy my Book! Mawhaha…)

Enough of that! The connections you do make with readers in chats, workshops, interviews, random emails, and reviews are what sale your book. Think word of mouth. One person tells five friends. Those five friends might tell five more friends. And the cycle goes on.

6. Deliver what you promise. Whatever your brand image, make sure that you stick to it. I made this mistake earlier in the year with my co-authored work Footprints on the Beach. I didn’t want to do separate websites for them so I ended up confusing my merging brand. That’s why my fiction got a new website Writing of Timothy Reese Richards (still under construction) and this one is getting a new look. One that I hope better fits the brand I want to convey.

Consumers are loyal. But they’re also fickle. Disappoint them and you lose them.

7. Always evaluate, build, and refine your brand. This will be a constant thing as society, readers, and your career change. When your image is no longer consistent with your brand, you need to refine and adjust the brand to make it fit you as an author. This is going to be a continuous process.

 I hoped this helped and unless anyone has any questions this is the end of the series on Author Branding. I invite you to comment, question, or discuss what I’ve said below. And if you found this of help to you, please share this with your friends.

6 Comments

  1. Lovelyn says:

    Great advice, Stephannie. I’m still trying to get my author brand together. I’m not happy with the look of my website it’s too plain. I just can’t figure out what to do with it.

    1. Thanks. I hope you find something you like.

      It can be difficult to figure out your website some times. I think I’ve changed mine 100 times in the last two years and I’m still working on it. I’ll come have a look and see if I make any suggestions. 🙂

  2. Maureen Gill says:

    Great post, Stephannie! I’ve been devouring everything you’ve written about brand; can’t seem to get enough of it. So much of what you’ve said has made my thinking about my brand clearer to me. I’m thinking “how” we write is as much a part of our brand as “what” we write and I’m trying to work that out now (how I have a different take on POV, as an example or what it means to have an author’s voice).

    Of all the things we need to do when we begin to take charge of our writing careers as indies I’m beginning to think one of the most important things is brand. We have to know our brand inside & out and make it as much of our identity, our public persona, as our name.

    Thanks for all the great advice.

    1. Amen, sista! You have the right of it. Author branding in more than genre, it’s the voice of the writer, the style they write in, the look of a book or website, the author themselves, their characters, etc. Too many focus on just the genre or subgenre. I never once mention the subgenre or genre I write in my author brand.

  3. So what you’re saying is the picture of me holding a knife and foaming at the mouth wouldn’t go over well with my audience because I write romance? 😛

    It’s funny because I never thought of the overall brand. I just looked at the books. It didn’t occur to me to think of the look and feel of my website and blogs.

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