Here at The Invisible Author, we talk a lot about a lot. We talk about writing, writing as a career; we talk about marketing and building your author platform; we talk about social media and best practices. But we really haven't talked that much about author branding. So, let's change that.
A lot of people think of branding and they immediately think of things like logos and slogans. And although these things go into branding, they aren't branding all by themselves. In fact, logos and slogans are more a part of marketing than they are of branding. If you were to take the concept of branding and compress it down into one word, it would be this: your branding is your promise. Marketing is how you build brand awareness — telling people about your promise.
So when it comes to settling on your author branding, you have to look at other things than simply what you want to use as your logo and a catchy slogan. Logos and slogans and photographs? Those are all things to help your readers recognize your promise.
Things to Consider When Creating Your Brand
Now with the understanding that your brand is your promise, let's focus on what that means to you. What is your promise to your readers? If they are looking at a new book, just put out by you, with no prior knowledge about it other than your name — what would they expect?
- What are you already known for? When your friends see a post and think of you, what is that post?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What genres do you write or want to write?
- What themes do you tend to carry through your writing? What themes do you want to carry through your writing?
- What is your passion? Your purpose?
You can be as specific or as vague as you like; as personal or as professional. When I think of humanities, social justice, and crime fighting, I think of A.K. Morgen. (Of course, when I think of spiders I also think of Ayden, but we have a shared history of traumatic experiences with spiders — so that has nothing to do with her writing or her stories). When I think about shifters and wolves, I think Melissa Snark. When I think about good versus evil, I think Stephen King.
Why You Need to Brand
If you've been set against branding, don't worry — you're not alone. A lot of fiction authors don't like to brand. And I can't say I blame them. Once you get into things like branding, you are no longer creating worlds and celebrating words — you're entering into a whole new realm that requires establishing a reputation and an image. And let's be honest, if we were passionate about branding, wouldn't we have gone into a very different business?
However, branding is a part of your author platform you cannot afford to neglect. It's what helps you deliver your promise to your readers, what helps your readers recognize you and your promise when they see it, and what your readers will tell other people about you — it's your chance to control the public's perception of you.
And that is something that absolutely must start with you.
Author branding also sets up a communication ring. You give your readers a promise, deliver on that promise, and your readers will, in turn, recommend you to new readers who are looking for someone making that same promise to them. Your branding will attract new readers to you.
Example of Author Branding at Work
Melissa Snark does a wonderful job on her branding. She lets you know in her biography she is fascinated with wolves and mythology, she's an expert in Norse mythology, she reads and writes fantasy and romance. What do you think you would expect if you came across one of her new books? I'll tell you what I expect every time I see she has a new book coming out: I expect romance along with some iteration of fantasy, paranormal, or mythology (or any combination therein). That's her promise.
And how does she deliver this promise? You can see it everywhere you follow her. On her Facebook Fan Page, every post has something to do with wolves, mythology, Norse traditions, historical romance. The same is true for her Twitter profile as well: Everything she tweets or retweets is something that solidifies her promise.
Even her books carry her branding. If you compare a book from her Loki's Wolves series to any book outside that series, you'll see some similarities in design: similar fonts and placement, similar styles in cover art…you can almost recognize her books from afar before you even read her name.
All Writers Need to Brand
Nonfiction authors and freelance writers aren't off the hook for branding. Although for nonfiction authors, coming up with a branding concept might be easier than for fiction authors. Take Rayne Hall for example: she helps good authors become great. Pretty straightforward, right? And an easy promise to communicate. Freelance writers also have it easier when it comes to establishing their promises to their clients: quality of service, timeliness, reliability, confidentiality (in cases of ghostwriters).
Building an author brand is one of the hardest and most important things you can do for your writing career. It requires deep reflection on who you are and who you want to be as a writer and as a person. But I know you can do it. And once you see your author branding working for you, you'll be so glad you did it.