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One of the first things I ask my clients during our calls is their author brand: what is their author identity. And they are usually really good at giving me their business brand…but a lot of times they haven't even started building an author brand.
Why the difference? Because your book is usually going to answer a slightly different question than your business answers.
What Goes Into an Author Brand?
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 Building an Author 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 niche 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?
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.
Building an author brand is also a great way to help yourself start thinking of your author career as a business, rather than as a hobby or a side job or something else along those lines. Even if you are doing the majority of your writing on the side, thinking of your author brand as a business will keep you from sweeping it under the rug and will allow you to start recognizing your own identity as an author earlier in the process. Believe me, it's a lot easier to market your books if you've already established yourself as an author in your own mind — a lot harder if you just keep telling people you're an “aspiring author.”
Finally, 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
Rachel Thompson does a wonderful job on her branding. Although she write a blend of creative nonfiction, nonfiction, and fiction books, you can tell just by looking at them that they all represent her.
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 to learn actionable tips I can put to use right away either for myself or for my clients. Whether that's how to redefine yourself after a trauma, or marketing on Twitter, building a book marketing campaign… That's her promise.
And how does she deliver this promise? You can see it everywhere you follow her. On her Facebook Fan Page, in her group, in her Twitter chats.
Even her books carry her branding. If you compare a book from her Broken series to any book outside that series, you'll see some similarities in design: similar fonts and placement, similar colors…you can almost recognize her books from afar before you even read her name.
All Writers Need to Brand
Freelance writers aren't off the hook for building an author brand, either. 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.
Your author brand is much more than just your name or signature slapped onto a book cover. It's a promise to your readers. And in many ways, your author brand is more important than your book is.
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