The thought of selling yourself as though you’re a new watch or a can of fizzy soda may strike you as crass and make you want to stick a fork in your eye, but if you’ve written a book and you’re looking for new readers, then you’re selling more than just your writing.
You’re selling your author brand.
What’s an Author Brand?
When we talk about an “author brand,” we’re talking about building an identity that creates an emotional attachment, a perception of high quality, and that “je ne sais quoi,” that little “I don’t know what,” that no one else can offer.
When readers love an author’s stories and are moved by them, an emotional bond is created. This in turn leads readers to believe that they’ve formed a relationship of some type with the author and understand that author. Because of this emotional attachment, they are willing to purchase a book written by this author simply because of the name (brand) on it.
Perception of High Quality
When an author brand has received accolades, whether in the form of awards, placement on the best-sellers’ lists, or positive reviews, this contributes to the consumer’s perception of this material as “high quality.” After all, if the writer wasn’t good, he wouldn’t be getting all this attention, right? (Never mind the many ways such awards, best-seller lists, and reviews can be “gamed” by the unscrupulous.)
Je Ne Sais Quoi
This French phrase literally means, “I don’t know what.” This is the “X Factor,” the undefinable little something that uniquely defines a brand.
In writing, we call it, “the author’s voice.” This is unique to fiction as a product because other products have attributes that can be ripped off or copied by their rivals (Coca-Cola’s “secret formula,” for example).
But fiction is a totally different ball game. No one’s going to write exactly the way you do. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. How you write about what you write about, that’s unique to you, it’s your authorial voice. It’s the thing that makes a reader read through the night to the end of your book even though they know they have to get up early the next morning for a meeting.
Wrapped altogether, a brand is an implied promise to the consumer that they’ll be receiving a particular thing consistently from an author. That’s why publisher’s don’t like authors to change their writing style or hop from one sub-genre to the next. It might upset the consumer who feels that the brand hasn’t delivered.
Brand Building versus Brand Awareness
Here’s the trouble though. You can run out there and create a great buzz and get all kinds of brand awareness, but unless you’ve defined what makes your brand unique and different from others in the book market, you’re doomed to failure. That’s part of the reason that advertising isn’t enough to build a strong brand.
Branding is more than a logo, color scheme, tagline and message points. Those are just tools for creating a solid brand that you can then make people aware of.
But branding at its root is based first on establishing that emotional attachment. Publicity often works better than advertising to get your foot in the door. It’s used to make connections with people, and create word-of-mouth through reviews, interviews, chats and workshops at conferences. If you communicate your brand clearly and consistently, you’ll go a long way toward developing that emotional attachment with your reader. It’s about creating distinction in the marketplace.
Define Who You Are
Think about the big picture: How do you want to be seen as an author? Some questions to ask yourself when coming up with the big picture for your brand are the following:
- What genre or category do you write in/would you like to write in?
- What stories do you want to tell?
- What subjects do you want to cover?
- What is your purpose in writing?
- What drives you as a writer?
- How would you like to be perceived?
Create a Tagline or Catchphrase
Using a consistent tagline or phrase across your website can be a powerful way to communicate who you are as an author. But the challenge is, coming up with ideas for a tagline. So take time and brainstorm this with other authors or people who know you well. Get started by answering some questions:
- Is there a common theme in your work?
- Is there a tone or mood to your work?
- Is there something about you that you can relate to your work?
Use these questions to create a list of 10 or 15 words that might describe you. Then use those words as a jumping-off point for creating a tagline. Come up with a few taglines and sit with them for a while to see how they feel. Run them by other authors (social media groups are a great resource for this) as well as friends and family to get their feedback.
Reinforce Your Author Brand
Once you have an outline for your author brand, it’s time reinforce it. That means using it consistently and often.
- your social media profiles should have similar colors to your website,
- you should use your tagline on social media,
- your Twitter handle should be consistent with your brand, and
- the content you share should have a theme that supports your brand.
Image and brand are often used interchangeably. In fact, they’re quite distinct. Image is only the visual representation or packaging. A brand is the “total experience” that the individual, product, or company represents. In other words, your image is only one aspect that communicates your personal brand. Your visual brand identity is the “show, don’t tell” version of your brand.
Through visual branding, your readers experience your history, your values, and your work through their senses and emotions rather than only through a textual description.
But building your visual brand identity is much more than just adding a few pretty pictures to your blog posts and Facebook updates.
It’s everything you do visually to make an impression or impact (intentionally or otherwise), and contributes significantly to how you are defined as an author. Every time someone sees a piece of visual content from you—your logo, your book cover, an image quote, a short video—it adds another layer to your brand story.
Tie It All Together
The keys to branding are repetition, reinforcement, and consistency. Familiarity breeds trust.
Thinking of yourself as a brand may take some getting used to, but use the basic elements of author branding on a regular basis and see what results you get. You may find that presenting a consistent and clear image of who you are and what you write makes it easier for readers to get to know you—and helps them decide that they want to buy your books.