You probably hear it all the time: What’s your brand? Are you developing your brand? How are you cultivating your brand?
The word “brand” can feel so highfalutin, it’s easy to tune out with the rest of those buzz words we hear so often. But essentially, it’s just your reputation as an author. Think about it as what readers are saying about you on message boards and comment threads — all those times and places they think we aren’t looking.
“This author teaches me about periods in history I never thought about…”
“They inspired me to read a different genre…”
“I love them because their characters are based on Sesame Street puppets…”
You get the gist. Your personal author brand is a set of standards and practices that readers can come to expect from you. If you’re a fact-driven true crime writer with a deep knowledge of musical theater, embrace it. If you write romances that incorporate your volunteer work at animal shelters, use that to build your brand.
Anyone can write, but being an author means you’ve gone the extra step to publish your hard work to reach a certain audience. Why should a reader pick up your book instead of one by another author?
Discover your why and then put that knowledge and effort into the how.
Know your message
And it can’t be, “I want to sell books.” If you spent all this time writing a book, you’ve invested a part of yourself into the endeavor and you should be aspiring for more than just sales.
Maybe you’re a middle grade author looking to inspire children to read more nonfiction. Or maybe you’re a thriller author looking to highlight injustices in the justice system.
Whatever your message is, make it clear. And make it count.
Know your audience
Your book, your message, your brand — it’s not going to be for everyone, and it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone is going to hop on board. Every reader has their own individual tastes. And while many readers’ interests span multiple genres, you can only focus on the readers who you know will get behind your message.
Building your audience definitely takes time. Once you have a grasp on that audience, consider building a street team to further your efforts to reach similar readers and promote your work.
Your author bio, headshot, social media handles, etc. should be the same — or close to the same — no matter where someone is reading about you. The last thing you want is to gain a new fan and then they have a hard time finding you.
And speaking on that author photo: We know, we know, it’s a pain to have done, but getting a professional headshot really is important. First impressions really are everything — check out our post on why it’s important to take a great author headshot.
Whether it’s your website or social media or swag you mail out with books, remember to carry that consistency with you — but don’t be afraid to get creative!
You don’t have to be a Photoshop or Illustrator whiz to create on-theme graphics. Sites like Canva and Adobe SparkPress are user-friendly and have a variety of templates you can use and adjust to fit your brand.
Decide on 4-5 colors that resonate with you (if your books have a color theme, even better, you can borrow from that). If you rock monochromatic looks in your personal style, incorporate that into the graphics you share on social media. Or if you’re partial to pastels, make that the theme of your email newsletter.
Also select 2-3 fonts you can consistently use across all social media platforms, your website, etc. Play around with weight and size within those font families, but generally try and stick to a maximum of 3 fonts.
There are millions of authors out there — focus your attention into cultivating an aesthetic that sets you apart from all of them.
Think about it: Coca-Cola isn’t using the same logo it used 50 years ago, so it makes sense that as you grow and develop as an author, so will your brand. It’s okay to change, and change is necessary. You might discover down the line that your message or audience have changed, and your brand should ultimately reflect that. You’re never truly done when it comes to solidifying your author brand.
Crowdsource your friends, family, colleagues, strangers at the supermarket, etc. to figure out what works. If your own family and friends can’t make sense of your brand, you can assume strangers of the internet will have an even harder time. Run potential blogs by people to see if they make sense to post. If you’re questioning how a social media post looks, ask someone you trust to take a look. Just like you would trust a writers’ group or a publicist, use your personal network to affirm that your efforts to solidify your brand are cohesive.
Ask for help
We get it; writing is it’s own full-time job. And we know many authors are doing much more than writing. It’s okay to ask for help, and if you have the budget and resources available, allocate out some of that responsibility. If you hate dealing with social media, hire someone who can plan and create graphics for you. If you don’t know how to run your email newsletter, find someone who can teach you or take on that responsibility.
Put in the effort
The more time you spend engaging with your audience and truly getting to know them, the more you’ll receive from them in return. It’s easy to schedule social media posts or write a blog every now and then, but to truly connect with readers, you have to care. Listen to your readers and respect their opinions. You may even find that you’ll learn something from them that will help you develop your brand.
Believe us: Readers can tell when it’s fake. When you’re thanking them for reading and reviewing, make it sincere. If you love a photo they took of the book, let them know.
Jennifer Vance is a publicist at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.