Today’s post is written by E.T. Carlton.
Any writer engaged in book marketing has probably heard the term “author brand” and cringed. The thought of selling yourself as though you’re a new car or a jar of mayonnaise may strike you as crass and depersonalizing, but if you’ve written a book and you’re trying to find new readers, you are selling more than your writing.
You’re selling yourself.
We all like to think that the quality of our writing should be the only sales pitch we need, but the hard truth is that writing is a competitive market, and creating an image or brand will help you connect with readers. A strong author brand will help you in the same ways branding helps major corporations: by fostering loyalty, giving you name recognition and ultimately by helping you sell more books.
If you’re ready to dip a toe into the pool of author branding but are unsure about where to begin, the three steps below are relatively easy, painless ways to start “packaging” yourself as an author.
Step One: Define Who You Are
The first step in author branding is thinking about the big picture: how 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 I write in/would I like to write in?
- What stories do I want to tell?
- What subjects do I want to cover?
- What is my purpose in writing?
- What drives me as a writer?
- How would I like to be perceived? For example, as an expert on business communications, the sultry writer of a series of steamy romance novels, the hip author of novels about growing up for young adults?
Step Two: Begin Communicating Your Brand with a Website
Having an idea of the image you want to project is critical, but if you’re the only one who knows about it, you haven’t begun branding yourself as an author. Branding involves communicating your image in a variety of ways and in as many places as you can, starting with an author website and/or blog. Three key things to keep in about an author website as they relate to branding are:
- The URL. Are you going to use your name alone, as in http://janedoe.com? Or add something to the site name that both identifies you and something about your brand, as in http://janewritesromance.com or theregencyromances.com?
- The Site’s Design: Your website should have consistent colors, themes, words, and images that instantly communicate who you are and what you write. A visitor to your page should be able to get an idea of what you’re about within moments of landing on your page.
- To Blog or Not to Blog? Blogs are a great way to express yourself and let readers get to know you. You can use blogs to talk about your writing process, your favorite books, other authors who inspire you or what you made for dinner last night. But keeping up with a blog can be time consuming, and before you start one, it’s best to realistically evaluate whether you will have the time and motivation to post at least once every 10 days. The Golden Rule of Blogging for Authors: If you don’t think you’ll be able to post regularly, opt for a static page rather than a blog.
Step Three: Create a Tagline or Catchphrase
Using a consistent tagline or phrase across your website may be the most powerful way to communicate who you are as an author. Coming up with ideas for a tagline, however, can prove quite a challenge. Take some 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 my work? For example: your stories take place in San Francisco, are about strong single women, the settings are often exotic or far-flung places, the plots involve psychological twists.
- Is there a tone or mood to most of my work? For example: funny, quirky, offbeat, political, feminist, dark.
- Is there something about me that I can relate to my work? For example: an ex-Marine who writes novels set on a military base, a former Wall Street banker who writes books on managing personal finance, a Midwestern-born woman who uses the Midwest as the setting of her novels.
You don’t have to answer all of these questions completely, but use them to come up with a list of about 10 to 15 words that might be used to describe you, and then use those words as a jumping-off point for creating a tagline. Try to 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) and by friends and family to get their feedback.
Author Tagline Examples:
- Warm Women’s Stories
- The Naughty Mistress of Mysteries
- Realistic Budgeting for Rookie Investors
- A Passion for Passion
- It’s All About the Mystery
- Erotic Paranormal Writer—Come for the Sex, Stay for the Fantasy
- Desire. Menace. Suspense. Push your limits.
Taglines or catchphrases should convey a feel for what you write. They should be short, catchy and evocative.
Need inspiration? Check out this list of the best movie taglines or brainstorm some ideas using the Advertising Slogan Generator.
Step Four: Reinforce Your Author Brand
Once you have an outline for your author brand, it’s critical that you reinforce it. That means using it consistently and often. For example, 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 (for example:@janewritesromance) and the content you share should have a theme that supports your brand (for example, if your novels are mysteries set in Hong Kong and you are using that as part of your author brand, make sure you share articles about East Asia, mystery writing, suspense, etc. regularly.)
The keys to branding are repetition, reinforcement, and consistency. Thinking of yourself as a brand may take some getting used to, but try to 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.
Join the discussion
So, I have a few questions.
1: I have a draft that hasn’t been beta read yet. Should I still have a website and social media for myself?
I have been hesitant to do these things because I don’t have a finished product yet.
2: Does it only hurt you to publish stories online with websites like Fictionpress or Wattpad even if they do not pertain to the work you intend to publish?
3: Does it matter if you intend to self-publish or go to a publisher?
I’m guessing it doesn’t but I really wanted to ask.
Suzannah Windsor Freeman says
Right now you don’t need to be on social media or have a website, strictly speaking, but it won’t hurt to start establishing some connections while you’re in the process of finishing your manuscript. Of course, if social media only serves to distract you from actually finishing your book, then I would wait. I’m not familiar enough with self-publishing to offer any advice on your other two questions, but I can say that if you hope to find a traditional publisher, then you should avoid posting any writing online that you hope to include in your published manuscript. Good luck!
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I’ve just never been sure about when to start doing things like that. I feel like I should be doing something to get myself out there a little bit at least, but I’m not quite sure what to do.
JLynn Hernandez says
Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines as Alexandria. I guess I’m worried that the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mantra won’t work when I finally finish my MS. I’m on the second draft, and since I pantsed it halfway through, it needs much revision. I’m buckling down now, but was considering the wattpad route to build a readership. I’m writing a YA fiction novel, so I’ve been busy creating my brand on tumblr. It’s been slow going. I love blogging though.
What do you think of having a tumblr page be your landing page for an author’s website?