Branding, for authors? Why do I need a brand? How should I brand myself? These are questions I ask myself, and I will admit that the thought of a personal brand intimidates me. It’s not something I am fond of, enthusiastic about, or very well equipped to accomplish. I’ve always been more of a ‘Take me as I am’ type of person. I’m not a sales person and definitely not when it comes to selling myself. So, why do you need a brand? It’s how your audience, readers, and the world is going to get its first and lasting impression of you.
Below are a few articles to get you pointed in the right direction of an author brand. They will define and explain how a brand works and how to build your own. I have also placed a link to a couple of branding services at the end that will show you how you can hand the reins over to the professionals if that is the way you choose to go. There is also a short video on author branding and why it is essential to your success. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to sell more books😉
7 Best Ways To Build An Authentic Author Brand
by Joanna Penn
Branding is one of those buzz-words that can turn off creatives, but essentially, your brand is your promise to the reader.
It’s the words, images, and emotional resonance that people have when they hear your name or your series/book character.
In this article, Belinda Griffin from SmartAuthorsLab shares some thoughts on how to build your authentic brand.
If you’re like most self-published authors, there is one thing you want more than anything else.
That’s the greatest challenge for any indie, raising your author profile and lifting your book above the vast competition.
You’re probably already juggling a dozen or more tools and tactics in the hope of getting more visibility and then someone throws the word ‘brand’ into the conversation.
What on earth is that? Surely more gimmicky marketing fluff that you shouldn’t waste your time with.
But guess what, you already have a brand! Yep, whether you like it or not, and even if you’ve never given it a single thought, you have already branded yourself.
That’s not to say, however, that you have a strong and recognisable brand or one that represents you in the way you may hope.
Fortunately, we can fix that.
An authentic author brand can help you stand out from the crowd and give you the exposure you crave.
And no matter where you are on your author journey, it’s not too late to build yours.
What exactly is a brand?
Brand is everything people perceive you as. It’s your personality, every word you write, the fonts and colours you use, the way you make people feel when they read your books or visit your website.
Many people wrongly equate brand to a logo or website colours and although these are brand elements, a brand is much more than just these graphic aspects.
Nike has one of the world’s most famous logos and taglines (Just do it), but its brand is made up of other things too, such as customer service and quality of products.
Just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand. Seth Godin
A brand is a consistent promise to a customer about what they are going to get, in terms of product quality, customer service and more, and how what they get will be different from the competition.
Brand is also about recognition – Starbucks and Costa are both coffee shops, but what makes them different from each other and different from an independent high street coffee shop?
Once you start building your author platform and put yourself out into the world, people are going to get a sense of who you are and what you do and form an opinion based on that no matter what.
Even if you’ve never consciously considered which colours to use on your website, the ones you’re currently using are saying something about you.
So it’s wise to take control of your brand and help people to believe the things you want them to believe about you as an author before they draw their own conclusions.
Why branding confuses you
There is a lot of confusion about brand and how to go about branding someone or something and the reason for this confusion is because brand is largely something intangible.
A brand is like a person in that you can recognise it by a name, but it is made up of all sorts of different attributes. Some of these are physical, such as the style of clothes or haircut someone chooses, but others are less tangible, such as personality or sense of humour, the way a person makes you feel when you’re with them.
For a company, or an author, a brand will have physical attributes, such as a logo, but also attributes, such as values, that are communicated in other ways.
People make associations with companies and products based on their experiences, as well as what they hear from friends or what is reported in the news. For example, Amazon has been a much loved brand for it’s great customer service, speedy delivery and convenience. But reports of poor working conditions and tax avoidance have at times negatively impacted its reputation and therefore its brand.
When someone says Coca Cola, Apple or McDonald’s you form an immediate association with those names. They each have well known logos, but you also have an opinion about each of those companies and their products based on your experiences and what you have heard from others.
Why your author brand matters
What you think of companies like Apple and McDonald’s will also depend largely on whether you’re a target customer or not. You may think Apple makes hyped-up overpriced gadgets and that McDonald’s offers cheap, tasteless, processed food. But then you’re probably not the customer that Apple or McDonald’s wants to attract.
Brand not only tells the world who you are and what you stand for, it also encourages target customers to align with your brand.
Marmite is a great example of a brand that knows its product splits opinion. By running the ‘Love it or hate it’ campaign Marmite not only acknowledges that not everyone likes the product, it also encourages a greater affinity among those that do love it. Not British? Find out what the fuss is about with Marmite here!
If you’re tech-savvy and love new technology, always after the latest and greatest new gadgets and willing to pay high prices for them, you will align perfectly with Apple’s brand. If you are consistently impressed with Apple’s devices and knowing you have the latest product gives you a buzz, then that emotional connection and consistency will also make the price tag irrelevant.
My husband just bought a new pair of trainers and explained they could be part of his birthday present as they were expensive, “But they’re Nike Air…” was his justification for the price. That is the power of brand.
As an author who is fully in control of their brand, you can more easily attract your ideal readers and they will form a deeper connection with you. Something that concerns many authors is ‘selling’ their books.
Create a strong, authentic brand that connects with the right readers and you will never have to ‘sell’ a book.
7 ways to build your author brand
When authors start out, they generally don’t have branding at the front of their minds. The trouble with this is it’s easy to accidentally build a brand that doesn’t say what you want it to.
It’s not too late to put this right.
There are seven best ways to start building an author brand with purpose and they aren’t necessarily what you think.
- Identify your reader
First up you need to identify who are your ideal readers.
Who is it that will align best with the books you write and who is most likely to buy?
In marketing we know these as customer personas, they are the semi-fictional characters that embody the qualities and characteristics of the people we’re trying to reach.
It can take some time and effort to define your ideal customer, but it will be worth it. When you know more about them, where they hang out online and what they like and don’t like, you’ll more easily be able to speak to them in a way that they will relate to.
Think about it, this is how Apple knows what to say to motivate its target customers to queue up outside its stores before a new product release, while the rest of us gape and exclaim, “You paid how much for a phone?!”
- Develop your brand voice
Once you know who your brand is trying to speak to, it’s time to look inwardly at yourself.
- How do you want others to see you?
- What do you want people to think when they hear your name?
You can dictate much of this by developing your unique brand voice. Just as finding your writer’s voice can take time and practice and be difficult to even identify at first, it will take time to establish a consistent brand voice.
This is the tone you use in your blogs and across social media – are you the witty one, the wise one or the whimsical one? Or even something that doesn’t begin with ‘w’?
You get the idea. If you generally post inspiring and motivational content, it would be ‘off-brand’ to suddenly post a rant filled with colourful language or to talk about a topic that has nothing to do with any of the things people follow you for.
To develop your voice, think about your values, what’s important to you and what you want to represent.
- Figure out your USP
Knowing your USP, or unique selling point, is essential if you want to get across to readers why they should buy your books. How are you different? If you’re a romance author, what makes you different to all the other romance authors? There are conventions to follow of course when it comes to genre writing and cover design, but beyond that, what makes you stand out?
- Do you know why people read your books?
- Is it the quality of the writing, your strong characters or your brilliant pacing?
- What are your unique strengths?
If you find it difficult to know what counts as a strength, try thinking about what you love about other authors. Do you share any of those qualities?
- Set some expectations
The aim of your brand is to tell your readers what they can expect from you. When you are consistent it helps people to get to know, like and trust you, which is essential when growing an author platform.
Expectations can include the genre you write in, or if you like to hop around, make that clear.
It could be the length of your writing, how often you will blog or send emails.
You should always aim to be known for high quality – books formatted correctly and free from typos and with a great cover, for example.
- Know what you’re branding
The key is to brand you, not your book. This is particularly important to remember if you are writing your first book, as it can be easy to make everything about your baby. But if you plan to have a long author career, there will be more books and it will no longer make sense to have a website named after your first book.
Decide instead whether you will use your own name for your website and social media, or something that represents you. Joanna Penn, for example, uses J.F. Penn for her author website and The Creative Penn for this information site for writers.
Your brand doesn’t have to be who you are in real life, it can be a persona. Just be sure you can stick with it, as consistency is key – an authentic brand is one where the brand values are reflected in everything you do and say.
If you try to be something you’re not it will be much harder to stay consistent and your brand may suffer. An example of a brand successfully using a persona is James Chartrand of Men with Pens, who is, in fact, a woman.
- Choose a look
This is the part that most people think of when they think about brand. It’s the colour palette, graphics and visual cues, photos and typeface. Yes, it’s also the logo!
When choosing a look for your brand there’s no need to be fancy or to pay an expert, just remember to be consistent.
Choose fonts and colours that support your brand voice and message. If you’re a horror author, for example, you may consider dark colours for your website.
The look that you choose for your brand is important, but the decisions will be much easier and you are far less likely to get them wrong, if you first think about who you are, what you represent and the message you want to get across, as well as who your readers are.
Your favourite colour may be duck egg blue, but if you’re a thriller author, it may not be the right shade to slather everywhere.
- Apply your brand everywhere
If you’ve read this far you’ll know that your brand isn’t just a logo and colours for your website. Your brand is made up of everything you do and say, so you should consciously implement it everywhere – your social channels, promotional bookmarks or business cards, even your email signature.
Remember it’s not simply about the look, but also what you say and how you say it. So certainly come up with a branded Twitter header, for example, but ensure your tweets are also ‘on brand’.
Now you know what a brand is and what you need to consider to get started with yours. But knowing and doing are two very different things.
It’s important that you take some time to really think about your brand – who you’re trying to reach, what you want to say to them and how you’re going to say it, and what you want them to think of you as a result.
To get you started I have put together a worksheet to help you define your brand. Work through the questions to get a deeper sense of who you are as an author and who your readers are, then use this new-found knowledge to make better-informed decisions about your brand.
Your Guide to Branding Yourself as an Author
You’re an author, why do you need a “brand”? It sounds so corporate and, well, you’re not.
While you may not be a multinational corporation, you do have one thing in common. You’re both selling a product, and you need a positive and engaging image to go with it. Your brand is how you package and present your image, and it’s an essential component of marketing your book. Let’s talk about the why, and how.
Check out these additional resources for branding yourself as an author.
Here’s Why Branding Is Important:
People often find and fall in love with the author way before they read the book. Think of how often you’ve come across an interview with a book author and thought, hmm, I’d love to read that book.
Or consider the contemporary authors that you know now. What do you believe about them? What makes you want to buy their books again and again? Sure, the premise of the story may be interesting, but that’s probably not enough to push you over the buying edge.
And stripping away peer recommendations, what makes that author relatable, interesting and worthy of taking a chance on?
If I could distill it to a one-word answer, I would say, “presentation”. Otherwise, how will people know about you, care about you and want to buy your book?
Sure, you can eventually build a following through the power of referral, but how do you reach those first few readers who’ll pick up your book and give it a chance?
The answer is: Through exceptional branding.
Branding is both how you present your books to the public and yourself as a writer. It’s also what people think and believe about you.
Your Brand is Your Reputation
Jeff Bezos put it best when he said, “A brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
For example, I can describe Stephen King (he’s not here, right?) in three words: imaginative, gripping, suspenseful. I don’t know him personally, but that’s his brand, or reputation. You know that when you pick up one of his books, that’s pretty much the experience that you’ll receive.
So, bringing it back to you, what three words do you want people to associate with your style? This will serve as the foundation of your brand and will attract the right audience to you.
By the way, this is exactly what publishers do for their authors. But if you’re self-published or even if you’re hoping to get a publishing deal, you can still benefit by taking control of your image instead of allowing someone else to do it for you.
Your Brand Will Help You Sell Books
Branding is necessary if you’re serious about selling books.
But, keep in mind that even if you aren’t intentionally creating a “brand,” you’re still leaving an impression with your current and prospective audience.
You should craft an identity that accurately represents who you are.
Your brand message must be relatable to your audience and compelling.
Your brand will represent you (and your books) everywhere, from the book jacket to the
Another benefit of branding?
Branding helps you cultivate name recognition, which is particularly helpful for when you’re ready to sell your next book. And because people will know what to expect from you, they’ll be happy to buy from you. What a win.
Actionable Tips to Create Your Author Brand
Now, let’s talk about how to brand yourself.
Understand who you and what message you want to convey to your audience.
Assuming you want to be a full-time writer, you’ll need to think about this strategically. Start by answering the following:
What genre do you write within? Most writers stay within one genre, whether that’s young adult, sci-fi, romance, etc. Start by pinpointing the one genre.
Who’s most likely to read your writing and why? What type of reader will have a natural affinity to your writing? Understanding this will help you better target that demographic.
How are you different from everyone else? Identify others in your genre and then describe what makes you different from them. Perhaps, it’s your experience or the way you craft a story (unique perspectives or points of view).
From here, you can start crafting a broad idea of who you are as a writer, and pinpoint who is most likely to read the stories you have to tell.
Create a Style Guide
Create a style guide. So, this may sound like it’s coming out of left field, but a big part of your branding will be visual. You’ll need to use colors, fonts, images and other visual elements to quickly convey who you are. These visual elements can say:
Or “I’m romantic”
Or “I’m serious”
As you may have noticed, I used Twitter accounts for each of the above examples. This is one way you can carry your visual branding beyond book covers and into the different platforms where you may interact with your readers.
Other places include:
Facebook – especially if you use Facebook ads to market your book
YouTube – for book trailers, interviews and author discussions
Message boards – where you’ll interact with other authors.
One place where you need strong branding will be on your website, for sure. Your website is your home base, and it should include a consistent and cohesive brand identity.
So, to do that, make sure that you create a style guide (it can be a one-page reference) where you decide what colors you’ll use consistently throughout your visual branding. Here are few elements to include in your style guide:
- The exact colors, or hex # (This website may help.)
- The types of fonts (Check out DaFont or Font Squirrel for a wide collection of images)
- The types of images you’ll use on social media, your website, blog and downloadables (define the tone, style and message of these images)
Create a Logo
Now, it’s time to create a logo for your brand. Logos are helpful identification markers for your website (you’ll probably use it as part of your heading and as your favicon), but you can also use your logo in other places such as:
- Your social media profiles
- Membership profiles
- Business cards
- Other printed materials
Your logo can help people immediately recognize you no matter where you are online and off.
Create a Headshot
A big part of creating an author brand is to actually share an image of yourself.
Groan away, but this is one of the best ways to build an emotional connection to your readers. Remember that it’s human nature. People like to put a face with the name. So, even if you think you’re not photogenic, it’s time to get a professional headshot. You’ll use this everywhere in your branding, from your website to your social media profiles and your book signings.
But what to do if you simply don’t have the budget to hire a photographer to take a professional headshot of you? I’ve got you covered. Here’s an in-depth guide to taking your own headshot.
Create a Tagline
Craft a one-sentence tagline that demonstrates what you believe, what you write about, or who you are. You’ll use this tagline to introduce yourself at mixers, and even on social media as your easy-to-digest bio.
To determine the right tagline, pick out what theme appears most often your work. This is a part of your branding that can help guide the right audience to you. And your tagline becomes especially important if you’re hoping to be found through organic searches on social media. Use keywords that help people find you such as “horror” or “magical realism” or “YA (young adult)”.
Here’s an example: I write YA stories with elements of snark and vulnerability.
Create a Website
If you don’t have a website already, it’s definitely time to get on it. You need, at the very least, a domain name (preferrably YourName.com or even YourNameAuthor.com) and a one-page website that welcomes interested visitors to follow you on social media.
Spend some time curating a decent website. Here’s your chance to introduce yourself, ingratiate yourself to your readers and offer insight into your writing that only you can provide.
Yes, you’ll need to write about yourself on your website. And I know it’s tough. I recommend writing in first person because you’re writing for the web, and it creates a stronger person-to-person connection with your site visitors.
You can also highlight your current novel, discuss the premise and how you came up with it, offer the first chapter of your novel for download (hey, Amazon does it), or even include a video trailer of your book.
Create a Media Kit
As an author with a website, you need a media kit, also known as a press kit. This kit is a crucial element to marketing because it provides all the information reporters, bloggers and interviewers will need to know before promoting your work.
Your media kit will reside prominently on your website, available online and in downloadable PDF form. Within your media kit, you’ll include the following:
- Your bio
- A professional headshot
- A press release of your book
- A brief synopsis of your book
- Contact information
Your media kit shouldn’t overwhelm with too much information. Keep it brief and only discuss topics that your interviewers would actually care to know. You’ll also want to check with your style guide to make sure that your media kit is consistent with the rest of your branding.
Even if you don’t do anything at all, you’re still earning a reputation as a writer, so why not get in front of it and create the reputation you want? Use the above tips to help you get started.
Author Branding Service (Just Two of Many Out There—Shop Around):