Branding is not just for huge business firms like Pepsi and Coke. If you truly want to succeed in the world of publishing it’s never too early to think about branding yourself. As Seth Godin points out, “your brand is the promise, the experience, the interactions, and the expectation people have for you.”
A brand is how you differentiate yourself from other authors in the same genres. Stephen King has a brand. Seth Godin has a brand. The Harry Potter series is a brand.YOU can have one too. And that means you should think about branding the moment you begin writing. You will want to write a book proposal for your work (even if it’s fiction), and let that become your business plan–a preview of who you are and how you want to be known.
Six Branding Tips
These tips are from Nina Amir, a contributing writer for TheBookDesigner.com. She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, which help transform writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. You can learn more about Nina here.
- Here’s how you start: Think about how you want to be known as a writer. To determine this, consider:
- the types of writing you want to do
- the subjects about which you want to write
- the types of stories you want to tell
- themes you want to cover in your work
- ways in which you want to serve you readers
- the clients or customers you want to attract
- the spin-off books (sequels or series) you would like to publish
- your values
- your interests
- your passion
- your purpose
Does something stand out? Is there one quality, topic or aspect you’d like to highlight so you become known for it? If so, this is a good place to start. You then can create logos, taglines and websites that feature and highlight this concept so you become known for it. This becomes your brand. Or try to answer this question: “How would I like to be known?” Do you want to be “The ___ Coach,” “The ___ Writer” or “The ___ Expert,” for example? Or will you brand around your name alone?
- Decide what books you’ll write.
Another way to brand yourself is by writing more than one book about a certain topic or theme. Your sequels or series will highlight who you are and what you write about. To brand yourself in this manner, brainstorm all the different books you might possibly write. Then take a “big picture” view of this material:
- How do these books fit together? By a theme or a subject?
- Can you group any of them together?
- Can you find one overriding thread that holds them together?
- Can you describe that thread (or theme) in one sentence or in a phrase?
- Can this become your “branding statement”?
Here again, you could become known as “The ___ Writer.” Think of the knitting writers and the Amish romance writers, for example.
3. Create a website or blog that helps build or strengthen your brand. A blog works as a website, and every author needs an author website. Purchase a URL with your name so readers and the media easily can find you. However, if you also are branding with a tag line or some sort of expert status, you may want to purchase that URL and redirect it. Then design your site with colors, words, phrases, and images that make it easy for someone to know what you’re about. Your site’s title and tagline should make this clear as well. For example, Michael Hyatt’s tagline is “Helping leaders leverage influence.” That’s pretty clear branding. Additionally, write posts on topics or themes related to your brand to help strengthen it and make your site more discoverable by readers doing searches. Again, Hyatt’s site is a good example of this. People who visit your site should immediately “get it.” They should understand what you stand for, what you write about, and any other messages you want to get across. Here are a few sites to check out:
- R.L. Stine. He’s done a fabulous job of branding himself with a website. He’s even used music!
- Cindy Woodsmall’s website. No question what she writes about.
- Jack Canfield’s message is enormously clear right from his banner and throughout all his content and products and services.
- Use your brand statement across all your social networks. Use the same title, tag line, photo and colors, etc., across all your social networks, as well as in articles, videos, and guest post, and always provide a link “home.” This helps you get you known quickly and easily and is another way to strengthen your brand once you’ve developed it. And tie everything you do back to your author website.
Carla King has used her “adventuring” brand across all her social networks as MissAdventuring. Her books and websites help her strengthen her brand as well.
- Ask others for help. If you have difficulty creating a brand for yourself, ask those who know you best for help. Ask readers, clients, customers, and friends the following:
- What do you perceive as my values?
- What are my strong points?
- What do I do for you?
- What benefit do you get from my books, work, courses, products, or services?
- How would you describe me?
Take this information—if you like what you hear and it works for you—and craft it into a brand. If you don’t like what you hear, it’s time to think about how to create a different perception than you haphazardly have done in the past.
6. Create an umbrella for all you do—even if you do a lot. It can be easier for nonfiction writers than fiction writers to develop brands. Yet, many nonfiction writers choose to write about a variety of topics, and this can make it difficult for them to brand themselves as well. Fiction writers who publish across genres may find themselves in the same quandary. However, it’s still possible to find an “umbrella theme” to tie everything together into a brand even if you write about two or three subjects, write fiction or write across genres.
- As a novelist, you might write novels that appear to be unrelated. You could weave similar themes, topics, issues, or locations into them. For example, think about weaving your love of orchids into both your momlit and your thrillers. Could that brand you?
- Your momlit could have a main character who runs an orchid shop.
- Your thrillers could have a main character who leaves orchid blooms at the scene of the crime.
- You could cross over into nonfiction by writing a nonfiction book how to care for orchids.
- Or all your books could take place in England; or could discuss family values or politics. You could draw on your law degree or your former life as a nurse. If you write nonfiction about organic gardening, travel and business, you might be able to write books that:
- Eating organic in foreign countries
- Organic business practices
- New organic gardening techniques
Of course, the more books you write with these themes or elements in place, the stronger your brand becomes. By choosing something—like the orchid or organics—to run through all your books, you strengthen your brand with every title you release. And don’t forget to place a picture of an orchid or an organic garden on your website and use that word in your tag line. Write blog posts about orchids and organics. Before long, everyone will know you as the Orchid Author or the Organic Author. That’s branding.
Sell More Books with a Brand Why bother branding? For the same reasons big box and small box companies bother: It helps sell products. A brand helps potential readers know, like, and trust you. And remember: Your brand is you. It’s a way to help readers know you—authentically. You aren’t creating some fake ad or new persona. Your Brand helps readers understand who you are and what you and your books stand for—and what type of books you write. That makes it easier for them to decide to purchase those books. That means your books will get read. And that’s the ultimate goal.
Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.
She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.
A new review of Dialogue for Writers
This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.