An author brand is more than just a fancy website. It goes beyond color schemes, fonts, and a logo. Sure, these things are all part of the bigger picture, but they don’t reflect your brand as a whole.
But, what exactly is a brand? And how can you develop one as a writer? In simple terms, your brand is what distinguishes you from everyone else out there. It’s your values, your personality and, ultimately, the unique stories only you can bring to the literary community. All of these things should be reflected in your personal author brand, whether that be through your website, or through your social media feeds.
While it can be easy (and tempting!) to get caught up in the process of picking out color schemes, fonts, and a logo that is sure to blow everyone away, it’s important to dig deep and focus on the core questions that truly set you apart from everyone else. That’s what branding is all about.
So, as you start (or continue) to develop your own brand as an author, keep these questions in mind.
1) Why do I write?
This question lies at the heart of every brand, not just author brands. Why do you do what you do? What motivates you to sit down at your computer (or notepad) to write? These are your values as an author, the things that keep you writing day-after-day, even when the going gets rough. You can use your values to guide your brand forward in a way that is authentic and meaningful.
2) Who are my readers?
Understanding who you are and what you believe in is important, but so is understanding your audience, or readers. Without a firm grasp of who your readers are, you won’t know what they need and want. And if you don’t know what they need or want, how can you effectively build a brand that attracts your ideal reader?
3) What do I have to offer my readers?
I know what you’re thinking: “I offer awesome stories, isn’t that enough?” And, to an extent, it is enough! However, it’s best to get as specific as possible with what exactly you have to offer your readers. For example, if you’re a romance writer, what sets your book apart from the thousands of other romance novels out there? Why should a reader pick up your book, specifically? Again, really dig deep, and if it helps, reach out to your beta readers. What drew them into your book? For them, what sets your book apart from the rest?
4) Does this truly reflect who I am as an author and a person?
It can be really tempting to try and imitate another person’s style and brand. Especially when we view that person as being more successful than us, whether that be through more book sales, or a bigger social media following. No matter how tempting it may be, don’t be a copycat! It will only hurt you in the long run and, ultimately, it’s just not sustainable. Pretending to be someone you’re not is exhausting, so it’s best to be as authentic as possible when building your own (unique!) author brand.
5) What are other authors doing?
I know, I know, I just told you not to be a copycat. Now, I’m telling you to look at what other authors are doing. Why? For starters, it’s always a good idea to follow other authors, especially those who write in the same genre as you, because it can be an excellent source of knowledge. Maybe a fellow author blogged about a conference that you couldn’t attend. Maybe another author has valuable insight on writing and selling e-books. Ultimately, you should never ignore other authors just because they’re “competition.” More often than not, it’s the friendships that you form with other authors that push you to grow, evolve, and improve, so don’t miss out!
6) Am I willing to be consistent?
Brand consistency is key to making sure you don’t confuse your readers, or yourself. But what does it mean? On the surface, it means consistently using the same design elements, such as colors, logos, taglines, and more, across every platform you’re a part of. At a deeper level, it means that your message (i.e. who you are as an author, who your readers are, and what you have to offer) are crystal clear.
7) Am I willing to evolve?
Authors evolve over time, and so do their brands. Maybe you’ve decided to go in a completely different direction with your writing. Maybe your values and core message have changed. Whatever the case may be, there is no shame in adjusting your brand to account for your growth as a writer. On the other hand, while it’s important to remain flexible, you don’t want to shake things up too often, as this can create confusion. It’s a good idea to reevaluate your brand once a year, and ask yourself: does this still represent who I am as an author?
Back to you, writers! What are you doing to currently build your author brand? Are you facing any unique challenges? Have any awesome tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
Manuela Williams is a Las Vegas-based writer and editor. She is the author of Ghost In Girl Costume, which won the 2017 Hard To Swallow Chapbook Contest. Her second poetry chapbook, Witch, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. When she’s not writing, Manuela is busy drinking coffee and spending time with her blind Pomeranian, Redford. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Pinterest.