What Is Author Brand and How to Craft Yours

by Carol Van Den Hende
published in Community

Welcome to the Author Marketing Toolkit, where you can learn from 20+ years of time-tested marketing and insights expertise, translated for authors. I’m Carol Van Den Hende, an MBA and strategist who’s known for bringing chocolate when I speak at conferences (surely, we’ll get back to in-person events one day!) I’m thrilled to be joining you here at DIY MFA to share actionable insights about your author brand.

Gabriela and I met while both speaking at Writers’ Digest Conferences. Not only are her insights stellar, but she also knows the best places for meatballs!

When Gabriela and I spoke on her podcast last fall, she asked for my top piece of advice for authors. I suggested that authors should aim for clarity of their inspiring purpose, which is part of their author brand. Inspiring purpose is simply the reason for your work. Ask yourself why you write, beyond the obvious profit and functional purposes.

Finding Your Cause

We often seek inspiring purposes to be Catchy, Aspirational, Unique, Short and Everyday understandable (spelled out as the acronym CAUSE).

Having clarity of inspiring purpose and brand provides a true north that can guide what and how you write, which opportunities you accept, and provides a meaningful connection for others to your work.

Sometimes the idea of a person being a brand can be confusing. So let’s pause for a definition. Marketers consider a Brand to be a concept that encapsulates the UNIQUE positioning, differentiation, relevance, and meaning of a person, product or service. Quite simply, it’s a PROMISE. A promise on what you’re going to deliver to your readers.

This is distinct from the look and feel of your marketing assets. That’s what we’d call Visual Identity, which is your brand promise translated into physical and digital assets. For example, your logo, typeface, website design, business cards, book covers, and ads. It’s important to note that brand and visual identity are separate topics; we’ll cover more on visual identity and design in future articles.

The Parts of an Author Brand

Let’s review the parts of an author brand. Besides your inspiring purpose, it can be helpful to think about:

·         Archetype

·         Brand Values, which can be informed by your archetype

·         Personality / tonality

·         Unique assets / visuals

First, it sometimes surprises authors when I bring up archetypes. Fiction writers might use archetypes to cast their characters, and don’t think to apply the concept to themselves. Yet, marketing often defines products by an archetype. Likewise, authors can think of their brand promise from the lens of which story best describes the benefit they provide readers.                                                                           

Character Archetypes

Carl Jung’s twelve classic archetypes are Creator, Innocent, Magician, Hero/Warrior, Sage, Jester, Explorer, Rebel, Regular Guy/Everyman, Lover, Ruler, Caregiver. Jung considered these to be the twelve universal stories that have been told throughout time. Since that time, nuances and variations on these archetypes have been developed.

There’s flexibility to choose the framework for your author brand that resonates best with you. It’s even okay to choose a mix of more than one archetype. Think about which of these appeal to you as an author, or you can google a number of online quizzes to help guide you. Here’s one I’ve used with clients.

Within the archetype(s), you can then articulate the values that your brand most believes in. Are you a Warrior who fights for honor? A Sage who values wisdom for all mankind? A Jester who believes nothing is more important than finding the humor in every situation? For those curious to read more, The Hero and the Outlaw is one classic tome on archetypes and their values.

Secondly, personality and tonality provide the nuance that makes you unique when added to the deep-seated beliefs that are represented by your archetype and values. For instance, you can be writing about social issues with a personality that’s somber, or another writer could be working in the same genre with a personality that is humorous, or one that is relatable.

Third, your assets and visuals bring these personality/tonality and brand values to life. This can include the way your author name is represented, your logo, tagline, and other elements that are used consistently. Consistency is key because people lead busy lives and require the same image or communication two to seven times for it to break through.

Finding Your How

One way to differentiate these elements is to think of your Inspiring Purpose, archetype and values as describing your personal “Why,” and your personality and assets as your “How” your work shows up in the world. 

A key tenet in crafting an author brand framework is to be honest. After all, marketing shouldn’t be artifice. My inspiring purpose, for instance, reminds me to be true to myself in its opening phrase. Here’s my inspiring purpose:

“By being my authentic self, inspire hope and empathy for people and planet.”

A few things to note…first, I typed this statement from memory. That’s the sign that it truly resonates with me and reflects what I believe. Second, my work holistically adds up to my inspiring purpose, but not every individual piece needs to deliver every aspect of the statement.

My novel Goodbye, Orchid pays homage to combat-wounded veterans. These heroes sparked a story that has been awarded for disability awareness, and “inspires hope and empathy for people.”  My public speaking as a Climate Reality Leader meets a deep-rooted desire to “inspire hope and empathy for people and planet.” These together, along with my career, and service on the Board for a special needs school, fulfill my inspiring purpose.

Here’s my brand framework altogether:

Notice how the elements ladder up to a central theme and build upon one another, each adding a layer of uniqueness without conflicting with the other.

Word nerds, we are fortunate that Gabriela has been kind enough to share DIY MFA’s brand with us! Think about all we experience in DIY MFA’s world, the knowledge we glean from her podcast, the confidence she provides through her frameworks and teaching, and the sense of community she and her team have cultivated.

See which of these you can find in her brand, and pressure test whether seeing this framework without a brand would conjure DIY MFA in your mind:

If I were to interpret YA author Marissa Meyer as a brand, here’s how I might imagine her brand framework (for illustrative purposes only):

As you’re drafting yours, you may find it helpful to solicit input from those who know your work (critique partners, agents, editors). Think of these guides as your “beta readers” for your brand framework.

Crafting an Author Brand Framework 

Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules. Crafting a brand framework isn’t a chemistry equation, but more like poetry. A marker of a good one is whether it helps guide and inspire YOU, and those working with you to build your equity.

Now that you’ve undertaken the hard work to think about your brand, what can you do with your framework? I use my brand framework to guide creative decisions, for instance, whether my website and posts reflect my personality and visual assets. My inspiring purpose is helpful for determining what opportunities I accept and which ones I must respectfully decline.

Lastly, consistency of brand matters. Remember, brand is your promise to readers. People are increasingly looking for authenticity, and once they find a promise they resonate with, they’ll return to it again and again. Not that your brand framework has to be completely static. Even famous brands will tweak the nuances of personality/tonality and visual assets to stay contemporary. Usually, though, the brand’s core values stay fairly consistent over time.

Please let me know the ways in which these concepts helped clarify your brand thinking. I’ll look forward to chatting more next time, when we’ll dive into the world of design. Meanwhile, connect with me on any of these social media sites https://linktr.ee/cvdh and let me know what else you’d love to learn about marketing and brand strategy.

Happy writing!

CAROL VAN DEN HENDE is the award-winning author of Goodbye, Orchid, a public speaker, and MBA with 20+ years’ experience in marketing, strategy and insights.. Carol is passionate about simplifying marketing concepts into actionable steps that authors need for publishing success. Please sign up for Carol’s newsletter at https://carolvandenhende.com/contact or linktr.ee/cvdh

Enjoyed this article?