“I’m not a brand, I’m an author!” True, but the purpose of branding is the same whether you’re selling books or bran flakes: to let customers know what they’re going to get before they buy.
Almost every author I’ve met, whether they write literary fiction for a small press or category romances for Harlequin, has considered themselves an artist of some sort, and no one wants to equate selling their art to selling Kellogg’s cereal or Coca-Cola. They don’t view their books as commercial products. But the purpose of branding is the same whether you’re selling books or bran flakes: to let customers know what they’re going to get before they buy.
When you pick up a Coke, you know exactly what the soda is going to taste like. You know that the Lexus will have more luxury features than the Hyundai. When you pick up the latest Nora Roberts novel at the grocery store or a James Patterson book at the airport, you know what types of stories are within those pages. Known brands are comfortable, familiar, and come with limited risk.
How do you identify your unique author brand? By implementing this formula:
You + Your Book = Your Author Brand
Your brand consists of who you are and what you write. For most of you, the “your book” piece of the equation will be easy, especially if this is your first book, you write series novels, or you’ve written multiple books in the same genre.
Where it gets tricky is if you write in different genres, for different age groups, and have a wide scope of work under your belt. Identifying one unique brand for many different books can be difficult, but it’s far from impossible. You just need to find your common denominator.
For each one of your books, fill in the following:
- Primary themes
- Secondary themes
- One line about the protagonist
- Genre category
Then, go through and highlight any patterns. Your books may be more similar than you think and those common denominators will make up the “your book” portion of your brand.
Next, you have to figure out the “you” portion of the equation. Start out by asking yourself a few questions:
- Where do you live?
- What is your day job or background?
- What did you study in school?
- Are you considered an expert in any field?
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
- Do you have kids? Pets?
Once you have your list, highlight the responses that directly link to the book. For example, if you write a cozy mystery series and you also love to knit, that would be a key part of your brand. On the other hand, if you went to school for molecular biology, that wouldn’t quite fit into your author brand.
Use your responses to come up with a tagline and a brand summary. Think of your tagline like a Twitter bio: it should be short, clear, and memorable. Your brand summary should be longer, three to four lines, and should convey a clear message about who you are.
For example, my tagline (and Twitter bio) is: Publicist, triathlete, and all-around hustler. These six words accurately convey who I am, what my philosophy is, and a sense of what I’m like to work with. It’s also memorable and sets me apart from others in my field.
My brand summary is: I’m a publicist and brand manager who has a knack for staying ahead of the trends. I believe there’s no substitute for hard work, creativity, and a whole lotta chutzpah. I’m passionate about books, spreading a love of reading, and educating authors on best publishing practices. I frequently jump off cliffs and build my wings on the way down.
This summary doesn’t encompass all that I do, but again, it conveys an idea or feeling of who I am and what I’m about, and that’s what you should expect of a brand.
I encourage all of you to take some time, go through the steps outlined above, and create your unique tagline and brand summary. Then the next time you’re at bookstore event or writers’ conference and someone asks “What do you write?” or “What kind of an author are you?” you’ll have a clear and concise answer that people will remember.
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