Your Author Brand: What It Is And Why You Need One

author brand

“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.

Your path to self-publishing


  1. Well, this is how i present myself :

    Inclusion specialist; learner leader; former Journalist. (6 words)

    How does it sound?

  2. […] Posts How To Improve Your Author Website Build Your Author Platform With Your Future In Mind Your Author Brand: What It Is And Why You Need One How to Use Social Media to Grow Your Author Platform and Sell Your Book Five Essentials Of Your […]

  3. This article is Ok. But I don’t see anything wrong in Ernie Zelinski’s comment. If someone feels like he has a better suggestion about selling books. If you’ve sold books, your suggestions count.

  4. You get instant traffic from Google within early months of blogging.
    Everyone after that first submission is automatically disqualified.

    Maybe it is something as effortless as a free

  5. Whether articles apply to any single individual is no reason not to post them at Bookbaby. As self publishers know, we are always going to be spending more money on getting our books edited, published and advertised than we make. That’s the down side. But hopefully if we keep working to promote our books, and maybe even go back and rewrite or re-edit parts of them, maybe we’ll get lucky and end up with a hit. Isn’t that what Andy Weir did?
    Thanks for the article Dana!!!

  6. Like Deb, I thought this was a great post. It made me think about my branding in a slightly different way. I write mysteries, but in different subgenres. This post helped me to realize that there are more similarities to my books than I even realized.

    Thank you!

  7. Dana, I loved this post and found the ‘workshop’ part revealing. The ‘self’ part of self-publishing is sometimes like a bad joke, and any objectivity we can insert is crazy welcome. I found your thoughts on this subject extremely helpful, thanks!

    And really, Ernie Zelinski, you think Seth Godin doesn’t seek to maximize ROI? Teehee. Meanwhile, everything else in your comment was about your own stellar marketing and sales.

    Maybe the word ‘brand’ isn’t quite appropriate for authors (let’s come up with a better one), but being able to define your style/content is hardly counter-productive or untrue to one’s precious individuality. Dana, I think you did a great job of clarifying how branding, or whatever ya call it, CAN apply to authors.

  8. This is a useful article and certainly makes it clear how to develop a brand. However, if the purpose of that brand is “to let customers know what they’re going to get before they buy”, I don’t see how it can work for an author like me who writes a wide range of books aimed at different readers. A follow-up article looking at this issue in more depth would be very welcome.

  9. Wow, seems like a lot of harsh, uncalled-for negativity in the responses to this useful, thought-provoking, and helpful blog post. I, at least, am appreciative. Thanks for the insight.

  10. This is an excellent post and I tried to share it to FB and got a message that said “Request Rejected by BookBaby.” Okayyyy, so you don’t want anybody to read this post. That’s not great branding, I’d say.

  11. Ha. Ha.

    Who’s the protagonist of my potholder-instruction books? What’s the “secondary theme” of my Edmund Fitzgerald sinking and analysis? What’s the genre of a story about a family moving across three states, besides “historical” (you’d think someone would designate a “journey” genre)? What’s a “common denominator” among craft instruction, adult coloring, Great Lakes history, early/mid-20th century Americana, (exoplanetary) science ficton, speculative/science noir fiction, memoir, and possibly a dash of “think for yourself” hi-lo nonfiction?

  12. I self-published my first book in 1989. It may have taken me 29 years but my books (mainly self-published) have now sold over 1,000,000 copies.

    For the record, I have come up with 75 to 100 of my own unique marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors and so called “book marketing experts” are not creative or smart enough to come up with. I have used similar unique marketing techniques to get over 111 books deals with various foreign publishers around the world without using a North American foreign rights agent. These techniques involve what my competitors are NOT doing — instead of what my competitors are doing.

    In the same vein, I have always wanted to puke when I hear this thing about authors needing to brand themselves. These words of wisdom from one of the top marketing gurus in the world apply:

    “I am not a brand
    You are not a brand.
    You’re a person.
    A living, breathing, autonomous individual who doesn’t seek to maximize ROI or long-term brand value.
    You have choices. You have the ability to change your mind. You can tell the truth, see others for who they are and choose to make a difference.
    Selling yourself as a brand sells you too cheap.”
    — Seth Godin

    • It looks to me that the e-book and indie industry are striving to grab a share of the mass market. If there is anything like a cottage publisher for a niche market, I am missing it. I do not recognize anything like my local bookstore.

      Writers’ services providers publish sales stats of e-books to show the shares of the market. It looks good for e-authors. But I do not see the stats broken down to the number of e-books sold by the big houses, and the number of indie titles selling more than 1000 copies. That last number is the only one that tells our chances of self-publishing at an affordable loss.

      As it is, every indie is a cottage publisher. The trouble is that anybody writing for a niche market is driving away one’s proper readers by striving to sell to the mass market. I can’t find a service provider who will serve my niche. Stupid me.

      Perhaps, the next development in the serpentine indie industry will be the emergence of cottage publishers, not writers, who will become known by the niche they serve, like ATMAN for New Age and the late OLYMPIA for porny romance. I expect that they will have to e-advertise to tell their niche of their readiness to provide. The book reviewers that have emerged recently do not serve niches.

      Niche readers search out and buy every publication on their passion — at least, mine do. That means a niche author has no competition.

      Three titles each selling 2000 copies is enough for a niche writer to quit one’s day job, and keep writing, provided one has low rent.

      A mainstream writer striving to sell a platinum million has 2,000,000 competitors, including hundreds of the very best and most fortunately placed writers in the world. I do not want to compete against Robert Ludlum and Pearl Buck backed by the biggest houses in the world.

      In 2012, I downloaded every title in my niche listed on KINDLE. Merely two could qualify as my competition. Actually, I had no competition because each of us wrote on different aspects to constitute a complete information; my competition functions as my best salesmen.

      A niche publisher is better qualified than a big house to guesstimate the likely sales of a niche ms. Even confident enough and better experienced to provide services that big houses used to provide. Such a niche provider would be an editor-agent.

      A cottage publisher would bust his buttocks on a ms. that promised 10,000 sales whereäs a big house regards such a small market as not existing.

      A niche writer can quit one’s day job on merely three titles that sell 2000 copies, provided rent is low, and keep writing more titles. Indies competing to sell in the mass competition of genre fiction are lucky to sell 200 copies — if they have 200 relatives.

      What is quality? It is a book you know will serve your interest. A book of a certain quality needs readers and reviewers of the same quality; readers of more and less quality will reject it like pop freaks reject symphonic music. The mass market is mass quality for the mass reader; the niche market is niche quality for the niche reader.


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