What Is Your Author Brand?

female writer sitting at a cafe contemplating her author brand

You might not be a multi-national corporation, but as a self-published author, you still need to develop and nurture a consistent author brand.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What do Mercedes-Benz, Proctor & Gamble, and every self-published author have in common?

Answer: They’re all brands, large and small.

While most indie authors aren’t as famous as luxury car makers or toilet paper manufacturers, they have a presence in the marketplace.

Publishing experts have long encouraged authors to create their unique brands. But what exactly is an author’s brand and why is it important? Marketing gurus Phillip Kottler and Kevin Keller define branding as “…endowing products and services with the power of a brand.”

What does that mean for authors? It means you should work to create a unique identity in your readers’ minds. Well-executed branding helps readers identify with an author, choose to experience their books, and share the experience with other readers.

How do you start to build an author brand?

So where do authors start their branding efforts? First, it’s important to note that we’re building the author’s brand, not brands for their products — in this case, their books. For example:

  • Mercedes is the brand, the GLS Coupe is the product.
  • Proctor & Gamble is the brand, Charmin is the product.
  • Highly successful BookBaby author Jay Holben is the brand, and his book, The Cine Lens Manual, is the product.

There are dozens of ways to go about creating an author brand, but I’ve broken down this task into three key components

Research your readers and the marketplace

Building a brand begins with understanding best practices and getting intel on your target audience.

BookBaby president James Foley recently penned a post entitled “How To Define Your Book’s Target Audience In 6 Steps” that provides excellent advice on identifying your potential reading audience.

Once you have an idea of this population, you can apply this knowledge elsewhere. Check out other authors’ websites and social media platforms that are in your genre or subject matter interest and examine:

  • How they are presenting themselves.
  • What voice they use with their audience.
  • The topics and themes they use on their websites, social media, and messaging. What’s getting reader engagement?
  • The fonts and colors they most use to communicate. What jumps out at you and seems effective and authentic communication?

Having a solid understanding of what similar authors are doing to attract a like audience will go a long way toward creating a recognizable brand for yourself.

Develop your author’s story

To create a successful brand, you must communicate who you are, what you do, why you do it, and whom you do it for. That’s the story that gives power to your brand. It’s taking an inventory of your skills, talents, values, interests, and beliefs and how these can be reflected through your books, blog posts, and social media posts.

With the explosive growth of social media and content marketing, the need for storytelling has become increasingly important. You need to make it engaging and add interesting details. At the same time, be honest and transparent. Authenticity is all-important. Your story should be closely related to the products you offer — in this case, books.

The questions that help tell your story

As a starting point, try to create the first draft of your brand story by answering the following questions:

  • What started it all? What life-changing event/moment/thought occurred to you that inspired you to write books?
  • What is your character as a writer? Here’s where you inject the all-important concept of “personality” into your brand.
  • What should readers know about you? Why are you writing this right now? What are your aims and mission?

Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads and they are not sales pitches. Author brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can.

Build guidelines and platforms

Free guide offer for Promote Then PublishAuthors need to take all they’ve learned and translate them into platforms that best showcase them as an author.

Consistency is essential for branding. Visual cues are the key to instant recognition of your brand by loyal readers. That means all your messaging needs to have identical elements, including:

  • Colors: choose two to three main colors
  • Fonts: choose one main or body font and one accent font
  • Tagline: this is your highly concise mission statement
  • Professional headshot and additional photos

Let your brand shine

Many authors turn to professional designers to help them with these tasks. Here are some of the key platforms where your branding can be on display:

  • Your website and/or blog should function as your author headquarters. Every page conveys a consistent brand message.
  • Social media accounts with on-brand design. Use the same or similar handles and URLs and consistent platform profile photos and descriptions.
  • Email. Use a consistent email newsletter template and graphics and make sure it ties in with your web and social presence.

Every author needs a brand!

Some indie authors think that branding efforts are only for best-selling authors, but that’s just not the case. Sure, prominent writers like James Patterson and John Grisham have some great websites, but there are BookBaby-published authors who have created fantastic websites and strong author brands for themselves.

Create a dynamic brand

One more note: The best author brands are not static. Creating, refining, and consistently updating how you present your persona should be part of your overall marketing strategy. It will continue to evolve with the needs of your readers and your own. Your author brand is an expression of you and your work — which will grow and change as you do — reflecting and showcasing your writing and the value you bring to the market.

In today’s crowded marketplace, it’s not enough to be good at what you write to sell books. You must be able to quickly and clearly communicate your vision or the purpose behind your work and promptly signal its importance to your prospective readers. The goal of an author brand is straightforward: Attracting and retaining their ideal readership and creating deep and lasting connections.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Our company doesn’t do “pen names”. AM/RA is the initials for the two main authors. Andrew M and Ryan A. Two others joined, n’ I didn’t add their initials because they asked to not be included in the author list.

  2. I’d like a follow-up post about how authors with pen names handle branding, especially when presenting themselves through their personal stories and even headshots. If an author uses a pen name, it provides a layer of anonymity. Do you fake a headshot? Make up a story about yourself as that persona?

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