Growing Your Author Brand
Hi everyone! I’m Jess, and I have published one awesome poetry book, and two parts of a serial fiction book that I am pretty sure is really REALLY terrible, but it’s okay because I’ve rewritten it and it will be out next month… hopefully…
So… with all that said, I want you to know two things about me:
1. I’m TERRIBLE at marketing myself
2. That’s a good thing for you.
Why? Because I’ve done all the bad things, one could possibly do. I’ve released work that wasn’t ready (insert huge frowny face). I’ve given release dates and never met them because of technical issues (YUP bad author!). I did a fantastic giveaway and had great success… but had it WAY too early and lost interest in the book I was releasing. I could go on… but I think for your sanity (and mine) I’ll skip the rest of the confessions.
If there were one word, I could give you that sums up what will make you most successful as an author, it would be branding.
Branding is VITAL. It’s the most important component to your burgeoning authordom. It’s even more important than… actual writing (I know… I can see all the proverbial clutches to chest right now). But hear me out. If you aren’t branded, how will you know what to write?
As Chuck Wendig says, “You’ll just be pin-balling from genre to genre, format to format, like an old man lost at the mall trying to find his wife that died fifteen years before. “Martha?” you’ll bleat into the cavernous, plastic-stinking sad-cave that is an American Eagle Outfitters. And people will throw plastic hangers at you to make you go away. That’s you. An unbranded writer.”
It’s okay, though. Today, we will fix that.
What Can You Consistently Bring To The World?
Can some of you tell me your favorite brands?
McDonald’s, Nike, Walmart, Lexus, etc.?
“Wal-Mart? Plastic goods from foreign nations and also, bullets — all placed on shelves by hard-working, woefully underpaid Americans. Lexus? Automotive beauty and elegance, so beautiful and so elegant that Lexus drivers don’t even see people who might be driving, say, a dumb old Hyundai Elantra, or an is-that-even-a-real-car-who-buys-those Chevy Cruze.”
The point is, these brands offer one thing-a consistent experience. That’s what people want when they read your work.
Can you imagine if Nike started making doughnuts? Or, if McDonald’s sold cell phones? Or, if Google started holding knife throwing contests? There would be madness in the streets.
Basically: the apocalypse.
“Brands are the lens through which we glimpse our reality.”
What does that mean for you? It means finding that same level of consistency. It means the same length book. Same tropes of characters. Covers by the same artist. And, of course, the same genre.
Pick The Genre You Will Forever Write In
You have to pick a genre early on. Trust me. People get REAL upset if you pull a switcheroo on them. Imagine starting out writing romance and then switching to fantasy… you can’t do that. You… just can’t. Well, you could but then you’d attract the attention of the GENRE police who’d gather the nearest troll mobs and come at you with pitchforks screaming about your kingdom of lies and the rivers of reader tears with which you built your castle moat.
So…choose your genre and stick with it.
Or pick a tiny, no-one’s ever heard of niche genre and make it your own like:
- Norris Noir
- Penguin Synchronized Swimming
- Byronian hauntings
- Butler Shenanigans
Get An Awesome Author Selfie
Your author photo is extremely important. People should recognize you. On the back of your book. In the grocery store. Out the window of that classy Victorian flat on 221 Baker Street. More importantly, it should reflect your brand.
The picture you put out there across all of your platforms should be uniform, and it should say something about what your brand is.
Maybe it’s super serious, and it says “Professional Wordsmith AND Literary Genius.”
Maybe it’s laid back and casual and says “Hi… I’m approachable, fun, down to earth and hate literary jerks. We’re cool.”
What you don’t want is for it to say something like “YO… READ MY SHIT” or “POSSIBLE SERIAL KILLER HERE”
When taking author photos, think about your stance, and the background of your image. Simplicity works best.
GET YOUR TOUCHAS TO THE SOCIAL MEDIA
You got to be present on social media. The Twitters, the Facebooks, the Instagrams, the LinkedIns, Grindr—wait… not that one. Don’t use that one unless you want a creepy middle-aged dude to tell you his swiss cheese fantasy… completely unsolicited…
But the others? Yes. Use them. Root your presence there. AND STAY ON BRAND with your posts. It helps to have a list of the top qualities you want your brand to stand for. Keep a post-it on your desk and look at it every time you feel the need to do something nefariously stupid… like TRUMP tweet about an issue that has nothing to do with your authorial self.
Use hashtags and target your market. Set trends and follow them. Set a goal of 10,000 followers. This is where you’ll start gaining real traction. And use each platform for different aspects of your brand. Maybe Twitter is your bank of witty repartee on the writing life. Instagram could be your opportunity to appeal to your readers visually, your writing desk, awesome quotes, or cats—bisches love cats on Instagram.
LinkedIn could be a place where you write more professionally. Articles which align with those brands. Maybe penguin training guides or tips and tricks to spot those butler shenanigans. Either way… stay on brand but be diverse enough that people want to read each one without getting the same content.
GET A MISSION STATEMENT
Give yourself a mission statement. I don’t have one. I need to do this. It’s important. Mission statements are branding taglines. People will know exactly who you are and what they’re getting themselves into by following you on social media and what to expect from your books and products. Not sure where to start… here’s some to choose from:
“Narrative architect with strong thematic harmonization.”
“Doo, doo, da-doo, Writin For You.”
“At Least I Can Write.”
“I put the ‘oo’ in book! And the AW YEAH in author!”
“READ MY SHIT… OR ELSE.”
“Wittily Wordsmithing With Will.”
PICK TEN GOOGLE KEYWORDS FOR MAXIMUM SEO
The Internet is everything. If you’re not on the Internet, you’re not a real person. You’re basically just a bear. A sad bear that nobody knows. And these days, you don’t just need to be on the Internet, but you also need to be at the very top of the Internet, so that everyone can see you.
If they can’t see you, you won’t sell any book products. The way you climb to the top of the Internet and gain vital brand awareness is through SEO, which stands for Self Experience Optimization.
Pick ten words which best suit your brand. These are your words. They will cement you into the asphalt of the Infosuper Cyberhighway.
You should choose words that embody the experience you offer readers. Use them in your mission statement, in your posts, hashtag the bejeezus out of them EVERYWHERE!
DETERMINE YOUR IMAGO
Right now, we’re tiny little wee caterpillar eggs, us writers. But what will our butterfly form look like? What is your idealized mental image of your authorial self? Are you a sexy librarian author who wields katanas and fights crime on her off days? Perhaps you’re a scruffy, tatted biker dude with pecs and abs for days. Whatever it is, envision your imago and apply it to all of your branding strategies. Build your author platform with this image in mind.
CAN I GET A CONNECTION?
The inside of your tightly regulated, poorly oxygenated niche should be a world of love and acceptance. Network. Share strategies. Buy each other’s shit. Review each other’s shit. Scratch their back and have em scratch yours. And, if other authors attempt to occupy the same mind-share and brand as you personally, stab them numerous times with your pointy katanas and remind the rest of your fellow authors that your brand is yours and nobody can take it from you, or you’ll ideate their precious skin with your vertically integrated pointy heels.
DESIGN A LOGO
Logos exemplify all brands. This is your visual calling card. Consider it carefully.
BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE
It’s time to build your audience. A tribe of people. Followers. Friends. Sycophants. Cultists who embrace your ways and abhor all that is not you. Blood-caked acolytes who will read your books as if they are holy texts, written in stone and forever unchanging. It’s okay if they’re not real people. That’s why we use the phrase build. Consider voodoo dolls. Or, people made out of bones and mop handles. If you build the fake people, the real ones will come.
Or you can kidnap them from your social media! Once you have an acceptable audience of at least 10,000 people who never want you to change and who will buy whatever book products you produce, take them all to a distant island where you can live in utopian peace and eternal branding for the rest of your days.
Or… you know just… keep writing shit to make them happy.