Build Your Author Brand


It Takes Effort to Build an Author Brand

Many authors mistakenly assume building a personal brand either comes naturally (of course my fans will know me through my work), or that it’s simply unnecessary.

I have to admit those thoughts went through my own mind when I started this journey. It was very much like believing “Build it and they will come.” Which, as we all know, only happens in movies.

Sadly, I should’ve known better that both of those assumptions were false. For people to follow you and your work, they need to know who you are, what you write and what you stand for.

Branding certainly accomplishes this, but branding requires a good deal of effort and attention.

I can almost hear you say “But I’m an author, not a commodity. Why should I have to do it?”

Many years working in public relations and marketing taught me an important truth: an effective brand image gives you an edge in successfully selling your product … and as a writer you and your books are both a commodity.

As an indie author I can also tell you, building your brand is entirely on your own shoulders, ’cause ain’t nobody gonna do it but you.

Your Brand is Your Promise to Your Audience
What exactly does “branding” mean? We all have a personal brand, whether we know it or not. In one way or another an author is always being judged and evaluated. Particularly an indie.

To be effective, you need to control the face you show the world.

It’s your brand that tells people what they can expect from your work. But your brand stems not only from who you are and what you write, but how you’re perceived, and it should also be how you want to be known. In a marketing sense, branding is actually the process of selling yourself.

Your writing will ultimately stand on its own.

However, it’s by the conscientious building of your brand that you make it easier for your book to attract a “tribe” of readers that identify with it. And that’s the important thing: building that loyal tribe of followers.

How do you do it? Marketing guru Seth Godin describes how the landscape has changed from the old ‘mass marketing’ model many of us grew up with (me included).

Discover Your Brand Personality
The first step in building your brand is taking the time to define and articulate (at least to yourself) both how you’re alike and why you’re different from other authors. Believe me, it’s damned hard to do. It requires self-analysis and introspection.

You start by doing some research. Check out the sites of authors, bloggers, designers and other creative types. What attracts you? What turns you off? Then start brainstorming, focusing on your strengths, passions and goals.

What do you like to write? What ideas and feelings do you want people to associate with you? What mood or immediate impression do you want to evoke? Stephen King is known primarily for one genre of writing, as are J.K. Rowling and John Grisham.

You can probably articulate in very few words how all these (and other) successful authors are identified.

That’s a brand.

Create a Solid Marketing Plan
The question becomes: how do you want to be known? I struggle with it, because I write things in different genre.

Today even the legacy publishing houses find themselves unable to fully promote more than a handful of the thousands of books they publish. Almost without exception, they expect authors whom they sign to already have a significant online presence.

If that’s the case in traditional publishing, can you imagine how much more you need to do as an indie author? Self-publishing has lost its taboo, but that’s only served to open the floodgates.

Today anybody can publish (and often do).

Depending on how effective they are at creating value and getting it in front of the right eyes, they can even sell a few books. Sometimes they sell a whole lot more than a few, like indie authors J.A. Konrath, John Locke and Amanda Hocking.

But, even if the writing is good (and with some of what’s out there that’s often a very big assumption), it’s their platform that often makes the difference between success or failure.

Managing Your Author Brand
Social media, in all of its many iterations, plays a significant role in establishing an author’s notoriety (and there’s nothing wrong with being “notorious” if it helps you sell books).

But to stay effective you can’t simply depend on people finding you. You need to actively search out opportunities that strengthen what you have to offer. Knowing your audience becomes key.

Some ideas for getting out your message include guest posting, writing articles and blogging, using social media, attending networking events, or lining-up speaking engagements. You should also consider joining writer sites like AuthorsDB or Goodreads. They are all now a part of making yourself known.

Investigating opportunities to connect with other markets will pay big dividends. I’ve spoken at a significant writing conference, talking about indie publishing. I’ve become busy with social media like this blog and the Twitter (on the same subject). I even use the Book of Face, although I don’t like it much.

I find I’m still constantly looking for opportunities to learn from others. I notice what they’re doing that seems effective and try to adapt some of those concepts to my own promotional efforts.

Good content is king, but I’ve learned that sometimes simply doing the unexpected can create excitement and draw-in new readers from other sources.

However, I’ve also learned social media isn’t a platform where you should continuously self-promote (and I’m really trying to keep it to a minimum) … because if you’re constantly shouting “Buy my book,” sooner or later people are going to stop listening to you.

And I’m betting on sooner.

Show some sincere empathy to your readers by trying to provide interesting new content, encouraging feedback, addressing their concerns and … most of all … being appreciative. Listen closely to what your audience has to teach you. Be truly grateful for the knowledge and apply what you learn.

But most of all … keep writing.

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New York Review of Books – A Reminder
Look for the mention of my novel Reichold Street in the September 26, 2013 Fall Books issue of The New York Review.

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Creating Believable Characters
Don’t forget to click on the link in the right-hand column to get your copy of “Creating Believable Characters.” It was written specifically to aid writers with their character development and the price shouldn’t be a deterrent … it’s FREE.

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