A few weeks ago, we took a break from our usual discussions about the craft of writing to talk about social media and the business side of writing. Today, again driven by things that are going on in my day job, I want to continue that discussion and talk a little about author branding.
First off, what exactly is an author brand?
At its simplest level, an author brand is about communication. It is how your readers (existing or potential) know you and it’s what makes you stand out from all of the other writers out there. You want readers to recognize your name and know what you write so that when you have a book out they’ll read it and then tell their friends, who will read it and tell their friends who will . . .
So I just need to write a good book (and another and another and . . . ) right?
Yes and no. Yes, you need a good book, but you need more than that if you want readers to pick you out of the crowd. There are many, many good books out there that wind up lost because of the sheer volume of titles that are published.
Every week I get several lists of newly published books. An interesting book blurb or an attractive cover might catch my eye, but it is an author’s name that is most likely to hold my attention (and my book buying dollars). If I have a list of new books and see there is one by Loretta Chase, for example, that’s going to be the book I choose because I know that she writes stories that I like to read. Through her books, website, blog, and social media presence, she has built up “author awareness.”
Like the opening lines of a book, your brand is a promise to your readers. It tells them what they can expect in your writing and, just as important, how your stories differ from all the other stories out there.
But I’m not even published yet. I just need to focus on writing right now.
Again, yes and no.
Writing takes precedence, of course, and if you just want to write and don’t care if you ever sell a book then never mind, sorry to have bothered you, go on back to your writing.
If you do want have people read your books at some point (and hopefully buy them), then you probably want to start thinking about your author brand now, when you have the time to do so. You don’t want to wind up trying to think about it in a rush at the last minute when you’re about to meet with an agent or have a book coming out (kind of like waiting until Christmas Eve to do your shopping).
Even if you don’t have a book out yet, you want to generate interest. In our McDaniel classes, we talked about creating Buzz – getting people talking about you and (once they’re out there) your books.
Okay, but with no book out, what will I get people talking about and where?
Your website/blog is a great place to get started. Your author bio will give readers a clear idea of who you are and what you post will help them see what your writing is like. Some writers post sample chapters or excerpts of their stories (published or in-progress) to garner interest. Others post information relevant to their genre. Several Regency writers that I follow, for example, post interesting Regency information or have a reference-corner on their website. It allows them to reach out to readers so that once they have a book out, they have a pre-built interest.
When thinking about your author brand, there are a couple of basic questions you need to think about:
Who are you, as a writer?
To know how you want to brand yourself you first need to be very clear about who you are as a writer. What kind of stories do you write? What kind of audience are you trying to reach with them? Think of some of your favorite authors. What attributes distinguish them and/or their stories? Is it humor, recurring themes, a particular writing style? Now think about your own writing and what makes it stand apart it from everything else that is out there.
Once you know who you are as a writer, think about how to relay that in a few words or phrases. Just like creating a tagline for your book, you want to create a tagline as part of your author branding.
What are you writing?
Are you writing Scottish historicals, cozy mysteries featuring a clever cat, books infused with snarky humor? Figure out what ties your writing together and then figure out how to make that clear when readers are on your website/blog or interact with you on other social media.
Determining your author brand and developing a plan to put it into action doesn’t have to be a big time commitment and doesn’t have to be done overnight, but if you build time into your schedule now to think about it, then you won’t be caught scrambling later down the road.
Not sure what your author brand would even look like? Head on out to the internet and check out the websites/blogs of authors you enjoy and/or authors that write in your genre. She what they’ve done, what catches your attention, what does and doesn’t work for you. You can brainstorm with friends and, if you want a more in-depth discussion of this whole topic, Google “author branding” and see what comes up.
So, what do you look for in an author’s website? Do you have any that you’d recommend as good examples?