On your way to work today, you probably received lots of brand messages without realising. Maybe you picked up a coffee from a café with an Italian name and branding, maybe you grabbed a healthy snack in green packaging to go with it, or maybe you bought a bottle of water with a crisp, clean Alpine mountain on the side. Even if we take billboards and magazine adverts out of the equation, companies have a subtle way of telling you what they want to be known for in their marketing. Big brands spend millions on these clever ways of making you associate their name or product with certain values. Indie authors should be branding themselves in their marketing also.
But I’m an Author, Not a Brand…
We all choose to show different sides of ourselves in different situations. You probably act differently in front of your boss or your bank manager than you do with your best mate. It’s not about being fake, but about making a decision about how you want to present yourself to your audience.
Whether you like it or not, all authors have a brand that will be judged by readers, media, and booksellers. Actively positioning and presenting yourself as you wish to be seen is much better than taking a back seat and waiting to see how people label you. It is particularly important if you plan to self-publish more books or eBooks in the future, as you want to make a good first impression that you can then build on.
1. Write Down Your Brand Values
It all starts with brand values. What are the things you want readers to turn to you for? How do you want them to see you? This is the foundation of your author brand.
Try to write down a few words to describe your brand values. For example, say we knew an older female baker who wrote cookbooks and wanted to be known not only for her recipes and baking skills, but also wanted to incorporate a friendly, grandma-like approach to her author brand. Her values might be:
- Everyone’s favourite grandma
Think about what 5 words you want readers to associate with you and your books and consider how you could work those into your marketing. If you have a friend or family member who has read your work, run through your list with them and see if they agree. You might think you are giving off a certain impression, but people may see you quite differently.
2. Make Sure What You Say Matches These Values
Once you have these core values written down, you need to keep them somewhere you see them a lot, e.g. on a Post-It note by your computer. The next time you write a social media or blog post, check whether it is aligned with the values you want to be known for. For example, blogging or tweeting about a bad date might be fine if you’re a romance author, but not if you write business books.
3. Make Sure What Readers See Matches These Values
It’s not just what you say and how you say it, but also how you present yourself. Some self-published authors fail because their brand does not look professional enough – don’t make that mistake. You want people to start recognising you, so you should have the same visual look and feel anywhere a reader might come across you/your books, e.g. your website, social media, business cards, book cover, etc. You want to establish congruity from one representation of your author brand to the others. That will probably mean using similar sorts of colours, fonts, etc. If you’re setting up an imprint, you’ll need a logo that reflects these values as well – you wouldn’t want a child-friendly, cartoony logo for a very serious academic book. These things matter.
An Author Brand in Action
If we take another look at our grandmotherly cookbook author, we can see how she might put all these things together to give readers a really good idea of what she is about and what we can expect from her brand.
Content: her blog and social media of course have a lot of recipes and friendly advice for readers who have baking problems, but also other domestic hobbies, such as gardening, as well as photos of her with her grandchildren etc.
Colours: She tends to use pretty, soft, feminine pastel colours across her website and social media, and she often wears these colours in her author photos too.
Fonts: The fonts used on her book covers, recipe videos, social media graphics, etc. are traditional, pretty, and feminine.
Think seriously about how you want to be seen as an author. Your brand matters and it should be something that you set for yourself.