Author Brand Building


In the age of self-published authors, where books are everywhere, no time is too early to start thinking about how to promote ourselves. claireEven if some fancy-shmancy publishing house scoops up your manuscript like the diamond in the rough it is, they’ll want to know how YOU’RE planning to contribute to the marketing.

That’s why it’s so important to build a following of people who TRUST us . . . who feel like they know us.

Blogs are a part of that. The way we present ourselves as authors is a part of that. Book covers, author tag-lines, and an easily recognizable brand are parts of that too.

Many authors write in a wide variety of genres: typing out whatever story they’re feeling in the moment. THAT’S OKAY. Because, despite what most people think, writing is hard. It’s a commitment to stick a story out for a year, or two, or even ten. If an author is feeling a pull toward another genre once their project is complete, then who are we to say “Hold on there, Tex: I thought you were a romance writer.”

quotescover-JPG-73The thing about flip-flopping between genres is this: it’s going to mean a lot more effort in the promotion arena. Each time these rogue authors come out with a new book, they’ll have to begin their promotions almost from scratch, seeking out the type of readers who’ll love their latest work.

Alternately, writers who focus on one genre can piggy-back off of the success of their last book (and get more reward for their promotion efforts) by building a die-hard readership within that genre.

This is the stuff I thought of before I started writing Old Souls.

I fought against writing the book for years, but, the story haunted me. So, by the time I sat down to write I had a plan. That plan: to build a world where my characters could get into a whole lot of trouble . . . for as many books as I want.

When Old Souls is laid down to “rest” next month, I’ll start the sequel. It’s a bit of a gamble without knowing whether the first book will sell, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. 222The idea behind this series is good. Not just good, but great. All I need to do is to learn to write the books at the level the idea deserves. In time I’ll have several books, all within the same world, each one of their successes piggy-backing off the last. And, in twenty-five years, I already know how I’m going to revive the furreaking thing.

That piggy-back marketing is part of what contributed to the success of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and of course, my beloved Vampire Chronicles. It’s what’s going to make Old Souls.


I talked about author branding and the importance of Swagger here. Last post, I talked about what it means to be a writer and why you should hold your head up high, no matter where you are in your journey. If you want to BE a success, it’s crucial to approach your work as if you already ARE. It doesn’t mean getting so cocky we stop improving. It means we  need to approach our work with the attitude that we’re creating an empire.)


Even if your writing suffers a little “Genre ADD,” (a term I stole from the great and powerful Allison Maruska), there are still many ways to brand our collection of work to establish a feeling of continuity within our readers.quotescover-JPG-11

One great way is by finding a font you LOVE. Spend time on picking it out. Use it on the covers of your books, website, and business cards. That font needs to be on anything and everything associated with your work. When your readers pick up your product, you want them to instantly recognize that font whether they realize it or not.

If the packaging is too different, you run the risk of:

A) the reader not recognizing your work

B) The reader thinking your book is too different from the last book they read (and loved) of yours to give it another go.

The type of font you choose is crucial. Look at STEPHEN KING. His name is always in caps. Same with JAMES PATTERSON. The print of both authors is ominous, letting you know exactly what kind of story you’re in for when you pick up one of their books. Despite that obvious similarity, the print used by the two authors are still easily distinguished from each other.


Another way to showcase who you are as an author is to build an author tagline. Here are a couple examples of the “bragging rights” version:

quotescover-JPG-95quotescover-JPG-77

If, like me, you don’t have those bragging rights (yet) you need to think of the types of writing you hope to include in your collection, the subjects you’ll address, the kind of stories you want to tell, or themes. Think about the type of customers you want to attract, the spin-off books you might publish, and/or the values you want to promote. If none of your books have a common thread, if you have “Genre ADD,” then your tagline can be about your voice. The way you tell a story like NO ONE ELSE can.


bAuthor branding is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because despite all of the care I’ve put into branding the content of my books, the image I’m projecting is not quite right. I know this because when people read my work, one of the most common things they’ll say is, “Wow, that was dark, Jenny. NOT what I was expecting.”

After a quick look around the blog, it’s easy to see how these previously trusting souls who sat down to read my work were misguided into thinking I was about to tell them a heart warming tale about cupcakes. When people look at my picture, they probably expect me to sell them gluten-free cookies. Organic apple juice. Maybe a nice pair of warm and fuzzy socks.

anne

BUT, my fiction is kinda dark. And it’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s what I love to read. It’s what I love to write.

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins started on a whim. Nonetheless, it’s been a wild ride. In the last couple months, traffic stats have surpassed every single one of my expectations. Last October, Anne Rice–one of my all-time favorite authors EVER–promoted my blog on her Facebook page to well over a million fans, sending a tsunami of people to check things out themselves. That, to me, was a pretty freaking huge deal. The blog has been a learning experience. In the short time it’s been up and running, it’s evolved substantially, which is great, because at in the beginning I didn’t have a hot clue what I was doing.

BUT because my fiction is a little dark, the website is going to have to be tweaked, subtly letting people know what they’re in for when the day comes that they are finally able to pick up one of MY books. An author tagline seems like a good place to start, and will be one of the changes I’ll implement across my social media outlets over the course of the next couple of weeks. If you look closely, you may notice a few other changes as well. It’s time that the way I’m presented as an author evolves.

And hey, change is good. Without change, without a little evolution, this is how Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins would still appear on cell phone screens:crop2


What do you think about Author Branding? How does your genre affect your author website and social media outlets?


53 thoughts on “Author Brand Building

  1. I think that many of your thoughts also apply to songwriting, especially the flip flopping part. I’ve struggled with settling in on one type of music, which I think would help others identify with my music. But, it’s really difficult! Perhaps, as you state, subtle changes is best.
    Rob

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great article! I happened to do some of the author branding things right from the very beginning of my blog, which I’m hugely relieved about. Otherwise I’d be here, eight months in, completely changing it, trying to get my own name out there instead of a stupid nickname, etc. At least my general genre and brand idea is solid, I think. I can already picture the “Tales from Eneana” tagline on all my many future books… (Pardon me while I dream.) I’m even careful about what photos to use for my stories on my blog so that they’re within a certain style. But I never thought about font, or how this applies to book cover designs.

    Or wondered how I might get a famous author to re-post one of my posts, since they’re all stories. Hm, that might be a problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re so right about the importance of author branding. I’m still learning about it and trying to find more time to build a social media presence. That’s really cool about Anne Rice promoting your blog. Good luck with Old Souls and the many sequels-to-be! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Author branding and platform is pretty much always on my mind these days. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it in the right places? Should I stop blogging on the little-bit-about-everything blog and focus on a writing-related blog? What if I run out of ideas? where will I find my readers? And on, and on. It’s a wonder I get any sleep at night. So thank you for this post. I feel less alone now. Considering the same font is an interesting idea. I hadn’t thought about that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are so many factors for writers to consider while building our own little empires because book writing is a business, at the end of the day. Taking the time consider all of the questions you just posed will put you ten steps ahead of the writers who didn’t. Don’t get discouraged!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, I suffer from severe genre ADD (thanks for the shout-out, btw). I just put my three covers in a banner for my Facebook and Twitter pages. They’re different. 🙂 But I can’t help myself, and the nice thing about being indie is I can stray if I want to. It absolutely means more marketing, and I’m not sure I’d recommend following in my footsteps, genre-wise (as you have so wisely suggested).
    The good news is the situation is temporary. One of those covers represents the first part of a YA sci-fi trilogy, so it will soon have friends. The mystery has a standalone sequel in the works, so one day it won’t be lonely. The urban fantasy…well everyone who’s read it says they want more books, so that bodes well for its future. LOL. 😉 If all goes well, I’ll have three distinct audiences to cater to, and I know at least a few have made the genre leap with me. We’ll see how it goes.
    Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: We Have Some Great Stuff Coming Up For You. Probably. | Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

  7. I really enjoyed this post and I’ve enjoyed watching your progress as an author. It won’t be long before you are writing on a whole new level.

    As far an jumping around in genres, let me see… I wrote a family humor book, a cookbooks, illustrated children’s books, a paranormal, a sci-fi adventure (with time travel), a romantic comedy and a fantasy. I still need to do a horror story and a murder mystery, but they are in the pipeline.

    That had part has/will be/continues to be marketing to existing fans. Readers of the cookbooks may not want to read the sexy adult rom-com, I reasoned. I thought even about unclaiming those books and redoing the covers under my wife’s name, or my daughter, to distance myself from that audience.

    On the other hand, there was a lot of snarky humor in the cookbooks. And in the family humor books. And there is in my rom-com. So maybe people who liked the cookbooks would enjoy the others. It’s silly to think a parent who reads to a child doesn’t also read mystery or sci-fi, and might want to take that step with an author they know. Meanwhile, if I did disavow my earlier works, I’d be starting from scratch trying to find a base for the new stuff anyway.

    With me you get a range of topics. For now, that’s how it is. A year from now, I’ll have settled into what I love, but I’ll have explored quite a few genres along the way. Nothing wrong with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You definitely cover the broadest genre range of any of the authors I know, Dan. And, you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with that–except a minor marketing headache. But, seeing the force of nature you are when it comes to promoting your work (and subsequently, the work of your writing friends), word count goals, and EVERYTHING ELSE associated with establishing your self as a writerly force to be reckoned with, I know you’ll attack that minor setback with all the firepower you can throw at it.

      It DOES leave me to wonder though . . . what IS the stuff you’re going to settle into in a year from now? Curious and curiouser.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an excellent post Jen. You’re already on your way to the right path. You hit a lot of great points. I know a few authors who write in different genres, have multiple websites to babysit, and oh so many social media sites to look after with their different names. Lord knows as author and writers, we have our plates full with one name, lol.
    I love the title of your new book, and I look forward to reading it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Pingback: The Indie Author’s To-Do List: It Probably Won’t Kill You, But You Might Die Before You Finish It. | C.M. Blackwood

  10. I recognize that napkin! Awesome blog post here. I really need to set up and establish a blog. You do an awesome job. Your post made me think about things I need to do BEFORE promoting a book. Marketing is so important. You gave me many tools to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m finding these morsels of wisdom out bit by bit, sometimes the hard way. It’s great that you found the post useful, that’s exactly why I shared it. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      Like

  11. Some people are happy (they will have a lot to read about the world I created, yay!), some others think I’m dreaming too big. I was a little scared that I may be too confident, but it helped me a lot to read you. I didn’t came to the world to dream a tiny dream.

    Samuel Beckett got it right: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    I’m creating an empire and I’m proud of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My website and blog branding kept the fact that I am both an author and illustrator in mind. I included fun illustrations along the way and even made the background appear as though the website was created on an artist’s canvas. I agree that the smallest details can tune people in immediately to who is writing. Another great post Jen! http://blog.Jhwinter.com

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’m writing three different book series at the moment: all of them are in one phase of publication or another, and they’re all different genres. I think there’s a certain snappiness to all three that shows it’s my work, though I can’t always be sure. What do you suggest for someone who is naturally overproductive and doesn’t want to be limited to one project his whole career?

    I don’t mean someone who wants to write one thing for awhile, then move on: I mean someone who’s always writing in different worlds that seem to have equal merit, at least until one proves to be much more successful than the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve stayed with one genre, though I wander around quite a bit within the genre. Branding is something that I’ve been paying more and more attention too as I get more books out there. The investment goes up a bit – new professional covers, a book website and a blog website, more advertising that hopefully will trickle into more readers. What I’ve learned about writing is that its a process and we grow on multiple levels over the years in our craft as well as in the “business” of authorship. Great post 🙂

    Like

  15. Pingback: Tell Again Tuesday Author Brand Building J.A. Allen | C.D. Hersh

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