In the age of self-published authors, where books are everywhere, no time is too early to start thinking about how to promote ourselves. Even 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.”
The 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. The 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.
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:
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.
Author 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.
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:
What do you think about Author Branding? How does your genre affect your author website and social media outlets?