As if writing and revising a book wasn’t hard enough, in today’s digital world, authors are also being called upon to do a lot more self-promotion. While this is a daunting task for anyone, it can be even more overwhelming for a person with no marketing experience.
Given that I work in communications for my day job, I hoped I’d find it a little easier but quickly found out for myself just how steep the publishing world learning curve is. In order to make the task of self-promotion a little easier, every author—even those that are un-agented and/or unpublished—should develop an author brand. Your brand is what shows people who are you as an author. Are you funny or serious? Whimsical or weird? Do you want to write blog posts or stick to sharing funny cat videos? What do you want to be best known for?
These are some big questions, I know, but the good news is, you don’t have to have everything figured out from the beginning. I’ve definitely found that my brand has evolved as my career has progressed but you will have to start somewhere eventually. Here are some thought starters to get you going.
For obvious reason, this is the most important element of your author brand. Readers want to feel like they know the people behind the books they love. When you think about your personality, make sure you aren’t trying to be someone you aren’t. No one will be fooled and it will undoubtedly backfire. If you truly want to engage and connect with people, you need to give them a good idea of who you are and what you believe. Because your beliefs will be reflected in the books you write and readers don’t want to feel hoodwinked.
Own your personality and don’t apologize for it. Unless you behave like an ass and then you should. Or better yet, don’t behave like an ass. Be respectful and kind. Both non-negotiable brand elements in my opinion.
Who is most likely to read and love your books? Think hard about the community you want to create and the conversations you want to have with the people in it. Keeping that idea in mind, start to create content that will connect with your audience.
Your genre also makes a difference here and you will need to try and find a way to make yourself standout in a group of likeminded authors. If you write romance, what makes you different that other romance writers? Note I said different and not better. Be very careful not to elevate yourself by insulting others.
This doesn’t mean what you personally look like. When I say look, I mean the visual identity of your brand. Every author has probably pictured their book jacket in their mind, but have you ever given any thought to the front page of your website? Or your banner image on twitter? This is where you need to ask yourself things like, what colours best reflect you. Should your font be elegant or sassy? Do you need a tagline?
As a starting point, I recommend authors develop the following elements as part of a branding toolkit:
- Brand Colours – two to three complementary colours that can be used on different platforms. Make note of the colour hex code so you can easily apply the palette on multiple platforms.
- Brand Font – you need at least two: one for headlines and one for body copy. These won’t always be identical on all digital platforms. But most common fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Open Sans) are fairly transferable.
- Author Headshot – use the same image on all your platforms so that your face is easily identifiable. You don’t need to pay for a fancy photoshoot, but your official author photo should feature only you and have a neutral background.
- Social Media Handles – these are the @ names on your social media accounts and you should try to keep these consistent across all platforms. Using at least part of your name would be preferable but you may have to get creative. The key is to make your handle memorable…in a good way.
- Author Bio – yes, every author needs one. That said, it doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t matter if you haven’t published a book…yet. Use your bio as a way to introduce yourself and share some interesting bits of info about you.
Now that you have developed an author brand, you need to start engaging with your audience. Here are a few ideas of how (and where) to start sharing it:
Without a doubt, the first thing every author needs is a website. This is the place where agents, editors and publishers will go to learn more about you and it’s a great place to start when you are working on developing a brand.
Your website doesn’t need to be flashy or complex and you certainly don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on it. In fact, your website can be as basic as a single landing page. The key is to make sure you have all the relevant information available in one place.
Also, you need to secure a domain name. Preferably this will be your name and then .com but if that’s not possible try variations with By or Author in them. Secure your domain first, either as part of your website package (WordPress, Wix or SquareSpace) or from a domain host (ie. GoDaddy) that will allow you to attach it to a website.
TIP: It’s also a great idea to have a professional email address. While TequilaShotLover at hotmail. com might have been a great idea in college, that’s not the email address you want agents or editors writing to you at.
The first thing you need to know about Social Media is you don’t need to be on every platform. Only choose to use the platforms where you know you will be active and engaging regularly with your audience.
If pictures aren’t your thing, don’t do Instagram. If you don’t like following character limits, don’t do Twitter. Being selective is important because whatever platforms you do choose you need to commit to posting regularly. Even more important than posting regularly is engaging. Comment on other posts, invite comments on your own. Social media is a two-way conversation.
As social media algorithms change on a regular basis, it can be difficult to stay in the feed of some of your most important audience members. This is where email comes in. It is the most reliable way to get information out to a captive audience that (and this is the key point) has opted into receiving correspondence.
Emails allow you to share links to blog posts or book deals or whatever! By the time you send your first newsletter you should have a good idea of what your audience want to see from you. Here is where you deliver that content.
This is something I definitely didn’t realize the importance of until I singed my first book deal. Find other authors that you can work with to help promote and support each other. These authors might be from your genre or your publication year (Hi 2020 Debuts!) or just connections you’ve made online or in real life. Find your tribe and work together. Just make sure that you do your part in helping them as well. No one wants a mooch in their group. Trust me.
We’ve really just scratched the surface here on building and sharing an author brand and I do plan on sharing some more posts with what I hope, are helpful tips. In the meantime, as you wander down the road of self-promotion, please remember these key points:
- Choose to exist only in the places that feel comfortable and manageable.
- Engage consistently and encourage connection.
- Be authentic in everything you do and say.
Now, go forth and brand yourself. Good luck!