A memorable and favorable author brand is the foundation to any successful writing career.
Why You Need an Author Brand
When you think of branding, you probably think of consumer products like Coke or Lexus. But whether you’re selling a book or a breakfast cereal, the purpose is the same:
- Let consumers what they’re getting before they make a purchase.
- Establish name recognition and make you more memorable.
Readers are risk averse. They don’t want to invest time and money on something unless they know it’s good. According to Nielsen, 60% of readers buy books from authors they like or because they’ve enjoyed other books in that series. Statistically speaking, this means that 60% of the reading public won’t take a chance on an author they’ve never heard of. By establishing a clear author brand, you will convey to readers what your book is like and provide reassurance that they will enjoy it.
But it’s not just readers, it’s publishers too. Before acquiring a book, editors want some sort of indication that it will be a bestseller. An established author brand can be that indication. Again, it’s all about minimizing risk. When you buy a coke, no matter where it’s from, you know exactly what it’s going to taste like. When you pick up a James Patterson novel at the airport, you know what type of reading experience you’re going to have. Your author brand lets readers know what they’re going to get before they buy it.
While I believe every book has a chance at success through effective branding and marketing strategies, there is one caveat: the book must be good. You can do all the promotion in the world and attract millions of readers, but if book #1 isn’t good, they won’t be coming back for #2.
How to Identify Your Unique Author Brand
Now that you understand why branding is important, it’s time to identify your own unique author brand.
Need help with this process? I recommend accessing my author brand worksheet:
Most authors we work with have one of two problems:
- They don’t see all the interesting parts of themselves that also relate to their book
- They think everything about their life is interesting and is a part of their brand, even if it doesn’t tie in to their book.
It’s necessary to take a step back and view yourself through an outsider’s lens. You may not think that your degree in clinical psychology is a part of your brand, but if you write psychological thrillers, it definitely is. You may breed German Shepherds for a living, but if you’re writing science fiction, that fact is not relevant to your brand.
Many Books, One Author Brand.
If you write in the same genre, on the same topic, or write a series, finding your tagline and elevator pitch is easier. But if you write in multiple genres for various age groups, it can be more of a challenge. While authors may think that every book they write is different, in my experience, there are usually particular types of stories that authors are drawn to.
So let’s say you write YA fantasy as well as adult historical mysteries. At first glance, you may think these audiences are totally different so you need to create two totally different author brands. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Forget the age group and genre and just focus on the characters, setting and themes. Do you base your fantasy novels in some factual history? Are your characters in both your books inspired by real-life characters? Do both have elements of suspense? Mystery? Are there similarities in the settings? The protagonists’ motivations? Stakes?
The branding worksheet can be extremely helpful in mapping all this out. For me, it really helps to put pen to paper, so listing out all the elements of setting, character, theme and so on makes it easier to identify the common denominators.
Once you have those common denominators, use them as a jumping off point to create a short, simple tagline.
Here are a few examples of, what I think, are, successful taglines:
- Fierce women, impossible odds
- Books that don’t bite, but the characters might
- New beginnings, second chances, and always a happily ever after
This may take more than a few minutes, let it marinate for a bit. I encourage you to jot down multiple ideas and to seek feedback from family members and writer friends.
Your Brand Summary
From there, I encourage you to expand your tagline into a longer brand summary. This should be 1-2 lines and serve as an answer to the question, “What do you write?” So, if your tagline is “Fierce Women, impossible odds” the brand summary may be, “I write about fierce women facing impossible odds. My novels are historical fiction, both for teens and adults.” It can also include a bit more of the “You” part of the branding equation. For example, “I write about fierce women facing impossible odds from the point of view of a retired librarian and research junkie.”
Not only are these brand summaries memorable, they make readers want to know more. Writing historical fiction isn’t memorable on its own, but pairing it with fierce women and impossible odds not only paints a better picture and sticks in your brain, it also makes you want to know more.
Again, this will take time and tweaking. I don’t expect you to have a perfect tagline and brand summary right now. Put some thought into the branding worksheet, and feel free to share your ideas with your critique group, trusted friends and family, even your fans. They'll provide helpful insight to further refine your author brand.
Are you feeling energized and empowered to take control of your author brand? Be sure to check out these other episodes on Author Branding!