Building your Author Brand

There is a difference between book branding and author branding. Book branding means that everything you do online will encompass your books. They will remember the name of the books over who wrote them. If you step outside your book branding with a new series or genre of books, you better have a pen name for those books because people will be upset if they are too different from your book brand.

Now, if you build your brand around you, this means making a name for yourself in the reading world. Yes, you heard me right, reading world. Why not the publishing world? Because not all of us have to answer to publishers and their impossible dictates. Some of us only have to answer to our muses, ourselves, and sometimes our readers. Although the opinions of readers are rather subjective to tastes, so that doesn’t always work.

An author brand is more than logos, color schemes, taglines, or message points. Though those things do help create an ambiance, but what you need is:

Write a Great Book and grab your readers attention

This isn’t the NaNoWriMo novel that you slapped together in four weeks and never touched again. This is the book that you revised, edited, and proofread. This is the book that you sent out to beta readers for feedback. This is the best version of the book that you created, and finally let go into the world, only to think of more things you could have done better. Like the Underworld in my novel could have been darker and more gloomy at first, oh and there was that part…See what I mean.

As an author, the ability to provide readers with something unique that no one else can offer will grab the readers attention and make them fans.This usually takes the shape of author’s voice, because no two authors write the same way. Although some may try.

This emotional attachment happens when people believe that they have formed a bond with the author, think they understand them, and/or they are moved by the stories they love. Note: the stories don’t necessarily have to be any good for readers to become attached to them. Readers will buy a book on the sole fact of this emotional attachment, because the perception of higher quality is there. Now not ever reader will agree that the same author is worth reading and buying. The reading experience is subjective.

Define what makes your brand unique and stick to it

Find a distinctive word or phrase that defines an aspect of what you do and then make it yours. I’ll take my writing as an example. At this moment I’m a fantasy and paranormal romance author. So what would be my brand? What should I focus on? Romance? Fantasy? Paranormal?

If you chose any of these you’d be wrong. I focused on none of the genres. I noticed that my story ideas all have a common thread. Every single story idea is based on a creature from myths or legends. Every single one of my ideas has a romance running through it. So that’s what I focused on, Myths and Legends and Love. My tagline is, “Where legends live. Where myths walk. And where love is eternal.” I says everything about what I write.

Build every aspect of your brand equally

These are your actions as well as your visual and verbal elements. Your message points that should be used in every spoken and written communications. This would be your email signature, you sign off at forums, reviews, and interviews. Your visual elements would be your website, your letterhead, and your professional photo. Think about that one for a moment.

People are judgmental; it’s just part of our nature. We judge a book by its cover, a website by its look, and an author by their photo. So take a good look at your website and author’s photo. Do they reflect the image you want to send out to others? Do they look like other authors in your genre?

Just like book covers have a certain look for different genres, so should your websites and author photos. Take a look at a few of your favorite authors. Then look at some that aren’t in your chosen genre. See if you can tell the difference. And if not, look for my post on author websites, author bios, and author photos another day.

Be consistent on marketing your brand

Just as publicity works better than advertising in the beginning to get your foot in the door. People who visit your sites need to know what you are marketing, which means that you need to communicate with a solid core message. Your brand should be in all that you do. However, if all you do is sell your, what makes you different then a car salesman with a flashing sign screaming: SALE! SALE! SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!

Part of effective marketing is the ability to connect with people on a personal level, not just because I want them to buy My Lord Hades (transmit subliminal message: Buy my Book! Mawhaha…)

The connections you do make with readers in chats, workshops, interviews, random emails, and reviews are what sale your book. Think word of mouth. One person tells five friends. Those five friends might tell five more friends. And the cycle goes on.

Deliver what you promise

Whatever your brand image, make sure that you stick to it. I made this mistake two years ago when I co-authored a book with a relative. I didn’t want to do separate websites so I ended up confusing my merging brand. I put a fictional book on my romance website. People bought the fiction book thinking it would be a romance. Others, who would have read the fiction thought it was a romance and didn’t buy it.

I removed it from my website and created a website that I hope better fits the brand I want to convey. Consumers are loyal. But they’re also fickle. Disappoint them and you lose them.

Always evaluate, build, and refine your brand

This will be a constant thing as society, readers, and your career change. When your image is no longer consistent with your brand, you need to refine and adjust the brand to make it fit you as an author. This is going to be a continuous process.

I hoped this helped. I invite you to comment, question, or discuss what I’ve said below. And if you found this of help to you, please share this with your friends.

(Disclaimer: This is a re-post of articles written in Dec 2010 and updated.)

What is Author Branding?

When I think of Branding, I see a small herd of calves in a pen and a hot iron. In the ranching business, branding is placing your mark upon the animals you raise. This lets others know that the animal that might find its way through the fence into other rancher’s pasture, or those that find their way onto the road, where exactly that animal belongs. It makes it harder for people to steal the animal.

Author and book branding is the same concept as animal branding. Albeit, with one major difference. We’re not using a branding iron to burn the brand into flesh. We are placing our mark upon our books or upon ourselves by creating a type of book, with the use of a set of words, or a concept. In short, author branding is you. It’s who you are as an author and your presentation of what you write. It’s the type of books you write.

Now I’ve always had a hard time with labeling things. I hate labels. I’m not talking about the labels on cans of food or clothes. I hate the labels that people place on others to create organization in their chaotic lives. Labels are harmful and can scar kids for life. And I’m going to stop that tangent right there! Because that isn’t the topic of this post.

Branding came from the need of businesses to identify products. In our case, the product is you and your books. Think of any big name author. Laurell K. Hamilton (erotica, detective, paranormal, horror). Stephen King (horror, techno thriller). Nora Roberts (romance). And the list goes on. These are their brands.

How do you know that they are successful brands? Pick up their books and look at the back covers. Notice something missing? It would be the back blurb. There’s a big picture of them and nothing to tell you what the book is about. Why? Because the author’s brand sales and people are attached to the author. They will buy the book regardless of the story.

My next post will be on how to build your author brand. If you have any questions that you would like me to hit upon, please comment below.

(Disclaimer: First, this is an updated post of one written in November 2010. Second, I don’t want to hear about the morality or cruelty branding has on animals. If anyone tries to stick it into their comment, I will delete it or edit your comment. This post is not the place for that. Please keep your comments directed on Author and Book Branding.)

14 Tips to Marketing and Promoting on a Shoestring

Last night I thought about posting a question on the Amazon forums asking readers for help on writing this article. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like about Authors’ marketing and promoting their books. I decided against it about three seconds after I did a search on author’s marketing themselves. What I learned shocked me, but didn’t really surprise me that most efforts Author’s utilize to sell their books really annoy readers.

Over the years, I’ve studied different methods of marketing that fit what I’m comfortable with and below I’ve compiled a list of non-aggressive marketing tips that are budget friendly. I hope these helped and good luck all of you.

~Know your target audience and create a brand that appeals to you and projects the image you want for your writing career. With your brand in mind, repeat yourself in all your ads, webpages, etc to establish that brand in the minds of readers. For example: My author brand is “Where myths live, where legends walk, and where love is eternal.” I write Speculative fiction.

~When you finish a book, write the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Keep writing books. Create a backlist. The authors that sell well are the ones that write. It doesn’t cost much more than time, effort, and maybe paper.

~Upload to every book site available and fill out their author profile pages. Some readers like to know the author. My favorites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Not only do you get better royalties by doing this, but you can also track your sales.

~Create a print book to go with your eBook. Some readers still like to hold a book in their hands, or like the eBook enough to buy the print book to have for their collection. You can carry it around with you in your purse and answer people’s questions when they ask about it. You can donate a paperback copy of your book to your local library. (I think most of the SPAL author’s use CreateSpace. This Amazon based service allows you to create a book with no out-of-pocket expense. The paperback will be linked to your eBook on Amazon. Another good printer is Lightning Source.)

~Offer Readers something for free. When readers receive something of value for free, trust and good feeling naturally arise. It is a very effective marketing strategy. This doesn’t have to be a full length book. Write a short story geared toward the readers you want to attract and offer it as a free read or bonus material at the end of a related book. Give the people on your mailing list or newsletter sneak peeks at a story. You can give them a coupon or some type of special they can share with friends.

~Run a contest giving out free e-books. Or have a treasure hunt where they buy the books to find clues and win something big. Or do a giveaway and ask everyone who downloads the book to please leave an honest review.

~Blogs and websites are free ad space on the web that creates a constant link between yourself and readers. It is there 24/7. This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a billboard. Share things that are meaningful to you and your readers. Blog about your book as you write it. Share character interviews, short stories, or news about the book. (There are many platforms to choose from. Weebly offers a blog for your website. Bloggster, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are all blogging sites, some of which can be transformed into websites.)

~Social Networking with Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus and the hundred of other sites out there are great ways to stay connected and keep your name active. Also sign up for reading sites like GoodReads and Shelfari, or creating a Youtube channel with a list of songs that go well with your story or author interviews is a great way to get people to notice you. You can then get widgets for all of these sites and place them on your website so people can easily find you on the web.

~Book trailers are a great way to show readers what your book is all about. You can upload it to Youtube and Tweet the link with relevant hashtags to get it out to people with similar interests.

~Join forums if you dare. Forums and group discussions can be great places to meet people. But be sure not to self-promote. Not only will it turn readers off, it can turn nasty fast. Amazon has created a special ‘Meet the Authors’ forum where authors can promote their books and talk about their work.

~Most people won’t give a book a second glance if it has not received any reviews, good or bad. I found that offering your book for free and asking for honest non-biased reviews can get you those reviews. But don’t expect them to be all nice. You can also send your book to bloggers and reviewers.

~Make flyers, brochures, postcards or pens with information about your books. I’ve never tried this but it could be worth it to make a flyer or brochures and place them in public places, giveaway flyers, brochures, or postcards to people who ask about your book, etc. Please make sure it’s okay with the owners first or it’s at a place where it is okay to put them. Bathroom stalls, libraries, and bulletin boards are good places. Network with another author and do an exchange of flyers. Pens can be given away, or left for people to use. I don’t know about you, but I do read the writing on the sides of pens.

~Find creative ways to use your business cards and leave them in unexpected places. Some authors like to print a brief book excerpt on the back, titles of your book or book cover, the table of contents, the characters, a rave review, or your elevator pitch. I prefer the list of books or leaving it blank. If blank you can write a specific book for the person or even write a coupon code for a free or discounted book on it. You can leave your card with the tip for the waitress, in the envelope if you pay your bills via snail mail, in library books, in the change room at your

~Create relationships with readers, writers, reporters, book sellers, book clubs, bloggers, teachers, etc. Word of mouth is still the most cost-effective way to advertise your books.

You Are What You Write: Building an Author Brand

I’m back at the kitchen table today–thank the computer gods for making laptops–so that I can connect to the Internet. The last two days I’ve been discussing author branding, and despite living on a ranch and owning two different brands, I am not talking about taking authors out back and branding them with hot irons. Okay, the image is just gruesome. Ick.

I’m talking about making a name for yourself in the reading world. Yes, you heard me right, reading world. Why not the publishing world? Because not all of us have to answer to publishers and their impossible dictates. Some of us only have to answer to our muses, ourselves, and sometimes our readers. Although the opinions of readers are rather subjective to tastes, so that doesn’t always work. I don’t know how many times…tangent. Tangent!

I’m trying to curb this habit of jumping from topic to topic without rhyme or reason. Some form of blogging ADD perhaps. But those are tangents I’m not touching today.

Back to Author Branding. What is it you ask? I’ve explained it in Author Branding? What is that?  and again in Author Branding: Overview. Look back and read those posts if you don’t know what Author Branding is. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

While they are gone, I want to thank Andrew Mocete, Ruth Ann Nordin, and Joleene Naylor for your impute on Author Branding. You guys are awesome.

Now we’ll discuss how to build your brand. An author brand is more than logos, color schemes, taglines, or message points. Though those things do help create an ambiance.

1. You need to have a great book. This isn’t the NaNoWriMo novel that you slapped together in four weeks and never touched again. This is the book that you revised, edited, and proofread. This is the book that you sent out to beta readers for feedback. This is the best version of the book that you created, and finally let go into the world, only to think of more things you could have done better. Like the Underworld in my novel could have been darker and more gloomy at first, oh and there was that part…

2. Define what makes your brand unique and stick to it. Find a distinctive word or phrase that defines an aspect of what you do and then make it yours. I’ll take my writing as an example. At this moment I’m a fantasy and paranormal author that dips into romance and erotic romance, maybe someday I’ll try my hand at SciFi, horror, historical, or erotica. So what would be my brand? What should I focus on? Romance? Fantasy? Paranormal?

Actually I focused on none of the genres. I noticed that my story ideas all have a common thread. Every single story idea is based on a creature from myths or legends. Every single one of my ideas has a romance running through it. So that’s what I focused on. Myths. Legends. And Love. Notice my tagline above, “Where legends live. Where myths walk. And where love is eternal.” I says everything about what I write.

3. Grab the emotions of your readers. I discussed emotional attachment yesterday. Basically readers will buy a book on the sole fact that they feel attached to and think they understand the author. My best examples were Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

4. Build every aspect of your brand equally. These are your actions as well as your visual and verbal elements. Your message points that should be used in every spoken and written communications. This would be your email signature, you sign off at forums, reviews, and interviews. Your visual elements would be your website, your letterhead, and your professional photo. Think about that one for a moment. People are judgmental; it’s just part of our nature. We judge a book by its cover, a website by its look, and an author by their photo. So take a good look at your website and author’s photo. Do they reflect the image you want to send out to others? Do they look like other authors in your genre?

Okay I can see the confusion at that last question. Just like book covers have a certain look for different genres, so should your websites and author photos. Take a look at a few of your favorite authors. Then look at some that aren’t in your chosen genre. See if you can tell the difference. And if not, look for my post on author websites, author bios, and author photos another day.

5. Be consistent on marketing your brand. Just as publicity works better than advertising in the beginning to get your foot in the door. People who visit your sites need to know what you are marketing, which means that you need to communicate with a solid core message. Your brand should be in all that you do. But I’ll agree with Andrew, in that I enjoy interacting with people even if it’s not shop talk. I want to be able to connect with people on a personal level not just because I want them to by My Lord Hade (transmit subliminal message: Buy my Book! Mawhaha…)

Enough of that! The connections you do make with readers in chats, workshops, interviews, random emails, and reviews are what sale your book. Think word of mouth. One person tells five friends. Those five friends might tell five more friends. And the cycle goes on.

6. Deliver what you promise. Whatever your brand image, make sure that you stick to it. I made this mistake earlier in the year with my co-authored work Footprints on the Beach. I didn’t want to do separate websites for them so I ended up confusing my merging brand. That’s why my fiction got a new website Writing of Timothy Reese Richards (still under construction) and this one is getting a new look. One that I hope better fits the brand I want to convey.

Consumers are loyal. But they’re also fickle. Disappoint them and you lose them.

7. Always evaluate, build, and refine your brand. This will be a constant thing as society, readers, and your career change. When your image is no longer consistent with your brand, you need to refine and adjust the brand to make it fit you as an author. This is going to be a continuous process.

 I hoped this helped and unless anyone has any questions this is the end of the series on Author Branding. I invite you to comment, question, or discuss what I’ve said below. And if you found this of help to you, please share this with your friends.