4 steps for building an author brand
This is a guest post from Ricardo Fayet. Ricardo is an avid reader and startup enthusiast who has been studying the publishing industry with interest for several years. He co-founded Reedsy, to help authors collaborate with publishing professionals.
Branding is often an oversight for many authors. With so much else to focus on, creating a brand for yourself and your book can seem trivial, but creating a brand from the outset could be your key to success.
With so many books available, both in print and online, most consumers are only looking at your book for a few mili-seconds while browsing through an online or physical store. That’s where your “branding” comes in. If the customer immediately identifies your book as ‘yours’ and remembers having seen the pattern elsewhere, they’ll pay attention to it. Online retail search algorithms also make it easy for readers to see all the ebooks in a series (or by the same author) at once. If they all have the same strong visual identity, you will appear to readers as a professional and prolific author in your genre.
But what does ‘branding’ actually mean? Branding means creating a clear and distinct image for yourself (a “brand”) that differentiates your books and authorship from others. Communicating your brand successfully entails keeping consistency throughout your work. You are essentially making a promise to your readers. If someone enjoys one of your books they will look for more.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide that should get you started:
1) Decide what you want your brand to say
Essentially this involves determining who you are as an author and what you want to be known for. For example, do you want to be known for chick-lit, or young adult fiction? As this will be the foundation of building your brand it can be hard to reverse later on, so make sure you are certain.
2) Are you branding yourself or a series?
If you are writing a series of books then you may decide to brand the series. This is the easier option because it gives you a clear focus and audience to aim your brand at. If not there is the option to brand yourself as an author or brand your work around a niche genre, as indie author Ben Galley did with the ‘Western Fantasy’ genre and his Scarlet Star Trilogy series (read more about this here).
3) What if I want to write in different genres?
Choosing to brand yourself within a specific genre is a long term commitment. Some worry that creating a genre brand will limit them creatively but this is not true. If you don’t want to commit to one genre, you can use different pseudonyms to differentiate between genres. Similarly, with a series, you can use different names to make your branding easier. For example, Madeleine Wickham writes under ‘Sophie Kinsella‘ for a specific series, and as Madeleine for her other novels. She uses similar style covers to create sub-brands.
Whether she is writing as Wickham or Kinsella, her work is instantly recognisable.
Alternatively, if that doesn’t work for you I’d recommend at least trying to find some consistencies within your work to use as a hook for your brand. This could be something as simple as setting all your of work in the same location, or always making reference to a particular animal or flower. Bear in mind that the more niche your genre, the easier it will be to build a brand and get recognised. Amish fiction is a very alternative genre and thus it has been easier for authors Beverly Lewis and Wanda E Brunstetter to build a brand and become ‘reference’ authors in that genre.
4) How to build the brand?
Once you have established what you want for your brand, it’s time to take action:
The simplest way to start establishing your brand is through your book covers. This is easier with a series, as you can create extremely similar and interconnecting covers like the Hunger Games series.
If you are branding yourself as an author, the cover is still important. Using the same font, complimentary colours and similar layouts will make your brand recognisable. Self-published authors Bella Andre and Mark Dawson make their names the biggest feature on the cover, which draws the eye to their name, thus reinforcing their brand.
They also have a clear visual identity for each of their series. This has several impacts:
- It makes their name immediately recognisable in a sea of ebooks
- It makes their series immediately recognisable as well
Using the same style of images, illustrator or photographer and keeping the layout consistent, can be an especially good technique. Judy Moody, for example, always uses the same illustrative style for her children’s books and her covers are instantly recognisable.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, drafting profiles/personas of your target audience can help you gauge what will appeal to them visually. If in doubt, consider your favourite authors; what attracted you to them in the first place.
It’s not all about the cover, though! Think as well about the interior layout of your book, and, if possible, hire the same designer to both do all of the covers and all of the interiors in the same series. The interior design of a book doesn’t have the same “eye-catching” role as the cover, however it is vital to the reading experience, and works more subliminally in the reader’s mind.
Keeping font, colour schemes and layouts consistent throughout your website design and social media reinforces your brand. The aim is for your website to instantly show your brand. Coming back again to the example of Amish fiction, Wanda E Brunestetter’s website leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to what her books are about.
If possible using the same handles across your social media makes it easier for readers to find you online. Another crucial element is to keep your tone and voice consistent on social media like Chuck Wendig. You’ll see him shouting, cursing, joking. And you know you can expect that from his books.
Hopefully these basic steps will get you started! Building up a brand can and will take time, and you won’t be able to see any results early on. You will need to pair your newly formed brand with a killer marketing plan, to get your work noticed. But once you do, it will be totally worth it, because readers won’t be just buying a book, they’ll be buying into your brand. They’ll keep coming back for more!