Hello, writing mavens!
Sooo...I have to apologize to you. In our most recent post on why you should treat your writing as a business, I mentioned that a new post on building your author brand would be going live on Friday.
Well, Friday came and went, and I did not publish that post. I'm sorry! Life got a bit overwhelming this week, but I'm back. And I've brought our author branding post with me. ;)
If you want to build a career as a novelist–or even a successful side hustle–treating your books as a business is paramount. We talked about why in last week's post, but now it's time to take action. The key to effective book selling and marketing is a brilliant author brand.
So let's begin building your own today!
What is author branding, you ask?
"Brand" is a business term used to describe the set of standards and methods by which a company runs. But what does that have to do with writing?
Remember, when you publish a book with the intent to profit, you become a small business. And to grow your small business–a.k.a. sell more books–you're going to need to treat your books as products you're selling to customers.
That means diving into the world of branding, marketing, and all of those other fun things that come with running a successful business.
Fortunately, this doesn't have to be too difficult or complex for writers. After all, the two most important things about your writing business are the books you're publishing and YOU yourself–or more aptly, the image you're presenting to your readers in person and online.
So at the end of the day, it's always most important to focus on writing great books and having a friendly and personable presence as an author.
But by framing these things with a killer author brand, you amplify them. You give yourself and your books a better opportunity to shine. You make a bigger impact on your readers and increase your appeal to potential book-buyers as well.
So are you ready to build an author brand? Let's break down the process!
Building your author brand...
Brands are made up of many components. In no particular order, here are the ones you should be most concerned about as an author:
1) Your Brand Name. The brand name for your business is going to be the name you publish under. For some people, this will simply be their given name, while others may choose to use a pen name.
Check out this She's Novel blog post to read my tips on choosing the right name for your brand.
Keep in mind, you don't have to use your author name as your legal business name. Instead, you can create a separate business name (e.g. “Miller Books”, “Sunrise Publishing”, etc.) and register your author name as a DBA (doing-business-as name).
This is especially helpful for writers who plan to publish under multiple pen names, as it allows them to keep all of their fiction income streams under one business.
(Note: this may differ in countries outside of the United States. Sorry, friends!)
2) Your Voice. You must also decide on the voice–or perhaps more accurately, the tone–you will use in all of your business-related correspondence, marketing, and promotion (i.e. your author website, social media accounts, emails, in-person events, etc.).
Will you use a happy, upbeat tone or a more serious voice? Is cursing okay? Will your voice be comedic, assertive, littered with nerdy references, or something else entirely?
Establishing your voice and using it consistently throughout your marketing will help make your brand more attractive and recognizable to readers. Hurray!
3. Your Bio. Every business needs some sort of bio or about page. As an author, your bio is the about-the-author blurb that readers can find at the back of your books.
This blurb is usually between two and four sentences long and written in third-person. Most often, it contains info about the books you've written, the accolades you've received for your work, where you live or fun facts about your life, and where you can be found online.
For example, here is the blurb in the back of Sarah J. Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses:
"Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire, and the series' prequel, The Assassin's Blade. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. (www.worldofsarahjmaas.com / @SJMaas)"
You may also consider creating separate bios for your social media accounts, the end of your blog posts (see mine below!), and the about page on your author website. Each of these platforms offer different appeals, so tailoring your bio to each one can be well-worth your time.
4. Your Headshot. As an author, the headshot that you include in your books, on your social media accounts, and on your author website is incredibly important.
This might seem silly at first, but think about it: would you trust a person if they had a sloppy, blurry, duck-faced headshot? Would you purchase their book? Share their work on social media?
Your answer may be yes, but think about how much easier it would be to build trust with readers if you had a high-quality photo of yourself to offer.
With that in mind, make sure to use a clear and professional headshot. You don't have to get a headshot professionally taken, per se, but try to wear a nice shirt, do your hair and makeup, and avoid cheesy selfies.
Most cameras have timers, so you can even take your picture yourself if need be!
5. Social Media. We live in a digital age, m'dears. That means that having an active online presence is one of the best ways to build and connect with your readership, market your books, and make your presence known.
Now, social media can be very overwhelming. I totally get that.
That's why I recommend choosing just one or two social media sites when you're first looking to build your online presence (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all great options). Whatever you choose, make sure you don't use this account for anything personal.
Try to publish posts/tweets/etc. that appeal to your potential readers at least a few times a week–if not a few times a day–and always keep things classy. Focus on publishing content your readers will enjoy, and don't forget to interact.
You can find more info on building your social media presence in this post.
6. Your Author Website. Having an online hub where readers can learn more about your business (you + your books!) is incredibly important. I recommend setting one up as soon as you decide to start building an online presence.
We'll talk more about this in a future post, but for now, here are a few basics:
- Use a site like Squarespace (my favorite!) or Wordpress to create your site.
- If you can afford it, purchase a domain name (i.e. kristenakieffer.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org). This looks much more professional and will help establish your credibility.
- Start with a homepage, an about me page, a page(s) where you describe your published or upcoming books, and a contact page.
- Also consider setting up an email list (you can do so for free with Mailchimp). The people who sign up for your list will always be your most ardent readers. Your fans! Keep them informed by emailing them once or twice a month.
- Create a cohesive design. (More on this in #7.)
- Consider whether a blog is the right choice for you. Offering inside looks and updates on an author website blog can be extremely time consuming, but it can also be a great way to connect with readers.
I recommend starting an email list first, but if you find you have the time to run a blog as well, it can be a very effective way to build your readership.
- Always link to your author website in your social media bios and in your emails. Let people know where they can find out more about you and your books!
7. Your Design. From your social media pages to your author website to the books you sell, creating a cohesive look is a visual way to draw readers in and help them remember you and your work.
When considering your design, think about the following items:
- Color. Try to choose colors that reflect your genre. Pinks and golds for romance, for example, or navy and gold for fantasy. Colors can evoke powerful feelings, so choose the colors you'll use in your branding wisely.
- Fonts. Using a million different fonts is an easy way to turn readers OFF. Instead, try to stick to the same 2 - 4 fonts throughout the entirely of your online presence. For example, I use Raleway, Spiff, Satisfy, and Proxima Nova for the She's Novel brand.
- Image Styles. If you're using images in your blog posts and social media statuses, try to give them a cohesive look. For example, I largely use images of workspaces and people for my She's Novel brand, while I use shots of books and bookshelves on my author website.
- Templates. If you're creating blog post and social media images, remember that being cohesive is key. Create a single look you LOVE for your posts, and stick to it. Doing so will help draw the reader's eye, making your brand memorable in the process.
Will all of this really help?
Absolutely. I cannot stress enough how important building your author brand is if you're looking to sell books and grow your readership.
If you build a brand that is consistent, clean, and most of all, representative of YOU and YOUR BOOKS, you will make yourself memorable. Just keep in mind that this is not a quick process.
It may take you months or even years to build a brand that you're proud of. And you'll likely need to tweak your brand–or even completely overhaul it–along the way. Lord knows I've done that a few times here at She's Novel already.
At times, building your author brand can be overwhelming. It's a LOT of work. But promise me you'll persevere, okay? Nothing will help you establish your presence as a reputable author more than building your author brand.
So, are you willing to put in the work?
This post was a doozy, wasn't it? I know that building your author brand probably sounds like a nightmare, but it is worth your time and effort if you're looking to sell books.
So let me ask you:
- Are you ready to make yourself known as an author?
- What do you envision for your author brand?
- What authors' brands would you most like to emulate?
Come chat with me in the comments below! And remember, even if you don't have a published book yet, it's never too soon to begin planning for the business–for the writing career–you'd like to have.
Now let's go do this, friends!
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!