Look at the cover for any book by a hugely successful author, and you’ll usually notice the author’s name is in larger type than the title of the book itself.
Why is that? Because of branding.
People are more likely to read a book by an author they like. Yes, the quality of your writing should speak for itself and help to open new doors within your career – but the power of a dedicated fan base is not to be ignored.
Through effective branding, you can build a relationship with your readers and more easily signal what you’re all about to potential new fans. But building your brand might feel like an insurmountable task when you’re starting out – like trying to take down some titanic creature with only a toothbrush and a handful of M&M’s.
As hard as it may seem, though, the effort is most certainly worth it. Marketing is a key element in any success – and like most successful authors who use branding, when you build a positive reputation, you will sell more books.
So to help you out, here are a few quick tips on how to form a bond with your readership, and increase your audience through some simple, branding-focused self-promotion techniques.
Take Time to Reflect
How are you unique? What is special about you and your writing? Spend some time at the beginning of your branding journey and consider what you have to offer to the world.
Do you stick to one genre, or dabble in several? If the latter is the case, you need to create a separate brand that appeals to those different genres – part of the reason most authors stick to one genre for the majority of their work.
Who are your readers? Consider the difference between tweens reading YA, and retired ladies reading romance. They’ll have different expectations and tastes, and you need to mirror those in the appearance and messaging of your brand.
Style it Out
Humans are visual creatures. We’re emotionally affected by color, texture, and shapes, and often make instant assumptions about situations, objects, and people based solely on what we see. This is natural and unavoidable – and something you need to understand if you want to successfully present what your intended audience want to see.
Look at a website for a science fiction writer versus a historical fiction writer, for example. They’ll use different color schemes, fonts, and pictures. These are the first things a visitor to the site will notice, and it does have an impact. There’s science behind that – different colors make us feel different ways. Blue is linked to trust, loyalty, wisdom, and confidence. Red is associated with bolder concepts – danger, power, strength, and love. What color will suit your brand, and the emotional needs of your readers?
Likewise, different fonts offer different impressions to the reader. Most word processors have a glut of options to flick through, but for more accurate searching you could use one of many free online tools to find the perfect font. Here are three to get you started:
Google Fonts = https://fonts.google.com/
Typ.io = http://typ.io/
Show Your Best Side
Authors need a quality photo that reflects their style. Professional is best – so no pouting selfies – but you don’t need to pay top dollar for a photographer. With a decent midrange camera nowadays, it’s possible to take the photo yourself – or, better yet, ask a trusted friend. Most authors use a head and shoulders shot.
Simple photo manipulation software is also easy to come by nowadays, with the likes of GNU Image Manipulation Program being completely free to download. Sure, you might not be able to perform all the kinds of digital trickery that a trained photographer with excellent Photoshop skills can do, but you can easily use free apps to edit photos and add filters – to make a picture black and white, before example, which is a popular option as it’s often a more flattering image.
Don’t avoid this step out of embarrassment. It helps people connect with you. People like to know what others look like – another fact of human nature.
Get Good to Logo
This one isn’t essential for an author, but it’s a nice touch, and something small that you can use to blend your platforms together.
Your logo needs to be unique, uncomplicated, and reflect your brand ethos in some way. Easy, huh?
Creating a logo can cost big bucks for companies, and there are a lot of subtle brand messages in great logos – think of the happy A-Z smile in the Amazon logo or the fiercely defended golden arches of McDonald’s.
You, however, don’t need to spend millions – or even anything at all. As an author, your brand is linked to your name. A simple and effective logo could be as easy as your initials.
To brainstorm your logo, try using word art apps, or scribble it on paper out then snap a picture and save it. When you have a good idea of what you like, you can seek out a digital artist to bring it all to life. It’s up to you whether you approach a fully-fledged professional at higher rates, or enlist the help of designers on cheaper platforms such as Fiverr.
You should use your logo wherever you add content – meaning your website, social media accounts, and in your books too. Remember, you can change or adjust your logo later, but resist the urge to change it too often or too radically. We’re all guilty of chasing perfection sometimes, but when it comes to your logo (and your brand as a whole), constant shifting will confuse people and push them away.
Make a Website
If you don’t already have one, create a website. This is your home base. All other professional interaction should point towards this site.
These days, it’s simple to put together a basic webpage with systems like WordPress. Remember you’ll need to buy a domain name too. Keep it simple by using your name, or something memorable like worldsbestauthor.com.
You’ll often come across free and third-party website providers that offer you everything in one package – but they often aren’t the best idea. Think the likes of Wix, or even the free WordPress blog platform. Usually, these will provide you with a website address like worldsbestauthor.wordpress.com or worldsbestauthor.wix.com.
Taking this route means you don’t actually own the online real estate that your site is hosted on – it could be pulled down or disappear at a moment’s notice. For a completely professional brand and appearance, purchase your own domain and hosting, and have your site built where you have total access and control.
If you find the process of setting up and designing a site to be too bewildering, you’re never far away from someone who can do it for you with a minimum of fuss. Try reaching out within your social circle, and you’ll likely get a referral before long.
On your site itself, at a bare minimum, you need a home page with your photo and tagline, links to social media, and presentation of your books. It’s also a good idea to add a separate ‘about me’ page, featuring a brief biography that introduces you to the world and talks briefly about your work.
Naturally, you should always update your website when you’ve written a new book.
A tagline is a direct, one line summary. They’re used to describe brands, movies, books, and authors, amongst many other things. Think–
Alien: In space, no-one can hear you scream.
Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth.
Nike: Just Do It.
Postal service: We Deliver.
Yes, it can be tricky to simplify yourself down to a sentence but as an author, you can keep it simple.
Consider what themes reoccur in your writing; about how you’d want people introduced to you. For example, Stephen King might start his search for a tagline by saying “I write horror and suspense novels,” and begin breaking it down to something more intriguing from there.
Short taglines help make you instantly attractive to people who might like your work. If someone searches online for ‘quirky comedy writer’ or ‘modern romance,’ and that’s in your tagline, your name will pop up in the results.
A tagline is a great way to immediately position yourself in the eyes of your intended audience, so it’s well worth stepping up to the frustration and challenge of crushing that statement down to a diamond.
Get Social Media Savvy
Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Instagram. These days, it seems everyone is on at least one of these platforms. In fact, many successful authors are on all of them so that they cover their market.
Why? Because social media is now a simple fact of life. It has cemented itself as a daily activity, so it’s a great way to reach people.
The full gamut of ways in which to use these platforms would fill an entire new set of articles, but for now, some good ideas are–
- Twitter – short form text bites that are for people who like to see what you’re doing right now. Make your content meaningful, not about what you had for lunch. How is your new book coming along? Tweet out some quotes from your books, offer sneak peeks at your working environment, and reflect on what’s going on in the world around you.
- Facebook – update people on what you’re up to, but with more detail than Twitter will allow. Make a dedicated author fan page that your readers can like and follow, and you can keep your social life separate. Facebook’s range of targeted advertising options is also excellent for growing interest in your brand and running special offers.
- YouTube – active channels here can rack up thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of subscribers, but keeping up with regular video content to maintain your popularity can be immensely time-consuming. Instead, why not use YouTube to host an advert for your book – perhaps a trailer. This trailer can then be embedded on your website or Facebook page, where others can share it and build anticipation.
- Instagram – a trendy and popular visual medium, Instagram is a good way to reach out to younger audiences and link to on-trend topics. All you need is a smartphone and an imaginative eye to capture aspects of your life you want to share. Think imagery such as your desk as you work, that fourth coffee of the morning, your travels while performing research, or pictures from your latest launch party.
If you haven’t put much effort into social media, start by choosing one or two platforms and focus your efforts there. Spread yourself too thin, and you’ll quickly burn out.
Marketing isn’t something that most people find enjoyable in any form – but it’s inescapable that in today’s world, and especially if you’re self-publishing, you need great branding to back up your books if you wish to maintain success in the long run.
But on the positive side, branding is your way of shaping how you and your work are represented in the wider world. You’re in control. The best writers influence others’ positive perception of their work by the careful marketing of their brand. It’s a thoughtful process and takes time and effort to grow.
But it’s worth it. Because a positive brand means a larger fan base and more desire for your books.
And even if you don’t put effort into building your brand – it’s happening anyway. Through reviews and comments online, others will be pointed in your direction with assumptions already in place.
Wouldn’t it be better if you led the conversation instead?