One thing is sure. We’re responsible for our own success. Therefore, we will brand ourselves, and do it gladly and brilliantly.
Today, publishers don’t allocate time or money to promote every single book that leaves their house. The sheer volume of books published each day means the publisher reserves its support for their biggest clients. The ones selling millions of books, and guaranteed to repeat their past success.
Newer writers should expect inquiries about their platform, the number of followers they have, and which big-name author might write a cover blurb for their proposed book. And that’s all before you receive a contract.
Is Branding Painful?
Branding is as fun and exciting as you make it.
Your brand is your public identity, the one your readers see. Sure, it’s cool to think you have a secret writer identity. You’re keeping it hush-hush until you become successful.
The problem is, if you’ve kept your writer identity secret, where will you find readers buy your book? Shelf life for new books is finite. If you wait ‘til your book is in the store, you’re running behind.
When should you start building your brand? Right now. Don’t wait until your book is buried among the twenty thousand other books that came out the same day. You must generate interest long before your work is available in order to have readers waiting to snatch it up, review it, and create a buzz.
Define Who You Are
Sit down right now and define your writer identity. Are you the man who writes gory horror novels and delights in the crazed expression in his cover photo? Perhaps you’re the woman who turned her fascination with all things fey into a series of fantasy stories and carries crystals to every book signing. Just maybe, your talent runs more toward Christian cozy mysteries set in a small town. But how does the reader know that?
Take some time with this step. Done well, defining your writer persona will boost your career. Reveal yourself as a person, while protecting your privacy. Your aim is to attract the readers looking for your style and genre, people with whom you speak the same language.
Writers and their work are commodities. At the grocery, each shopper has his favorite brand, and he knows he will get the exact same type of salsa every time from that manufacturer. If a shopper loves spaghetti sauce with a sweet base, and has bought Product X for ten years, she expects Product X to have that sweet base every time she spins the top off the jar.
Whatever your approach to your characters and their stories, find a memorable, but believable hook as your foundation. Develop a recognizable style and tone, maintaining it across everything you write (at least under the same pen name). Don’t confuse your publisher and readers by writing like Patterson in one novel, aping Spillane in another, and Barbara Samuels in the next. Readers want to know what to expect when your name appears on the cover of a new book.
What guarantee do readers have when they see your name on the cover? Readers know Dean Koontz weaves a thread of horror and the paranormal through each book. J.D. Robb would be Nora Roberts if her book had contemporary romance inside the covers instead of a hard-bitten, but secretly softhearted female police officer in a future New York.
When readers pick up your latest book, they’re looking for the same qualities that drew them to your previous book. Don’t disappoint them. If you do, they won’t be back.
What makes your books different from others in your genre? What’s your specialty? Are your characters contemporary and sassy with a fetish for fashion? Perhaps you’ve lived in several countries and bring an international flavor to your mysteries, with a hero who solves cases while jetting around the world. Then again, many readers are looking for a cozy read as comfortable as their favorite sweater.
Don’t try to be your favorite author. You are excellent as yourself.
Find Your Look
Do you maintain a consistent look for your website, FB page, books and any other promotion materials you use? Is your website design consistent with the genre in which you write?
When a reader arrives at your website and immediately sees a header overflowing with pink and purple flowers and a little daisy that follows her cursor across the page, she’s not going to believe you write dark paranormals or suspense. On the other hand, if you call yourself a children’s author yet your logo has a creepy looking house, a shadowy figure in the corner, and a dripping knife in the foreground… Goodbye!
Find a design that reflects You. Try it on, see if it feels comfortable. If you’re not a talented artist or website designer, spend some money to get this right. If that’s not possible at this point in your career, get it as close as possible to your vision, and tweak it as you are able.
Your logo or tagline should appear on every promotion tool you use. That includes your website, FB fan page, bookmarks, and any tools you use for promotion.
Of course, your book covers should have a consistent “look” that reflects what and how you write.
Live Up to Your Brand
Once you’ve created your brand and you’re feeling comfortable beneath its cloak, enjoy meeting your readers. Honor the promise implicit in the brand you’ve created and readers will honor you with loyalty to your work.
Do you think you’ve built your brand yet? Tell us in the comments how you’ve approached branding, or what scares you about the concept.