Author Branding

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In this section:

    What is your author brand?

    Your author brand is:

    • How you present yourself to your audience
    • How your audience perceives you
    • How your audience perceives your writing

    Why your branding should be consistent

    Your audience needs to know what it is getting from you with everything that you put out, whether that be a:

    • Book
    • Website
    • Social media feed
    • Workshop
    • Talk

    If you brand yourself well, people know what they are getting before you open your mouth.

    If what you put out in terms of marketing and social media is too inconsitent, you’ll have trouble building an audience.

    When you write your next book, think about your brand

    • Know what you write. There is genre ...and then there is emotion. What does your reader want to feel? Do you provide that emotion, and more?
    • Know who reads it. Yes, we are all individuals. Yes, we all hate to be pigeonholed. But demographics are a powerful way of understanding your “typical” reader (though no one would consider themselves typical - in that, we are all the same).
    • Understand what other interests your typical reader has. They might be political views, leisure interests or sporting activities. “Offer what they want but give them what they need”. Ensuring you fit into a recognizable niche is not about selling out to be a faceless interchangeable drone – it is so that the reader can find you easily. But only by actually providing them with something slightly different, challenging, and beautiful will you make an impression. Tempt them in with the comfort of familiarity, and then blow their mind.
    • Respect your reader. Present your book in the accepted convention of that genre, and though you will—and should—push at boundaries, don’t end your romance with an unannounced zombie bloodbath or turn your literary paean to the futility and hopelessness of being 21 years old into a rom-com in chapter 11.
    • Build trust. Avoid short cuts, and people who specialize in them. It’s not a zero-sum game – the more you give to your community, the bigger a piece of it you get back.
    • Add buy links to your online presence. People act on impulse, so make it really easy for people to buy your book with clickable buy links. You can also add them to your personal email signature, website and social media accounts.

    How do I know what a good personal brand looks like?

    • It starts with your cover(s). Your cover(s) should reflect your branding consistently.
    • What you write and how you write it is all included in your branding, whether you write with humour, or sarcasm, this is all the package that is you.
    • Consider how you already present yourself online. How can you intergrate what you write to your online presence? How can you use what your readers expect in the way you use social media? Are there ways you could do it better?
    • Look at what other authors are doing in your genre. Make sure your visual presentation is relevant to your genre. Look for a consistent colour scheme. Which colours do you favour? Is there a colour palette that matches what you do? Apply that across everything you do.
    • Stay authentic and don’t put pressure on yourself to be anything you are not!

    Case study in author branding (from one of our publishers)

    Bill writes military science-fiction. His reader wants action, adventure, and hard science. His typical reader is male, teenager and upward (yes some 90-year-old women read this – typical doesn’t mean ALL). His reader expects details of weapons, betrayals, fights, pain, spectacular battle scenes and future tech. He wants to feel as if he’s watched a high-octane war-buddy movie in space.

    So Bill’s website or Facebook page will have links to science sites, military sites, reviews of thrillers he’s read, box-office hits he’s watched, maybe some talk about various martial arts. What has inspired Bill as a writer? It’s probably the same that’s inspired his readers – so he’ll share his interests in US survivalism or alien worlds or nanotechnology, or whatever.

    He’ll look at the book covers of his own, and competing books. He’ll copy that colour and style for his page, his website, his blog, his business card (probably greys and blues, metallics, with bursts of orange fire and supernovae). His font will be hard-edged, probably sans-serif. His heroes will be chisel-jawed and bristling with guns.

    His Facebook updates will discuss exploration, science, space, war, action, adventure. He’ll talk about trips he’s taken, hunting, or a new way he can pile on muscle through protein shakes. Maybe he’ll talk about a development in technology and what that means for his books. He won’t talk endlessly about his books – he WILL talk about the things that interest his readers. If he is writing “true to himself” then these things will interest him, too.

    It’s NOT about being fake. It’s about presenting the very best, most genuine and honest representation of yourself as a writer in a genre. I am sure Bill also loves kittens, grows prize-winning azaleas and is scared of his own toenails but the reader of his military thrillers doesn’t want to know that – maybe mention the toenails things, that’s interesting – but the bulk of his posts will be relevant to the readers of his books.

    This feeds into the author bio Bill will create. He’ll think about the expectations his readers have, and ensure these words are mentioned in the bio. “All-action, rip-roaring emotional rollercoasters of future technology and old-fashioned grit. Bill is a US Army Vet and draws on his extensive military experience and love of space exploration to write adventures that will keep you on the edge of your seat.” Keywords in here are action, technology, military and adventures – these are Amazon sub-categories and the sort of thing that people search for.

    Personally, I am working on a scrap book to jot down these kind of things, and stick in articles and ideas that occur to me. Others use mood boards. Yet others will use Pinterest to gather together images that reflect the themes and feelings of their books, and that is an additional marketing tool – for example if you write gentle, Christian romance, consider a Pinterest account that gathers spiritual pictures, inspirational poems, crafts and arts and homemaking and so on.

    Branding is only difficult or negative when it’s forced. It should flow naturally from the types of books you write. If you struggle too much, perhaps you are not writing the sort of books your heart wants you to write…

    Why you should build an email list

    (With thanks to Clare Mackintosh – sign up to her awesome email list Book Club here.)

    If you are going to choose one marketing tool to promote your work, it should probably be building an email list.

    • People who sign up to your email list are your most loyal readers.
    • Your mailing list isn't subject to the vagaries of Facebook algorithms, which decide which of your followers will see your latest posts.
    • You own your mailing list data. Build up a FB, Twitter or Insta following, of course, but if those platforms go bust, you lose your audience. Not so with your mailing list.
    • Despite appearances, people don't sit in front of social media all day, but they *do* often sit in front of their inbox all day. A well-timed newsletter (breakfast/lunchtime/evening) can be a pleasant distraction, not an intrusion.

    Top email list building tips

    • Don’t worry about numbers. No one knows how many people are on your list. Three very engaged subscribers are just as valuable as one hundred less so.
    • Use a specialised email sending service like Mailerlite or Mailchimp.
    • Make your signup link prominent on your site.
    • Sell it to people. Don’t just tell people to “sign up to my newsletter”. Show them the benefits of what are you offering.
    • Grow your list by offering giveaways. This could be in the form of a novella, free chapters and teasers, articles of interest around the subject of your book, deleted scenes, research notes & photos, character studies, books you've read, TV shows you've watched, a tour of your desk, your writing method, another author's content, or what's trending on Twitter...
    • Stick to a schedule. Most people do monthly.
    • Don’t spam people! Continual "buy my book" emails will lead to unsubscribers. Spam is a big problem these days and if you get repeatedly reported for email abuses, you can get into trouble with your internet provider and may affect your Google ratings.

    Email List Case Study: Peter Bartram

    Peter is a cosy crime fiction author - published by Roundfire Books.

    Author Story: When someone suggested to me that the best way to promote my Crampton of the Chronicle series was to offer a free ebook, I must admit I was sceptical. But today, Murder from the Newsdesk – the free ebook – had its 20,000th reader download. And downloads are still coming in at the rate of more than 400 a day. For quite a bit of the time during the past five weeks the book has been #1 in both the "crime" and "cozy mystery" categories in Amazon's UK free books. And the last time I looked it was also #3 in the "mystery, thriller & suspense" short reads category in Amazon's US free books.

    For other CI authors who are planning a series, the biggest benefit seems to be the ability to build a database of readers who like the books. There are now more than 400 on the Crampton of the Chronicle Readers' Group e-mail database and it is growing steadily. And there are also clear indications that this is all feeding through to increased sales of Headline Murder, the first novel in the series. I'm hopeful the Readers' Group database will also be a big help in launching Stop Press Murder, which is out in August 2016

    Peter's article published in Publisher’s Weekly also contains interesting information:

    Email List Case Study Example: Leora Fulvio

    Leora is a non-fiction health writer published by Ayni Books.

    Leora offers tips for solving health issues based on her book Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating. She is also offering an online course, so this newsletter supports her work as a whole, not just her book.

    Author website basics

    What should I put in my author website?

    A website is a static place to hold information about you and your book. At a minimum, it should hold the following:

    • Home page – all your writing activities, with links where applicable
    • Book page(s) – if you have more than one book, keep them on separate pages; they should include the following at a minimum – book cover, title, author description (linked back to biography), metadata, buy links
    • Endorsements and reviews
    • Links to articles/interviews/events associated with your book
    • A blog – for communicating continually to your audience. This is not about selling your book, but about an ongoing dialogue
    • Your author bio
    • Links to social media, if you have them

    Great examples from our authors:

    We recommend that you have a look at other authors in your genre and see how they go about using their website.

    Industry expert, Jane Friedman, writes on this subject and gives excellent advice.


    Blogging is a skill and should be treated as seriously as you do your book writing.

    Your blog can be seperate from your website or it can be a part of it.

    It can be a place to share your news, casual articles or it can be a serious medium for the serious thing you have to say.

    Blogging for non-fiction writers

    If you are a non-fiction writer, you will likely have an area of expertise (which you may work in or do workshops and talks about). Therefore, blogging about this area of expertise is often a good idea and can help build your brand.

    You could blog about frequently asked questions in your field, news items or things in the media related to your subject, or you may have a cause or message you wish to promote.

    Blogging for fiction writers

    Blogging for fiction writers is tougher – it needs some creative thinking to find a blogging subject that will compliment your creative writing.

    Some ideas to base your blog on:

    • The genre you write in
    • Other books in your genre
    • Other authors in your genre

    Incidentally, by linking to other authors in your genre, you can potentially cross market and share your fans/audiences, thus being mutually beneficial.

    Consider blogging about other CI authors

    You can get a PDF (instant review copy!) of any book from the system.

    You can check which titles are coming out by searching by month/imprints on the database, or looking at for the current month.

    You can download the PDF of any title by going to their book’s Marketing Page and scrolling down to PDF Review Copy and downloading the file marked No Trims.

    Be consistent and stick to your subject matter.

    It takes time to build an audience. Hence, we suggest you start this activity early – as soon as you have a publishing contract. The journey to publication can become part of your blog.

    Remember this is a tool, not a means to sell your book. In fact, you will quickly lose followers/readers if you only post ‘buy my book’ blogs.

    Make sure you link your blog to your social media. Post your blogs to your social media feeds.

    Again, as with websites, a little research of how other writers in your genre do things would help you get ideas.

    If you don't have your own blog, you can write for people who do. Blogging has become very popular, and book bloggers are prolific.

    More info:

    Charge for your mailing list

    Substack has made it very easy to create a mailing list and charge for your email.

    Many established journalists, with pre-existing audiences, have moved away from mainstream publications and eaern their money writing directly to their audience.

    • If you think you have something to say, and could charge for it via a regular newsletter, then this option could be for you.
    • Building an audience from scratch is very hard, but not impossible.
    • Substack is not the only way to do this. For example, you could work with a web coder to implement such a service on your WordPress site. But Substack makes it EASY.

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