Thursday, July 23, 2015

Steps to Creating an Author Brand

I received this question from a reader. I can't thank you enough for that. I'm clearly running out of ideas and need all the help I can get. That being said, you didn't exactly send me an easy question to answer. ;)


I was wondering if you'd do a post regarding author branding? Specifically, how an author should brand his/herself. How an agent can help this process. And the importance of creating a brand.

Kudos on thinking about this and what it means for your career. Branding is important. Think about some of our most famous brands. In almost any decision, Coke, Rolex and Harlequin make they consider their brand. Sometimes a brand changes or brands shift, but everything you do from your website to your social media, your book covers, the next book you write, and even your presentation at a writers conference should reflect your brand.

When we think of branding let's look at publishers as our guide. Every publisher has an overarching brand--Grand Central for example. Under that brand Grand Central has found a way to distinguish the various things they do. Forever is the line that focuses on romance,  Grand Central Life & Style focuses on, well, life and style books (nonfiction), and Twelve their specialty imprint (for lack of a better term).

As Jessica Author you need to determine what your brand or brands are. If you want to write in multiple genres then the best thing to do is create your own "imprints" which would be brands under one brand umbrella. Maybe Jessica Author is where you start so that's also your thrillers, but Jessica Writer is where you want to start your historical romance career. In some cases the areas might crossover so you might be able to stick to one brand (thrillers and romantic suspense or YA thrillers for example). If they don't cross over you might have to start an "imprint."

No matter what you do your brand needs to become so representative of what you write that when someone says Jessica Author people know exactly what you write. Think Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or Sarah Dessen. Authors often get frustrated with agents and publishers who encourage them to write in one genre. But this is why. If you want a brand, you need to stick with something to build it with. Later, once you have that brand name, you can expand and build, maybe add Dassani water to your list ;)

As for how to brand yourself, well there are no easy answers to that and it would depend on what you're writing. How do you want to brand yourself? Would you like to be the author who dispenses writing advice or legal advice? Maybe the one who makes great pies. Whatever you do, make sure it ties in to what you're writing and the person you are. And everything you do should match the tone of your books. Design a website that matches the cover of your books (use the same font even) and use a social media picture that constantly sells your brand (book covers probably).

This is where your agent can help.  Together you can talk about the website and social media, your bookmarks, ideas for marketing and new and different ideas for building a brand.

Just like writing a book, there are no tried and true guarantees to what works and what doesn't when it comes to brand building. However, thinking about it is the first step to success.

--jhf


Note: I did not credit the reader for the question. I wasn't sure if you wanted your name public. If you'd like the credit leave your name and a link to your website (if you have one) in the comments and I'll add it to the post.

12 comments:

Hollie said...

I understand branding it was one of the things I studied at uni.
I do have one question; at what point do you think a new author should start her branding campaign?
I have hundreds of ideas flying around my head for advertising, but I don't think I have a product to brand [yet]. My story is not yet finished and not at a place I can call it a book, so all I can brand is me, not my work. Not really the right idea, although an author is her brand, so is her writing, the two go hand in hand.
So is it wise to try and brand one without the other?
There is a whole internal discussion going on in my head complete with all my various media tutor's voices for each opinion.

Me said...

I am so happy to see this post. I hear all sorts of talk about brand, but a zillion explanations none of which make sense. Now I feel better about using my name for my middle grade horse stories and a pen name for the one romance I've finished. Now if I can get past the query stage, I know which way to go.
Thank you.

AJ Blythe said...

Hollie, I think we are our brand too.

At last years RWAus conference, Malle Vallik (from Harlequin) said branding should start now. I asked her if that applied to unpublished authors, and if so, should we be using our author name. Her response: yes!

So I rebranded my blog and changed my online presence to my pen name.

At least now when I start querying again if an agent goes to my blog it will fit with the genre I write.

I've also read quite a few posts about how as authors we are our brand so when we go to conferences etc we should take that into account. Always be professional is the take-away I guess.

Hollie said...

Thanks AJ,
I think in my heart I knew that, it's why other than my hubby and kids I didn't tell anyone I was writing until I was comfortable with my progress. Probably why I still haven't gotten around to starting that website yet either.
So now I guess I need to put the big girl panties on and make some decisions, what author name am I going to use, I think I'll use Hollie, but do I use my real last name?

AJ Blythe said...

Hollie, the most common advice I get from authors about selecting a pen name is:
- keep your first name (because then when you are called from the other side of the room you will answer!). Those who didn't regret it.
- google whatever it is you are thinking of using. The last thing you want is for there to be a porn star of the same name. The first few names I tried were taken by a fan fiction writer, and then a current US footballer (and there were pages of links to him, I doubt I'd have ever got to the front of the google list).
- whether you use a pen name or not is a personal choice. You don't have to. I decided to because of privacy (I have nothing on the internet in my real name).
- and how it goes with the genre. Quite a few authors use initials if they don't want gender to bias their readership (not why I do it, I really am an AJ) for example.
- the only other consideration I've heard is if your name is difficult to spell. You want people to be able to google you.

Hope this helps =)

Hollie said...

Thanks again AJ, I hadn't thought of Googling a pen name, book titles yes, author names hadn't crossed my mind - bangs head on ironing board to get it out of holiday mode.
Keeping my first name is a must, it's who I am and the person I've built as a reviewer, although I haven't done much of that lately it I'd open for me to go back to it.
Do I use my real name, well if you Google my user name you find my Facebook quick enough, so is there a point in changing?
I do know if I use a new name start new accounts on the whole the community would support me, and any who don't I'm as well finding out now as later.
To be fair to hubby and the kids (youngest 2 are still in school) I think this needs to be at least a family conversation, it will effect the boys what ever choices I make.

AJ Blythe said...

Hollie, that's the other thing you need to consider. You'll have to be active on 2 sets of social media (your personal and your professional). I don't have any of my own - they are all in my writing persona so only 1 set to manage.

But if you do keep your real name then when you are posting to your social media account you have to keep it professional knowing potential agents will check (and future readers will also follow).

Hollie said...

The two sets of social media is a major negative, and I already keep both Facebook and Twitter professional.
I've talked to the kids all of them said "yeah what ever" except for the oldest who said as long as I don't get her shot by the enemy?!?!?!?!? I didn't ask the connection (she is in army basic training) but writing romance to being shot.
I was going to say I'm sick and I need to get over this flu before I make any long term choices. Now I also need to find out if I'm going to make my daughter a target or at least easier to find. If I haven't already.
On a more positive note, the niggling error that I couldn't put my finger on, I've figured out while I was away. Walking away from it for 2 weeks has been an amazing because my brain didn't stop working things out. Another post I know, but it works long term and short.
Hugs

Hollie said...

I think I've worked out a plan of action that will at least get me started.
I've been using the Hollie8985 user name from the beginning and own pretty much all of them, if you see it, it's probably me. My Facebook is mostly author 'friends' or others I've met through CTR and author friends and as such I already aim to keep it professional, for their sake as well as my own.
So, if I start a blog/website using just my first name and username possibly also a Facebook page, that starts the ball rolling in that direction. It also leaves open the question what surname I use, at this stage I'm still not sure.
I'm happy to use my real name, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do and I would like a more professional opinion on that, or at least more time think about.
That only leaves the question what do I call the blog, something connected to the world my characters live in I think.
I'm not good with names, I still have nameless characters, but at least I have a job for the week now.

AJ Blythe said...

Hollie, it's very easy to get distracted (read, procrastinate) over things like our pen names. But if you are already professional in your social media then you don't have to worry about it too much at the moment (unless you want to check the web address is available and buy it now).

I can't imagine why you being an author would affect your daughter. The Hub is ex-military, and he couldn't suggest any reason it would be an issue.

Giving your ms a break is a great way to see things with fresh eyes. Glad to hear it helped.

I have to ask, what is CTR (google was no help)?

Hollie said...

AJ, I can get distracted far to easily.
I think my daughters problem at the moment is she is over tired, over excited, over emotional and all the other extremes they put you through on basic training. Everything is super hyper for her at the moment, it's a bit like watching a 6 year old whose had to much pop and sweeties.
I'll need to pick a website name, but between hubby and boys, I don't need help being distracted.
Thank you I now have so many little things going around I'm my head, and it's the start of the school holiday (help!!!)
CTR 😀
Coffee Time Romance, with out them I wouldn't be here, probably wouldn't have a degree either. I joined the forum there in 2007 about 6 months after I stopped smoking, a few months later I became a moderator, then started reviewing, the rest they say is history.
I'm not helping out there now, when I first found out I have fibromyalgia, I didn't cope with all the changes well. But I'm working my way back into life outside these four walls.

AJ Blythe said...

Coffee Times Romance... of course! Thank you.