Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Branded Author For Life

The terms “platform,” “brand” and “marketability” are tossed around in the book publishing industry, often by people who do not really know much about these things. Literary agents rarely want to represent someone without a name or social media following. It does not matter if you can pen Shakespeare or Twain – they want to know how often you tweet. Like it or not, authors have a brand and that brand needs to be established, promoted, and liked on Facebook before a publisher will consider investing in them.

So how does an author define his or her brand? It is like asking a 15-year-old what he wants to be when he grows up. How do you pigeonhole someone’s career before they even know all of their options? But writers need to commit to a brand, and the creation of this brand will dictate the rest of their writing career.

A brand should be based on what the writer:

·         Likes to write about
·         Writes well about
·         Feels is a lucrative market
·         Sees he or she can build a niche in
·         Finds to be an opportunity in the marketplace
·         Feels comfortable in saying and projecting
·         Truly wants to accomplish with his or her writing

So what does branding really involve?

·         It means targeting a certain demographic for your writing – and then marketing to it.
·         You will need to create an image of yourself and summarize it in a tag line.
·         You will need to create a visual or a logo that best represents you.
·         It means creating a public persona or voice, that, when spoken or presented, has an identity of some kind.
·         It means you speak a bit like a politician, with a targeted message in all of your communications – stay on point.
·         It could mean limiting what you write about, especially if it conflicts with or dilutes your brand.

Once you know what your brand is, you will sell it all the time. Your marketing materials will be congruous and reflective of your brand, from your voice mail message and email signature, to your Web site, blog, tweets, business card, book jacket, speeches, etc. You become a character and to a degree, scripted and predictable. You want to be genuine and for things to develop organically but most things come about by pushing a crafted image and embarking on a campaign. Little happens by accident.

The best thing is to establish a brand that includes fertility. That happens with your second book. For instance, I had an author write an excellent book about parenting. He could have forever been typecast in that genre, but his next book was about marriage. It was both similar in that it was about relationships and different in that it wasn’t just about raising kids. It was a brand tweak that leaves the door open to doing other types of books. Still, he is not likely to drastically stray from what he writes about. He won’t suddenly do paranormal romance fiction next, though I guess he can still sell it to many of the people who bought his other books.

Once you know what type of writer you are – subject, style and voice – you can tell the world. You need to be able to easily summarize your brand. When you are first starting out it is natural to conjure up an image by linking yourself to a best-selling author. For instance, you might say you write in the style of John Grisham or James Patterson. Why not – they sell millions of books – right? But people want those authors, not you. If you feel obligated to compare yourself to elite authors, offer how you are also different (implied, better) from them.

Sometimes your brand can be dictated by the reactions of others. Reviewers, editors, and advertisements may latch onto something specific that begins to define you. Or maybe you have a physical trait or personal experience or family connection that overshadows your efforts to highlight some other aspect of your writing. But whatever brand you choose, don’t think for a minute that your job is done. It has only begun. Now you have to market that brand. Good luck!

Have You Seen This Past Week’s Posts?

You Can Use Crowdfunding On Your Next Book -- Turn Your Idea Into A Business

What The Bestseller List Sales Numbers Reveal

How Promoters, Authors & Publishers Get Others to Say YES

How To Get Others To Share Your Links – And Go Viral

The Appeal & Necessity Of Fiction

Don’t Make Me Like You!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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