Your author brand refers to the cultivated image that represents you and your author business. It's not just one element but rather a collection of visuals- images, fonts, textures, color palettes, written copy, and quotes- mixed with your own ideas, personal essence, and style. If done well, your author brand can convey a clear message to your ideal reader and can be one of your greatest assets when it comes to selling your novels.
In today's post, we're here to share 4 ways to refine your author brand so that you too can stand out on the crowded bookshelf.
Let's pause for a moment to consider what makes an author brand great:
-Clear, concise language in copy that leads to a call-to-action
-A color palette that is attractive and utilized consistently
-Photography is dynamic, good-quality, and on-brand
-Clear sense of purpose/goal
-It knows who it's trying to reach (ideal reader)
-It has heart and is relatable to said audience
-It's got a clear call-to-action that leads to a reader purchasing your novel or written projects
With that in mind, it's important to carefully curate your author brand and visit it regularly to weed out anything that doesn't belong. But when we're struggling to understand why our author brand isn't bringing us the readers we want, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what isn't working and why.
"You create a credible brand by staying true to who you are." -Hilary Sawchuk
Before we dive into ways to refine, let us first consider what an author brand is designed to do. It's more than just your personality as an individual, more than your role as an author, and more than your desire to sell your books. It must be a balancing act of these three, wrapped up in a package that your ideal reader will find irresistible.
Why author brands fail often boils down to clarity. There's something unclear about the message you're trying to send. Rather than saying "Hello, ideal reader come hither, this was meant for you!" somewhere in translation land that message is being lost. Perhaps there's some confusion about who you're trying to reach. Maybe there's something "off" about your visuals that viewers find off-putting. Could be your copy is outdated or incomplete. Sometimes the message itself just isn't strong enough. Whatever the reason, using the four tips below can help you pivot in the right direction.
4 Ways To Refine Your Author Brand That Has A Huge Impact
#1 Define Your Author Brand's Core Identity
Step number one, before anything else, is that you have to know what your brand looks like on the inside. Without clearly defined values and purpose, there's no way you can effectively communicate your message when it looks like a giant bowl of indistinguishable pea soup. And no one looks at pea soup and thinks they can't wait to taste it, mainly because they can't tell what's in it. When your branding isn't clear, it creates confusion rather than intention. And that looks a lot like uncertainty to your prospective reader.
The opposite of uncertainty is confidence. Once you have your brand values and purpose clearly identified, you'll be able to promote and market yourself (and your books) with grace and poise. Here's how you get there:
Purpose: The reason you write what you write and why.
Vision: What you want to be, do, or have as your author career progresses.
Mission: What you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, whom you’re doing it for, and why it’s important.
Values: The personal and professional backbone of your company- what do you stand for?
Exercise #1: Take a moment to write these four elements down and figure out what they mean to you. Try to answer as detailed as you can. You'll use these throughout the rest of your refining journey.
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you refine your brand's core identity, is that readers are going to respond to your brand because you are YOU. Don't craft your brand based on who you wish you were or who you think your ideal reader wants you to be. Just be yourself and aim to reflect that in all the details and you can't go wrong.
Once you have these four elements in your mind, it's time to map out why you write what you write and who you're writing for. Before you begin anything in the realm of marketing, you have to know this because without it you'll be shouting into the virtual void with no clear direction, which equates to no results.
Exercise #2: Building off of exercise one, it's time to focus intently upon your "why" and your "who". Think about the following and write down what comes to mind.
What you do: writing fantasy, nonfiction, romance, etc.
How you do it: what makes you different from your competitors, it’s your unique selling proposition, or what makes your work distinct from other writers in your field.
Why you do it: What motivates you to put in all the late night writing, endless rounds of editing, marketing, etc. What transformation in your reader are you looking to bring about? What worldview drives your inner creative? What's your inspiration? What promise are you making to your readers?
The reason you want to be crystal clear with yourself about the answers, is so you can be completely clear what the answers are when you share them with your readers. Take all the time you need and don't rush answering if you're unsure upon first thinking about it. Sometimes it takes time to know exactly what we're all about.
#2 Be Certain Of Who You're Trying To Reach
The next piece of the puzzle comes from thinking about who your ideal reader is. If you're unfamiliar with the term, your ideal reader just means the one perfect reader who will love your book. It's the method of singling out one person and thinking about who they are in an effort to frame your marketing to appeal directly to them, rather than a crowd.
It may seem strange, but thinking about one person is a lot less overwhelming that trying to find a way to appeal to everyone. Mainly because you can't, and won't, please every reader you come across. That's not a bad thing. There's a perfect reader out there for every novel and keeping that person in mind allows you to do one vital thing- find them. And where one ideal reader lives, there's bound to be friends, family, and a community of like-minded readers behind them. That's where the magic lies.
"If there are nine rabbits on the ground, and you're trying to catch one, just focus on one." -Jack Ma
Sometimes our brand doesn't reach our intended audience because we've kept things too generalized. When trying to attract a crowd our methods tend to be more broad which unfortunately is like casting a large fishing net. You may catch a few more than you would with a rod, but you can't guarantee that it'll be a group of the fish you were searching for. When fishing for a specific type of fish, you not only find what you're looking for, you guarantee that your lure will make it's mark each and every time.
Book marketing is very similar. When you aim for specific readers within your niche, you'll find more success because those readers are guaranteed to buy and keep buying your work. When your marketing is too broad, you tend to waste time and exhaust yourself trying to weed out the readers who aren't interested or just aren't meant for you. Going back to the fishing net analogy, if you're a middle grade author, you don't want to try to sell your books to middle-aged romance readers. And vice versa, you certainly don't want to try selling romance novels to the parents of middle school children if you write smut. But if you cast a wide net that's exactly what will happen.
Exercise #3: Who are you trying to reach? It's time to find out. Ask yourself the following about your intended reader- Who are they? What do they enjoy reading? Where do they live? How old are they? Where do they buy books? Where do they like to read? How do they like to do their reading, with hardbacks, kindle, audiobooks? Where might they go in their spare time? What types of hobbies do they have? How would it be best to reach them- what social media sites do they use? By figuring this out you'll have a refined idea of exactly who you're looking for.
#3 Identify Your Desired Outcome And Strategize Appropriately
Everything you write and create should be leading you one step closer to your ultimate goal. Knowing where you're going and why is just as important as knowing who you're looking to sell your books to. Otherwise, what's the point?
You need to know where you are trying to take your readers (the buyer’s journey) and create goals and objectives for your content that will lead people to act. By setting business goals for yourself, you ensure you also have clear objectives to accomplish along the way that will help you achieve what you want to achieve. Your purpose, vision, and mission will guide your choices and by outlining your steps, it will help you articulate what you want to accomplish, how and when you will take action, and how much of a commitment is required.
There's a good reason why streamlining your goals now will help you grow faster. Rather than pursuing every creative idea that pops into your head (no matter how tempting) you won't be distracted by projects that don't add to your ultimate why. This isn't to say that you can't pursue those ideas later, but if your specific goal is to have full-time income in five years from writing alone, it's imperative to take steps in the direction that will lead you there rather than waste time on things that will push the completion of that goal back further.
Exercise #4: Think about your ultimate goal. What do you hope to achieve through your writing? Do you want to make the best-seller's list? Earn a full-time income? Create because you love it? Because you want to share a specific message? Or because you want to entertain? Each of these have very different-looking paths and clear goals for how to get there. But only you can decide what that path looks like and what timeline best fits your schedule. Once you've figured out your ultimate goal, what steps do you know of that will lead you there? Even if you don't know everything, you can at least make a list of what you don't know. This will help you start because research is the first step in any forward trajectory.
Exercise #5: Once you're equipped with your goal and your list of steps, it's time to consider how you will measure your marketing success. Consider tracking the following throughout your journey and revisit them yearly:
Your actual income vs. your goal income.
Your expenses, including book production costs, website, other online costs, marketing costs, etc.
Your “competition”. It’s imperative to have a clear idea of what other authors in your niche or topic area are doing and why.
Your marketing effectiveness. This lays the groundwork for future plans, and keeping track of results is the only way to improve your marketing efforts.
Based on your yearly results, you'll know what needs tweaking or changing in order to see the results you're looking for in the future.
#4 Highlight What Makes Your Brand Special
It's no secret that book publishing is a competitive sport. In order to stand out amongst all the other books within your genre, there has to be a shining element of your brand that sets you apart. Something that makes your reader pick your novel out of the bundle and take it home without a second thought. Finding your special magic can feel daunting and if nothing comes to mind immediately, that's okay. It may take some time to discover.
"Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room."-Jeff Bezos
Exercise #6: Using the knowledge you've gained from the previous exercises, outline your unique areas of advantage or value, and clarify what makes you and your work different. What is the experience you create, the desired impact you make or the benefit you bring?
Exercise #7: In marketing speak, positioning refers to the place that your books and your brand occupy in your reader's mind. It's how that reader perceives your work as fulfilling their needs or desires. If you've been published for a while and have yet to see your desired results, it's time to ask yourself: How are you currently positioned in the market? Are you where you want to be, or do you need to make some changes to better reflect your unique value to readers? If you're having trouble seeing what you might be missing, step two is to do some competitive research. Make a list of authors in your genre or topic area to evaluate how well they are meeting the needs and expectations of their readers. Comparing the two should give you a clearer picture of where you're falling short or failing to deliver on the promises you've made to your readers.
Exercise #8: Next it's time to figure out ways to fill the disconnect.
What makes your work compelling? What sets you and your work above the rest and how well does that align with the wants, needs, and desires of your readers?
How readers can discover your value? Some ways might be: through their own experiences via short stories, a free ebook, sample chapters, your blog, social media interaction, or through word-of-mouth and other influencers such as blogs and online literary magazines.
By taking the time to discover what your secret sauce is, you put yourself in a better position for marketing in the future.
When you have these four pieces of brand information in your toolkit, you enable your brand. Through this refinement process you'll find that you'll not only be able to find your readers more easily, but that selling your books to them will be smoother because the communication between your brand and your reader is now crystal clear.
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