Authors everywhere are searching for the same thing: exposure. If you're lucky enough to have a traditional publisher a lot of this comes with the paved territory. But when you're an independent or self-published author marketing and gaining an audience can become a DIY project.
For many self-published writers building an author brand is a weak spot. Confusion, lack of direction, and being an introvert can all stack against you when you're trying to establish an effective author platform online. At times it can feel discouraging...and sometimes downright impossible.
If it looks like a scary task, don't worry. The phrase "author brand" seems so official and intimidating but today we're going to show you in 10 easy steps to help you build your own.
Before we get into our steps, let's take a moment to clear the air.
What do we mean when we say Author Brand?
A brand is something that represents yourself, who you are, and the product you are promoting. It is a culmination of your personality, the words you chose to write, fonts, color scheme, design elements, images, the way people interpret your message, and how they feel when they see your work. For authors, this also refers to the way that people feel when they read your books or visit your website. It is more than just a logo or the colors on a website- it is the overall "vibe" of the presentation of your product and how you reflect said feeling.
Another aspect of branding is what you put behind the image. While you need a strong outward presentation, you also need to consider what you're doing to back it up. This means you need to consider things such as customer service, consistency, keeping promises you make, providing a high quality product, and creating a good reputation.
Building a brand is also about recognition. What sets you apart from your competitors? What makes your brand stand out in a crowd? Can people recognize and associate it back to you with a 10 second glance? Considering these questions will help ensure that you're building your brand with your readers in mind.
Here are some strong examples of branding:
K.M. Weiland's Helping Writers Become Authors
Image Source: K.M. Weiland's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Keeps it simple: K.M. doesn't go overboard. It's one accent color (with the exception of her announcement banner). She keeps things clean and organized.
Consistent color palette: She uses white, black, gray, and teal as her color scheme. She doesn't deviate from it and makes sure she uses it for her posts as well.
Utilizes the space well: She's grouped things in order so that they are easy to navigate and find. Notice how her social media links, bio, search bar, and subscription box are all to the right.
Eye-catching logo: Her logo stands out. It's unique, it's fun, and it tells you exactly what you need to know: the name of her website and that it's a writing site. Best part is that it adds that little bit of detail needed to bring her site cohesion.
There's a lot of information in this layout. Thankfully there's enough white space to differentiate between each section and she organizes it well. If you choose to emulate this look, be mindful about what you choose to showcase on your homepage. Ask yourself what really needs to be there and what you can leave to another page instead of cramming everything in all at once.
Image Source: Amanda Lyn Creek's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Eye-catching logo: Amanda's logo rocks! Her use of different fonts, colors, and butterfly icon makes this girly, fresh, and something you're sure to remember. Best part- it fully represents her and her brand.
Feminine color scheme: Her use of purple, aqua, black, and white makes her website pop. It's flirty, feminine, and packed with personality.
Use of fonts: One of her strengths is the use of different fonts. She utilizes three different fonts here on her homepage but they don't look overwhelming. It helps bring more personality and ties it all together.
Personality: Lots of personality is a good thing. She manages to communicate who she is through her fun photos, her choice of background image, the butterfly symbol you see throughout, and by keeping these element consistent everywhere on her website.
When using multiple fonts and a feminine palette, be careful. Mixing the two can create a "busy" affect meaning that too many neon/light colors and different fonts begins to become distracting rather than attractive. When in doubt, remove one color or font and then see how it looks.
Image Source: Michal Eiskowitz's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Interactive site: Michal's website features lots of moving visuals. It's interactive, attention grabbing, and fun to navigate.
Targets ideal audience: Her entire site caters to her target audience. She writes her pitch like a conversation rather than in paragraphs, which is an interesting way to keep her audience reading.
Balances light with dark: Her color scheme features multiple complimentary colors highlighted on a dark background. The color contrast works with her visual features and makes it eye-catching rather than overwhelming.
Graphic logo: Choosing a geometric logo works well for her site. It's unique and definitely pulls focus. It's memorable because it comes across as a dominant element.
When you use a lot of moving pieces, multiple colors, plus a dominating logo balance is key. Too many contrasting elements could overwhelm your reader's eyes and repel rather than keep them reading. The best way to approach this strategy is to draft before you create. Really think about what you want to do and give yourself time for trial and error before you launch.
Image Source: Crystal Dunn's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Use of lowercase: Crystal uses lowercase well. It creates a more casual vibe for her website and helps portray a relaxed, laid-back, inviting atmosphere.
Photo tiles: By using a photo tile gallery, she sets her site apart because many writing websites shy away from a photo-heavy layout.
Unique intro: Her definition-style intro adds another element of casual cool to the mix. Another super unique element that helps tie together the other pieces.
Minimalist: Keeping to a minimalist theme, the only color comes from the photos. This works because its clean, easy-to-read, and draws attention to exactly where she wants it- her work.
Going against the grain within your industry can either backfire or pay off. This is another one of those designs that requires thought before its executed. Minimalist can either be super chic or boring. It all depends on how you work it.
Image Source: Tyler J. Koenig's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Humor: Right away Tyler uses his comedic approach to capture attention. His intro is interesting, funny, and tells us that he's the man we want to talk to.
Bold: His color scheme is big and bold. Greens from the plants, red, white, yellow, black, and brown all are aggressive colors on their own much less together. It screams masculine and confident.
Personality: Personality comes into play in every aspect of his homepage. As you scroll you see fun photos, confident captions, and a playful atmosphere. You know he likes to be the center of attention and he's enjoying the experience of copywriting.
Simple: With all of his bold colors and even bigger personality, he keeps his layout simple. His site doesn't need fancy visuals and he knows that.
When using bright colors and lots of personality, remember that that's the draw. Follow Tyler's example and keep layout and visual aids simple.
Image Source: Brittany Wang's homepage, screenshot, accessed 9/2/2020.
Friendly: The first thing to catch your eye is the header. Brittany's name and smile let you know that when you're working with her, you're in good hands.
Casual: With an inviting, "hang-out" atmosphere, who wouldn't want to spend an afternoon reading through her site?
Feminine: Her color scheme choices of pink, gray, and black and white prints give off a feminine yet professional vibe. She comes across as being warm and dependable.
Organized: Right away it's clear that she has a lot of material to offer. Where some sites would try to cram everything onto one page, she spaces them out well and makes sure that all her services and resources have a chance to shine.
The balance between friendly and professional can sometimes be difficult to find. You want to show you're approachable, but that you're still a trustworthy professional. Make sure that you keep your website from looking like your personal social media page.
10 Easy Steps To Build Your Author Brand
1. Identify Your Audience
We touched on this in my last post Getting Around The Algorithm: 5 Tips To Increase Your Instagram Visibility. Determining who your ideal audience is is the first step to building your author brand. Whoever you envision as the readers/buyers of your book- that's your ideal audience. This is also determined by the genre your book falls into.
Ask yourself who you're trying to reach in regards to:
-Level of experience
-Types of life problems
-Who would benefit from your message
Identifying your ideal audience can take a little time, but ultimately you'll reap the benefits. Keep in mind that everything you're doing as an author is to reach your audience. It's to entertain, inform, persuade, reassure- whatever your intent is, it is ultimately going to reach a reader. Taking the time to learn about your readers after you've determined who they are is also necessary. Scout out online where they like to spend their time, what they like and don't like, their problems and hopes, etc. All this information will tell you how best to speak and relate to them. Plus, bonus! It'll tell you want to write about in the future.
2. Develop Your Brand/Selling Point
This is when you tune into your inner monologue and ask yourself: Who am I?
Now ask yourself how you want others to see you. What do you want them to think of when they hear your name?
Whatever the answer to these two questions are, that's the center of what your brand should be. Now, brainstorm images, colors, fonts, etc. that remind you of what you are trying to portray.
For example, if you write paranormal romance, you may want to opt for a darker, moody color scheme, scripted fonts, romantic imagery, moody filters, and a horror-style intro. For a writer who rights self-help books you're going to want to bring energy, positivity, friendliness, and trustworthy vibes into your website. This means bold, happy colors, positive language, photos with big smiles, and lots of recommendations raving about how helpful you are.
Just like finding your writing voice, finding your brand voice is something that must develop. It usually comes from trial and error, trying new things, and seeing what works best for you. This is the tone you use when you write. Are you humorous? Sarcastic? Witty? Wise?
Finding your way of speaking to your audience boils down to you being yourself. Keep your values close when you brainstorm your voice. Think about what's important to you and what you want to represent. Then stick to it. If you decide to write formally, don't switch to a casual tone and back again. If you're normally sassy and curse, don't suddenly become Miss Proper and vice versa.
After you've got your brand voice down, it's time to consider what your unique selling point is. What sets you apart from other writers in your genre? What makes you stand out and why should people buy your books over others?
Ask yourself the following:
-Why do people read your books?
-What qualities speak to you personally? Is your writing quality strong? Are your characters super relatable? Is your pacing brilliant?
-What are your unique strengths as a writer?
When in doubt, ask yourself what you love about other author's works. Do you share the same qualities? How do you differ?
Use your answers to help promote yourself on your website. Play up your strengths. Remember the goal of your author site is to connect, but it's also to sell your book.
3. Declare Your Intentions
Once you've created your website and have nailed down your writer voice and brand, now its time to declare your intentions. Plainly put, you have to let your audience know what to expect from you. They also need to know when you decide to make changes in the future. Consistency and transparency will help you grow your readership. People need to get to know, like and trust you, but they can only do that if you first establish the right boundaries.
4. Know What You're Branding
When establishing your brand it's important to remember what exactly you're branding. A sure-proof way to succeed is to base your brand around yourself as an author, and not on your book. Many first time writers make this mistake because they get caught up in the excitement, only to realize later on down the line that they have to completely redo their website after they move on to their next project.
One important aspect to consider is whether you'll be using your real name on your books/website/social media or if you'll be writing under a pseudonym. If you're adopting a persona then you have to remain consistent no matter what. While it's harder to keep up an illusion, it can be done. Take Men With Pen's James Chartrand for example. Here a woman is masquerading as a man and doing one heck of a good job.
5. Choose Your "Look"
We've covered this in detail above, so the only thing I want to add is remind you to pick colors and elements that make sense for your brand. If you're a romance writer, don't choose black as your primary color. If you're a horror writer, don't choose hot pick because its your favorite color. Do what's best for your genre and your book. Your readers will thank you in cash. If you're in need of inspiration, one of the best go-to's is Pinterest. You can search everything from color schemes, fonts, logo examples and more, then save them for later.
6. Brand Consistency
Apply your brand everywhere once you have it. Use it on promotional items, social media posts, merchandise, etc. Wherever you find an opportunity to rep your book do it! Better yet, stay consistent. It won't matter how many times a week you update your blog or make a new video. But if you promise to post on Wednesday, make sure you deliver.
7. Establish Your "Why" And Experience
Don't worry about what everyone else in your niche is doing. Do what feels right for you. Your distinctive qualities will help you stand out from the crowd. To do this, you should establish your core identity. This is your purpose, vision, mission, and values. Without defining these features, your brand will fall flat. Revealing who you are in your work, why you write, and answering the question "Why pick you?" is what will make readers remember and continue to buy from you in the future.
8. Don't Skimp
The details matter. When you're establishing your brand don't cut corners, settle, or cheapen out. Sure, we all love to use cheap services and nab a freebie or two. But realistically you have to understand that at some point, building your author brand is going to cost you some money. How much depends on what you want to do and your tech skill level. The more you can do for yourself, the cheaper it will be, but for most of us, the need to hire a photographer for professional head shots, a web designer to help us upgrade our website, and possibly a social media manager to help us with our marketing may be the bare minimum. Bottom line, readers can tell how much time and money you put into your brand. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, and that includes what you get back from your readers.
9. Keep Your Promises
Above all, you should always keep your promises. Whatever expectations you made in the very beginning of introducing your brand you should uphold throughout the lifespan of your writing career. Any changes you make should be announced ahead of time, whether this is a day off from posting, a cancelled event, etc. The more transparency you have with your readers the more integrity your brand has overall, which will equate to more sales at the end of the day.
10. Strategize/Track Your Progress
It's a smart idea to have a plan, especially when it comes to trying to make money. You should be measuring your efforts regarding brand building, keeping track of progress and goals, how much money you've invested, what your returns are, etc. It will help motivate you, but will also help you figure out what is working and what isn't.
Here are some ways you can track your success:
-Set goals and milestones
-Utilize data tools
-Analyze the data
-Listen to what people are saying about you
Building an Author Brand is no joke. It takes time, effort, and money. But the benefits you gain from having a well-thought out, cohesive brand that connects you to your audience is indispensable. To be a successful writer in this digital age you must adapt to survive...and sell your book.
#writingitwells #writing #writers #marketing #bookmarketing #authorbrand #buildinganauthorbrand #authorbrandtips #buildinganauthorplatform #marketingbooks #self-publishing #indieauthors #learntomarketyourbook #writingadvice #writingtips #writinginspiration