Have you been branded??

Alright, so this is pretty much a page out of Marketing 101, but I see so many authors out there not follow this very simple yet crucial rule:  YOU MUST HAVE A BRAND.

What do I mean by brand?  Well, it actually could refer to a lot of things.  The most important in regards to a writer consist mostly of:  your writing style, your book cover, your website, your social networking profiles, even your author photograph and biography that you display on Amazon and other retailers.  All of these things play into who you are as an author, and what you’re all about.

Let me break it down so I can stress some important points.

1.  Your writing style:  Every writer is unique (obviously!) and has their own strengths, weakness, ticks, tendencies, etc.  Learn yours (this is so important) and play up your strong points.  These will be the things that readers and hopefully future fans will come to love and, most importantly, expect from you.  Say for example you tend to be really good at describing your characters, fleshing them out and making them seem very real and lifelike.  Make sure you continue to do that, because I’ve heard of cases where authors produce excellent books and gain many fans, only to disappoint said fans by releasing a new book that deviates from their original writing style in some drastic way.  You must be consistent, always, and give your readers what they expect from you.  I know the whole “write for yourself first” mantra kind of puts a damper on my advice, but keep in mind that if you are only in the business of writing for fun, then by all means do whatever pleases you.  But if you want to try and make a little bit of money at this and become somewhat successful as an author, then you have to treat all of this as a business.

2.  Book Cover:  I’ve talked at length about this before, but let me just hit on some points that I didn’t cover.  It is very important that you decide, early on, what your “brand” of cover art and font style will be.  Especially if you have a book series.  Each cover should be consistent with the books that came before it, and they should be, of course, eye-catching and look good in thumbnail size.  But probably one of the biggest mistakes I see authors make is that they, from book to book, change up their author name font and size.  NO!  Look at James Patterson or Nora Roberts.  Their book titles may change in font type and size, but their AUTHOR NAME is always consistent.  I can pick out a Nora Roberts book from a mile away because it is ingrained in my brain what her name looks like on a book cover.  Don’t you want that too?  So decide early on what font type and size you want to use for your name, and keep it consistent.

3.  Your website:  Every author should have a website.  I took too long to get my own up, and I wasted valuable marketing potential while I busied myself with less important things.  Your website is the central hub of all that is you as an author.  It is the one place you can go wild and express yourself (other than inside your books, of course!).  So do so!  Put up big banner images of your book covers, plaster your face all over and write whatever you feel like on all of the pages.  Just make sure it represents who you are.  Readers will come looking for your website wanting to learn more about you, so give it to them!  Post interviews, book trailers, funny info about what went on behind the scenes of writing your latest book.  I don’t know, just make it fun and by god, make it professional too.  Make it consistent (this is the big word here today, isn’t it?).  Make sure the color scheme is suitable for your brand and genre and conveys the mood your books express.  If you write horror, then there better be plenty of black and red!  And to quote my father, YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION.  If your website is overloaded with graphics or text and is too hard to navigate, people will leave.  So K.I.S.S.  For those who don’t know, that’s my favorite motto, Keep It Simple Stupid.  Oh, and keep it consistent 😉

4.  Social Networking Profiles:  Everyones on Facebook and Twitter.  If you are not, you are doing yourself a grave disservice.  These are, by far, the greatest platforms to get your book out there other than Amazon itself.  Or B&N, Smashwords, whatever.  This is how your fans find you and get updates from you (other than your website, of course).  So join up, and make sure you add all of your book info to your profiles (links to where the books can be purchased, a link to your blog – which you also should have – and to your email address).  Invite them to contact you and interact! I love talking to fans of my books, it’s without a doubt the most thrilling experience ever to be told by someone that they love your work.  So don’t make it hard for them to find you!  Just make sure to, again, keep a professional appearance on these sites, as it is very important.  You are only as professional and capable as you present yourself to be.  If you command respect by your actions and words, then others will respect you.  Simple as that.

5.  Author Photograph:  There is no excuse not to have a nice photo of yourself these days.  What with Instagram (omgmyfavoritenewapp), you have no reason not to take a nice, well lit photograph of you smiling that you can then do a quick special effect on and then use as an author photo.  At least, if you cannot afford a professional to take a picture of you.  Don’t do some kind of “Myspace-in-the-bathroom-mirror” type photo, and please don’t do some high angle staring down your cleavage kind of picture either (lol).  PROFESSIONAL!  Us Indie authors gotta act like the big boys if we want to be taken seriously!  So put on a nice shirt and fix your hair and take a nice, smiling photograph of yourself.  Or have a friend take one.  It really isn’t much harder than that, and it’s oh-so-crucial in marketing yourself.  Again, readers want to get to know you, and they like seeing what you look like.  Give them a nice photo to look at 🙂

6.  Biography:  Make sure you take your time writing your author bio.  You probably already have one written.  But does it really convey who you are?  Did you put your heart and soul into the words?  Will readers get a true sense of who you are just by reading them?  Don’t just write some bland “John was born in Montana…” dribble.  NO!  Make it fun.  Tell readers you like to do karate and that you eat ramen noodles while watching The Price is Right.  They’ll laugh, they’ll relate to you, and they’ll come back for more.  This is key.  Know your target audience (people like you, silly!) and show them just how like them you really are.  When I wrote my book series, I wrote it for girls between the ages of 16 and 30 who like fantasy in a modern world setting.  Because that’s me, and that’s what I love.  That’s why it was so easy to write that series.  I love it.  So make sure your fans know that you are just like them!

So that’s some information on branding and why its important.  But the key here is to KEEP EVERYTHING YOU DO CONSISTENT WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE.  Unless you want to scrap everything and start from scratch (which in some cases, this may be advised).  But seriously, make sure that readers will recognize your name, will remember your book covers, will think of you watching the Price is Right while they pick up your book to read.  This is your brand, the impression you make on others.  And in Marketing 101, impression is key.  This is a business, and you are trying to sell something.  As much as you may not care about how much you make doing it, the goal is still to sell books, or at least get your books out there (hence the KDP promos and why I love them so much).  So develop your brand, and make it all work for you.

In the end, your readers and fellow authors alike will thank you for your professionalism 🙂

“You are more than what you have become.” – The Lion King

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