Branding: Where Marketing and Writing Become Friends

by Joel Friedlander on March 2, 2012 · 13 comments

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By Matthew Turner (@Turndog_million)

Matthew Turner is a frequent commenter here on the blog and writes very useful articles that attempt to educate authors about how to market their work. Here Matt takes on the idea of author branding, and offers his own practical attitude and down-to-earth advice. Read on.


Growing up I was under the impression writers were artists… usually alcoholics, people teeming with personal issues, and eccentric as hell. These people wrote, sent out their work, got published, and sat back watching the royalties pour in.

Now, this was probably naïve of me, but for all I know this was true. What I can be sure of it’s no longer the case. Writers are still artists, and they may still be drunks, eccentric, and teeming with personal issues. However, they’re also marketers, and designers, and personal speakers, and coaches, and just about everything else you could possibly think of.

I’m a strategic marketer by trade and as such I look at the world a little differently to most. I see Brands in people, companies, books, songs, and even towns I visit. First impressions are one of, if not the most important thing, and how you layout your Brand is what really counts.

I’m not sure I know much in life, but one thing I’m sure of is that writers need to think about the bigger picture.

What is your Brand?

Who are you?

What makes you stand out?

How do people perceive you?

We all say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do. I’m sure Joel knows this better than most as he lives his life around designing covers for all kinds of people. It doesn’t matter what you go to market with, be it a book or a can of soup, how you portray your Brand is vital.

You may be reading this and saying, “Surely my writing counts? Surely that’s the most important thing.”

Sure, it’s very important and if you want longevity you need to produce a quality product. The thing is though; quality doesn’t attract people in the first instance. I can go on Amazon with £10 and choose from a million books.

Why would I choose yours?

This is where your Brand comes into play. You need to create a platform that pulls people in, makes them want to get to know you, and persuades them to join your tribe.

So what exactly is a Brand?

People tend to think—and it drives me crazy—that a Brand is a logo and a slogan. If this is your way of thinking then shame on you! Don’t worry though, you’re not alone, in fact it’s probably safe to say you’re part of the majority, which is very scary indeed.

So what is a Brand?

Your Personality

  • Who are you and what makes you special? We’re all different and it’s what makes the human race so damn wonderful. Your writing is unique, even if your voice or style is similar to someone else.
  • Look deep and find what you offer that no one else can. You have something, trust me! Find this and you can give people a reason to take notice, and in time you’ll find yourself standing out from the crowd as people take notice.

Your Look

In writing terms this is everything from your colour scheme, book cover, logo, fonts that you use, and general aesthetics. My favourite colour is purple so I use it quite a lot in my work. It helps me stand out, but more importantly it demonstrates who I am, and therefore what my Brand stands for.

When you release your book it needs to stand out from the rest, but it also needs to represent who you are. We judge books by their cover, and we’re doing exactly the same to you (aka your Brand)!

Your Voice

How do you talk? Do you have an accent or a particular way with words? As a writer you’ll no doubt know how important a unique and compelling voice is. Take this sage advice and apply it to your Brand and ‘speak’ to the world in a manner that lets them emphasise and relate to you.

Some people will love you, whilst others will hate you. We all want people to love, but whatever you do make sure people remember you and feel something. Your voice is part of who you are, so make sure it stands for something.

Your Values

We all stand for something. Some are left wing, some are right. Some are quiet and coy, whilst others are expressive and outspoken. Whoever you are, you stand for something and it’s part of your job as manager of your own Brand to showcase this to the world.

Demonstrating your values will create passion, and passion is something people tend to respect regardless of whether they agree with you or not. People need to remember who you are and what you stand for. Help them by being unique and interesting, not simply a sheep following everyone else.

I love Brands. Don’t get me wrong, I truly hate some of them (gocompare.com for instance, I absolutely detest you!), but I love the process and how they take on human form.

Since writing I’ve come across some truly great writers, and the people I tend to connect with are those who show something that make me feel. Sometimes this is their writing, but more often than not it’s who they are.

Being the best writer you can be is important, I understand this and don’t want you to forget about it. But your writing is part of your Brand, and if you see the bigger picture then everything will come together. There will be some people reading this who are amazing writers, but I won’t ever read their creations. Why? Because I don’t know you or trust you or have any reason to commit.

Create a Brand that stands out and help me become your newest fan.

Matt TurnerTurndog Millionaire aka Matthew Turner is a Marketing Strategist with an MA in Advertising & Marketing from Leeds University Business School. As an Aspiring Author himself he Blogs about Book Marketing, Strategic Planning for Aspiring Authors, and how New Marketing Techniques can be used in the World of Publishing. You can also find him @Turndog_million on Twitter.

Blog header photo by JD Hancock

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    { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    elaine t jones March 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Good article,
    I think I am begining to establish a brand – slowly. I have one question. How do you turn a “Brand” into sales and not just an appreciation for you as a personality?

    Reply

    Brian March 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    ha the eternal question

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    The eternal question indeed

    I wish i could offer a quick and easy bit of advice, but that simply does not exist.

    It’s a process, more now than ever. At work i’m in the process of creating a very large Content Marketing Strategy (basically this is the idea of blogs, social media, emails, personalisation etc) and the research tells us that someone may need 10 or more actions before they consider becoming a customer.

    It’s the same for you as an author

    Build a solid Brand (something special and that resonates you)

    Network and interact with as many people as you can

    Create content, continue interactions, and generally create a sense that you are someone to trust

    Slowly begin to ask for things (start with asking to join your email list, then maybe to share a link, etc)

    Once they are on board you are much more likely to get a ‘sale’ from them

    People will buy from Brands they like and trust. Your future readers are the same as those looking to buy some canned food, ultimately, so if you become someone they trust, and like, and respect then they will, hopefully, choose you ahead of others. Or at least as well as :)

    Hope this helps add a little more clarity

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski March 3, 2012 at 2:30 am

    I don’t think that I have a brand (perhaps I do).

    Yet my books have sold over 700,000 copies worldwide. They have been published in 28 different countries in 21 different languages. Three of my books are true bestsellers given that each have sold over 100,000 copies (I consider a book a true bestseller only if it has sold 100,000 copies and not just because it has appeared in some obscure category on Amazon for one or two days).

    Recently, I read the interesting article at the link below about why your Bio may be more important than a Resume — particularly if you are a worker in the creative fields.

    http://the99percent.com/tips/7025/The-Resume-Is-Dead-The-Bio-Is-King

    Note this bit that author Michael Margolis says in his article:

    “The personal branding industry has only muddied the waters. It’s easy to feel turned off by the heavy-handed acts of self-promotion that the various gurus out there say you’re supposed to do. We’ve been told to
    carefully construct a persona that will differentiate and trademark our skills into a unique value proposition. That’s mostly a bunch of buzzword bingo bullshit.”

    I have shared this to point out that there are a few experts or gurus out there who do not agree with this emphasis of branding.

    As I said before, I don’t think that I have a brand (If I do, I don’t know what it is specifically).

    But I intend to reach my goal of having sold over 1 million of my books worldwide (print copies — this does not include eBooks).

    How do I intend to reach my goal? This quote applies.

    “Commitment leads to completion.
    Everything else is just an excuse.”
    — from “Life’s Secret Handbook”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 150,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

    First of all, congrats on the amount of books you’ve sold. A superb achievement in anyone’s book. I clicked on your site though and did the skim test that i do when i come across new people. This basically consists of making a first impression, which i feel is:

    – Non Fiction Writer
    – Aimed at an older, more male oriented customer
    – Likes vibrant colours
    – You seem to have a fairly quirky character. I bet you have a lot of stories to tell from over the years.
    – Your cartoon like pictures hold a big emphasis around your work (books, Blog, possibly even use them as cues in your presentations)

    Now, i may have got this totally wrong, or maybe i got them all right. I’m not sure, but the fact is I came to that conclusion because you portrayed yourself in a certain way. So, i guess what i’m saying is, you do have a Brand.

    It may not be intentional, but you do. All companies do and ultimately all people do. We don’t see our friends as Brands because we don’t see them as commodities. If you break them down though then they are. You are trying to sell products and services, so by intentionally portraying yourself in certain ways you will hopefully reach the people you want to and ultimately become a success.

    You say you have goals, which means you’ve thought about things in a somewhat strategic way. You have a particular voice, i’m sure, and you create your books to mirror each other (similar covers) and attract a certain type of person. This, in it’s essence, is Branding

    As i said in the article, a Brand isn’t just a logo and what you look like, it’s the true essence. I believe, intentionally or not, you portray this in your books and and services.

    Should it get in the way of your writing? No!

    Is it part of the process? Yes!

    Branding, like all marketing, is simply part of the commitment. No hard work means you rely on luck. In my experiences, luck is saved for a very select few. Most people have to work their socks off, and maybe, just maybe a bit of good fortune comes there way.

    Love the contribution though, and always love other opinions :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Bridget McKenna March 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Matthew, thanks for bringing clarity and simplicity to what’s been a difficult subject for me. This is a great article, and I’m going to keep your points in mind as I go forward, allowing my brand to develop across my platform.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks Bridget

    It can get quite complex, but only if you let it. Start with a plan, understand YOU and what YOU are doing, and going forward everything should make a lot more sense.

    For me, creating a solid Brand helps breed clarity for everything else in future. Kind of like an insurance policy for the million issues we are yet to face, but will no doubt occur at come point in the future

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    James March 2, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Matthew,

    Good point about “brand” vs. “logo”. To be honest, I’m both repulsed and fascinated by the (relatively) recent phenomenon of authors trying to *intentionally* brand themselves. I think branding like you describe works for some authors, but there’ll always be a large percentage who want nothing to do with it–and want someone else to deal with it.

    In the self-publishing world, I see great writers all the time wondering “how do I get somebody to handle this for me?” People like Joel have the right idea, I think, because it’s the niche where there’ll be a desperate need in the coming years. Intentionally or not, I seem to be headed onto Joel’s path myself.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I certainly see people like Joel becoming a hot commodity in the future too. As self publishing gets bigger more people will need pro help, and this is great. I’m a firm believer in collaboration and should look to form partnerships whenever you can.

    I’m dead against people hiring others to look after the Brand though, and ultimately authors are a Brand. They have a product (their book) which makes them ultimately a company (in a very round about way of looking at things). I personally think the Brand has to stay true to the heart, and if the author can do this then maybe they can get help with certain things (email, adverts, etc.)

    Communicating with fans though? This should be done by the person who knows you best. Aka, you

    It’s an interesting future we have though, isn’t it? :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    barbara March 2, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Nice to meet you Matthew. I totally agree with your view here. I’m in the process of a re-design of my blog to incorporate more of who I am. After two years of blogging I feel my platform is becoming more solid every day. It’s a process and takes patience, which I don’t have an abundance of, but these past two years have flown by, I believe, because I absolutely love writing and I’m not shy about baring my opinions.
    b

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire March 2, 2012 at 11:37 am

    That’s great Barbara. Yes patience is the key, and i’m like you, i don’t have a huge amount of it.

    If you’re confident about you and your work though, then it will slowly and surely get better and easier. I’m also a firm believer in the tipping point concept. Getting there is hard work, but if you reach it then things become much easier afterwards

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

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