Creating an Author Brand to Boost Your Platform

by Joel Friedlander on June 27, 2012 · 44 comments

Post image for Creating an Author Brand to Boost Your Platform

by Matthew Turner (@Turndog_Million)

Matthew, who is a frequent commenter here, is very interested in the ways authors use branding to enhance their marketing strategy. Here he looks at your book cover as an element of that branding.



You all know how important a book cover is, right?

After all, you’re on Joel’s site, and if there’s one thing he discusses in detail, it’s how to create a killer cover.

But let me tell you, it’s a tough world out there, and it’s tough to get noticed.

Amazon has opened up many doors, and not just for you; the same possibilities exist for everyone.

We all have a book in us, so they say; well, now we can publish it too!

A good book cover can help you stand out, as can an author platform, and a good branding strategy, and everything else a modern author needs in their arsenal. My big question is:

How can you combine all of these different things into one consistent message?

Brand Identity, that’s how!

What Is Brand Identity?

Although I wrote an ebook on this topic, I won’t go into the whole process here. Instead, let’s focus on your book cover.

Simply put, Brand Identity looks at the aesthetics you create for your author platform. It focuses on:

  • Colours
  • Fonts
  • Logos
  • Images
  • Layout

A good website should tell a consistent story, in fact scratch that, your entire author platform needs to tell a consistent story. Your aim is to be instantly recognisable.

People see your Site and know it’s you

They see a Guest Post and know it’s you

They see a book and know it’s you.

So, how consistent is your brand? Is it the same on your site, on Twitter, Facebook, etc?

Align Your Book Cover

I’m no expert on book covers, but I know branding and know what I like. Lets look at a few examples where a book cover aligns with more than just the book.

Brand and Cover

Joanna Penn (J.F Penn) is a good example of an author combining her overall brand with her book. Her personal website, www.joannapenn.com, has a similar feel to her two fiction books.

The font, colours, and general dark, rustic feel is seen in all three pictures. Is this by accident? I doubt it.

pentecost, prophecy by joanna penn
J.F.Penn. Ancient mystery  modern thrill

Book Series & Branding

I recently read the Hunger Games series, and fell in love with the covers. Not because they are nice looking (which they are), but because of the consistency they create.

The decision to not call the books “Hunger Games 1,” “Hunger Games 2,” etc., created a branding dilemma. Your cover needs to stand out, and if you have a series, you want your fans to recognise the next book straight away.

The Hunger Games overcome this. Each book is unique, but each also follows the same style. In a second you can tell—without looking at the name—that Mockinjay is part of the series.

author branding

Why This is Important

People are affected by perception. You may not know it, but you are being “brainwashed” everyday. The reason you associate Coca Cola with a particular shade of red is because of brand manipulation.

You have the power to do the same with your own brand identity, and a clever book cover can help. You want people to recognise your work straight away. This is how you stand out from the crowd on Amazon.

That’s right, your covers can help your author platform. You can separate it from the process, or make it part of it. In my opinion, there’s only one answer.

What You Should Do

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is. . . Think.

Think about the bigger picture whenever you can. Consciously relate everything back to your brand identity, and if you haven’t got one, now’s a good time to start.

I’m not suggesting you get rid of your book cover just because it has a different font, but think about how your brand can align with it. It might mean altering the font, or changing one of the colours, or adding a simple touch of something to bring it all together.

It’s about combining your brand identity and your book into one coordinated package. Don’t separate them, let them be best friends and wear the same style.

A modern-day author needs modern-day thinking. Whatever your feelings are towards branding, you’ll be creating a brand of your own as soon as you release your book.

You either fight it or embrace it. I suggest embrace, and while you’re at it, align your book cover with your brand as best you can. Read the monthly eBook Cover Design Award posts here on The Book Designer for great book cover tips.

What about you? Leave a comment below and let me know: Does your book align with the rest of your author platform? Have you thought about branding your books?

Matt-TurnerMatthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is a Strategic Marketing Consultant and author of both fiction and nonfiction. He provides a variety of services to help writers create an Author Platform, and strives to meet authors with a passion to succeed in today’s world. He explains his author platform-building ideas in a free ebook series, How To Build An Author House. For more information, check out his site at Turndog Millionaire.

Photo by chefranden

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    { 32 comments… read them below or add one }

    Virginia Llorca December 8, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Sorry if this is a dup, but my comments are going down the tubes lately depending on which blog I sign in with.

    Always use your own name in the tags when you publish a new blog post. (Matthew Turner’s is tagged Matthew Taylor.)

    When you epub on Smashwords or Amazon, always use your own name in the tags.

    This is, of course, in addition to other tags you may wish to use, such as “mystery”, “adult content” or whatever. .

    When you seek validation as a writer, write right. Right? And what do you think of when you see the word cooky? (Besides the link back on your computer?)

    Interesting site. but I can’t even tell if the article was written by Friedlander or Turner.

    Sorry you caught me at shank’s end of a not-too-great day. I am usually a fount of witticisms and good cheer. Really.

    Reply

    Patrick Dorsey October 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I love working on the design side as well as the writing side, but here’s a question in terms of author brand: I’ve read that, from a cover and website design standpoint, many readers/reviewers feel that creating your own author logo (for lack of a better term) is inappropriate for a first-timer/newbie, and that it’s a negative to have one at that point because it’s as if the author’s claiming status he or she hasn’t earned (I guess only Stephen King or Tom Clancy or Agatha Christie get their own “logos”) — do you see this at all? Or is this more legacy publishing thinking?

    Great subject for discussion, BTW!

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire October 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    It’s a good question.

    I’d say a logo isn’t needed if you are a writer only. But if you want to do other things (speaking, consulting, coaching, etc) then a logo might be an ideal way to create an identity

    Likewise if you want to classify yourself as a publisher, which lets face it, those who self-publish their work, are.

    I suppose you have to ask yourself what a logo is. Sometimes it’s an image, but other times it’s a font or color or word. It’s about trying to create a recognizable identity (be it logo, name, color scheme, whatever) to help you stand out.

    Just remember this, though, everyone makes their logo at some point. Be it by accident or not…after 10 years or from day one, a logo is made and used.

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    fiona October 15, 2012 at 11:25 am

    A great post with really practical tips and visuals. I think we all need good visuals! I’m struggling a bit with branding as I’m about to launch my first novel but the ideas for the next few books in the pipeline are different genres so I risk coming unstuck later on!

    Reply

    John October 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I’m really undecided on this issue. I wrote a book on martial arts using my full name, because that’s how I am known. However, I want to get published also as non-martial arts author. I’ve written two stories, one which is in re-draft stage. and is a fantasy epic. The other is a paranormal / horror story, and I’ve just had the cover designed for that. The cover is awesome. But the choice on whether to have my name as on the MA book, or use initials…is what’s troubling me. My surname is not that common (Hennessy) but people mis-spell it all the time – if I can’t be found because of spelling errors, what’s the point?

    Reply

    Christopher Ryan June 29, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Thank you for this strong post on branding. I have struggled to make this concept crystal clear, and the included visuals of the divine Ms. Penn’s branding really did the trick. I already had some ideas along this line but did not completely see their uses as branding. I have some more work to do now, and am happy to have it. Having the unique name I do (last check, 483,978 Chris Ryans and counting), I definitely have some branding challenges ahead. I use Christopher to differentiate from a Canadian writer by the same name who has a number of books out featuring short titles and exploding vehicles on the covers. Hopefully, my approach will serve to clarify who I am as my career begins to grow. And yes, many have suggested I change my name to something more unique, but I have resisted because I strongly believe the relationship between reader and author needs to be honest. While i have no problem with others using pen names, beginning with an alias doesn’t fit my definition of the relationship I want to build with readers. I would love to get your thoughts on this.

    Reply

    Lev Raphael June 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    This is excellent, elegant advice–but only if you’re doing a series. If you’re publishing in different genres, too similar a look may confuse people into thinking the books are connected when they’re not.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I see what you’re saying, but there are certain authors who keep the Brand consistent even when it isn’t a series.

    David Nicholls do this, and I always know an Albert Camus book when I see it.

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Marla Markman June 28, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Great post, Matthew. It’s has some good, actionable points in it, and I always like to see samples to know what the author is talking about. I’ll definitely be passing this along!

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Paula,

    I too like to see practical samples and new people to find. Thanks for the kind words. I hope you can take lots from it

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Paula June 28, 2012 at 2:39 am

    A wonderful post! Such simple, practical advice! Love it!

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 2:41 am

    Thanks Paula, that means a lot. Glad you have taken something from the read :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I found from my own experiences, it takes some trial and error when it comes to a website. In fact, I’m making some more changes this weekend. Lessons learned from month 1 :)

    Getting your Brand and name right is tough, but with the right vision and focus, is totally achievable. I think you have a good standard set. Everyone now has to follow suit

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Joanna Penn June 28, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Thanks Matthew,
    I really appreciate the shoutout, and it’s lucky for me you didn’t check my new site branding a few weeks ago. I have gone through 5 iterations and 2 designers before getting to that header and the new tagline “Ancient mystery, modern thrill.” My point being that fiction branding is really hard because you need something that is big enough to encompass future work and enable people to make a decision in one look as to whether they resonate with you. The background image is Oxford architecture which I hope gives people a glimpse into the world of my books.

    On names, I did set the site up as JoannaPenn.com but then changed my fiction name to initials in order to be gender neutral – more here:
    http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/01/30/using-initials-female-writer/
    so I have a redirect now so the site is JFPenn.com

    I also publish non-fiction under Joanna Penn …. It’s all quite difficult :) so I appreciate other people having a hard time!

    Thanks for bringing up this important subject.

    Joanna

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 28, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Hi Joanna,

    I guess Matt arrived at your site at just the right time. For me, the best part of your new branding is the tagline, which is brilliant and tells readers exactly what to expect but also extends a promise that your books fulfill. Great stuff, even though I’m still of two minds about the switch from “Joanna” to “J.F.” (even though I have a strong attraction to those initials) although I realize it might be the best move, commercially.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Also love the tagline. As soon as I saw it I said out loud ‘Brilliant’

    I wish I was joking, but it’s a true story haha

    Reply

    Joanna Penn June 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I have to thank the wonderful CJ Lyons for helping me with the tagline. It’s quite hard to nail your own branding, for fiction anyway. The Creative Penn was much easier :)

    The other reason for using a different name is that the Amazon sales page links books together with the same name i.e. if someone clicks on your name, they only get the books associated with that name. So under J.F.Penn you get fiction, and under Joanna Penn you get non-fiction. That’s a real bonus as you don’t want to lose readers who get distracted by stuff that’s not in their interest.

    Reply

    Johanna van Zanten June 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Super sistah,
    I know what you mean, but you might indeed not be known or be found if you don’t use a name.It might be comparable with what I have adopted for my blog and website; these have the baby boomer moniker as that is the audience I think I want and do attract. But not exclusively. I published short stories and a book under my own name, as that is my own and nobody can take that from me, it is the brand as such. Super Sistah might still be a name for your blog, but you might consider also using your own name somewhere on the blog… Good luck with the decisions. I will cheek out your blog.
    Johanna

    Reply

    the Super Sistah June 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I’m struggling with branding. My work is reasonably consistent but I have a pen name which is separate from my everyday identity. Everyone around me is urging me to abandon my brand name and just “be myself” but my brand name is way more recognizable. It’s a little cooky but it’s catchy. I write a blog as the Super Sistah and the book is coming out next that might bear that unconventional moniker. Do I change the name on my book to my legal one at this point in the game? Decisions. Decisions.

    the Super Sistah

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I feel your pain. My circumstances are similar. There is no universal answer, because every circumstance is unique, however, I wrote a post about why I chose my name and when I use them. It may help

    http://turndogmillionaire.com/2012/06/10/what-the-hell-is-a-turndog/

    It depends on the book you’re writing, but sometimes using your actual name will bring more benefits your way, and create more authority. Will people take a book written by the Super Sistah seriously

    The answer may be yes or no

    The best advice I can offer is go to your community. Ask the questions and gather feedback. If you do this you should be in a better position to make some decisions.

    Hope this helps a little. Let me know if you have any more questions

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    the Super Sistah June 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for your response and the suggestions from the rest of the group. Will readers take a self-help book written by someone named the Super Sistah seriously? I don’t know honestly. I’ll have to ask the author Sister Souljah or actress and author Queen Latifah. Granted I don’t know them and they are WAY more popular than me, lol. I agree that maybe putting my legal name on perhaps the book back cover makes some sense.

    Getting some real stuff to think about here. I appreciate all the great feedback.

    the Super Sistah

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Glad you’ve taken some tips from this.

    Super Sistah could work, there is certainly crazier things that could happen. Do some homework, and whatever you choose, live your life by it.

    Where there’s a will there’s a way :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Sistah,

    The situation you describe has been faced by authors often in the past, and you might not have to give up either identity. Why not continue branding the book as “Super Sistah” but also put your real name on the book as the author? I think the majority of readers would “get it” without any problem.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 27, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks Dane

    Love your site graphic by the way. Did you design it yourself?

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Dane Zeller June 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Matthew,

    One of the best steps I took in writing a book was to hire a graphic artist to create drawings for my cover and my blog. I divide the world in two: those who are good with words and those who are good with pictures.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 28, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I hear you.

    I personally like to do as much design as I can. I enjoy the process. My skills are very limited though. The designer you have is very talented.

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Dane Zeller June 27, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I agree, Matthew. Hand me that banana.

    Reply

    Johanna van Zanten June 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Hi,
    That was clear information from Matthew and I am thinking about how to apply it. The name is sure important, as the previous commentor points out, but that doesn’t worry me. I have not seen many with my name on this side of the world. I use my gravitar photo everywhere, to get my name out, but for my next book (which is in a first draft stage) I have to think hard about the cover, as the first book’s cover was sort of an accidental gift and related to the title of the novel. Thanks for all the good stuff you are sending out Joel.
    Johanna van Zanten

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I think you are ok name wise. That certainly stands out :)

    And your title is very important indeed. Joel will offer far greater advice than me on this subject. I simply know what I like. Your cover is your first impression, though.

    If you’re a businessman you wear a suit, but if you’re a fashion editor you probably wouldn’t. Horses for courses, so make sure the cover you create is aimed at the audience you desire

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus June 27, 2012 at 3:52 am

    The author’s name is an important part of brand identity that is too often neglected.

    Any author who expects to write more than one book hopes that people who like one thing she or he has written, will want to read more.

    If you want to be searchable and findable so you can sell books, it’s important that your name become a BRAND NAME so that people who have heard of you — maybe in a conversation or an interview or an article — can FIND you and PAY you for whatever you want to sell them. 

    I keep confusing J. J. Abrams, J. J. Goldberg and A. J. Jacobs. They all write, but write different things. I wish it was easier to remember who’s who. Fortunately, I don’t confuse them with O. J. Simpson.

    I deliberately use my middle initial “N” to make my name distinctive. There are thousands of Michael Marcuses, but apparently just one other with the same middle initial. He’s a shrink, not a writer

    The name of “Jor-El,” Superman’s Kryptonian father’s name, is unique and distinctive. And so is “Marlon Brando,” who played the part. (Marlon Brando was his birth name — a lucky advantage over Marion Morrison who had to become John “Duke” Wayne.)

    Stephen King’s name is neither unique nor distinctive. But after selling perhaps 300 million books, he probably doesn’t suffer from the existence of others with the same name. (Wikipedia lists over a dozen others including a Congressman, a pedophile and eight athletes.)

    If you use the name Stephen, you have the additional problem of people thinking you are a Steven. The same goes for Jon and John, and Bette, Betty and Bettye.

    More at http://bookmakingblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/writers-make-your-name-unique-brand.html

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.bookmakingblog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.BookFur.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire June 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Great thoughts, Michael. Such a great insight for a comment :) you should right a Post about it yourself

    and totally agree with you. Name is very important and often overlooked. Most people will be able to use their own name, but you shouldn’t be afraid of creating one.

    It’s a tough world so if you’re called John Smith, you will find it hard to stand out. Is it fair? Nope, but that is just how the cookie crumbles

    Thanks for your thoughts and insights

    Top man

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Demetrius June 28, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Hi
    I read the posting about names and wondered if, to make your name distinctive, you could make your name a logo. (like John Hancock)

    Turndog Millionaire? Cool name for a rapper

    Reply

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