6 Branding Tips for Writers and Authors

by Joel Friedlander on July 16, 2014 · 32 comments

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By Nina Amir

Branding seems like an activity best suited to companies, like Nike, Audi, Best Buy, Rolex, or Amazon. Books and words brand authors, right? And they do so in an authentic and organic manner.

In fact, authors do need brands, but most writers don’t think about branding—or don’t want to think about it. Those writers who do bother to brand themselves typically wait until they become authors or have been published for a while.

In both cases, this is a mistake. Serious writers who want to succeed as authors should include branding in their early success planning. A strong brand helps an author in the same ways it helps a company. It gives you name recognition and helps you sell your products—your books.

That means branding should be part and parcel of the business plan you write when you first get the idea for a book. In fact, that idea for your first book quickly should be followed by a brainstorming session for spin-off books, or sequels or series, and a big-picture view of who you want to be and how you want to be known when you become an author.

That’s the beginning stage of your brand.

  1. Determine how you want to be known
    Branding is a large topic. There are whole books written about it. Branding experts help other people and businesses develop their brands. However, it’s possible even for someone like you, a writer or author, to create a brand with just a little bit of knowledge.

    Here’s how you start: Think about how you want to be known as a writer. To determine this, consider:

    • the types of writing you want to do
    • the subjects about which you want to write
    • the types of stories you want to tell
    • the themes you want to cover in your work
    • the ways in which you want to serve you readers
    • the clients or customers you want to attract
    • the spin-off books (sequels or series) you would like to publish
    • your values
    • your interests
    • your passion
    • your purpose
  2.  
    Does something stand out? Is there one quality, topic or aspect you’d like to highlight so that you become known for it? If so, this is a good place to start. You then can create logos, taglines and websites that feature and highlight this concept so you become known for it. This becomes your brand.

    Or try to answer this question: “How would I like to be known?” Do you want to be “The ___ Coach,” “The ___ Writer” or “The ___ Expert,” for example? Or will you brand around your name alone?

  3. Decide what books you will write.
    Another way to brand yourself is by writing more than one book about a certain topic or theme. You can brand yourself by writing many nonfiction or fiction books (or both) about a certain topic or theme. Your sequels or series will highlight who you are and what you write about.

    To brand yourself in this manner, brainstorm all the different books you might possibly write. Then take a “big picture” view of this material:

    • How do these books fit together? By a theme or a subject?
    • Can you group any of them together?
    • Can you find one overriding thread that holds them together?
    • Can you describe that thread (or theme) in one sentence or in a phrase?
    • Can this become your “branding statement”?

     
    Here again, you could become known as “The ___ Writer.” Think of the knitting writers and the Amish romance writers, for example.

  4. Create a website or blog that helps build or strengthen your brand.
    You can support or develop your brand with a website or blog. A blog works as a website, and every author needs an “author website.”

    Purchase a URL with your name so readers and the media easily can find you. However, if you also are branding with a tag line or some sort of expert status, you may want to purchase that URL and redirect to it as well.

    Then design your site with colors, words, phrases, and images that make it easy for someone to know “what you are about.” Your site’s title and tagline should make this clear as well. For example, Michael Hyatt’s tagline is “Helping leaders leverage influence.” That’s pretty clear branding. Additionally, write lots of posts on topics or themes related to your brand to help strengthen it and make your site more discoverable by readers doing searches. Again, Hyatt’s site is a good example of this.

    People who visit your site should immediately “get it.” They should understand what you stand for, what you write about and any other messages you want to get across.
    Here are a few sites to check out:

    • R.L. Stine. He’s done a fabulous job of branding himself with a website. He’s even used music!
    • Cindy Woodsmall’s website. No question what she writes about.
    • Jack Canfield’s message is enormously clear right from his banner and throughout all his content and products and services.
  5.  

  6. Use your brand statement across all your social networks.
    Use the same title, tag line, photo and colors, etc., across all your social networks, as well as in articles, videos, and guest post, and always provide a link “home.” This helps you get you known quickly and easily and is another way to strengthen your brand once you’ve developed it. And tie everything you do back to your author website.

    Carla King has used her “adventuring” brand across all her social networks as MissAdventuring. Her books and websites help her strengthen her brand as well.

  7. Ask others for help.
    If you have difficulty creating a brand for yourself, ask those who know you best for help. Ask readers, clients, customers, and friends the following:

    • What do you perceive as my values?
    • What do you consider my strong points?
    • What do I do for you?
    • What benefit do you get out of my books, work, courses, products, or services?
    • How would you describe me?

     

    Take this information—if you like what you hear and it works for you—and craft it into a brand. If you don’t like what you hear, it’s time to think about how to create a different perception than you haphazardly have done in the past.

  8. Create an umbrella for all you do—even if you do a lot.
    It can be easier for nonfiction writers than fiction writers to develop brands. Yet, many nonfiction writers choose to write about a variety of topics, and this can make it difficult for them to brand themselves as well. Fiction writers who publish across genres may find themselves in the same quandary. However, it’s still possible to find an “umbrella theme” to tie everything together into a brand even if you write about two or three subjects, write fiction or write across genres.

    As a novelist, you might write novels that appear to be unrelated. You could weave similar themes, topics, issues, or locations into them. For example, think about weaving your love of orchids into both your momlit and your thrillers. Could that brand you?

    • Your momlit could have a main character that runs an orchid shop.
    • Your thrillers could have a main character that leaves orchid blooms at the scene of the crime.
    • You could cross over into nonfiction by writing a nonfiction book how to care for orchids.

     
    Or all your books could take place in England or could discuss family values or politics. You could draw on your law degree or your former life as a nurse.

    If you write nonfiction about organic gardening, travel and business, you might be able to write books that:

    • Eating organic in foreign countries
    • Organic business practices
    • New organic gardening techniques

     
    Of course, the more books you write with these themes or elements in place, the stronger your brand becomes. By choosing something—like the orchid or organics—to run through all your books, you strengthen your brand with every title you release. And don’t forget to place a picture of an orchid or an organic garden on your website and use that word in your tag line. Write blog posts about orchids and organics. Before long, everyone will know you as the Orchid Author or the Organic Author. That’s branding.

Sell More Books with a Brand

Why bother branding? For the same reasons big box and small box companies bother: It helps sell products. A brand helps potential readers know, like and trust you.

And remember: Your brand is you. It’s a way to help readers know you—authentically. You aren’t creating some fake ad or new persona. Your Brand helps readers understand who you are and what you and your books stand for—and what type of books you write. That makes it easier for them to decide to purchase those books. That means your books will get read. And that’s the ultimate goal.

Do you have experience branding yourself as an author? Tell me about it in a comment.

Nina AmirNina Amir, is a Contributing Writer for TheBookDesigner.com. She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs.

You can learn more about Nina here.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

    Carrie November 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Excellent advice! You want to brand yourself to the specific industry and carry your beliefs with you in every blog/book. But don’t sell yourself out, I recently wrote a blog titles, Sell Your Brand But Don’t Sell Out (http://speakingofwealth.com/sell-your-brand-but-dont-sell-out/), meaning you want to sell yourself to others, but don’t lose yourself while trying to gain the attention or false advertisement along the way.

    Reply

    Catherine Marshall October 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    As a writer, it’s good to branch out and try different topics for writing. However, there has to be a theme or consistency otherwise your readers won’t really pay to much attention. It’s better to specialize than generalize. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    Jennifer Robinson (nom de plume - Jennifer Larmar) August 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    (Not sure if my last comment got through as I sent it through my iPhone and I couldn’t find the submit button so I thought I’d post it again just in case!)
    A great article and some very good insights.
    Thankfully I thought to include my ‘brand’ on my business cards – ‘Blending the joy of words and music’ with an icon of an open book and treble clef entwined. Now I’d better set to work incorporating it into my website and FB page, along with all my other social networking sites!
    I am a contemporary fiction writer whose works weave a love story through many different life situations, as in my series ‘Til the End of Time’ published under my nom de plume, Jennifer Larmar, which is set around musical theatre. My current title ‘Broken Pieces’ is based in Rwanda after the genocide with my main character using her love of the cello as a form of solace during troubled times. ‘Yesterday’s Secrets, Tomorrow Jerusalem’ tells the story of two friends – one German and one Jewish – during the Holocaust and also incorporates a musical undertone even though it’s still only residing in my heart and imagination until BP is complete.
    Thanks for the advice and I wish you every success in whatever you do, Nina. And maybe I’ll enjoy some too due to your article :)

    Reply

    Nina Amir August 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Jennifer,

    Sounds like you’ve done a great job branding yourself! Not easy as a novelist, but you truly have succeeded.

    Good luck!

    Reply

    Jennifer Robinson (nom de plume - Jennifer Larmar) August 9, 2014 at 1:59 am

    Thanks for your reply and encouragement to my comment, Nina. Funnily enough, it wasn’t intended as a ‘brand’ when I was making my business card. As a former graphic artist I decided I just wanted to have something to grab a person’s attention when they looked at it, hence the icon. Then as a singer/muso, I decided on the wording to distinguish what it was symbolising!
    All the best with your website too – I peeked at your replies to others above!

    Reply

    Alix Moore July 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Nina,
    Thanks for a clear and practical discussion of branding for writers. (I’m a big fan of yours!) I’ve been speaking to groups of writers about finding their “why” and marketing from their passion, and this is a great resource. I’ll share a link to it with my list.

    I worked through exactly this process a few years ago as I tried to figure out how my book on teaching, my book on creativity, and my workshops tied together. I came up with the tagline “Writing Our Journey to Joy,” as joyful empowerment is the unifying thread that lies within everything I do. I have the same image on Facebook, YouTube, as an email header, etc., (although I was messing with my website and it isn’t on there right this minute).

    Having figured out my brand, I’m clear about what my writing has to offer my readers, and my marketing becomes just an extension of my writing. What a relief!

    Reply

    Nina Amir August 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Alix,

    Thanks for your lovely comment…and for being a fan! It’s so true that finding a brand makes everything clear, including your purpose and the benefit you provide to your readers. There’s always room for tweaking…my main site is under construction, I’ve just redone head shots for the second time this year, etc. But we are all a work in progress!

    Reply

    Joe Beernink July 20, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Good article. Question: I’m a YA writer, but not a young adult myself anymore. Any thoughts on branding for YA? Focus on the material more than the writer?

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 20, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Joe,

    I always lean toward focusing on the material. There’s much more to brand there. That doesn’t mean you aren’t important, but what is the reader looking for? Not you. The content.

    Reply

    Larry Payne July 17, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I write across 3 genres and a common link seems to be that the stories all tend to have at least one strong female character. A Brand?

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Could be…flesh it out. Banner featuring strong women? That could help.

    Reply

    Fay Keenan July 17, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Hi Nina,

    Thanks so much for this article – it makes so much sense, and, for me, is very reassuring that I appear to be on the right lines! In these days where writers have to fight even more fiercely for market share, and the quandaries surrounding self-publishing or traditional routes, it seems even more important to have a handle on your own brand, USP and values.

    This sits quite easily with me, as I’m a romance writer, and, in order to try to distinguish myself from the many others in the field, I coined the term ‘ruralmance’ as my USP. The concept isn’t original; there are plenty of writers of romance who set their stories in a rural world, but I hope, that by coining that as my ‘brand’, it will make me distinctive, and, therefore, marketable. Time will tell, I suppose, when I take the first book to market and see who wants it!

    Thanks again for the read!

    Fay

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Fay,

    I love that you coined a term. And if your site shows rural photos and you take shots of yourself in rural America and such, you’ve got it. You are the creator of the ruralmance and your brand all about that. Welcome to my site…where romance meets rural America. Or something like that! Good luck!

    Reply

    Fay Keenan July 19, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Thanks so much for the reply, and the welcome, Nina :). I’m glad the ‘ruralmance’ idea seems sound; it’s certainly given me a focus for my platform building. And I’m actually an ‘across the pond’ ruralmance writer, living, as I do, in the South West of the UK :). I look forward to reading more advice from you and the site :).

    Reply

    Helen Sedwick July 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I think I understand why many writers balk at the word “branding.” Branding became popular to consumers because it implied predictability. If you bought a Burger King Whopper or a Whirlpool washer or a Starbucks coffee, consumers could predict what they were buying. Many writers don’t want to be so predictable;we want to be creative.
    But when it comes to the selling side of writing, writers need to give readers some assurance about what they are buying. That’s where branding is valuable, and perhaps even unavoidable.

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Michael,

    Of course, it is important to also brand by your name…and to be proud of that name, whatever it is.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus July 16, 2014 at 10:15 am

    An author’s brand name has to be distinctive so that people who like one thing he or she has written will easily find more.

    One good way to help people to find your work is to have a distinctive name like actors and singers.

    Jor-El, the name of Superman’s Kryptonian father, is unique and distinctive. So is the name of Marlon Brando, who played the part. Marlon Brando was his birth name. Marion Morrison was less fortunate. He had to change his name to become John “Duke” Wayne.

    If you have a bland name like “Arthur Williams” you might be more easily found and better remembered if you change to Hamburger Williams or Xavier Nguyen Bacciagalupe III. Sometimes just a slight change can do the job. F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably a better choice than Francis or Frankie Fitzgerald. Bill Smith might be better remembered as William Harrington Smith or Billy D. Smith. Edward Jay Epstein has written more than a dozen books, perhaps with more success than hundreds of Ed Epsteins.

    English punk rocker Declan MacManus morphed into a more-memorable Elvis Costello. Don Novello wrote books as Lazlo Toth and appeared on TV as Father Guido Sarducci. Punk-rock bass player Sid Vicious was born John Ritchie. Cher was Cherilyn Sarkisian.

    Stephen King’s name is not unique or distinctive. But, after selling perhaps 300 million books, he probably doesn’t suffer from the existence of others with the same name. (Wikipedia listed about a dozen, including a Congressman, a pedophile and five athletes.)

    More: http://www.bookmakingblog.com/2014/01/an-authors-name-should-be-brand-name.html

    Reply

    Carole Avila July 16, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Terrific article, Nina. My issue is that I don’t like to write one specific genre. I have a paranormal romance out, and a young adult horror which will come out next year, and I’m under contract for a non-fiction piece on sexual abuse, based on my work as a life coach. I’m currently working on polishing up two novels for submission, one which I consider literary fiction and the other a contemporary May-December romance. I don’t want to be tied to one genre. Maybe this is the process in trying to find my niche in the writing process? Regardless, I’m open to an unknown future as long as I can still write, and hopefully there’s room for a multi-genre writer.

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Carole,

    Multi-genre is fine! Just use the guide above as you brainstorm your upcoming books–and the ones you are revising, editing and writing. Is there a way to create a thread?

    Reply

    Carole Avila July 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I’ll look for a thread. So far the basic thread I see is conquering issues within relationships. Admittedly, I didn’t realize that until you prompted me to think about it. I’ll see if I can spin that into something more creative. (I’ve been a life coach for decades so I can do a blog about dysfunctional relationships, old patterns, etc.) Thanks for the insight.

    Reply

    Lucy Ravitch July 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Great article! I know brands help guide viewers to quickly understand what you’re all about. I have been thinking about my brand for years and my books are not out yet. Thanks for the write-up!
    ~Lucy
    Kidsmathteacher.com

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Lucy,

    It’s great that you’ve already been thinking about your brand. Hope this piece moves you further along.

    Reply

    Sharla Rae July 16, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Very helpful. You give good starting points. I write mostly historicals but am breaking out to Sci Fi and have been struggling with the branding issue.

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Sharla,

    So glad you found it helpful.

    Reply

    Ernie Zelinski July 16, 2014 at 1:56 am

    I have never thought about myself as a brand. In fact, I would cheapen myself as a person if I was to try to brand myself.

    Interestingly, one of the most interesting inspirational and creative speakers I have seen in the last year was Arkadi Kuhlmann (“The Steve Jobs of Banking”). Arkadi Kuhlmann pioneered direct banking in North America when he launched and served as CEO of both ING Direct Canada, which recently sold for about $4 billion, and ING Direct USA, which is now Capital One and recently sold for around $9 billion.

    Someone in the audience asked Arkadi Kuhlmann about branding. His reply was that most of the stuff being sold by branding experts to corporations and individuals is pure fluff. He summed it up by saying,

    “Your brand is what people say about you behind your back.”

    I definitely agree with Arkadi Kuhlmann.

    In Kuhlmann’s case, the media labeled him everything from “the Steve Jobs of banking”, to “the CEO of Savings”, to “the bad boy of banking”, and even, “the rebel CEO with a bank”.

    Now, that’s branding — what others say about you and not what you say about yourself!

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Ernie,

    Branding, done thoughtfully and authentically, doesn’t have to cheapen you.

    And it’s great that the comments Kuhlmann received behind his back branded him so well, but they could have just as easily gone another way.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Great point, Ernie, thanks.

    Reply

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