By Sandra Beckwith
What do you have in common with Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonald’s?
You’re all brands.
You’re probably familiar with the term “branding,” but do you know what it means and how it applies to you?
Entrepreneur Magazine defines branding as “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
But aren’t your books the products – not you? Yes and no. In most cases, you’re the brand, while your books are “brand extensions” – literally, extension of your brand onto additional products.
For example, Oreo, a “brand” we know and love, has recently introduced a flurry of “brand extensions” that include Birthday Cake Oreos, Oreo Thin Bites, and Peanut Butter Oreos. (Mmmm….)
Applying This to Authors
As an author, you might not be as well-known as that cookie with the creamy white filling, but you’re still a brand. In addition to books, your brand might also extend to online courses you’ve created, presentations you make, and even other products such as t-shirts and coffee mugs.
With a book series, the titles in the collection are extensions of the series brand.
The Dummies multi-author book series from publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is a good example. The name “Dummies” is the brand – it even says so on the series logo. The many individual titles are brand extensions.
Successful self-published romantic comedy writer Jami Albright is an example of a single-author brand. Her humorous “Brides on the Run” series reflects her personality – fun, funny, and smart.
If you’ve authored several series, each series is its own brand. The books in each are extensions of their respective “parent” brands.
What’s in a Brand?
Essentially, your author brand is usually also your personal brand. It’s what people think of when they hear your name; it’s a collection of impressions people have of you. A number of elements help create those impressions, including your:
- Books — both what they look like and what’s in them
- Online interaction with readers and others
- Social media contributions
- In-person interactions with readers and others
Your brand is who you are – not who you want to be or who you want readers to think you are. But it also goes beyond who you are to include what you stand for, how you handle and present yourself, and what you do.
What Can an Author Brand Look Like?
Your author brand is reflected in the imagery surrounding your book and its marketing materials.
Let’s go back to romantic comedy writer Jami Albright. Her branding for the “Brides on the Run” series is light, bright, and cheerful. The covers use a whimsical title font in a decidedly feminine color that pops on an almost-white background. And, there’s literally a smile on every cover. We know just from the branding that these books aren’t going to make us cry.
Jami’s website header uses a similar script font and a lighter shade of that pink in a background that resembles nail polish. Pretty girly, don’t you think? So is Jami. She is her brand.
Compare that with best-selling crime writer Michael Connelly’s site. Like his book covers (and what’s between them), the header is dark, intense, no-nonsense.
Defining Your Author Brand
How do you determine your brand so you can translate it to the imagery that surrounds it? Working with a professional designer to create a unified look that goes with you across all platforms starts with answering these branding questions:
1. What am I known for, and is that an accurate reflection of who I am?
If it isn’t, what changes do you need to make? For example, you might see yourself as a relaxed and ramblin’ kind of guy, but your book covers and content come across as uptight and pedantic. Which is the real you?
2. How do others describe me?
Rather than guess at this, ask people who know you well how they describe you to others. Does their description match yours? Or is there a disconnect between their perception and yours?
3. What am I naturally good at? What do I do best?
Understanding what you do best and how (or if) you’re doing this now will help determine your brand’s “mood.” It will also help you see if you’ve strayed too far from the core you – and your brand really is your essence.
4. What differentiates me from my competition?
What’s unique about you or what you offer? How do you compare to others? They’re more X and you’re more Y, but what’s Y for you? Try to pin that down.
5. Am I a leader, a follower, or a helper?
You want to determine this because a leader’s brand looks and feels different from a follower’s or a helper’s. The brand for someone who’s an encourager should be quite different from that of someone described as “making the trains run on time” or “takes no prisoners.”
Identifying and developing your author brand is an important process that takes time and effort. Be thoughtful about it. Be patient. Work on it until it rings true not only with you, but with those who know you.
When you have that clarity, work with an experienced designer to bring it to life visually. You want a “look” – branding – that involves colors, fonts, and imagery you will use as the basis of your website design, book covers, social media profiles, and social media content.
When you’re done, you’ll have a unified public face that represents the real, true, you: Your brand.
How would you describe your author brand?