How To: Build an Author Brand

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I don’t know if you realize this, but from the first moment that the first person—other than you—read something you’d written you created a brand. Very simply put, a brand could be described as the image a person envisions when they think about you—the impression you’ve made upon them.

People develop their opinion of you very quickly. In a previous post, I explained how to capture the attention of your reader before they get to the second page of your novel. The reason this is so important is because most people won’t make it to the second page of your book before they have made a decision regarding what they think about your brand. They start with the front cover. If they like it, they move on to the back cover, carefully reading the copy you have there. If that passes their test, they will read the first page of the first chapter. If you haven’t captivated them by now, you’ve probably lost them.You have to decide what your demographic—or target audience—is.

  • Determine your target audience.
    The first thought most authors have is: “I think everyone, no matter what age or race or religion or whatever will love my book!” It’s important to remember that you can’t be all things to all people (even if Paul said so in 1 Corinthians 9—he wasn’t talking about this kind of thing!).First of all, believing this about your book is abundantly arrogant. Not everyone, everywhere will love your book. To be honest? More people will dislike your book rather than like it… that’s just how creative arts go. A lot of people love Metallica, most people—including me—dislikes them. That’s just because they fit into a genre. That means that only people who like metal—including me—will like Metallica. So, by elimination alone you’ve removed dozens of other genres and millions of music lovers everywhere.

    In the same fashion, we write Science Fiction. By genre elimination alone we are losing millions of book lovers everywhere. We have reduced our target audience to Science Fiction readers, or people who occasionally read Sci Fi. We know that just because someone walks into a bookstore that doesn’t mean they will love our book, no matter how well written we think it is.

    Furthermore, within the Sci Fi genre there are many subgenres. Brother Dust: The Resurgence falls under a Space Opera/Action/Adventure novel. Not everyone is into that style. Science Fiction is a vast genre. I recently found myself in a small bookstore in Alaska. The owner told me that the Science Fiction section is the busiest section they had. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find a single novel in that section I was interested in reading. They simply didn’t stock the styles I appreciated. Most of them were Hard Science Fiction. This means that it relied heavily on real science and technology to fuel the story. If your story takes place on a plausibly habitable planet, following the survival of colonists, your story is likely Hard Science Fiction. Outside of a few notables, those kinds of stories don’t really intrigue me. But there are plenty of people who love them!

    So, who is your target audience? Do yourself a favor, author. Use your imagination for a moment. Envision someone reading your book and take a moment to allow your mind to build the world around them. Ask yourself these questions:

    • How old are they? Did you envision a 15-year-old or a 50-year-old?

    • What kind of environment were they in? Was it a bedroom with walls plastered with Star Wars posters? Or were they in a beautiful study? This can help determine what kinds of advertising to do.

  • Develop an Author Platform that will appeal to your brand.
    First and foremost the question isn’t “should I have a website?” The answer to that question is always a resounding, YES! For a period of time there was a group of poorly educated marketers that pushed the concept that a Facebook Page could replace a traditional website—do not fall for this lie. As wonderful as Facebook is, it is still limited to being viewed by people who have already decided that they like you enough to invite you on to their ever-growing timeline. Not to mention that with so many posts hitting timelines yours will absolutely get buried.How do you create a website? That seems daunting to most people but it doesn’t have to. I am a professional website designer but the website you are currently reading on costs us about $20 a year. How? Websites like wordpress.com (which is where this is hosted) and blogspot.com allow for so much customization for little to no cost at all. An author platform should always involve a blog, so why not use a blog based content management system for your website? Not to mention, wordpress.org (different than .com, but using the same CMS) powers websites of such prestige as The New York Times Newspaper.

    The $20 a month we spend is for the use of a custom .com address. But if you are okay with having whateveryournameis.wordpress.com as your web address then you can get your author website up and running absolutely free and have a home that you can send people to.

    Other parts of your author platform can include any of the following and more:

    Facebook
    Twitter
    Instagram
    Tumblr
    Pinterest
    LinkedIn
    Google+

    and so many more!

    The question to ask is “how many of these social networks do I need?” The answer isn’t simple, but it isn’t rocket science either. We don’t have a google+ account, or a LinkedIn or a Pinterest, etc. My reasons are varied, but I don’t believe that there are many people on google+ that aren’t on Facebook. So why double our efforts and spend valuable time keeping multiple social networks updated when we can spend those efforts on more fruitful things—like writing blogs.

    Twitter has many that aren’t on Facebook, so we have Twitter. However, I’m not a big twitter fan, so I’m not incredibly effective, yet.

    Do a little research and determine which platforms are right for your brand.

  • Lastly, in this post, have a mailing list!
    Go to mailchimp.com or constant contact.com and explore. For your first 2,000 subscribers, mailchimp is free. After that the prices go up. As for constantcontact or any others, they have different sets of rules. We use mailchimp.com.The biggest part of advertising your book or news is permission. You need the permission of a reader in order to gain entrance into their lives. No one likes their space—even if it’s digital—invaded. Facebook gives a bit of permission, but you’re not guaranteed to be seen. When someone signs up for your email list they are essentially saying “I am interested in you”.

    Offer something in return for their email address. We offer a free short-story, exclusive to subscribers. But there are plenty of other things! Maybe you could offer the first book in your series for free! Or maybe you have a small E-Book regarding how you did something that people would be interested in knowing. There are plenty of options. Find the one that works for you.

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7 thoughts on “How To: Build an Author Brand

  1. Great advice guys! I think you are dead on when you say that our books will not appeal to all people! That is good advice. Brandon Sanderson, Author of the Mystborn Series, tells a similar story of a friend of his who wrote a book about a military lawyer in a future science fiction universe. His hope that he would appeal to all of the people who liked the TV show JAG and all of the people who liked science fiction. He though by adding that JAG element he would open it up to a whole new audience. Turned out, he reduced his audience because the book only appealed to those who liked both JAG and Sci-Fi, not either or.
    One point I would encourage you guys to do is to have a Google+ and other social media. Why? Because it about having a larger online presence. You don’t have to have a Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc page that you update regularly. All you have to do is have one set up that points people to where you want them to go. Set up a nice looking page with your cover art and brief synopsis of your story and then “For more information about Brother Dust: The Resurgence, go to…” And that’s it! Now you have a larger online presence. Plus, how cool would yoru cover look on Pinterest? 🙂 It’s all about the SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

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  2. Good tips. For email marketing you can use SendPulse. I use it on my blog and it’s great. Actually it’s similar to Mailchimp but is more affordable. The free plan goes up to 2500 subscribers.

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