Do you know who you are? Many people struggle with that basic question. As an author, you not only need to know who you are, but you also need to figure out how you want to be known to your readers. This is referred to as branding.
Part of being a business is having a corporate mission statement. That statement is meant to define your core goals and purpose as a company. Because publishing is a business, authors should approach creating a brand in the same way. Many authors just starting out don’t spend enough time thinking about marketing, and your author “brand” is a crucial component of a marketing strategy.
So think about what an ad campaign starring YOU the author as the product would look like. Yes, you’re trying to sell books, but you’re also selling YOU. And that means that you need to develop a brand.
By doing so, you accomplish two things.
- First, by defining your brand in an official capacity (such as a mission statement for a company), you’re forcing yourself to stop and really think about what you want to achieve as an author. If your goal is to be known as an author who writes romantic comedies, then you need to make sure your books contain both romance and comedy. Similarly, if you want to be known for writing political satire, that means you need to have a detailed understanding of politics. And hopefully satire.
- Second, by defining your brand, readers know what to expect from you as an author, and they’ll start seeking you out if what you do appeals to them. Basically, you’re building a reputation.
The first part of branding seems as though it should come very easily to most writers. We tend to write what we know and what we’d like to read, so sitting down and putting a label on ourselves seems almost superfluous, but it’s necessary and it’s not always as easy as it might seem. After all, it’s hard to talk about yourself. Think about a job résumé, when you’re asked to “tell us about yourself.” Not as easy as you thought, is it?
With that in mind, there are a few factors that go into deciding on a particular brand for your writer self.
- Is there a market for what you want to write? If not, do you want to write it anyway? Or do you want to shift your focus slightly? For example, you may want to write sci-fi mysteries that feature an Old West horse tamer and her pet monkey. Is there a market for that? I really don’t know. But there might be a market for a romance involving the Old West horse tamer who falls in love with a dashing space captain.
- Do you have the writing arsenal to pull it off? For example, I adore a well-written mystery or sci-fi novel, but I will likely never write either. Both genres require a disturbing amount of attention to detail, often coupled with some mad researching skills. I much prefer to investigate the human condition. What makes us tick? I get caught up in that and forget about laying the trail of breadcrumbs for our heroine to follow in order to solve the mystery.
- Do you have the patience for the genre you’re thinking about? Again, I fall back on the mystery and sci-fi writers. A good mystery can take years to write. The same goes for a sci-fi novel that depends heavily on detailed world building. A sweet, simple romance, on the other hand, can go from concept to print in as few as six months, depending on the author. When you define your brand, you must consider what you’d like to do in terms of publishing schedule, and what you’re expecting out of publishing.
Do you have an existing readership? Will it confuse them to have you switch gears? This question is more important than you might think. If you’ve written and published ten lesbian romances in a row, but on book eleven you write about a straight couple who are getting divorced, well, that’s going to give some folks a touch of whiplash. Does this mean you can’t mix it up? No, of course not. Look at the author Jae, for example. She writes suspense, romance, historical fiction, and urban fantasy. Her particular brand is defined by the fact that she crosses genres. She’s known for exploring a broad range of genres, for fully exploring a story without rushing the plot, and for writing evocative characters. However, when she decided to write a series of non-fiction writing tutorial books, she didn’t use the name Jae, and instead chose to publish those as Sandra Gerth instead. A smart decision, in my opinion, because her tutorial books are geared toward a nonfiction subject and thus a different audience.
Hopefully, you’ve given some thought to what your own personal brand might be. The next step is to take a moment and write it down. My branding statement looks something like this:
- Jove Belle writes character-driven stories that focus on people who populate our world and the things that make them go tick, tick, and sometimes boom. Her writing ranges from sweet romance, to graphic erotica, to fast-paced action and suspense, all while keeping an eye on the inner turmoils and motivations of her characters.
What’s your branding statement?