Branding is essential in building your author platform. It's how readers will identify and set you apart from the gazillion other authors vying for their attention.
It tells your ideal readers who you are, what you're about, what they can expect from you, and why they should invest their time in your writing.
I don't profess to be a branding guru, but I am an observer and fangirl of multiple authors. Some of whose books I've never read, but something about them trapped me in their orbits. It took me a while to realize their magic came from their brand. How they presented themselves to their audience.
This realization inspired curiosity. And from there, this Author Branding Duology.
Here's how I've broken it down.
Part One: Define branding, learn important terms to understand, and why it's essential in establishing an authentic and thriving author brand that stands out.
Part Two: Learn how to build your author brand with a solid brand strategy and pitfalls to avoid in the process.
Let's jump right in.
Do Authors Need a Brand?
The short answer is… yes. Whether you're a traditionally published author or traveling the self-publishing route, you need a brand.
It's the core of your story as an author.
The skeleton and connective tissues that hold your author platform together.
Spending the time to figure out your brand gives you control over the story you tell about yourself when readers interact with you. Whether on your website, on social media, or at in-person events.
And yes, you can't always control public perception of who you are. But you can set the tone and reader expectations.
Branding Basics for Beginners
It isn't a science or some undecipherable spell in a grimoire, but there is a short learning curve. Before you can build your brand, you need to learn the basics, starting with some key terms.
Understanding these terms' meanings and differences makes it easier to work with a graphic designer if you decide to hire one. It also provides a guideline of what you must research and create if you choose to handle your branding independently.
Branding Terms to Know
These three B's are the pillars on which you build your author platform:
Brand: Simply put, your brand is how people perceive you. The impression they gather when interacting with you in person or online. In other words, it's the intangible result of your hard work. The endgame.
Branding: This is molding your intangible brand-related elements (more on those later) and bringing your unique and distinctive personal branding to life.
Brand Identity: Refers to the visual design elements or assets you create to reflect your message and brand personality.
Without actively shaping your branding, you won't have a brand. And without designing your brand identity, your branding loses its full effect of initiating audience engagement.
So What is Author Branding Anyway?
Based on the definition above, I'm sure you've realized your branding is more than your logo and color scheme.
It's a combination of your vision, personality, talents, values, beliefs, (and more), reflected through your written and visual messaging, displayed consistently across all your platforms.
Each aspect of your brand feeds into the other, triggering a cascading effect that ends in a stellar brand that attracts, engages, and converts your ideal readers.
Consistency plays a significant role in achieving this ultimate outcome—human connection.
It boosts the unifying power of your brand and builds reader trust as it keeps you at the forefront of their minds.
I'll give you an example.
Every time I see a dragonfly, I think about one person… Sarra Cannon. She's an indie author I follow on social media and Youtube because she's relatable and always honest about struggles that I also face as an author. She's just an all-around down-to-earth human. All traits she consistently presents whenever she interacts with others.
The dragonfly symbolizes her author/brand story, personality, and brand. And now, my brain automatically associates dragonflies with her because of the emotional connection she fostered.
See a dragonfly… wonder if Sarra has a new video posted.
That's the power and magic of her brand.
That's the effect you want to replicate when you design your authentic author brand.
Think about your favorite authors who occupy a rent-free space in your mind. What about them stands out to you the most? What makes you think about them even when you're not directly interacting with their platform?
Not everyone will have the same results.
Epic outcomes are never a guarantee. But you can position yourself for success no matter the odds.
How Do I Brand Myself as an Author?
Branding consists of tangible and intangible elements.
The intangible aspects form your Branding Fundamentals.
Voice + Trait/Personality/Persona
Values + Beliefs
Purpose + Mission
Strategic brand messaging + Positioning
Unique Selling Point/Proposition
Tangible elements create your Brand Identity.
Image mood board
Branded imagery used on your website, social media platforms, and promotional graphics
And the list goes on
Branding + Brand Identity = Your Authentic Author Brand
One has little impact and meaning without the other.
Building your brand starts with mapping out your Branding Fundamentals. Together they also create the foundation of your business plan. Once you've settled on your strategies and direction, your fundamentals will guide you in creating a complementary Brand Identity. You'll consistently use these visual assets across all your digital and physical mediums to build Brand Recognition.
Remember the dragonfly? That's the boss level you're aiming for.
Why Is Branding Important for Authors?
We've skirted over the importance a few times, but here's an in-depth review of the four main reasons.
Reason #1: It creates clarity and direction.
Successful authors brand themselves, not their books. Readers want to connect with you first and foremost. The emotional connection you create is what sells your books and whatever merch and services you offer because now your audience is invested in you.
Fostering this connection, however, requires a good dose of self-awareness. An awareness you can unlock through introspection.
Who are you as a writer?
Why do you write?
Who do you write for?
What is your vision for your author career? Your goals?
How will you achieve these things?
What does success look like for you?
If these questions look familiar, they are part of your Branding Fundamentals. By outlining the intangible aspects of your branding, you'll gain clarity of mind, purpose, and a sense of direction. From here, you can create your strategic game plan with your next steps.
Intentionally plan and design an author brand that reflects your true self with your future goals in mind.
Reason #2: It creates a consistent brand experience for your audience.
Once you've honed into who you are as an author and your ideal audience, being consistent will become second nature.
Authenticity is the name of the game. Pretense is far harder to maintain, and readers know when they're being duped. One day, you're bound to slip; once they see this, they won't stay quiet about it.
Neither will they trust you.
A consistent brand experience builds brand recollection and recognition (i.e., dragonfly), reader trust, and emotional connections. Loyal fanbases grow from these elements. These dedicated few will engage with you across various platforms and become your informal (and formal) street team.
Being consistent doesn't mean you will never change. As you evolve, so should your brand.
Humans evolve. It's one of life's consistencies.
As you change as a person and an author, be honest with your audience. Many authors are afraid of this change because they think they're disappointing their fanbases or they'll lose sales. These two outcomes are unavailable. But they are preferable to forcing yourself into a box you no longer fit.
For instance, if you wrote in two genres—romance and mystery—but you realize mystery is your sweet spot. When you shift your focus solely to new mystery works, your romance audience will thin out unless they also love mystery.
By notifying readers of the impending changes, you'll lessen the blowback as you transition. You'll lose some, but you'll also gain new followers and readers. Ones that align with you and your brand.
Your 'consistent traits' will be your openness and authenticity. Your messaging will remain effective, consistent, and 'on brand.'
Consistency fosters trust, and trust builds credibility with readers and your chances of success.
Reason #3: It's the foundation of all successful author platforms.
Consumers choose brands that represent them, and readers are consumers. Building a brand with care and genuine intention creates a gravitational pull for your ideal audience.
Creating an authentic, relatable, cohesive, and targeted author brand sets your platform apart. It's your competitive advantage to cut through the noise of your competition. Once you build visibility and recognition (through consistency) and gain momentum, your platform will grow.
Brand recognition helps you carve out a spot in the publishing market as you build an engaged community around your writing.
Reason #4: It simplifies your marketing.
It's easier to market yourself and your books when you know who you're speaking to, where to find them, and how to connect. A catchall brand and, by extension, catchall marketing waters down your impact.
When you build your brand, it's not to attract everyone; it's to attract the right people. Like-minded wanderers and explorers who align with you and your brand.
By building an authentic brand and a community surrounding it:
You know where to find your readers;
What they want;
What they expect;
And how to reach them.
Your brand identity unifies your visuals. With branded templates for social media and ads, you'll save time and effort whenever you sit down to design graphics for your marketing campaigns.
Once readers recognize your brand, promoting and advertising will be less hassle, as you'll immediately stand out from your competitors.
A purposeful, well-crafted brand = an effective marketing strategy.
Your brand is everything you say and do.
Building an author brand that is intentional and authentic sets the tone for your author platform.
It fosters clarity of mind and purpose as you dig deep into who you are as an author and what the community you want to build looks like.
It creates a consistent brand experience for readers, building trust and a loyal fanbase.
It's the foundation of a robust author platform, as brand recognition helps you stand out from the competition and sell more books.
It simplifies your marketing because you know who you're talking to, where to find them, and how to connect.
Branding is the cornerstone of your writing career and platform. Tell your own story. Take control of your brand and build it with authentic purpose.
What next: Learn how to build your authentic author brand with your audience in mind.
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