Branding is something that authors often overlook, but it’s something that is so important, especially if you want to stand out in such a saturated market. So, I’ve compiled a list of branding tips for authors to really help you get a leg up.
First, what is branding?
According to the dictionary, branding is “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”
But I like this definition better:
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com
Why do so many authors overlook branding?
For a few reasons.
One, they intend to be or are traditionally published, and expect to or do leave the branding up to the publishing house. Why do more work than you have to, right?
This isn’t wise because if you haven’t been traditionally published yet, there’s no way to know if you will be, and even if you are that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to build an audience for yourself before that happens. And branding is a big part of that.
Two, it leaves all the branding control in the publisher’s hands. They decide what message gets put out there about you, and you get no say, unless you get the branding done first.
Three, if you’re self-published, it’s one of the few ways you stand a chance of getting noticed in the great big fishbowl that is indie-publishing.
But, if those reasons aren’t enough, how about these:
- Helps make you, and therefore your books, recognizable
- It increases your perceived value and professionalism to potential customers, which helps to:
- Generate new customers
- And it makes you appear trustworthy in the marketplace
It’s important to know that I’m talking about branding you here, not your books. It’s essential, because it’s your name at the top of your website and social media profiles, and that’s what we want people to recognize. We want them to trust you so they become interested in what you do and write, follow you, and want to BUY your books.
Branding Tips for Authors
One – Identify Your Ideal Reader
First, what’s an Ideal Reader?
Your Ideal Reader is the person who is your biggest fan, who buys everything you put out, follows you on all your social media sites, and is not only on your email list but responds to your email. I like to call this person my # 1 Fan.
This isn’t an actual person. It’s an imaginary person who you will make up and ask the following questions:
Where do they live?
What language do they speak?
What sort of job do they have?
How much money do they earn?
Are they married? Single?
Do they have children?
Where do they spend most of their time?
How do they relax?
What motivates them?
And anything else you can think of. The idea is to make this person so real, that when you post on social media or when you email your list, you doing so with this person in mind. You’re not just posting to some random, faceless stranger, but to a friend.
How does this help?
You’d be surprised how many people will relate to you because they fit these questions. And if they relate, they’ll want to learn more.
PRO TIP: Often your ideal reader is you. Keep that in mind as your crafting their profile.
Two: Craft a Customer Profile
Now that you’ve put together a list of characteristics, you can craft your customer profile.
On one page, write everything you’ve learned about your Ideal Reader. I like to do it like I’m make a resume for them. It’s also nice to find a random picture and put that on the page, so you’ve even given your Ideal Reader a face.
The more real they are to you, the easier it’ll be to talk to them in your emails and social media.
When you’re done, hang it up or put it nearby where you work so you can reference it whenever you’re writing to your audience.
Three: Brand Voice
Brand Voice is your brand’s personality, and it should reflect your values as well.
The first thing you want to do is write a list of personality traits you have that you love and things that you value, things that are important to you in your everyday life or things you wish were more common in your everyday life. This list can be as big as you want. After that, clump together things that are similar.
From there, whittle it down to three things. This is the hard part.
Example: Loves to have fun, values an excellent work ethic, loves everything fantasy
Now take each of those three things and write several synonyms, antonyms and characteristics for each. This will help you know how to write to your audience with the things you most value in mind.
While you’re doing this, keep in mind that a brand not only tells people who you are and what you value, but it also encourages customers to BUY from you. If a person likes you, they’ll buy from you even if your product is so so, but if they don’t like you, they won’t buy from you even if your product is amazing.
The goal is to get people out there going, “Hey, this person is like me! They have similar personalty traits and quirks, and values as me!” Which is another reason to do it. Getting customers to relate to you is a proven psychological trick that’ll make them want to buy from you.
Four: Unique Selling Point
What is a unique selling point or a USP?
A Unique Selling Point or USP is what differentiates you from other brands on the market and makes you or your product unique or better than the competitor.
Branding alone will differentiate you from most authors out there, who do nothing.
But it’s also about being specific.
If you’re a sweet romance author, what makes you different from every other sweet romance author?
(Obviously, I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow some basic principles of writing in whatever genre you write in. For example, you wouldn’t want a cover that’s not at all reflective of other covers in your genre, or to write a 120,000 word manuscript for your first YA novel, etc. There are conventions you should follow.)
You want to make a list of your strengths as a writer. What really makes your books stand out? Are you amazing at creating characters or worlds? Do you have strong voice? Do you know instinctively how to pick relevant topics or themes?
If you struggle with this, here’s a list of things you can do to help yourself:
Make a list of your favorite authors and what you love about their books, what makes them special?
If you have books published already, or if not and you have a writing group, alpha or beta readers, etc., look up the positive things that have been said about your books and write them down. Note commonalities.
Make a list of things you want your books to reflect or that you try to show in all your books. Highlight the ones that you could recreate or have recreated in every book
Then niche those suckers down. Try to stick to three.
The gals in my writing groups are amazing at this.
Jacque Stevens writes YA fantasy with main characters with mental disorders.
JoLyn Brown writes YA contemporary stories with strong religious themes.
R. W. Hert writes YA fantasy with characters who are constantly beat down but always get back up.
M.K. Dymock writes thrillers with outdoor themes.
The more you talk about the things that make your books special, the more people will correlate your books with those things. Which is great brand awareness.
Five: Setting Expectations
Now you need to set expectations for yourself and for your fans. And then you need to stick them like glue.
Consistency is key, and making a list of expectations for yourself will really help your audience like you, trust you, and want to buy from you.
That means, off the bat, having books that have been professionally edited and formatted, with beautiful covers.
It means if you say you will email every week, or post in a Facebook group daily, or blog twice a week, or pin however often on Pinterest, that you do, and that you’re sharing beautiful and relevant content.
These are the steps everyone seems to love the most. And I don’t blame them. I love it too, but a brand is so much more than its appearance. So, whatever you do, don’t skip the other stuff.
Six: Brand Inspiration Board
On Pinterest, create a secret board called Brand Inspiration Board. Search your favorite color, that’s typically a good place to start, and see if there are any color combinations that you like and pin them to your board.
Also search for things you love, like: libraries, books, antiques, decorative cup cakes, places you’d like to travel, etc. Add these things to your board and note commonalities.
Here’s a picture of my Brand Inspiration Board.
Seven: Color Scheme
Call your favorite color, or whatever color you pinned the most of, your base color. Then start deciding what you’d like your brand colors to be.
Contrasting colors are typically strong combinations because they stand out. It’s also typically better to stick to two or three colors at most, so you make it easy for people to recognize your brand.
That said, I know some brands that have several colors, but it’s very strategic how they do it, and takes a lot of effort. If you go this way, you’ll need to have extra design elements that really make it stand out as your brand.
Pro Tip: Google color meanings to give your brand some extra punch.
I think three fonts is pretty good for a brand. You want to do two regular fonts that are easily read, like Old standard, Raleway, Trocchi, or Montserrat, and at least one script font.
I used Parisienne because it looks similar to my handwriting, which is something to consider. But other great script fonts include Architects Daughter, Shrikhand, Bukhari, or Findel. These are just a few examples of thousands of different fonts you could use.
Avoid fonts that look too similar and be sure to compare and contrast the fonts you pick to make sure they look good together.
If you have Microsoft word, you can look for fonts there. Another good place to search is on Canva. And you can also google “font combinations” to help you search.
Pro Tip: Search for a regular font that has both Serif and Sans serif.
Nine: Extra Design Elements
So, these are things like shapes, textures, themes, etc. All things that you should’ve noted when you were creating your brand inspiration board.
Here are some examples of what those could be:
- antiques: typewriter, camera, desks, books, radios, etc.
- tea cups, a sunflower, sunglasses, cats, spyglasses, magnifying glass, steam punk goggles
- lace, velvet, cracked painted wood, tiles, stone, brick,
- stars, hearts, spirals, rainbows, stripes, polka dots, etc.
For example, my business is called “Write of Passages” and my logo is a compass with a quill as the needle.
As an author, your logo will be your name, but you could add elements around it like stars, or a teacup, or a cat, or an old-fashioned hat in silhouette. You don’t want to go overboard here. Try to narrow down your design elements to just one or two things, if you use them at all.
Here’s an example of logos I threw together real quick in Canva for my pen name.
After you’ve gone through all these steps, you’ll want to make yourself a logo, and start applying your fonts, colors, and other design elements all over your social media and email.
And remember, that’s not just brand appearance but all the other information you gathered as well.
A brand does you no good sitting in a file on your desktop. The only way it’ll help is if you use it and apply it everywhere.
I hope that you’ve found this helpful, and better yet, that you’ll follow the steps and create a brand for yourself. I won’t say it doesn’t take time, effort, and thought to do it right, but when it’s done, you’ll be so glad you invested in yourself.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, pop them in the comments below. I love to hear from you.