• BC Brown Books

How to Build an Author Brand

When we think about a business or person brand, we often think about color choices, a logo, & marketing material like business cards. But a brand is a lot more than those things, it's setting an expectation for consumers, a promise on the type of products & service/s they can anticipate from a business. A brand is what sets one writer apart from another in a market that is awash with writers.

Basically, a brand is a sense of who you are, what your business is, & how your books will be for the public.

Chances are you've already established some type of brand & never even thought about it. You've probably chosen a consistent social media name to go by - that's part of branding. In addition, if you've chosen a website, you've most likely selected colors & fonts, types of pictures used, & the types of information you share. Those also go into brand.

What you've been doing is unconscious brand design & it works. Up to a point. What you need to do now is take control of your brand & make it work optimally for you.

When brand is controlled & connects authentically with a reader, a writer never has to "sell" a book again.

7 Ways to Build Your Author Brand

  • Know Thy Reader(s)

We're writers. That means brand starts with what we write & the audience we write for. While it can take a bit of research to distill what we look for in an ideal reader, it is worth the effort & time. Once we know who we are writing to then we

are better able to determine where to find them & how to talk with them. And it all starts with what we are writing.

Consider these 3 things when determining who your readers are:

  1. What do I write? If you write children's fiction, you don't want to hang out in true crime groups & forums to find readers/buyers. Why? Because, while parents who would buy your books for their kids will undoubtedly be in those groups & forums, buying kids books is not what they are there for. That means they are likely to dismiss your brand or adverts because it doesn't apply to them right that moment. But if you write true crime or mysteries, even urban fantasy with mystery elements, then you absolutely should be in those groups & chatting up those members.

  2. Where do I find readers? There are a lot of options for getting in front of readers. Whole social media platforms are dedicated to gathering writers & readers in one place to discover each other. On those platforms, however, are also tons of competition & still have to be navigated so you're targeting the right readers again, much like the previous example. And, while we want to go after people we know are interested in buying books, we don't want to discount platforms that aren't geared to literature because people with varying interests gather everywhere. Knowing which platforms to use does take some research though, & that feeds into our final question to ask ourselves.

  3. How do I know which platform to use? This goes back to knowing who our book will appeal to. For example, I write urban fantasy with a paranormal mystery slant & social justice undertones. While urban fantasy can be a broad audience, I've researched that a majority of my readers are women between the ages of 25-50. The mystery angle broadens that audience out a bit to men & women between the ages of 35-70. Then I have another demographic adjustment to consider: social justice undertones. In that audience, I've found my regular consumers to be men & women between 18-30.

This all leads me to research how different age brackets consume information & interact. 18-30 year olds are more often found on social media sites like Tiktok, Snapchat, & Instagram. They also aren't keen on newsletters & emails, & they are less likely to use public libraries or brick-and-mortar bookstores. Readers between 25-50 are more likely found on Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram. Some read newsletters & about half still use email consistently outside of work for recreational purposes. They will sometimes use public libraries & go to bookstores. My 35-70 year old readers are most often on Facebook & rarely use other platforms. They are big users of email & regularly read newsletters. They often utilize their local public library & frequent bookstores.

Think I'm done there? Nope. Because my books also highlight under-represented groups in literature such as people of color, people of different abilities, & the LGBTQ+ community. So I also have to consider those demographics. All of these areas need to be researched so I can distill down where I spend my time & with whom I interact to get the most out of my time spent promoting my brand.

  • Define Your Brand Voice

Whew. Okay, so we know who we're selling to at this point. Now we have to ask ourselves the following:

  1. How do we want them to see us?

  2. What do we want them to think of when they hear/see our name?

Sometimes this comes naturally to writers. Other times, it isn't as easy. Just like finding our writing voice took time & practice, so can finding our Brand Voice.

Are you quirky, funny, or maybe inspirational? Your brand voice should reflect that &, most importantly, stay consistent with it. If your brand is established as funny, it would be extremely off-brand to post using dark & angry language that fumes.

Does that mean you can't ever share thoughts that are off-brand? Well, that is a topic of some debate. Most advice leans toward keeping your business/brand accounts squeaky clean from personal opinions & observations, to have personal (private) accounts for those reasons. However, if you write about controversial or hot-button issues, sometimes posting opinions & observations is necessary. But the overall point is that you must still utilize the brand voice you've established to share them.

  • Identify Your Unique Selling Point

In the age of self-publishing it often feels like everyone is a writer.

Self-publishing has opened up the door to amazing talent & stories that were previously considered "too risky" for traditional publishing. On the other hand, it has also allowed the market to become overcrowded & good writers & stories can get lost in the shuffle.

To stand out, writer brands have to establish early on what their USP or unique selling point is. This goes back to knowing our primary reader. But it also goes one step more. We need to address what we, above all other writers, have that will take care of whatever problem they have.

Think of the following questions when determining your USP:

  1. What does your perfect customer really want?

  2. How can your product or service solve their problem(s)?

  3. What factors motivate their buying decisions?

  4. Why do your existing customers choose your business over your competitors?

  • Establish Expectations

A brand is a promise. Nothing less & so much more.

The end all & be all of your brand is to tell customers what they can expect from you. When your brand is consistent, it tells readers they can trust you & get to know you. It helps them like you.

A brand also lets readers know what you write, or if you like to write all sorts of different genres. Basically, the expectations of a brand keep us from catching our customers off-guard.

Or maybe it's something as simply expectations on how often you might interact. Or how long your books typically are so they know how much time they're investing before purchasing.

No matter what, though, a key expectation customers will have & every writer should meet is high quality product with proper formatting & editing & professional, quality cover art.

  • Choose an Aesthetic

A brand aesthetic can be influenced by brand voice. If we're engaging with customers on our brand accounts in a mostly humorous or silly capacity, our brand aesthetic will lean toward a sillier vibe/tone. Our official author pictures will be all smiles or silly poses or faces. We'll use brighter colors in our logo, our website design, our marketing collateral.

But when choosing our aesthetic, we also have to consider what we write. A brand voice that is silly & humorous with a website that has bright colors & author photos with silly faces are incongruent with writing horror, for instance.

What if I'm a very upbeat person but write gritty, slasher stuff?

There's a niche for that! It's called perky goth aesthetic. Or if the bright colors or childlike whimsy of perky goth is too much, maybe a haunting romantic aesthetic with soft flowers & skulls?

The point is that stories encompass all kind of genres & sub-genres overlapping in them. Brand aesthetics can too. But once you choose a brand voice & aesthetic, be consistent with them.

  • Always Keep Brand In Mind

Speaking of consistency... This final note is a remind of all the things we've covered. Once you've established customer expectations, brand voice & aesthetic, what your unique selling point is, & who you want to pay attention to your brand, always always always approach the outside world with that brand info in mind.

We can be wild & inconsistent, posting random stuff on our personal media & in emails (especially if we keep those set to private). But any time we're are "working" & think we might even soft sell our business or products, we need to always keep brand in mind. Once we've broken customer trust in our brand, it's a long long time before we can earn it back.

BC Brown is a hybrid published author with 20 years of experience in writing, marketing, & publishing. She prefers to write in the urban fantasy & fantasy genres but has published works in contemporary fiction, women's lit, & playwriting. She publishes writing-related videos on Youtube & streams live writing content on both Youtube & Twitch.

BC has an urban fantasy series, The Metaphysical Chronicles, available & a contemporary fiction novel, Karaoke Jane, available. She is an active member of the Central Phoenix Writer's Association in Arizona where she lives with her wife, 4 cats, & german shepherd mix dog.

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