Six easy steps to a great author brand

Posted May 7 2015, 1:01 pm in , ,

brandIn my work with authors, I frequently encounter a resistance to branding because of the cost. But truly, Brand Marketing does NOT need to be an overwhelming subject for authors. It really isn’t about how many bookmarks you have or whether or not your website features the latest video trailer technology. Effective Brand Marketing is within reach of EVERY author, from the first-time-writer to the multi-published, beloved romance icon.

First, write a great book

No, really. The most important part of anyone’s Brand is the actual product he or she is selling, or in the case of authors, their books. If you don’t have a solid book, you will not have breakout success—so take the time to put forth your best possible work before getting caught up in all of the distractions of marketing.

Second, consider your publisher and format

Authors of romance have the opportunity to sell their books to publishers of almost every shape and description—large or small, print or e-book. While any publisher can add value to the writing process, you are both subconsciously and literally setting a price for your book by your choice of publisher. That price (and the contract you negotiated) can and should impact your Branding process.

For example, if you sell to an e-book publisher with a strong online following, does it make sense to prepare for in-person book signings? Probably not. However, if you sell to a traditional print publishing house and know several booksellers in the area who would hand-sell your book with a little advance notice, then taking the time to set up book signings would be well worth your time.

If you’re an indie author, you’re in luck! You are your publisher, you set the rules. You’ve already made your first great brand decision!

Third, decide what makes you different

It’s very tempting to skip this step. You want to get on to the fun part of designing marketing materials, not think about your industry peers and how you and your work might stand out. But positioning yourself is critical for you to ensure your Branding efforts are effective. You’re not “just” a writer of romance… your romance is unique because it is—what? Amazingly funny? Packed with thrills? Dark and edgy? I urge you to take the time to come up with what makes you and your work fresh and new, particularly if you’re a new writer or if you’re trying to break through to the next level of publication. It is time and effort well spent.

Fourth, package yourself (and your work!) for success

This applies on two levels. First off, there’s your personal appearance—which is necessary for in-person book signings and meetings with your industry peers and publishing professionals. Please note that even if they don’t want to, people do draw conclusions about you based on your appearance and your demeanor. So if you write serious literary fiction and you show up wearing day-glo spandex and stilettos, there will be a bit of a disconnect for your readers. And if you write tender, soulful romance but snarl and snap at every turn, that will also be off-putting (as well as slightly alarming). Being a public figure is not always easy, but accept that you are one as an author, and be prepared!

**Note, does this mean that if you don’t “fit” the role of the type of books you write, that you shouldn’t be seen in public? Absolutely not! But just be prepared for your readers to blink rapidly when they meet you, and have a plan to resolve their surprise however you prefer.**

Your marketing materials are another method of “packaging” yourself—your website, business cards, stationery, and, yes, giveaway items are all part of your overall package. If you are published or are actively marketing your work, take the time to create a truly professional-looking website and online presence. It does not have to be elaborate, but it should be appealing, easy to read and genre-appropriate. The same holds true for your marketing materials—it is not worth your time to create materials that don’t present you professionally, so spend your money and resources wisely in this arena.

Fifth, pay attention to where (and how!) your books are sold

This is another area that is tempting to overlook, but the placement of your books can help determine how well they are sold. So find out where your books will be available—and when. Consider innovative marketing ideas to get your books placed in unique venues—especially if your book lends itself to a particular tie in (such as Harlequin’s NASCAR®-themed book series). Help your editor sell your book to the sales department by suggesting marketing hooks and ideas to make your work memorable. When it comes to helping ensure your books are as marketable as possible, consider it part of your Brand duty to be an active participant in your own success.

And Sixth…finally!… Promote your work with distinction

Yes, absolutely: promotional materials can be a part of a successful sales plan for any author. Bookmarks that have a unique hook or design, and “useful” items such as mini-calendars, pens, lanyards, clips and magnets do have a shelf life, and can absolutely boost name recognition. But here as in all areas of Branding, make your promotional materials stand out. Chances are, you’re spending part of your advance money to purchase these items, so make sure they will carry their weight. They absolutely must contain your identity—your name, book title, and/or website address—and they should ideally be as unique as you can make them, and relevant to your specific Writing Brand.

Creating a positive, memorable author Brand can be a rewarding process for an author—because it allows you to clearly articulate who you are, what you write, and why your books are worth the attention of a reader. So take the time to create a Brand you truly love—and watch your readers fall in love with it, too.

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