How to build your brand as an author

When you decide to become an author, regardless of whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you’re essentially becoming your own small business. As you can undoubtedly imagine, there’s a lot that goes into running a small business and the further away from traditional publishing you go, the more you’re required to do on your own, including managing your brand.

This may sound like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have any experience managing a brand. I have several years of public relations, marketing, and brand management experience, so when I saw so many authors asking about building their brand in the online writing communities, I thought I’d share a few things from my point-of-view.

Books are products, you are the brand

One of the biggest points of confusion I think people have is about how they’d describe their brand. In almost every tweet, post, and comment I’ve read regarding brand development, authors seem to think they need to brand themselves based on the genre they’ve been writing and are afraid they’re pigeonholing themselves from creating work in other genres.

This is incorrect.

Creating new products (i.e books, ebooks, etc) is vital to sustaining a writing career and building your brand as an author. To demonstrate why you shouldn’t be afraid to venture into writing other genres, I’m going to compare your work to cereal.

Fruity Pebbles is my favorite breakfast food and is a product created by the Post Consumer Brands Company. Fruity Pebbles has been in production since 1971 and has a proven track record for being a delicious cereal. If Post decided its business model would involve only making Fruity Pebbles, it would probably still be able to succeed as a company. However, just like every other major brand in the world, Post didn’t stick to just one product. Today, Post manufactures many different kinds of cereal, including Honeycomb, Shredded Wheat, and Golden Crisp.

All of these products are cereals, created with varying recipes of whole grains, sugars, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals. While each of these products is fundamentally different, they’re all created by the same company. The same can be said about you and your writing – no matter what genre, or genres, you choose to write and how fundamentally different they are from one another, they’re all created by you.

To give a professional example, Orson Scott Card is known for his works in the Science Fiction genre, giving us titles such as Ender’s Game and Empire. However, he also dabbles in fantasy and if you’ve ever read the first several short stories in his collection, Maps in a Mirror, you’d know he can create some of the most twisted and horrific mind-fucks ever put on paper.

In summary, the genres of your bodies of work are irrelevant to your brand. Rather than focusing on whether you’ll be known by a specific genre, focus on creating quality products your audience will love.

Businesses need to evolve to grow

Out of all the lessons I learned in my college intro to business class, the one which stuck with me the most was this: businesses must evolve to remain relevant. You are no different.

My professor used Swiffer as an example. When the Swiffer Sweeper came out it was all the rage (at least as far as home cleaning products were concerned). It’s disposable dusting cloth not only attracted dirt but you tossed it away when you were done, making clean up a breeze.

With the Sweeper’s success, Swiffer was doing well for itself but it knew if it wanted to remain competitive, it needed to continually improve its product. Because of this, the company developed wet pads, which added another layer of cleaning power. Then, it came out with the Swiffer Wet Jet; then the Swiffer Duster; and now it even creates air cleaners.

The point of this example is to show that, like Swiffer, you need to grow, too. This may come in the form of releasing new books or maybe you’ve got another skill, such as photography or painting, you’d like to explore professionally. Whatever it is, if you want to grow your brand, you need to allow it to evolve while maintaining the same level of quality.

How to improve your brand

What does all this mean? Well, f you’re looking to improve your existing brand or build it from the ground up, here is everything you need to know, broken down.

  • Always deliver a high-quality product
    • This is by-and-far the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how much money you pump into marketing and ads. If you have an unprofessional product you will not generate new business.
  • Invest in yourself
    • Every author comes from a different background and has their own reason as to why they write. No matter what your skill level is, or how many books you’ve published, you can always improve.
    • Take classes, attend workshops, network with other authors and editors, and, of course, keep reading! These things will help you improve as a writer and create better products. Better products equal better brand recognition.
  • Your books are not your brand
    • Unless your book has Harry Potter or Game of Thrones in the title, most new readers aren’t going to drop money on your book based on the title alone.
    • Even among your fanbase, unless your book is a long-awaited sequel, your readers won’t care about the title or genre as much as they’ll care about getting their hands on your latest work. A genre is only a door used to reach new readers; fans will return because your writing has ensnared their hearts and minds.
  • You are your brand
    • If nothing else, remember it’s your name on the book – even if it’s a pen name. Take pride in what you do because it’s not your book’s reputation on the line, it’s yours.

Do you have brand management experience and want to add something to the article? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!

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This article was written by Tim Koster.

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