Chip MacGregor

December 7, 2011

A bit more on branding (and a special offer!)


One more thought on branding yourself as an author: A brand isn't just a slogan. I once met a beginning writer who had business cards printed with the words, "The Queen of Suspense." Unfortunately, she was unpublished, so from a writing standpoint she wasn't really the queen of anything (except maybe "self-confidence"). Words that like are just a slogan, but a brand is a reflection of who you are. Experience among readers trumps slogans. We've all had experience with the novels of Stephen King, so our experience tells us he is the "King of Horror." We've all been exposed to the novels of John Grisham, so our experience tells us he is the "King of Legal Thrillers." Those series of perceptions have built up enough to let us grasp the brand each author has. 

That's why it's often difficult for a beginning author to "brand" herself. She doesn't know herself, doesn't know her voice, doesn't know what she'll be known for. It's hard to brand something that isn't yet fully formed. (Though it's not necessarily a bad thing… at least you'd be making an effort.) Again, if a brand offers a promise to readers, many beginning authors simply aren't ready to make a promise yet. That's okay… what DO you know about yourself and your work that you can sell? If it's your first novel, and it happens to be an Amish romance, what's good about the book? What's unique about it? What do potential readers need to know? What will they like about it? If the core of marketing is to figure out where your audience is and stand in front of them, what do you want to SAY when you get there? 
Your brand has to be honest, of course. It needs to reflect you — who you are and what you have to say. If you're not yet sure, it may not be time to invest in a huge marketing push. (And it's fine to try on different outfits. I like to remind newer authors that a beginning novelist is a 13-year-old girl — able to be a rocker one day, a preppie the next day, a jock the next, and a goth the next. For an author, trying out different personalities until you find the right one is better than having no personality at all.) Eventually, you have to figure out who you are and what you have to say. 
And, of course, you want to start making your brand consistent. So when somebody reads your book, or visits your website, or goes onto your facebook page, or reads your blog, the messages on all of them work in concert with each other. The themes are the same. The images, even the colors, work together. You strengthen your brand by reinforcing it, so the secret is to be consistent. 
Hey, some cool news… Rob Eager, who runs WildFire Marketing, has put together a "marketing plan template" for fiction and nonfiction authors. Rob has good stuff, and he's selling these online for $19.99 at But he wrote me today and said that if anyone reading this blog visits his site and types in the discount code "chip" at checkout, you'd get $5 off the price. His material is worth checking out. Tomorrow, it's on to Step Two in the process…


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