Amanda Luedeke

November 6, 2014

Thursdays with Amanda: What is Your Author Brand?


literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Random Note: We’ve been having some issues with our comments, so if you left a comment in the past few months, I’ll be going through and responding today/tomorrow!

If you haven’t noticed, Taylor Swift is creating major buzz with her gigantically successful album release. (You can read about it at the Washington Post, Billboard, or really anywhere else.) Swift quickly used her ridiculous success to take aim at Spotify, a streaming service that many musicians feel is hurting the industry. But let’s get back to Taylor and her reign…

I found this article about how ridiculously successful her career has been. She is seeing sales numbers that haven’t been seen in over a decade. Her name is right up there with the far-more-gimmicky Lady Gaga…and Taylor is only 24 years old. She doesn’t have gimmicks. She’s not even that great of an actual singer. But she has a brand, and it’s working.

So where am I going with this?

It’s clear that the music industry, an industry wrought with the same issues and hurdles as the book industry, is now in the business of making stars. Sure, they still make music, but it’s the image, the brand, the celebrity of a particular artist that seems to drive that industry.

The industry’s top sellers happen to be appearing in movies (Taylor was in Valentine’s Day and will also be in The Giver). They’re doing ads (Taylor was the face for CoverGirl). They’re doing tv shows (Taylor appeared on NBC’s The Voice and Fox’s New Girl). Basically they’re doing their music thing and then they’re doing a million other things in an attempt to promote their music thing.

Do authors need to follow suit?

I tend to believe the answer is yes.

Sure, we still have authors breaking out based on their books and nothing else. But then we have John Green

He’s not just an author. He’s a vlogger (he does this as an unrelated venture to his author career, though he does talk about his books every now and then). He works with Mental Floss. He’s an intellectual. He has a brand that is so much more than this printed books and words on the page. And in a genre that has seen many many hits, John is the only author that I can think of to have consecutive hits that aren’t part of a trilogy or series of books. He writes standalone novels. And he’s kicking butt at it.

Remember, JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer both tried the standalone approach…and it was a struggle for them.

In poking around John’s site, I found this morsel of wisdom (bolded emphasis mine):

Q. How have YouTube and other social networking sites changed your life?
A. If it weren’t for youtube, I wouldn’t be best friends with my brother. I wouldn’t have the words “New York Times bestselling author” associated with my name. I wouldn’t have a way to join forces with other people and pool our resources to build huge water filters for villages in Bangladesh, and I wouldn’t be able to meet those villagers over video and come to know and care about them as people and not just two-dimensional images of poverty.

Here is my challenge to you: If this is an age in which artists must also be celebrities…if what we’re seeing in the music industry will eventually trickle down to the book industry (if it hasn’t already), then WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?

What’s your brand? What’s your angle? Who are you in addition to being an author?


Marketing your heart out is great, but it’s nearly impossible to do if you are no more than a book cover.


The reclusive ways of Salinger and Harper Lee simply will not work. So let’s talk about this issue of brand…what’s your brand? Do you even have one? And if not, how can I help you figure it out?

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  • April says:

    I agree with the others, I’m not sure how to answer the question, “Who are you?” How do we make a brand out of ourselves?

  • It’s a great question, but for myself, I’m really not sure how to answer it.
    Who am I?

    I’m a Christian. My blog is all about my journey with God more than my writing. (

    I’m a writer. My first job after school was as a journalist. Now I write training courses for a job, and novels in my spare time.

    I’ve done a lot of youth group leading or mentoring. I worked as a boarding school mistress for 18 months.

    I grew up on Australian farms. I’ve milked a lot of cows.

    In my spare time, when I’m not hanging out with friends, I write, read, and watch TV (I love analyzing TV for inspiration for my writing).

    And that’s about all there is to me!

    My style as a writer has two sides to the coin. My blog is an honest recount of my growing relationship with God. And I like to think of my novels as ‘romance with guts’. There’s no long gazes from across the room, but there’s teamwork and families and problems and churches and God.

    Do you have suggestions about how to pull a brand out of that?

  • Cathy Shouse says:

    WHO ARE YOU? Great question. I heard John Green speak this year, mainly for my teen. I thought he was a genius and came home and read “The Fault in Our Stars.” I think that he and others like him, who are exceptionally successful in their fields, have found what is quintessentially them. They bring authenticity to the world because they have reached down deep into their talents, their experiences, and their outlook on life and are offering that to their audiences. It’s kind of like what Steve Jobs called “connecting the dots” in his Stanford graduation speech. Instead of a brand, I think of these people as having a persona, and they are certainly larger than their book covers or the work their work.

    I find it challenging to answer WHO ARE YOU? Would you mind breaking it down into a series of questions? Or how about giving me a hint: is the answer supposed to look like a sentence, a paragraph, or maybe bullet points? lol

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Well put regarding John Green. He’s found who he is and has grabbed hold of that.

      As for finding your brand, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. We can talk about it more next week, but essentially a brand is what people think of when considering a product or person or company. So maybe it’s a mix of who you are and who you want to be. I think that one roadblock writers have is that we spend so much time trying to fit in when we need to try to stand out. So that’s what could make this very difficult for some.

    • Oooh! I’m good at not fitting in! LOL. As far as brand, I know at some point I decided my author name was my brand. But I think readers right NOW would associate me with Vikings or married main characters. And hopefully they see me as someone who enjoys reader participation/input, because I really do. And some authors would know me as an indie, I think. 🙂 I think I had heard brand is the feeling people get when they hear your name?

  • You brought a different angle to something I’ve been pondering lately, as “real life” has been keeping me from writing much. What I keep coming back to is that there are some critical things happening right now that demand to be resolved before I will be able to give my writing projects what they deserve; the subjects are linked.

    For me, writing must come out of my life as a whole. It’s one (significant) part among other parts all pointed toward what I’ve devoted my energy to. So choosing to take that night to train with the rape crisis center or be in therapy myself or talk one-on-one with the girls I’m writing for–how could I begrudge this loss of time I should/could be writing? Those actions are what give the words their reason for existence and just as writing stirs my passion to keep working for the topics I write about, going out and living it in life feeds energy back into the writing. It’s a constant challenge to balance the time, but I think different seasons demand different emphases.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for sharing! But do keep this topic in mind…it will be handy to know for when you ARE ready to move forward with your writing.

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