Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Steps to Create an Author Brand
Amanda 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.
The past few Thursdays we’ve been talking about creating an author brand. The main points of the posts have been:
1. Your books are not your brand. YOU are your brand. Your brand infuses your books and not the other way around.
2. You can be the one to determine what your brand is.
3. If you don’t determine your brand, others will do it for you…and you probably won’t like the result (after all, most of us want to be known for more than physical traits such as “blond” or “tall” or “old” or … you get the picture).
We touched on a few of the questions that you need to ask in order to discover what kind of an author brand will work for you, such as:
– What are my hobbies?
– What is my personality? Am I sassy? Contemplative? Old-fashioned? Radical?
– In what areas am I an expert? What are things that I know more of or do better than others?
– What life experiences have I had that stand out?
Once you’ve identified what kind of a brand you want to give yourself, how do you implement it? How do you go from being an author, to a brand?
1. Look your brand. Let’s say that you have skills in refurbishing and decorating vintage pieces. Your fiction always tends to be set in vintage eras (or it focuses on characters who appreciate that style) and so you feel having a vintage brand will carry throughout your career. Now, you could go around living life as normal. OR you could replace your professional wardrobe with vintage clothing, update your online spaces to have clear vintage themes, adopt some vintage phrases, and so on. By doing this you are connecting the dots for your readers, and you’re also making it easy for fans of all things vintage to gravitate toward you.
2. Talk your brand. In the above example I mentioned that someone with a vintage brand could adopt some vintage sayings. But “talking your brand” goes beyond that. In interviews, on panels, and in discussions with readers, you want to drive your brand home. So let’s say your brand is “the MMA pastor.” In interviews and conversations, you don’t want to just talk about your book or your career, you want to talk about MMA! Talk about your favorite matches and share experiences you’ve had in the ring (do MMA matches happen inside a ring??).
3. Expand your brand. Let’s say you’ve started talking and looking the part, but thanks to social media, readers are looking for an experience. There is a huge opportunity to make your brand bigger than you and your career. Instead of always focusing on you and your life and how it ties into your brand, you want to be aware of the lifestyle that is associated with your brand.
There is a very specific lifestyle (a set of likes, dislikes, events, groups, blogs, etc) associated with “vintage.” There’s another lifestyle associated with “MMA.” Let’s say that the brand you’ve given yourself is the “Fashionista author”. There is an entire world of fashion that goes way beyond your books and career and small corner of the Web. You want to be aware of this bigger world and take part in it. You want to share pertinent news about this world with your followers. You want to know what’s going on. And you want to connect with those who are also influencers within that corner of the web. By doing this, you’re expanding your brand into something much greater, and that’s a powerful thing!
4. Develop brand standards. Every company worth its weight has a set of brand standards, which is literally a book or document that details out what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to marketing, logo, communications, etc. These things are usually super detailed, going so far as to identify which fonts can be used on various publications. While you don’t need to go that far, you should have a set of rules for yourself. A system of checks and balances so that you don’t find yourself straying from your brand. Because believe me, when life takes a turn, it’s so easy to start blogging and Tweeting about those personal things when it’s all you can think of. But your audience doesn’t care about those things! So you want to limit the amount of time spent talking about the “randoms” of life or things non associated with your brand and balance that with plenty of content that provides the takeaway your readers are looking for.
5. Have fun with your brand. Your brand should be something that feels comfortable. Natural. And yes, while we talked about changing your look and online approach to better embody your brand, it shouldn’t be a fish-out-of-water experience. Your brand is built from YOU. So it should be fun! And spending time in your brand’s world should in a sense be a natural extension of who you are. So, don’t sweat the small stuff. Be yourself. Be your brand. And it’ll come together!
Any questions?! Let me know!
I’m really benefitting from this series. Thanks. How far would you suggest going to get the brand nailed down visually? Due to your advice, I’ve managed to tweak some of my stories to solidify my “money ideas that are fun” brand, such as selling a story about creative gift-giving on a budget, and even a “how to” about avoiding credit card debt. Does it ever make sense to create one’s own unique logo, like a money sign with a smile on it, or some visual cue that I have a unique twist on money?
A friend who likes moose paid a premium to have a logo of a fun moose created. Based on my brand, I’m against spending money that isn’t required. 🙂 But I would like your perspective. Not everything lends itself to a “look” like going vintage or MMA. I could likely find rhinestone earrings of the money sign, or is that too in-your-face? I don’t think dressing like the traditional money advisor would be appropriate–or noticeable. I’ve read some advice that simply says to choose a fashion style (like wearing a bright jacket or a scarf or wearing a certain color–usually black, it seems) that is memorable, so that you stand out in the crowd, sort of like having a signature look. Your thoughts? Cathy Shouse
I hope every writer reading this is able to come up with his or her brand. It’s such a crucial thing to have to help guide you in everything you do.
Mine is “romance for the hero lover.” As a reader I’m all about the hero. As a TV viewer I’m all about the hero. As a writer I’m all about the hero. This gives me a lot of room to talk about things in my personal life readers will find interesting, along with my reading and writing life.