Ep 155: In a World of Author Branding, uh…What’s an “Author Brand”?
I guess I got ahead of myself.
I’ve been talking about author branding, but I didn’t describe or define it. And in this world of author branding, you may be wondering, “Uh…what’s an ‘author brand’?”
Sorry to leave you full of questions. Like:
Is it the logo you design and the colors you choose for your website?
Is it the font you use for your name?
Is it the banner image you use on Facebook or the photo that shows up in Gravatar?
Is it the art on your book cover?
Is an author brand more about voice and style?
Is it tied to the subject matter you’re known for? The topics you tackle?
Is your brand revealed in the way you manage your Instagram feed and select images for your blog?
Maybe all this talk of “brand” sickens you. “Seriously?” you’re thinking, “Brands are for jeans and perfume and hotdogs, not writers!” Thinking of yourself as a brand feels slick, commercial, and product-y. “Brand” sounds like marketing manipulation or sales-speak.
“I’m a Writer, Not a Brand!”
“I’m not a brand!” you’re shouting. “I’m a person! A writer! An artist!”
And of course if you’re shouting that, you’re right—absolutely right. We are not neon signs to flick on and flash in a window or a color palette and typography design hoping to entice interest.
We are people—people who love words.
We tell stories. We pour out our hearts and hold out hope to the world. We’re essayists, memoirists, novelists, poets. We are artists.
(But I Would Love Readers to Read My Work)
And yet, if we seek publication, we’re trying to draw interest. If we’re doing more than write in a journal, we must be hoping to find readers for our articles, our poetry, our short stories, our books.
If we write for the public, we want to impact people. If we’re honest, we’d love readers to read our work, wouldn’t we?
Readers Default to “Brands”
And readers face a lot of choices. When a person shells out money for a book or sinks time into reading an article, she wants to be pretty sure it’s worth it. So she’s choosy.
Sure, she’ll read someone new, especially on a friend’s recommendation, but she tends to gravitate to the writers she has come to know, like, and trust. She turns to those writers who turn out content that consistently addresses her need or lifts her up or makes her think or laugh or sigh. She reads the writers she knows will help meet her need.
She probably doesn’t think of it this way, but she turns to author brands.
A Brand Is a Promise
So that’s a way to think of brands and writers. How can we become that trusted writer who consistently addresses a reader’s needs or lifts her up or makes her think or laugh or sigh?
How can we offer an unspoken, informal promise of sorts, that when a reader finds us and reads our words, he will get to know us and we’ll deliver content in the same general vein.
If, for example, I don’t use four-letter words in my content then suddenly spew a stream of them unexpectedly, I broke my “promise,” so to speak, and went off brand. I blindsided my readers who had come to trust my tone and turn up my podcast or read aloud my articles within earshot of their conservative grandmother or grade school kids.
A Brand Accumulates, Forms, and Strengthens Over Time
Whether intentional or random, everything we write and send out—from social media updates to podcast episodes—is leaving people with an impression about who we are and what we’re like.
Over time, one blog post, magazine article, short story, or poem at a time, you’re becoming known for something. Over time, you gain visibility. And over time, your brand is forming and strengthening into something. A group or groups of people are beginning to recognize you.
You can see how it does involve a lot of different elements, including our subject matter, our tone, and, yes, even the colors on our website, our author photo, the cover art on our book covers, and the style of our logo.
What Comes to a Reader’s Mind