It seems like everybody is talking about “author branding” these days.
Do you remember when all we talked about was “author platform”? Well, I argue that “author brand” is the same thing but much easier to understand. Because it’s easier, developing a brand is slightly easier to build than a platform, especially for a fiction author.
Author branding is the first step in creating a long-term marketing strategy that sustains your author career.
While author branding does include logos and slogans, the bulk of it is what you offer the reader. It’s how you are different and stand out. What makes you distinct from other writers in your genre? Why should anyone want to read your work as opposed to anyone else’s?
Agents and editors ask writers this question all the time. They are looking for something different and unique. But it’s difficult sometimes to figure that out for ourselves.
I recently attended a branding seminar by a consultant firm that had nothing to do with writing, and it finally all clicked.
This firm used Marty Neumeier’s book Zag to help explain one aspect of brand, and I think it gets to the heart of everything writers need to develop the answer to their “uniqueness.” I’ve tweaked it to be specifically for writers and it starts with five questions.
1 – What do you offer?
This is your genre. Be clear and specific about which genre you write in. Romance isn’t enough. If it’s romantic suspense or romantic sci-fi, then say so. If you write thrillers, determine exactly what kind – spy thrillers, international thrillers, domestic thrillers, etc..
2- How is it different?
This is the twist on your take of the genre. Again, be specific. How is your romantic suspense unique? How is your international spy thriller different? This is the element of your brand that is unique to itself.
3- Where is it set?
Location can really help you set yourself apart. If everyone is writing about LA, and you write about Chicago, that’s great news. Location also gives you lots of color and character for your brand.
4- Who is it for?
Be very specific about your audience. Who is your reader? Have you done a reader sketch yet? Time to get on that.
5- What is the current trend?
Understanding and articulating the current trend is the foundation for how you explain the way you stand out.
What is everyone else writing right now? Vampires? Great then you write werewolves.
Thrillers in the Soviet Union? Awesome, because you’re writing about them in China.
Now that you’ve answered all these questions. Put it together in your “only” statement.
Here are a couple of examples to help you:
Dan Brown is the only thriller author writing Catholic-themed adventure stories set in Rome for action readers in an era when the market is saturated with Middle Easter terrorists’ thrillers.
Stephenie Meyer is the only young adult shifter romance author writing vampires and werewolves set in Washington State for teenagers in an era when the market is saturated with vampire-only romances.
Example #3: (ok, this is my group, but had to make a quick plug!)
Writer Nation is the only book marketing group for authors that espouses a marketing strategy where authors get to be writers first and marketers second in an era when the publishing industry is expecting them to do the bulk of their own marketing.
Once you’ve figured out your “only” statement. You have the foundation to build every other aspect of your author brand.
Grab your checklist for creating an effective author brand here.