When Author Branding Goes Wrong
Just as you put thought and dedication toward what you write as an author, the same focus should be put on your writer brand. Author branding tells your readers a story about who you are and inspires them to connect with your work.
Think about some of your favorite businesses. What draws you to them and what sort of characteristics come to mind? What about the brand keeps you coming back?
You should consider the same questions when it comes to your writer brand. Creating a strong, defined presence will significantly help you find and connect with your readers – helping them know if what you create is for them, and what to expect from you in the future.
Getting started on your branding involves several different factors from conceptualisation to marketing. In this guide you will learn exactly what elements to focus on, along with us sharing a few author branding examples for inspiration!
What is Author Branding?
Author branding is how you choose to present your values, mission, credibility, and personality to readers. In order to create your author brand, you should start by identifying your target readership. Remember you’re not aiming to appeal to everyone; a loyal target audience is more beneficial than trying to reach all readers.
Once you know who you want to connect with you can work on developing your brand voice and the face you will put out into the world. Tell your story and showcase what makes you different from other authors in your niche, it’s your USP (unique selling point). This also ties into your brand appearance, which might include consistent colours, logos, and fonts across your website and social media channels.
For instance, if you’re a horror writer then the images you share, posts you write, and general look of your social media will differ from that of a children’s writer who publishes books on unicorns and fairies.
As a horror writer you may link to horror-related shows, other books, funny images, explain your writing journey, run a competition around Halloween etc. Whereas a children’s author is more likely to talk about school visits, sharing cute pictures, talking about funny things kids said to them, inspiration for their books, and get behind child-related charities etc
Your writer brand should offer an experience for your readers, and as you gain your following you also want to make sure to stay consistent with reader expectations. Yes, building a winning brand is a lot of work but it’s 100% worth it for longevity (and can be a lot of fun).
The Importance of Author Branding
So why is having an author brand so important?
For one, it’s what helps inform readers why they should buy or support your content. When you have a strong, effective brand, it shows your audience that you’re an expert and demonstrates why they can trust your writing.
Your author brand is also a bridge of communication with your audience, keeping them engaged and excited. When readers feel they have a personal connection with you and your work it keeps them coming back for more.
You can engage with your audience by asking their opinions, talking about real experiences, and most importantly, being consistent. Getting your author brand right is only a small part of your author marketing activity – it’s more PR than sales. Remember: only 10-20% of what you post online should be promoting your work (no one likes to be sold to). This is about giving a clear picture of what you stand for as a writer.
Your brand also goes a long way with reinforcing your overall reputation. For example, if you are going live on your social media and interacting with your followers, they’ll get to know you as a reliable brand. Responding to comments, answering inquiries, and providing meaningful content are all reputation boosters. A positive image is crucial for marketing success!
Author Branding Mistakes
Now that it’s clear exactly how beneficial author branding can be for your writing career, we want to also highlight just how damaging certain mistakes can be. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, but it doesn’t take long to ruin your author brand.
So take your time building your brand in order to avoid certain pitfalls that can diminish all of your hard work. Here are a few common author branding mistakes to avoid:
Failing to Connect with the Right Audience
As previously stated, determining your audience should be the first step to take when considering your brand. If you fail to target the right audience then no connection will be built, and that is bad for business.
Your tribe will be naturally interested in you and your story, so it’s up to you to deliver stories, visuals, and content that match your niche audience and the product (i.e. books/your writing) you are promoting. This all helps to establish an emotional connection that must be maintained to keep your audience interested on a deeper level.
If you are struggling to pinpoint one specific target market, it can help to imagine an avatar, a literal representation of who your reader is. Then have that image in mind when deciding what to talk about and share. If your make-believe ideal reader is Jane, a thirty-year-old mother living in Idaho who enjoys pottery and poetry – then great. Think of all the things Jane would like to know about, not just about your books but your life and interests that may match hers too. And if 65-year-old Bob from London hates that content, then that doesn’t matter. Don’t change a thing. Bob isn’t your target market.
The more you stay focused and consistent, the easier it will be to naturally form a coherent audience that grows and supports you and your work.
Poor Market Understanding
As you start to consider yourself as a brand and a business, you’ll need to also think about competitors. You have to research the market to understand what others in your niche are doing. Focus on what they are doing well and what they could improve upon. How are competitors influencing audience perception? Not doing your due diligence when it comes to competitive analysis will adversely affect your author brand.
If you see that an author of similar books to you is getting a lot of traction by sharing certain pictures or asking certain questions, see how you could do similar things. But that doesn’t mean losing your individualism…
Think about some of the most popular writers across different genres. The reason they stand out is because they have a unique selling point, also known as USP. Your author brand needs to convey how you are different from the thousands of other writers in the market. Simply matching what competing brands are doing won’t make a reader want to choose you over them. You must clearly communicate your own brand values, vision, and a strong author identity to be unique.
Inconsistent Messaging and Visuals
Do you have a website? Social media channels? Do you attend public events or take part in school visits?
While completely different platforms, the content you post should be consistent across all forms of communication. Online you should identify colors, fonts, and logos that best reflect who you are as an author. Then ensure you use your branding kit when you post visuals. If people don’t automatically recognise your work, it’s impossible to stand out from the competition – this is especially relevant to those who write non-fiction, run a blog, or offer freelance writing services.
Your messaging should also be consistent, making sure that you (or a social media manager) always write in the same voice and tone. And when you are taking part in public events, reflect that brand. You should act, look, and sound exactly as they expect you to.
Some authors like to be visually recognised when at public events: Terry Pratchett was known for his hat and scarf, V E Schwab wears cat ears to her signings, and Jackie Collins wouldn’t be seen dead without her big jewellery, big hair, and very glam outfits!
No Brand Strategy
Without a brand strategy, you won’t have any structure for your author brand. Without structure, you won’t have consistency and that can contribute to brand failure. A solid brand strategy is built from your values and vision. You need to find the balance between authenticity and having a clear direction.
Once you have achieved that, you can identify your goals, and then determine how you will track them. These can include financial goals, marketing goals, or goals set around content production. Consider how you’ll position your brand and iron out how you will highlight your value proposition.
With all of these elements in your strategy, you will have brand success.
All this may not be as relevant to fiction authors who are simply wanting to showcase their books and talk about their writing journey (some authors are lucky enough to have huge support from their publishers in terms of marketing, so don’t feel the need to be on Twitter every day). But it’s highly important if you write non-fiction and wish to prove your worth as an expert in your field, if you want to interact with your readers, or if you are looking to create hype in order to sell more self-published books, attract an agent, or get readers excited about a new book release.
A Subpar Website
You don’t have to invest a lot of money in a web designer. In fact, there are plenty of DIY website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress that are more than good enough for writers.
However, you do have to ensure your site looks professional and accurately represents your brand. Your webpage is where readers (as well as reviewers, press, interested publishing professionals etc) can go to learn more about release dates or new announcements. It’s also a hub for your social media channels and contact info.
Keep your domain active and make sure your site is up to date, has a press kit with working purchase links, author photo, your contact info, and that it all loads properly. It can reflect poorly on your brand if your website looks subpar.
Many authors gets sucked into Twitter wars or make mistakes in their career. That’s OK, we are all human, but often it’s not the strident opinion that the public and their fans take umbrage at…it’s that their opinion is off-brand.
If you are an children’s author writing stories about equality, but you don’t think kids in the UK should have free school meals, you’re off-brand. If you write about saving the planet and you wear a fur coat to a signing event, you’re off-brand. If you spend a year posting funny content and wise writing advice, then all your post from then on are photos of your pet snake, people will stop following you. A huge U-turn is the fastest way to undo your hard work and stop your hard-won readers from trusting you.
So pick three words that represent you, your values, and your work – and ensure all you do reflects that.
Author branding is something all writers should create a strategy for. Showing your readers who you are and connecting with them on an emotional level is key to building a fanbase. Yes, it takes dedication but as long as you avoid these common branding mistakes you will easily win the hearts (and trust) of your readers – and in turn, you will have an audience that will not only support you but encourage others to as well!
Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer’s community.