This is Why Your Author Branding Matters More Than You Think via @BadRedheadMedia #Branding

By Rachel Thompson | #NaNoProMo

May 28
This is Why Your Author Branding Matters More Than You Think by @BadRedheadMedia #Branding

At some point during my weekly #BookMarketingChat (every Wednesday, 6pm pst/9pm est on Twitter — join us), I discuss branding (no matter the topic), and I will make this statement:

In publishing, we brand the author, not the book. 

It’s even become a running joke at this point with my chat community as if they’re waiting for me to throw that line in there. Yet, it’s not just a line. It’s what makes the difference between a successful author and a not-so-successful one. I’ve written about branding before in great detail, so in this post, I want to go more into detail about the importance of author branding and its impact on your success.

Let's Deconstruct.

The Importance of Branding in Your Author Platform

In Alexa Bigwarfe’s guest post here, she discussed the importance of an effective author platform and how that can make a difference in the success of an author’s book release:

“Most first-time authors that do not have a significant author platform will sell less than 500 books in the lifetime of their book. In fact, most self-published authors will sell less than 100 books.” 

Here’s where many writers (published or pre-published) get stuck: should I focus on my new book and create social media for my new book, write about my new book, focus only on my new book? Or should I brand (or continue to brand) me, the author?

Brand the Author

Not the Book

Just keep coming back to this mantra. Because this is what happens — and let’s use a real-life example.

I have an author friend who writes business books. He also writes books about wine, dogs, and karate. So, all non-fiction but lots of different and unrelated topics. He has many ideas to create interaction on these topics (promos, contests, groups) and I love brainstorming with him.

The issue: each time he has a new release, he wants to create social media profiles for each book; and each time, we discuss the dilution of his author branding and he agrees with me that it’s better to brand him, the author, than all those books individually with their own book brand. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t promote the new book – of course, he does. However, he avoids rebranding, the author, every time he has a new release.

What is Author Branding?

Author branding is the same as personal branding: the way you want people to remember you. We brand you, the person, the author. Who you are, what you do, your interests, your expertise, your experiences. Your author brand is not about selling — it’s about creating your authentic, recognizable persona. Think of your author brand as finding that bespoke wardrobe that fits and perfectly represents who you are and what you’re all about.

Pro Tip: So you’re a writer (obvi), but what else do you do? Think in terms of verbs — not nouns. Most people will say ‘I’m a writer, nice to meet you.’ Instead, say:

I‘m a writer who writes books that teach writers how to market their books (@BadRedheadMedia). Or:

I’m a writer who shares uncomfortable truths (@RachelintheOC). 

What is Brand Dilution?

See, books can speak to us as we read them, but they aren’t three-dimension beings (though some would argue with me on that). Having a Twitter stream solely for your new book might seem like a great idea at the time, yet what happens when you move onto Book Two, and then Book Three, and so and so on and so on?

Surely there’s a social media graveyard for all those Book Ones and Book Twos, dripping with the digitial cobwebs of good intentions.

We want our readers to know us by our author name because we will release more than one book (hopefully you don’t plan on being a one-hit wonder). If you create a new site and new social media profiles for every book, how will your readers ever know where to find you? Or if you’re just blogging about your new book only — where’s the YOU in that? What if your newsletter consists of ‘Buy my book!’ links only? That’s a completely one-dimensional message (not to mention full of uninspired spam).

That’s what I mean by diluting your brand. If you’re inconsistent and all over the place with your message, you will lose readers before you even have them.

#NaNoProMo Day 28: This Is Why Your Author Branding Matters More Than You Think - be sure to comment to win Rachel's books and giveaway!

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What is Your Branding Message?

Here’s an easy, basic exercise: if you’re a reader looking for books that you write, what would you enter into Google Search? Okay, so that’s one keyword or phrase.

Now, let’s focus on you, the author. What are you an expert in? What research have you done for your book? What interests you? What are you passionate about? If you are a speaker, what do you talk about? Now, write those words or phrases down.

Make a list of five or so keywords or phrases. For my author platform (Rachel Thompson, Author aka RachelintheOC) that list looks like this:

Childhood sexual abuse, love, loss, relationships, mental health, women’s issues. 

So now I know what to focus on. These are the topics I write about on my blog, have guest bloggers write about, share quotes about (mine and others), share articles about on social media, write guest articles about for others, etc. I am consistent with these topics, and this relates to me as a person, and as an author.

By having set these consistent parameters, readers know what to expect and that’s the basics of branding: setting expectations.

What if you’re a fiction author? Same thing. Many fiction authors tell me they find personal branding difficult: how can they discuss what’s in their books and still brand themselves? It’s entirely possible through the same process. Look at writers like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Delinsky, and so many others. They discuss what’s important to them in their real lives, what they’re reading, what’s interesting to them.

Brand the Author

Not the Book

Branding is Not Selling

Marketing and sales are tactics; branding is strategic. Once you’ve figured out your strategy, then you can figure out your tactics. Will you post daily? What will you post? How often? Where? Will you use a social media scheduling tool (great for time management) mixed with organic posting?

How about promotion? When and how often? That’s another discussion entirely and one we can have another day.

For now, focus on what I’ve laid out above, and read through my previous branding articles here:

I also recommend taking a look at these excellent articles for further education:

or join my Rachel Thompson Street Team for insider chats, access, and lots of fun stuff!

For a more detailed plan on developing your book marketing, purchase Rachel’s new book, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now on Amazon and her brand new SEO mini-book — already #1 in 3 categories!
Already a 5-Star Reader’s Favorite! 
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The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge -- buy it now!

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Day 28 Giveaway

Rachel’s giveaway includes:

That’s 16 winners, so make sure to comment below to enter to win.

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About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(45) comments

Daniella Shepard May 27, 2018

I see this as being a lot like your elevator pitch. Think of your brand as what you would say if you got into an elevator and realized you were sharing it with Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey and she asked you about what kind of books you wrote. Hopefully you write more than just one.

Daniella

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    exactly! Great point, Daniella!

    People complain about Twitter bios being too short, yet I think it’s a perfect elevator pitch. If you can’t say what kind of books you write in 160 characters, you haven’t established your author branding yet.

    Reply
Karen Hugg May 27, 2018

Thank you again, Rachel, for your insights. Your questions and posts have helped me focus my blog’s content. And get my SEO in order! I’m still wondering about whether I should try to publish a nonfiction book about what I’m “an expert in” versus a related-topic novel which I’m more interested in. Right now I give away free nonfic information in the hopes that those readers will crossover to my fiction when it’s time. We’ll see I guess. Thanks again.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    Why not do both?? The more you publish, the bigger your backlist, and the more readers will associate you as a trusted author delivering consistent content. You don’t have to charge much for these — 99c is fine (unless you want to charge more).

    You can still give away free content on your site as well (e.g., create a free chapter as a gift for people who sign up for your newsletter).

    It doesn’t have to be either/or. AKP: Always keep publishing. 🙂

    Reply
D.Avery May 28, 2018

Are you saying it’s about branding the author, not the book?
Seriously, that was pretty clear advice. Seems healthier for the future books, and easier on the author/promoter.
Thank you for this whole series.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    LOL, ya think?

    I still get those questions almost every day. Honestly, sometimes a book takes on a life of its own and needs its own FB page, group, site, etc., (e.g., the Harry Potter books). Yet, how rare is that? And when is a phenomenon like that NOT associated with the author?

    Honestly, people can do whatever they want. Personal branding is what it is and folks can do what they feel is best for them – if they want to manage and create content for 25 books, more power to them. 🙂 I certainly wouldn’t want to!

    Reply
Dianna Gunn May 28, 2018

Well said! Too many writers don’t realize how important it is to focus on their PERSONAL brand. Even if focusing your brand on a single series can be dangerous – after all, you might end up writing something completely different down the line.

Thanks for everything you do to help other authors!

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Greg Smith May 28, 2018

I have to admit I stumbled upon this blog site only recently. WHAT A GOLD MINE OF INFORMATION! Thus far my regret is that I didn’t discover it much, much sooner. I am a relative newbie writer, having self-published 4 books to date. Currently I’m working on my major project, an historical fiction that has been in the works for some 5-6 years. At the same time I’m having to reel in my imagination which has a habit of late of waking up about an hour before me and churning over ideas for more books.

The blogs I’m finding here are doing a terrific job of pointing me in the right direction when it comes to writing, marketing … everything. This one in particular seized my immediate attention. Who would’ve thunk it … self-branding is far more important than marketing the book! I LOVE IT!

Like the vast majority of writers, this is one topic we probably stumble over. I for one will be an avid reader of this site from this point on. SO MUCH TO LEARN!!

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Pamela Harju May 28, 2018

Excellent article. I still think it’s difficult for fiction authors, but I’ll keep working on it.

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D.B. Moone May 28, 2018

As a blogger writing book reviews while I work on two manusscripts, one a ficticous memoir on overcoming physical and mental abuse (ficticious to protect myself from the abusers suing me), and another about war, trauma, PTSD and God’s absence. Because I’m not yet a published author,my branding would be as a book reviewer now? And would one brand one’s self as a book reviewer? I’ve been working on a social media platform and website makeover, focusing on being a book reviewer and soon to be an author. I won’t lie, I become unsure and overwhelmed and during these times I do what I can to support authors I know. Donna

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Dana Lemaster May 28, 2018

Rachel, thanks for a terrific article. It expands on the #BookMarketingChat, and that’s extremely helpful for me. As we discussed, personal branding is a tricky assignment for someone like myself (writing both serious novels and sitcoms). The chat also helped because I learned that I’m not the only writer with this issue.

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Alexandria May 28, 2018

Rachel,
I hear you on this “author branding” and different social media accounts for each book. Even some ostensibly famous/bestselling, traditionally published authors do it. The only ones who don’t do it: authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, JK Rowling, etc. In fact, I like to point out to new authors who want multiple accounts for each book, which obviously dilutes their audience, that JK Rowling’s adult fiction didn’t become bestsellers until she stopped using the published pseudonym and her NY publishers announced that Rowling was, in fact, the author. Talk about Author Branding!
Alexandria

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    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    Interesting points, A. It’s always a challenge, once one’s brand is set, to step outside that box. I currently work with a famed Women’s Fiction author, who used to be known as a romance author (at the beginning of her career). She transitioned to Women’s Fiction over 10 years ago, but her diehard fans still want romance, and continue to ask her for more of that. Her books are about strong female characters and strong bonds between women. Even her covers have changed from frilly flowers and such to more modern looking abstract covers — many of her older fans are NOT happy.

    Point is: being aware of our branding is great — it sets those expectations for our readers. Making changes to our brand can also piss them off LOL. Ultimately, we as writers and artists need to decide and make those subtle changes over time. Branding doesn’t have to be a box — it’s more about identifying who we are.

    Reply
Alex Kourvo May 28, 2018

Thank you for the article and links! I’m a co-author, so branding is doubly hard. Do we brand ourselves separately or together?

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    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    You’re so welcome, Alex. Well, if you were my client, this is how I would recommend you do it: Brand the author, not the book.

    Have your own author brand (you’re still you’re own person, and so is your co-author). Refer to one another in your bios and your book title as well. You can both have your co-authored book on everything you do (e.g., visuals), and create a marketing and social strategy so your POA (plan of action) is in line with one another for that one book (or more if it’s a series).

    But you’re not Siamese twins. You will write other things, so will your co-author. You may love cats, he/she may love dogs. Point is, if you’re branding the author, not the book, it isn’t doubly hard. You only think it is.

    Reply
Jessica May 28, 2018

This is what I’m working on – branding myself. I’m not sure I’m doing a great job, but I’m still learning. It’s especially important I get this down since I write multiple genres.

Thanks for the advice 🙂

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    Hi Jessica — it does take a lot of thought. For multiple genres, it can be tricky. You can still brand you, the author, as long as you’re not using pen names. If you are using pen names, it’s a bit more work. In that case, I do recommend having social media channels for those brand names (though I still think it’s fine to have one website as a home for all of those works and pen names).

    The ONLY time I recommend having an entirely different website is if you’re writing business books or something like hardcore erotica where you want to keep completely isolated from your regular author brand because the demographic is totally different. For example, I have two websites and two brands: Rachel Thompson, Author and BadRedhead Media — because my demographic for BadRedhead is other writers, publishers, etc., and for Rachel it’s survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The message and goals are completely different.

    Hope that makes sense!

    Reply
zoe asher May 28, 2018

Best post yet! I think I’m finally getting the message and beginning to weave my brand that connects me to what I write, what I’m passionate about and the natural connection to my books and my blog. Thank you – this was the ah ha, I get it moment!

Now if I could only master designing my website and my blog, life would be great!!

Zoe

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    I’m so glad it all clicked, Zoe. Sometimes it just takes that one post or even a sentence. For me, having worked in marketing and sales for almost two decades, that part came fairly easy to me. Once I decided to blog and then write my own books was how to incorporate that into my own personal brand.

    As for your website and blog: think along the same lines. Whatever your keywords and key phrases are, consider the image and visuals you want to represent you. For BadRedhead Media, I OBVIOUSLY wanted to have red. What colors would also go with that? Purple is a perfect opposing color, so that’s what I went with. It’s worth hiring a good graphic designer for your visuals who is well-versed in color theory. A web designer can help you with placing those elements — those TBH, with self-hosted wordpress.org, you can purchase an affordable theme and design something pretty awesome on your own. Do the research or go to the WordPress.org site.

    Reply
McKenna Dean May 28, 2018

I really struggle with this. I know branding is important but I haven’t a clue how others see me or what keywords I should focus on. Great post–I’ll be checking out these resources to see if I can generate my own (clear) brand.

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    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    Hi Dean — try the exercises I mention in the post. And ask yourself those questions: what do YOU find interesting? Share that. It’s not really that difficult. Do you enjoy a cooking? Share that. Do you enjoy dogs? Share dog stories. It’s all about letting people see the authentic YOU. 🙂

    Reply
Cynthia Herron May 28, 2018

Rachel, spot-on insights about branding. Whenever I see authors open new accounts for each book, I silently scream. “Brand the author, not the book” is something I learned from the very beginning. No one had to tell me that – it seemed to come naturally because I didn’t yet have a book. My “brand” is Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction. That’s the vein I’ve always written in.

I’m “down-home” and unpretentious, and not only do I reflect that personally, but so do my stories and the way I write.

I’m also a Christian so my belief system stems from my personal relationship with Christ. Also, though – to be clear – I’m fallible. Imperfect. Just “a beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.” I’m not pushy. I don’t have it all figured out. Nor am I a “holy-roller” or “it’s my way or the highway” kind of gal.

I have a heart for the underdog. In my previous career I championed the “cast-offs” of society. I believe God’s love is for ALL people, though, some would like to pick and choose what that means. (Does that make me a closet maverick??? Lol If so, I’ve just outed myself.)

So…as I write, THAT is what I hope I convey. 🙂 For the next few months while I’m on deadline, I *have* taken a blog hiatus while others guest-blog for me. I’ll be back in normal mode after August.

No need to toss me in the drawing for your fabulous books. (I have them and they are awesome.)

Thanks so much for all you do! I appreciate you. You have a “servant’s heart” and you’ve beautifully nailed your brand.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 28, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your branding and vision, and for your kind words Cynthia! I love being connected with you. x

    Reply
Colleen Tews May 28, 2018

This was a wake up call. Thank you. Sometimes one needs that ‘oh yeah, I remember that’. Not only does your post do that, but you help me understand branding in its most simplest terms.

Thank you
~Colleen Tews

Reply
    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Thank you, Colleen. It’s often the stripping down to the bare bones of who we are and what we do that we need to remind ourselves of, and then we can grow and build from there. x

    Reply
Raiscara Avalon May 28, 2018

I could definitely use more help with branding. I have a wicked hard time with it because I do so much!

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    I get that, Raiscara. It can feel overwhelming. It helps to start with the small exercises I mentioned and build up from there.

    Reply
Lexi May 28, 2018

I do struggle as my first book is kids fiction but the next one is corporate non-fiction. I worry my person brand could be confused!

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    Rachel Thompson May 29, 2018

    Hi Lexi — I do understand. I felt the same way when I decided to open my business — the branding and demographics are completely different. Ultimately, you need to make that decision: what do you want your corporate clients to know about you? Typically, it’s your expertise on a topic. What do you want parents (buys of kids fiction) to know about you? Typically, who you are as a person (as parents, we want to know that good people are writing stories for our kids, not psychopathic serial killers).

    So in this instance, you may consider having two brand personas because your personal branding and demographics ARE very different. As a study, you can look at mine (linked in the post above) and see how very different my personas and author platforms are. I will be writing more on this in the weeks to come — my next business book (again, different branding and demographic!) is about personal/author branding and how easy it is to manage it all. Hope this helps you!

    Reply
Jennifer May 28, 2018

WOW,, Lots of reading to do. Thank you for bringing this blog together AND with fantastic prizes. If I am lucky to win one I would be the luckiest lady! haha! I know what I am rooting for 😮
Thank you for all the time it takes to pop these posts together x

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Thank you, Jennifer! I appreciate your kind words and participation!

    Reply
Tom May 28, 2018

The cycle of branding to marketing to selling is, IMO, very weakly understood across all industries and markets. So few businesses have even documented their sales cycle and too many employees have no idea how a company makes the money it does to pay the employee salaries. Books are no different. YOU are the writer. YOU are the creative spirit. Why wouldn’t your audience want to know you better? You are a 24 hour person, seven days a week. And you do not jut write 24/7. Share that. Explore that. Be an interesting person.

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Agreed, Tom. I saw this myself when I worked Big Pharma for 17 years (outside and inside). Sales doesn’t understand marketing, marketing doesn’t understand sales, advertising loves their shiny sales aids, but has no concept how to use them … it goes on.

    When authors realize we are a business (and our royalties must be reported), it’s a wake-up call. 🙂 Thanks for your comments.

    Reply
Lisa S. May 28, 2018

I am a reader and a blogger, and I am in full agreement with your comments about author branding. I have seen social media for specific books or characters that become hard to keep up and are later abandoned by authors. I have read authors’ social media where I cannot find a post for their latest book (or sometimes any of their books) or I only find posts for their books with a buy request. Branding is so much bigger than a book or a request to purchase books. The branding message is very important and needs to be memorable. I enjoyed your SEO and Book Marketing ebooks that break it down and make both much easier to understand and do. Thanks for the giveaway too.

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Absolutely, Lisa. Branding is often mistaken for tactics — when an author can differentiate between the two, that’s a good learning moment. Thanks for your comments and support! x

    Reply

Rachel, thanks for sharing the fantastic post. I first utilized your 30 day marketing challenge about a year ago and it completely changed my business outlook. Before then, I didn’t know how to market myself and my books. Thanks for giving us the tools we need to navigate.

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Jennifer, thank you! That’s such amazing feedback!! Warms my heart to hear that. There’s so much info out there, it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t. I give out so much FREE info in the book, too. Not everything has to cost thousands for us to market our work. That’s really the message I hope to convey — it’s work on our part, but it doesn’t have to be spendy.

    Reply
Lexi May 29, 2018

Thanks. I’m torn between one personal brand covering different genres, and separate brands.

There could be cross-over for the parents (buyers) of my kids fiction to one of my non-fiction books on an aspect of childcare. But then i’m also looking at co-writing a couple of cookbooks. So it quickly becomes a mess!

I do like the idea of my Amazon profile having lots of books under it rather than 1 here and another profile with 1 there.

So I’m thinking just one brand since there is no sensitivity (eg erotica) that could offend my younger readers if they happened to find out I had other books.

Also, I have a good following on Twitter already so really don’t want to rebuild that for a new brand..

I think I need your book!

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Sue Coletta May 29, 2018

Excellent advice as always, Rachel. Branding is crucial for discovery. New writers need to start before their first book releases.

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Thank you, Sue. Fully agree — though many end up started AFTER and then can’t figure out why their books aren’t selling. So they drop links on Twitter and get angry when people tell them not to spam them. Just saw this happen today on Twitter in fact. Defiance instead of an attitude of learning — new writers will learn when they aren’t selling and can’t figure out why.

    Reply
Lexi May 30, 2018

Bought your 30 day plan – done all of first few chapters. Some great tips. It’s getting harder now tho!

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    awesome, thank you, Lexi! There’s a lot to do to have a robust author platform, that is true. Remember, you don’t have to do it all in 30 days — take a break if you need to. And you can always ask me questions if needed. x

    Reply
Karen Hugg May 30, 2018

Thanks, Rachel! I’ll give it some serious thought.This series has been amazing by the way. I don’t know what you eat for breakfast but you have an incredible amount of energy! Thank you. Cheers.

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    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2018

    Coffee and then more coffee lol. I’m pretty exhausted at this point, but branding gets me excited! And it’s the topic of my next book for writers (along with the Twitter 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge). So much to share — that’s what gets me excited! thanks for participating in #NaNoProMo, Karen!

    Reply

[…] platform is the focus of your marketing efforts. Rachel Thompson tells us why your author branding matters more than you think, Alexa Bigwarfe shares how to effectively grow your author platform, Jodee Blanco lays out how […]

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