Want to Make it as an Author? You’ll Need Branding and Social Media by guest Jessica West (@West1Jess)

Please welcome author and editor Jessica West to the blog today as she shares about branding and social media, the must have tools for author success. 

I run across a new article nearly every day where a writer complains about or derisively laughs at a friend/co-worker/family member who says, “I’d write a book if I had the time.” And if you’re one of those writers who gets this smug expression on your face because you just can’t help it in the face of such naivete, join the ranks. You have successfully made it to a point where you know that, while everyone can write, not everyone has what it takes to bear the mantle of Indie Author proudly.

Even traditional writers don’t have it nearly as easy as the lay folk seem to believe, but since I haven’t gone that route and have no personal experience to draw from, I’ll let that dog sleep.

That isn’t to say I’m a pro in the field of self-publishing, either. I like to think of myself as an intermediate writer, learning at (what seems) a quick clip. The best thing I’ve learned so far is that independent publishing is more of a community than an industry. Most of us are eager to help out other writers who are just starting because someone else did the same for us. That’s why I’m writing today, I’m here to pay it forward.

While there is no sure-fire path to success, and every writer’s journey is different, you’ll need to get comfortable with branding and social media if you want to make a lasting impression.


I was late to the party to put any thought into branding, and it’s the one thing that needs to be established before social networking, publishing, and marketing even begins. This is how people will see you, and what people will think of you every time they see your name in a tweet, on a book, or in an advertisement. My favorite quote is from Maya Angelou, and writers would greatly benefit to live by these particular words of wisdom.

Branding and Social Media Photo

Writers should keep this in mind for two reasons. People will forget what your characters said. All those hours a reader spent poring over lines of dialogue are out the window the second they close the book. Unless you have one killer line that sticks, and there’s a one in gazillion chance of that happening, don’t hang your hopes on it. People will forget what your characters did. Readers may remember a general analysis of events, and the characters’ reactions to them, but recounting your novel is not likely to be a favorite past-time of theirs unless you’re Stephen King or Terry Goodkind. What your readers will remember is how your words, arranged as only you can, made them feel.

This goes for Branding as well. After a reader finishes your book, if they really liked it, they may seek you out on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. They’ve already determined they like you as a writer, but readers will struggle to separate the person from the profession. They will equate one with the other, and it’s only natural that they should.

[share ]Be sure the tone and personality you convey is, most importantly, genuine.[/share] Most people know when you’re not being straight with them, and they’ll pass you over for one of the other hundreds of thousands of authors clamoring for their attention. Your brand needs to be something you can live up to because people will come to know you as the quirky nerd-girl, or the flirty potty-mouth, or the grumpy hipster. All of those things are perfectly fine, as long as they are you.

When people “meet” you for the first time, they won’t remember what you said or did, exactly, so much as how you made them feel. If you make them happy with your exuberance, they will remember that. Furthermore, they will come to expect it. They will, and this is important, remember you because of it. In an industry where death by obscurity is a major concern, you need to be remembered when you do get some attention. Staying true to your brand, to yourself, whatever that may be, will help that to happen naturally.

Social Networking

Oh, I can hear my Luddite friends wailing in the wings. “Noooo … we don’t need so much technology!” Sadly, yes, we do. We need Facebook and Twitter and even Google +, as much as we may be loathe to admit it. The “trick” is that it’s not there to sell books. I know I’m beating a dead horse to mush at this point, but there’s a reason it’s been said multiple times. Twitter (or any other social media site for that matter) is not for advertising. You can buy ads for both, but I wouldn’t waste my time or money.

So what’s the point? Well, what’s the title of this section? Social Networking. That’s the point. The whole point. And nothing but the point, so help me God. Remember that quote from the section above. People will remember how you make them feel. If you make them feel like a mindless consumer, you become that annoying car salesman that pops up at the first sign of a new customer to show them your latest stock (newest release), they’re going to blow you off just as quickly.

You’re building long-term relationships there. Think about it. If a guy/gal approaches you and expresses romantic interest, you don’t propose right off the bat. Do you? You do? Damn, you may actually benefit from reading a Cosmo article or two. Don’t do that shit. It’s not cool. What is cool is having a “get to know you” conversation before anything else takes place.

This reader may not actually be into what you’re writing, and that’s okay, too. But it’s important to ascertain a certain level of compatibility before you even think of mentioning your books. In fact, it’s better if you don’t mention them unless asked. If a complete stranger approaches you on social media, there’s a good chance they already know you’re a writer. If they are interested in your book, they’ll ask about it. If they aren’t, you won’t convince them to be.

Let each relationship, no matter how brief or coincidental, develop naturally. I know you want to sell that book. Believe me, I know. But if you make a reader feel like you’re little more than a marketer, well, it isn’t very compelling. Be yourself.


About Jessica West:

Jessica212smallerJessica West is a stay at home wife and mother of three. Though her kids are still young enough to think she’s cool, her husband knows better but he likes her anyway. She’s a Freelance Writer and Editor, and an Independent Author. You never know if she’ll leave a trail of blood or pixie dust in her wake, but such is the life of a Horror and Fantasy writer. She prefers writing in those genres, but Romance and Erotica are her guilty pleasures. Many authors – including Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Goodkind, and Ayn Rand – have contributed to the delinquency of this intermediate writer, and now she’s just whistling her own version of Dixie. Her newest release, Red River Rangers; A Whiskey & Wheelguns Novelette, is available exclusively at Amazon as a Kindle e-book.
TwitterFacebookGoogle+ | Write This Way (Personal Blog) | Jessica West (Freelance Writer/Editor Blog) | Prose Before Ho Hos (Irreverent Humor Blog)


About Red River Rangers; A Whiskey & Wheelguns Novelette:

W&WRedRiverRangersVampires, zombies and one undead hooker battle to determine the fate of the weird west.

Three days after they hanged her for the brutal massacre of a group of teens, Catherine Cartwright rose from a shallow grave. She and Jesse set out to find a safe place and some answers. They find allies at a reservation and a threat the likes of which neither of them had ever heard of. Cat’s hopes of finding a cure for herself are surmounted by the urgent desire to find one for Jesse when he’s bitten by one of the infectious creatures wandering the frontier. Her last hope is to kill the monster who started it all before Jesse turns, and even that isn’t a sure bet.


Image courtesy of Suwit Ritjaroon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Beth Caplin on October 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    I still think word of mouth is most effective, antiquated though it may seem. I’ve had casual conversations with the dentist, bank tellers, etc, who ask what I ‘do’ for a living and saying “I write books” seems to be a non-braggy way to talk about my work (assuming the other person asks for more details). I’ve given out more business cards this way, and last month had a neighbor purchase a copy for her friend.

    However everything else you said is spot-on. The hardest part is patience :/

    • Jessica West on October 16, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I don’t actually get out much. When I do, I’m a chatty person, but the conversation never goes to reading or what I do for a living. And I don’t want to do the braggy thing, so I don’t actually have many opportunities to hand out business cards. I’m going with patience, and forming lasting relationships, slowly but surely. 😉

  2. 3 Tips for Indie Authors | Write This Way on October 10, 2014 at 7:52 am

    […] services in How Much Does Self Publishing Cost?. In my first guest post at Bad Redhead Media, Want to Make it as an Author? You’ll Need Branding and Social Media, I talk about the social aspect of being an author, and this article actually applies to anyone […]

  3. Kristen Steele on October 31, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    You’re absolutely right about it being a community! Self-published authors know how challenging the journey can be. By sharing their experiences, they become a useful resource for those just starting out.

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