Branding 101 For Authors: What you Need to Know
(Updated June 2019)
I want to discuss a basic concept that seems to confuse most authors: branding. Branding sounds like one of those scary, nebulous marketing terms that threaten to suck out your soul or turn you into The Borg. It’s not.
Branding really comes down to managing expectations.
**Note: This discussion does not touch on writing because it’s a book marketing discussion. If your book sucks, is unprofessional, is filled with typos, grammatical errors, horrible cover art, or you are a terrible writer, none of this applies to you because a bad book will not sell.**
Branding 101 For Authors: What You Need to Know
The foundation of any author platform (think of a puzzle) are your keywords. The keywords are the base of the puzzle, where you place the pieces. The puzzle pieces represent all that you do that fit together to make the whole puzzle:
- social media,
- blog posts,
- blog tours,
- subscribers list, and more.
When I consult with clients, I draw on my many years in sales and marketing soul-sucking Pharma. There’s A LOT wrong with that industry (which is why I left), but one thing they have right is creating a clear message for their product. They know to choose words that incite and inspire a doctor to write. The motivation is different (write my drug), but the message is the same (buy my stuff).
Make no mistake: we are products as much as our books are.
I break down keywords by major and minor, but you can call them whatever you want. There are a few things to consider when deciding on keywords:
- What am I instinctively drawn to? For example, I’m nuts about Nutella (though I’ve sworn it off — well, for the most part!). I’m instinctively drawn to pictures of Nutella-involved food (because, Nutella), which I then share with my followers and friends. So, Nutella is a keyword me. Not a MAJOR one, since I don’t write about it (as I’m writing about it), but a minor one. One I’ll mention occasionally in a tweet, or share a news story about.
- What topics do I write about? Most of us fall into a pattern of writing about topics that interest us, without even realizing we are doing so. For example, I started my blog back in 2007, writing about love, relationships, family. Ten years and five books later, I still write about those topics! I’ve expanded, of course, but the crux of my books and blog posts (and social media) still have to do with those topics, which are therefore my…keywords.
- Verb it. I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference a few years back and one of the workshops focused on creating your bio (anywhere) with a verb. What does your book (or blog) DO for people? Verb it up! This creates a sense of (or call to) action.
Most authors identify as authors — and we should. It’s a hard-won title. But, most readers already know you’re an author — they want to know why they should purchase your book with their hard-earned money. They want to know WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Branding Your Bios
Right then and there in the class, I updated my Twitter bio to this:
Again, ask yourself this question: what will your book DO for people? (make them uncomfortable)
You can brand your bios anywhere: your author bio, social media bio, in your media kit, on your Amazon page…you get the idea.
Branding Your Platform
Now that you’ve decided on keywords, this will determine what you tweet/share (for the most part — remember, it’s just a guideline) and even write blog posts about, and this just makes sense. If you write in your bio that you’re a poet, share poetry. If you write in your bio that you groom horses, share horse stories. And so on. The most important advice here is to be consistent across all channels.
Remember, you don’t need to create all the content you share on social media (or even your blog) — you can invite others to guest and you can curate content from other sources (always give attribution).
Write It All Down (aka Have A Damn Plan)
It’s easy to imagine all this, but if you don’t write it down — if you don’t have a plan — like anything else, you won’t stick to it. I don’t care if it’s a formal document, a note in your iPhone, or a scrap of paper you tack on the wall. WRITE DOWN YOUR KEYWORDS. This serves as a wonderful reminder as to what you need to focus on in your blog posts, your writing, your tweets, and so on.
In fact, a wonderful way to keep you on task across all your various areas of content is to use the free resources CoSchedule offers. We had Ben from CoSchedule as a guest twice already on #BookMarketingChat, and in his recent guest appearance, he discussed the many ways they offer awesome free advice and tools to keep us all organized with our keywords and marketing.
And here’s a major tip: their free headline analyzer (my headline here scores an 80 — which is great! Anything over a score of 70 will get more clicks and rank higher in Google Search) is one of the best inventions known to humankind.
All this mixes together into creating your puzzle — a way to organize all these separate puzzle pieces — believe it or not, because you have created and managed the expectations of your readers, you will start to build a following. They like your consistency, that you’re easy to find (your visibility), and they are comfortable with what you present.
Listen, interact, be generous, build relationships, be consistent, do the work.
All that works to make you shine (I know, I can’t believe I said that either. Get over it.), so instead of being part of The Collective, you stand out on your own.
Join me weekly for free #BookMarketingChat (every Wednesday, 6pm pst/9pm est) to learn how to market your books!
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