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. 

Let’s deconstruct.

**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:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Rachel Thompson, Writing Uncomfortable Truths

Verified account


Childhood  survivor. , BROKEN PIECES, BROKEN PLACES. Advocate, founder .

Living my truth, not yours.
Joined March 2009

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.

Why Bother? 

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! 30Day-BadRedheadMedia-Book-Marketing-Challenge-2018-WEB

The BadRedheadMedia 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge is NOW available and selling like hotcakes! Want to energize your book sales in a month? Set up your platform for when your books are out? Are you a blogger or small business who wants to better understand basic social media marketing? This is the book for you.
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  1. Rachel Thompson on December 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Hi Toby and thanks for the comment! Yes, I truly believe that keywords are our starting point for everything we do. I learned that way back in sales and marketing for soul-sucking Pharma and it’s still absolutely true today.

    thanks for commenting

  2. […] sexual abuse, date rape, suicide, and difficult relationships? It definitely wasn’t my normal ‘brand,’ that much is true, though, as a nonfiction writer already, I felt I could pull it off with some […]

  3. MM Jaye on December 17, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Branding is in itself a ‘key’ keyword. As an avid reader with a Twitter account that chokes on new book links, I’ve noticed how short my concentration span is when I find myself at a writer’s blog or reading a book blurb on Amazon. If the first couple of sentences won’t give me a clear idea as to what category the book falls under, I’m gone more often than not. I’ve seen indie writers start the blurb with poetry (or something close) in an effort to show they’ve honed their craft. It doesn’t work this way, right?

    Btw, I’ve started reading Broken Pieces; I admire how you open up in such a raw yet engaging way. Thank you!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 17, 2013 at 11:28 pm

      Thank you for the feedback on the book — I’m honored — and also on branding. Sometimes I feel like I’m a one-woman ‘stop the repeated, constant links’ show — and it seems like those who get it, get it. Too many don’t.

      I so appreciate your insights about blurbs and poetry — no, it doesn’t work that way. There’s nothing wrong with sharing an excerpt, but not in a blurb! You’re right on there.

  4. What Works, What Doesn't In Book Marketing on December 23, 2013 at 7:40 am

    […] Branding 101 For Authors […]

  5. […] a bit of myself through that, but soon I came to my senses. Actually, Rachel Thompson and her Branding 101 for Authors blog post helped me, so I recently revamped this site, focusing on my genre’s keywords (romance, […]

  6. […] Branding 101 For Authors […]

  7. […] Badredheadmedia’s “Branding 101 For Authors“ […]

  8. You Talkin’ to Me??? on August 10, 2015 at 6:12 am

    […] My ‘formula,’ if you will, for social media, is to share visual quotes (from my books and others), text quotes, videos, curate articles, and occasional promotion, yes – all based on the 1) keywords I mentioned above, as well as 2) keeping in mind my ideal reader and 3) my branding. […]

  9. […] a post on Medium the other day by a poet who rejects the notion of ‘buzzwords’ like branding and book marketing completely, saying it’s all bullshit. People should just inherently know […]

  10. […] Badredheadmedia’s “Branding 101 For Authors“ […]

  11. carol hedges (@carolJhedges) on April 25, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Excellent as always. Will save and reread and think about the branding thing.

  12. Effrosyni Moschoudi on May 9, 2016 at 1:12 am

    A fantastic post – thank you for posting this, Rachel. As serendipity would have it, I stumbled upon it at the right time, just as I’d started to realize I needed to make changes in my brand as I’ve been emitting the wrong message. Thank you for helping me understand even better what my next steps should be 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on May 9, 2016 at 8:39 am

      I’m so glad you found it helpful Effrosyni! thanks for the feedback 🙂

  13. […] first thing I suggest is getting your list of keywords that you created for your author brand. Create boards based on those and add relatable […]

  14. […] Not sure what to tweet/post/blog about? It’s really easy: what interests you? Share that, even if it’s not at all about your book. So what? Unclear about your branding? Read more here: Branding 101. […]

  15. […] you have goals for your social media? What’s your branding, keywords, topics of interest? Identify all these and you will know exactly the kinds of […]

  16. The Future Has Arrived #IWSG | Ronel the Mythmaker on December 7, 2016 at 12:08 am

    […] make sure that my author brand is clear and […]

  17. Diana on January 19, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    How diverse can we be in our branding? I have two sites–a more personal site where my brand focus word is “eclectic.” That suits me; it’s not a cop-out. I am a right-brain and left-brain motivated, like a dual personality. Physics is my true love, but arts are my passion.

    My author site reflects this as well. My last project was a science fiction action move screenplay for some folks in Hollywood, but I’m completely focused on my children’s book right now.

    So… my Twitter feed combines the multiple layers of my book: nature (trees, forests, mountains, gardening, rock-climbing–yes, they are all in the book) and social emotional learning to help kids develop the strength to endure hardship and failure, because, sorry, you don’t always win just because you tried hard enough. It’s a lie we tell ourselves and kids. My ultimate goal is to reduce child suicides by helping them learn they can make it through all kinds of bad times, and they’ll be fine however they turn out, even if they feel broken. That’s a lot, huh?

    So my tweets are about parenting and bonsai and peaceful mountain rivers and letting kids fail and giant trees and rock climbing as a metaphor for perseverance and how to be a friend when your friend wants to give up.

    What a brand, huh? I’m throwing it against the wall to see what sticks and trying to learn the tools to be able to tell. In your professional opinion, do I have a chance?

    • Rachel Thompson on January 19, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      I believe everyone has a chance, Diana. You clearly have a vision, so you’re already ahead of most authors who are flailing about.

      Be consistent in your posts, but also in sharing articles on those topics, snippets of your work, quotes, and anything else that addresses those keywords and topics. That’s what builds out your brand. Your branding is the foundation for EVERYTHING you do and it’s what you build your platform on. See what resonates the most with readers and if something doesn’t stick, change it up a bit. Nothing is set in stone.

  18. […] about your author brand and your keywords. Focus on them to create content. What interests you? Write about […]

  19. […] No One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday. Her fun title and simple cover design became the basis for the branding of her website, social profiles, and events. Anyone who visited her website or saw a tweet from […]

  20. […] back, I wrote an article, Branding 101, which detailed the basics for writers what branding is all about. Read that first if you […]

  21. […] died out a while ago). It’s a super powerful way to establish yourself as a thought leader and to build your brand. For a step-by-step on how to enable this nifty tool, visit Mike again and read his […]

  22. […] you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right […]

  23. […] back, I wrote an article, Branding 101, which detailed the basics for writers what branding is all about. Read that first if you […]

  24. […] creating your author branding. For more great information, and to find out what branding is, read this crucial article from Rachel Thompson of BadRedheadMedia! If you aren’t sure why having keywords or branding […]

  25. Marena Aviso on February 25, 2020 at 4:41 am

    Guest posting seems like the best option when promoting your own blog

  26. Praveen Kumar on April 22, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I once last a chance of working with an author because I didn’t know how to do branding for an author. Now, I have got a starter guide to it. I hope I get to work with an author soon and implement what I learnt.

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