Think of your favorite authors. What comes to mind? Is it their unique writing style? The themes they explore? The way they engage with their readers? All these elements and more make up an author's brand. It's the promise you make to your readers about what they can expect when they pick up one of your books.
Building a strong author brand is like constructing a lighthouse. It helps your ideal readers find you amidst the vast sea of books out there. It's a beacon that says, "Hey, if you like this, you're going to love my books!" And maybe, "And if you don't, I'll leave and you'll DIE ON THE MERCILESS ROCKS OF MY HATRED."
Ahem. Sorry. Personal moment there.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Branding. But where to start?
Before you can build a brand, you need to know who you're building it for. Who are your ideal readers? What do they enjoy about your books? What other authors do they read? The more you understand about your audience, the better you can tailor your brand to appeal to them.
Don't be afraid to get specific here. "Everyone" is not your target audience.
This is hard for people to grasp, so let me repeat it:
"Everyone" is not your target audience.
If you don't believe that, think of the bestselling books of all time: the Bible. The Quran. Twilight. Are they all for everyone? Nope. And neither is yours.
Maybe your books appeal to working moms looking for a quick escape during their lunch break. Or perhaps they're perfect for sci-fi geeks who love deep dives into alien cultures (but not in a creepy, Species kinda way). Whoever they are, get to know them. You can't serve the people you don't even understand.
What sets you apart from other authors in your genre? Maybe it's your snappy dialogue, your intricate plot twists, or your deep character development. Perhaps it's the unique perspective you bring to your genre. Whatever it is, this is a key part of your brand.
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is what makes you different. It's the reason readers will choose your book over the thousands of others out there. So take some time to figure out what makes you unique and how you can communicate that to your readers. If you don't have a USP, develop one!
Consistency is key in branding. This applies to everything from the themes and styles in your books to your author bio and social media posts. Everything you put out into the world should reinforce your brand.
This doesn't mean you can't explore new ideas or genres (heck, I'm ALL OVER THE PLACE). But even when you do, try to find a way to tie it back to your brand. If your brand is all about thrilling suspense, maybe your foray into romance is a romantic thriller. If your brand is humor, maybe your dive into fantasy includes a healthy dose of comic relief.
You can also use visual cues. Every book I've published has the same lettering for my name, and my covers favor bold, high-contrast color combinations. It's a way of subliminally saying, "Yeah, maybe you read my romance and now you're looking at my horror novel, but go ahead and try it. What do you have to lose? I mean...it's me we're talking about here!"
Your readers are not just consumers of your work; they're a part of your brand. Engage with them. Respond to their comments and emails. Ask for their input. Make them feel like they're a part of your journey.
This not only helps to build a loyal fanbase, but it also gives you valuable insight into what your readers want. And knowing what your readers want can help you deliver books that they'll love.
Additional bonus: you might make some friends. And we can all use those things!
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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