Wouldn’t it be great if you could just release your book into the world, sit back and watch it climb up the bestseller list as you amass a legion of fans who will anxiously await your next one?
That way you could stick to doing what you love. Which is writing, right?
But no matter how captivating your book is, it’s not going to reach the readers it will connect with most unless you’ve established your brand as an author long before its release.
So what exactly is an author brand and what should it include? We’ll answer those questions and tell you how to go about building one.
What Is An Author Brand
Your brand is the feeling your name evokes in the heart, mind, and soul of your intended reader.
It’s the unique experience you’re offering a person who sits down in her favorite chair at home after putting kids to bed to read your book instead of someone else’s.
It’s what makes you special as an author.
It’s also your personal story, and weaving it into your brand makes you authentic and relatable to your audience.
It’s important to develop your author brand early — as in way before your book’s release.
Because you and your readers need to get to know each other a bit first. That way you build anticipation for your book.
The Key Ingredient of Your Author Brand
There’s a first introduction between two people who become close, lifelong friends, right?
What is it about a first interaction that leads to friendship?
Some sort of emotional connection occurs — and that’s what you’re looking to create with your readers.
Sometimes the connection between author and reader is easy to pinpoint, like Dave Sheff’s connection with his audience. He wrote Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction.
No doubt his personal story served as an emotional connection point with readers who also love someone afflicted with addiction.
Yours may not be as obvious, but you’ll need to identify some way to connect with your readers.
Is There a Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction Author Brands?
No matter what type of books you write, you need to establish some kind of connection with your audience; it might just be a different kind of connection.
It has to do with why someone would want to read your book.
Nonfiction Author Brands
Readers may choose to read nonfiction because they have a specific problem they need to solve, like coming up with a plan to reduce debt.
Or they may want to expand their knowledge of a certain subject, like U.S. trade policy with China.
They may just want to learn more about a historical figure they admire.
The connection between nonfiction authors and readers may be more practical or philosophical in nature, but they are connections nonetheless.
A nonfiction author’s brand must project trust, credibility, and subject-matter expertise. If you can leverage an emotional connection too, even better! For instance, the author of a book about debt could connect with his readers by weaving his personal debt crisis and triumph into his author brand.
Fiction Author Brands
Some readers may choose to read fiction simply for pleasure, while others seek the escape they provide from the challenges of everyday life.
Some readers choose romance novels because they add spice to their relationships, while others may be seeking to fill a void of what’s missing.
Some readers thrive on the excitement of suspense, being part of solving a mystery, while others enjoy the thrill of being terrorized by diabolical horror stories.
Some readers simply want to laugh out loud or let their imaginations run wild in the fantasy world you create.
Though their genre of choice may be different, all fiction readers have something in common: they want to feel something.
If you’re a fiction author, your brand must convince your audience that only you can provide those feelings — that escape — for them.
Why It’s Important To Brand Yourself, Not Your Book
Who doesn’t know what they’re getting when they pick up a book by Stephen King, Jodi Piccoult, E.L. James, Nora Ephron, or David Baldacci?
Your objective when building your author brand is to make your name synonymous with the reader experience you want to provide.
If you focus on branding your book instead of making your name recognizable, then every book you write will essentially be your first — you’ll always be starting over.
And who wants that?
Your objective is to create a following of readers who are drawn to you as an author; readers who’d naturally purchase every book you write because they know they’ll enjoy the experience you provide.
3 Steps To Creating A Strong Author Brand
Building your brand is a process; it’s like a garden that constantly needs tending. And it starts long before publication. Here are the steps.
1. Identify Your Target Audience
You can’t write a book for everyone so be sure to know who you’re targeting. Ask yourself who is your ideal reader and why would that person read your book?
Having a group of early readers of your manuscript can help with this task. Understanding the common emotions your book elicited from this group will give you direction.
2. Create a Connection
When you know your target audience, you can be more intentional about connecting with them. Create meaningful content that would appeal to them on your blog and begin to build a presence in the places they visit online. Getting yourself “out there” is how you cultivate your tribe of loyal readers.
3. Engage regularly
Once you know where your audience hangs out, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn, set aside time every day to engage with them. And it doesn’t always have to be about your book. Remember, you’re building a connection — like one between friends.
We Didn’t Forget Marketing
Of course no discussion about branding would be complete without the marketing stuff, like creating your author website, a logo, headshot, email list, optional media kit, etc. But none of that actually helps you build your brand; rather, they’re a means to project it. And we’ll get into all that another time.
As you contemplate how you’ll weave your personal story into your brand as an author, take a moment to get some personalized guidance from bestselling author Jerry Jenkins. Just take this quick quiz and he’ll provide insight customized for you.