What Is Author Branding & How Do You Do It?

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For many authors, the idea of the business side of publishing can be nerve-wracking — especially when they start understanding that they hold the greatest responsibility for their future. Not their publisher, not their agent, but themselves, regardless of whether they are traditionally published or self-published.

While a Big 5 author certainly has a marketing and publicity team advantage over independent/self-publishing, ultimately, the author needs to get engaged and build a grassroots following.

In business terms, this is known as branding. Or as Entrepreneur magazine puts it:

Branding is a marketing strategy that involves creating a differentiated name and image — often using a logo and/or tag line — in order to establish a presence in the consumer’s mind and attract and keep customers.

Your Brand is NOT Your Genre

How does that translate to authors? First off, your brand is NOT your genre. Your genre should certainly influence your brand as it defines the broad strokes of your target demographic, but it’s not the only element of it. For authors, it’s:

  • a mix of their stories (tone, subject, genre)
  • type of book (voice, length, etc.)
  • personal elements (background, notable and appropriate interests, related ventures, etc.)
  • any particular quirks that acts as a bridge to engaging audiences.

For many authors, their website is the foundation of their brand. Social media and other outreach elements are used to grow that brand.

Visual Sync

Visually, a brand need to sync up with the author’s identity. For websites in particular, visitors take in an impression in less than five seconds, kind of like a billboard on a freeway, so the design must translate the brand in one glance.

Let’s take a look at a few Atmosphere author sites to see how brand influenced the overall design of their website:

  • Kristen Kittscher: Successful author Kristen Kittscher needed to integrate existing artwork and assets from her popular Young & Yang series. The key art provided the direction of the design, and other elements such as font, layout, and accents needed to translate the whimsy and target age of her brand.

KristenKittscher

  • Jennie K. Brown: With Jennie we were looking for something playful and whimsical. The inexact lines of the font cover the whimsy — just like her book cover font (which are not the same) and the color matched the feel of her book cover. The flags and the bunting around the site helped convey a sense of childlike fun, contrasting with the nice straight lines of the overall structure to let you know this site was friendly for kids, but serious.
    Jennie’s tagline, “Author of books for kids” says it all and the design needed to reflect that. We have grass on the bottom– a playing field for kids– and a welcoming place on the web.

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  • Mike Chen (hey, that’s me!): When we started discussing my author site, Sierra treated me like any other client. My genre — character-driven science fiction — dictated imagery that said sci-fi but without the serious edge that traditional artwork entails. After some searching, we found a fantastic illustration of 50s-style robots. It immediately translated a sci-fi vibe but with a lightness that indicated that my writing was far from the traditionally hard SF edge of Asimov. Note the modern font and slanted header — other elements that bring an element of personality that isn’t traditional for sci-fi.

MikeChenauthor

See how the different elements of a brand (genre, personality, target audience, etc.) combine into the visual design? Once you’ve established this, the next step is to maintain absolute consistency in all aspects of your reader engagement: social media headers, business cards, newsletters, etc.

Branding isn’t just visual. It also includes the message that you put forward about yourself.

For many authors, the About page on their website will be the first step to crafting this message. Not sure what to put on that page? Sign up for our mailing list (we send out cool tips and downloads about once a month and never spam you) and get our free About Page Worksheet to get a head start on building your brand.

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