You've heard you need to 'be your own brand.' But how do you begin to do this and go about building your own author brand? My sister, Natalie, and I went to a really useful discussion about branding for authors at the London Book Fair from a panel consisting of author Natalie Fergie, Lounge Marketing's Sam Missingham and Ruth Waldram, Brand Director at Vintage. Here are some of the tips shared by the panel:
Natalie Fergie author of The Sewing Machine previously ran a dyeing business. She initially used Twitter to build a brand for her business the Yarn Yard. She was conscious of building an identity for the Yarn Yard. As part of this Natalie decided not to ever put photos up of her children or name them. She tried to be approachable and feels this is central to her brand. Being ordinary. She believes that being ordinary, kind and normal are important ingredients.
Award-winning book marketer, Sam Missingham, has been on Twitter for ten years and in that time she has built a following of 32,000. She describes her brand as being one of an agitator. She says inappropriate things on social media and has been asked to speak over the world because of the brand she’s created. Sam said, "[Your brand] can turn into money, God willing."
The world is full of brands. They surround us and we're aware that they all want to sell us something. Whilst authors are brands, characters can also be brands such as Harry Potter. Brands are everywhere.
Your brand is you. Genres have a branding. They do certain
things and look a certain way but you are not your genre brand. Joanne Harris is a great example. She writes in
different genres but talks about literacy and libraries. Follow her on Twitter for a good
sense of her brand.
Your audience is your readers but it's also publishers and agents. Consider what you want them to think.
If you want any level of success as an author you will be judged so have in mind how you are communicating and your positioning.
Think about your audience when building your brand. How do you engage with them online?
To determine who your audience is the panel suggested the following:
Natalie Fergie said, "Your audience isn’t who you always expect. Open yourself up. Don’t only follow writers and publishers. Follow as many people as you can [on social media.]"
Sam Missingham said, "If you align yourself with an author see who follows them and follow them yourself. To build yourself locally look up your library, local bookshops and journalists and them follow them [on Social Media] and reach out to them."
Like Sam, Natalie Fergie's main channel is Twitter. She explained that Facebook felt like space for her children. She has used Instagram a bit and confessed to having an underused blog. Natalie's main advice was, "Don’t try to be everywhere. I can’t. It feels very scattered so I’d rather be in one place."
One of Natalie Fergie's favourite Twitter accounts belongs to Muriel Grey whose profile simply reads, 'Person.' She believes that interesting Twitter feeds can just grow from who you are.
But not everyone likes Twitter. Some big authors have closed their accounts. It's not compulsory. You have to pick where you’re comfortable.
There is no flat rule of what you have to do. If you’re an indie author then a website, newsletter and one social media channel is essential. But it’s good to do one thing well.
Sam reminded the audience, "If you do get published traditionally the publisher won’t make you do anything but they’ll encourage and train you. The more you can do yourself the better. Only you can speak in your voice."
More and more is expected of authors in terms of building your own audience and your platforms. It's wise to have a website, a social media presence and a newsletter. And right from the start you need to consider branding. Think about what your website looks like right down to the fonts you use.
Ruth advised authors to remember that things have to look clean online. Remember people are reading on devices so your website and book covers need to look good on mobiles, tablets and computer screens.
Book covers are part of your brand and some Indie authors choose to design their own. Sam feels it's important for authors to invest in professionally designed book covers.
Cover designers are very skilled. They understand the context in which your book will be positioned and genre signposting which can be subtle but is used to reassure your audience that they know what they’ll get when they read your book. There’s a perceived value.
Sam said, "If you can afford a cover designer it’s money well spent."
The panel suggested authors look into Square Space and Word Press for their websites and Mailchimp for newsletters for which the costs are minimal.
Start now. Start by following similar authors to you on social media. Develop your LinkedIn presence if your book lends itself to business. Position yourself, who you are, your credibility eg gardening if it’s about gardening. That will attract people you want. Otherwise it’s disheartening to start at zero when your book is out.
Sam also advised writers, "Try to own your social media and your newsletter list if you go with a big publisher. You want to have access to your own audience in case you move to a new publisher."
Ruth added, "If you’re going to do a newsletter be consistent. Don't just send it out when you have a new book released."
One of the members of the audience asked the panel if she should create different social media channels for her different identities.
Sam said, "There isn’t a definitive answer. It's how much can you manage. If
you think you can build two you can do that but you can just have one channel for all."
Ruth added, "It’s OK to be authentic. If you’re a vet and you write then you can have one channel for both."
Another member of the audience asked the panel, "What’s the best content to put out there?"
The panel said it's important to think about what you're trying to achieve. If you have an author blog does it add value? Does it add to what people think about you?
Ruth suggested retweeting other authors' content if you relate to it. And Natalie emphasised the need to be authentic but also setting up your own perimeter. You don’t have to post everything about your life.
We hope you picked up some useful tips which you'll be able to use in your own branding.
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