As an author, your brand is more than just a cover image, logo, and design scheme.
You’re told by publishers and industry professionals to build a platform and sell your book. When it comes time to act, however, there is little guidance provided for how to do that effectively. Pumping out “buy my book” messages makes you look self-serving and turns readers off.
There’s an entire flavor to branding that a lot of authors miss, and it’s hurting their chances of connecting with their target readers!
This side of branding is invisible and captures the heart of what you’re about and how you can best serve your readers with the stories you have to tell. “Buy my book” messages aren’t working. There’s a simpler mode of author branding that can connect you with readers without being salesy. The steps here will help you get to the heart of your brand: who you are, what readers want, and where the two of you overlap.
Have you ever seen an author that only uses their social media to post messages like “buy my book”, or share their five-star reviews? Have you ever seen a children’s book author post an erotic or otherwise inappropriate graphic? In both of these cases, the author has failed to communicate what they’re about.
When you’re branding yourself as an author, you must first ask yourself: Why are you writing?
It’s the why that will keep you going when sales hit rock bottom, and it’s the why that will make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Maybe you write romance because you believe everyone deserves true love. Maybe you write children’s books because you believe every child needs a good bedtime story from a loving parent. Maybe you write memoirs because you believe in teaching the next generation.
Whatever your why, you need to pinpoint it.
Spend some time reflecting through journaling. Explore the following questions:
For me, writing is important because it keeps my emotional health in check. I’m passionate enough to risk my life for the wellbeing of others.
Therefore, if I could be paid to do anything in the world, I’d be paid to write heart-healing stories for readers. I want to leave a mark on their world that leaves people’s lives changed.
My strengths as a writer help me do that; I’m an emotional writer who likes to get straight to the inner conflict of a story.
I want my writing to be the story that sticks with my readers forever. I want my stories to be something they reflect on during self-development.
Even if I could never be paid to do this, I’d still write these kinds of stories for my inner circle because I believe stories can change lives.
Finding your why is important because it will help you choose a genre and subject that is true to you. Who you’re created to be will endure across trials and failures. Trying to write something not true to you will burn you out, and fall short of connecting with your readers.
As you explore, realize it’s okay to have your answers shift over time. We are constantly growing and learning more about ourselves.
A rookie mistake authors make is sharing content inconsistent with their true selves. It looks bad when a children’s book writer starts sharing erotica, for example. They’ve missed the essential core of branding—knowing themselves—because they either don’t know how to do it or don’t think it’s worth the time.
Eventually, your true self is going to come out. By taking the time to put into words what you’re about, you’ll be able to keep a tone that’s consistent with the way you want to be seen by others.
Readers aren’t just buying your book—they’re buying a piece of you.
There are oodles of readers out there, and you no doubt have specific ones whom you target based on your genre. If you write romance, you’ll likely be marketing to women both in and out of committed relationships that want the spark of love in their lives. That’s not the same person as will come running for your latest sci-fi or murder mystery story. You have to take time to think about who is going to be interested enough in your book to buy it.
When authors neglect to spend time getting to know their readers, they’re hurting themselves. Taking the time to invest in your target readers will pay off with sales in the end. If you know who they are and what they want, you can create content that they will love. They’ll be excited to buy from you!
Readers are people, too. You have knowledge and expertise that can help them. Dig into their hopes and dreams. Hubspot has a great free resource for a buyer persona template. You can download that for free, answer the prompts and generate your ideal reader persona.
Defining your ideal reader will help align you with them. How can you come alongside them and be their friend and guiding light on their journey? Stories are an incredibly powerful way to speak into someone’s life.
Take out a piece of paper and doodle your ideal reader (this is great information to put into that reader persona template).
A rookie mistake authors make in their marketing is only interacting with other authors. Ack! That is a clear sign they don’t know, or want to know, their target readers. Yes, it’s great to network with other writers, but you’ll see the greatest return on investment when you first invest your time in your readers.
How can you love on them and delight them?
Now that you know yourself and what you’re about, and you’ve identified your target reader, it’s time to find the space where the two overlap.
For me, if I sat down with my reader, we’d chat about their deepest desires and why those aren’t coming to life. My reader would share about wanting to do something they believe in, but they just can’t get over X.
Therefore, I’d get to work writing a story that would help them see how they can move past X to become what they want to be. My reader will still face a lot of opposition from their inner life and from others, because change isn’t easy.
Even though change is hard, my reader still longs for fulfillment and will do whatever it takes to get there. My reader is a woman between 18 and 40. She’s always saying I wish statements: “I wish I was brave enough to quit my job. I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish I could get over what my mom said to me when I was young.”
My reader would never say, “It’s so-and-so’s fault,” because she focuses her blame inward. She’ll fight for others, but never for herself. After her encounter with my stories, that can change.
Once you’ve identified one reader, you can find more. Narrowing your marketing messages as if you’re speaking with one person will enable you to find a voice that resonates with your niche group.
Below are some ideas to connect your ideal reader profile to your book marketing strategy. Journal out or brainstorm your ideas while you’re exploring these questions.
Build a social media theme around any overlaps things you discover. Craft messages based on information your readers want to see and things that stir emotion in them. For example, a romance writer might create a campaign based on a theme like “Love is forever.” He or she would craft posts and blogs around that theme and mention their romance book. Instead of flashing posts or banners that scream, “Buy my book,” you’re creating a force for good that both you and your reader believe in.
Remember, selling books is about giving readers what they want. They want a great story. It’s not about you—it’s about them.
A rookie mistake authors make is throwing their writing out into the world with a tone that says, “Look at this thing I made! Promote it because I’m awesome!” Or worse, they resort to begging, “I’m so sorry I have to post this self-promotional thing, but I’m struggling here so would you please buy my book?”
When you know yourself and what you’re about, you can see how you and your work can serve others. If you’re writing to only serve yourself, it’s unlikely that you will stick with it in the long run. Writing is not a get-rich-quick career. If money is your only motivation, you must seriously ask whether or not this is really for you.
No one wants to work with a self-serving person because there’s no mutual benefit in the relationship. Generosity, on the other hand, always has a way of giving back to you while you’re helping someone else.Those who give build trusting relationships with their audience. You’re looking to the needs of your readers first. They will be excited about your content and eager to buy from you when your work resonates with them. You’ll never have to apologize for sharing your work again.
After all, at the end of the day, your writing is about changing the world and impacting the lives of others. If that’s not true for you, then it’s time to start again at the beginning with your branding as an author, and take a deeper look at your why.
Photo credit: kwanchaidp
Sydney Scrogham loves creating happy endings. Her first book, Chase, was published by Koehler Books in August 2015. When she’s not writing, she’s at the barn with her horse Snowdy or catching up on reruns of the best TV show ever – Castle. She lives in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. To learn more, visit her website at sswriter.com.