An author brand is like any other kind of brand—Coke, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Andersen Doors. The most familiar brands evoke immediate recognition and association with particular products or even a level of quality in a certain product. Basically, branding translates into a sort of shorthand. I see a Nora book, I automatically know what kind of experience I can expect by reading it, so I pick it up without having to think twice or do any research. Branding is having a reputation and a loyal following and helps with all those impulse buys that are so critical in the book business.
Branding is important because it enables the author’s name in and of itself to become a marketable commodity. James Patterson is now using his brand to sell stories co-authored by other people. He’s even expanding his brand to include many different types of stories. Now that he’s so strongly associated with a good story, he can do that.
How did he build such a strong brand? By writing consistently great stories. That always has to be first. But there’s more to it than that. Branding is an on-going process and doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s most difficult in the start-up phase. As well known as they are, Coke and Pepsi are still out there, advertising and building name recognition. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. If you stop pushing, it rolls right back to the bottom—something else encroaches and takes the attention of those you’re hoping to reach.
Specifically, an author brands herself by developing something that is consistent and unique in her writing. I do that by making sure every book I create delivers a deeply emotional, evocative story. How is my brand different from other authors who write in the same genre? My books are known for their deep characterization in a genre that is often more plot-driven (as you drift toward the suspense side). Once you know what you want your brand to be, you establish it through your writing style and “voice,” as well as your promotional efforts, until it becomes recognizable to others.
Some tools an author can use to build her brand are:
An interesting and constantly updated Web site
Blogs and chats (See? I’m building my brand right here
Joint-promotion with other authors and businesses
Press releases/media attention
Author response to fan letters/e-mails
Mailers to booksellers/fans
Your brand is your promise to your readers. When my readers buy my books they want to be able to count on a certain type of read. Therefore, I make sure I deliver that kind of read. Everything I do professionally is geared around building my brand and my career, so my Web site reflects that brand, my promotional materials reflect it, my charity auction reflects it, and my workshops/blogs reflect it.
Think about how solicitors make you feel. Because we are approached by so many who are trying to sell us something, the melee is deafening. We learn to filter and filter quickly, which means, in order to be effective in today’s marketplace, we have to be creative and effective marketers.
So my question to you is: How can you reach people who are already tired of the signals that are constantly bombarding them via the telephone, TV, computer, etc? How can you set yourself apart?
Throw out some ideas, and I’ll be happy to contribute. ☺
Remember to post a comment or question by Saturday night for a chance to win an autographed copy of Brenda's newest book, "Coulda Been a Cowboy."