Author Branding 101: A Guide for Beginners
Last week, I covered the topic of Author Branding in my live video on YouTube. You can watch the full video here: Video on Author Branding. If you haven’t subscribed to the channel yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Every week, I stream videos geared towards helping authors turn their words into dollars and their passion into profit.
Recently, I spent a lot of time reviewing different author websites, which led me to evaluating their overall brands.
What image are they portraying to the world?
What assets are they promoting?
What tools are they using to find and engage readers?
As I’ve been conducting this research, I’ve noticed many authors, both traditionally and indie-published, neglecting a few of the basic principles of branding.
Now, I am not an expert on this subject. But I have been able to turn my passion for writing into a full-time job, and that leap required me to learn and master a few of the essentials when it comes to branding.
In this article, I want to explain what those essentials are and how you can start using them to grow your author brand into everything you imagine it could be.
If you want even more information on this subject, I recommend you subscribe to my weekly newsletter here. This link will take you to the Author Upgrade Plan, which in addition to giving you a free downloadable guide, also enters you into an email sequence I designed specifically for authors.
Day 2 of that sequence will list out 3 of the books that have most helped me understand what my readers and customers want from my brand, and how to build an entity bigger than myself that helps people while also supporting my income and work.
With that covered, lets jump right into Author Branding 101!
Should Authors Use Logos?
The first question we tackled was whether or not authors should use logos on their websites and other marketing material.
In the video, I used three different examples from authors who are at least moderately well-known: Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, and Joanna Penn.
Both Adam and Simon are traditionally published but chose different options when it came to the logo question. On Adam's website, we see his name in red. But other than the coloring, his name appears in standard text (i.e. no logo).
On the other hand, Simon meets the question halfway. His name appears in standard black text, but near the upper right-hand corner at the end of his name is a small icon that looks like a flame or light. Simon added a logo-element to his author name, without obscuring his name in the process. I think this was an excellent move because now he is able to benefit from name recognition while also using this small icon/symbol across his social media channels and other printed materials.
Joanna Penn, a self-published author, is well-known for her Creative Penn brand name which uses a logo. Her website and marketing materials are dominated by her logo which I believe is a smart marketing move. But it also leads to one area of concern.
This brought up the main downside of logo use for authors: does it detract from name-recognition?
While household names such as Adam Grant or Simon Sinek might not need to push for high name recognition in their fields, many smaller and newer authors do. However, I believe when done right, a logo does not have to compete with your name recognition but can reinforce its spread.
Brand Colors for Authors
The second point authors should consider when branding is choosing a color scheme that appropriately reflects their voice, niche, and audience.
In the live video, I showed examples of various online tools that can help you decipher a branding scheme that correlates with the message you want to share with the world.
Many of these tools revolve around the platform Canva. Since it’s a free tool with a very short learning curve, I have found it to be immensely helpful on my journey as an author. Especially when it comes to experimenting with various marketing ideas, Canva is a gold mine.
Instead of having to hire a designer every time I want to test a new design or graphic or color, I can simply use their free tools to get an idea of what my idea will look like in real life.
Then, if I think I might be on to something, that is when I go ahead and hire a designer to bring my concept to life in a much more robust way.
My advice is to research what your favorite authors are doing when it comes to color, and try to understand how they make you feel as a reader.
Most non-fiction authors who write about serious topics feel that they are constrained to the white and black motif across their branding and digital channels. But that just isn’t true.
Color can show personality. It can connect with visitors in a whole different way, outside of the words you use. It can deepen your relationship with your audience when used aptly.
Currently, I use a fair amount of purple on my website and branding. For a long time, I stuck with blue, white, and black. However, during the last season of life, I changed in significant ways, and so did my writing. I knew that when choosing to update my website, I had to choose colors that communicated this change to my audience.
Visual tools like colors are a powerful tool authors can use. Remember, just because words might be our favorite tool for creation doesn’t mean they are the only one we can use.
Branding Your Author Assets
When I talk about assets as an author, I am referring to everything associated with your brand that has a visual element to it.
As we continue in this post, you’ll see that some of the elements begin to overlap because the rules and techniques you use to succeed in one area of your branding will often bleed over and improve additional areas of your personal brand as well.
If I could make a list of assets for authors, at a bare minimum it would include:
- Book covers
- Social media pages
- In-person marketing materials
Depending upon your niche and audience, there are dozens of additional assets you could possess – each with the opportunity to bring cohesion to your overall message.
The main point I want you to take away from this section is that these destinations are not separate. They should be thought of as simply different rooms in the same house.
Yes, each room could have its own distinct style and serve its own purpose, but not to the detriment of the other rooms. Also, think group area rooms (dining room, living room, kitchen) and not bedrooms. Bedrooms can be wildly different. But a living room and a dining room should not feel like they belong in two different houses.
This mentality will help ensure that the colors, voice, and postings across all of your channels all point back to the same person people expect to interact with when they engage with your content.
Online, you are the sum of your assets. Remember that every time you post.
Social Media is a Must for Authors
I don't 100% agree with Gary Vaynerchuk, who promotes the idea that you need to be "everywhere" to be successful online. I believe spending that much energy across so many platforms is ultimately counterproductive to an author trying to produce her best (deep) work.
However, people have to be able to find you.
If most people can find you in most places, you are doing an excellent job.
I understand that words like most and some aren’t always the most helpful when it comes to marketing advice, but they should give you a direction to head towards.
Here are some useful questions to ask when thinking about how you should best divide your time across different social platforms:
- What age groups do most of your readers fall into?
- What gender are most of your readers?
- What other creators/entertainers would your audience also enjoy?
Answering these questions will give you a better idea of where you should be creating so that you can reach your target audience.
For instance, most of the readers for my religious writing are in the 40 to 64 year-old age range. From research, I know that the population is heavily concentrated on Facebook, so most of my marketing and creation focus on that platform.
When I decided to write essays for the 25-40 age range, I increased my presence on Instagram and YouTube.
Create with your audience in mind, and you'll be amazed by the results.
Finding Your Author Voice
The words you use to write your book are rarely the words you need to use to sell it.
That sentence right there will save you years of frustration and thousands of dollars of wasted advertising.
There's a reason copyrighting is an entirely different field of writing, and why those who become experts at it are often the highest-paid working writers.
Words have the power to move us emotionally and intellectually. And they also have the power to sell. But rarely do the same words do both.
Finding your author voice means a few things:
- Honing your written voice inside your books and creations
- Discovering your “marketing” voice for social media, website, and other assets
Don't misconstrue my point here. I am not telling you to be a different person depending upon the situation.
The best authors understand that switching between your creative voice and your marketing or selling voice is not about being dishonest, but about understanding that your readers need to hear things in different ways for it to reach them.
By becoming a better copyrighter and developing a consistent voice across your channels, you are serving your readers and inviting them to engage with your work more deeply.
I encourage you to watch the final part we covered in the live video. I believe when you understand this point, you'll make significant changes as a result.
Thank you for reading this article! I hope you found it helpful.
Remember to comment below if you have any follow-up questions you would like me to answer. Happy writing!