Over in the Facebook group, Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic, we’re looking at cleaning up our author branding. You can join us in the group and catch the Facebook Live when we chat about this very subject. You can also join in with the group during the weekly challenges to help keep yourself accountable. FB Live: Tues 1/7/20 @ 1pm central
There’s a slew of information out there about how to brand yourself as an author, and while I’ve taken some courses on this and am prepared to help in a small degree, the bulk of this post isn’t about how to help you find yourself as an author but is a checklist of areas that you may need to comb over to make certain that the author you’re representing is still the author you are today.
Author Branding Overview:
Since author branding is a hot topic for many, let’s pause and consider what it is and how you might improve upon it before we look at our checklist.
I’ve heard of 2 basic ways to brand the author: brand the book or brand the person. Here’s the quick of it:
Branding the Books:
This works really well if you’re a single genre brand. Think Sarah Sundin who writes only WWII fiction. She’s able to share historical tidbits related to her era. Her fonts are typically the same (or similar) because they work well for her style of writing. And since her style and era never change, there are certain visual things pertaining to her brand that never need to change.
Branding the Author:
This can work for either the single sub-genre or the multi-genre author. For myself, it’s essential because I write both contemporary and historical. But what does it look like to brand the person instead of the work?
It’s a matter of showcasing who YOU are and what your interests are (in writing and outside of writing). It’s a matter of establishing what it is that you offer the world through your books and making that known. Even when you’re a multi-genre author, there are certain elements that will always stay the same because each work is written by the same person. I’ll admit, it’s harder to determine what you have to offer when you write for various eras/genres. But the key is to remember that you’re still you and you’ll have to dig WAY deep to figure it out.
For an author like Mrs. Sundin who writes in one era only, they may not have to dig very far to figure out what they mean to offer.
How, or WHERE, do we brand ourselves?
The answer is everywhere in everything. What I’ve come to learn is that true branding happens in the day to day process.
Take a minute and take a look at what you post on your social media platforms. Pause and scroll through your pages.
If you only ever post about your upcoming novel, then you aren’t branding yourself or your work. You’ve become a billboard.
If you’re posting about your personal life, writing process, books you read, and other interests, then you are in fact branding yourself. The question then is what part of you are you showing the world? One of the quick ways to answer that is to ask your friends and followers (especially followers since it’s our social media accounts that are in question here) what they think of when they think of you. If any of your followers have ever tagged you in something because they thought it would interest you, take note because they’re secretly telling you that they believe this is part of your brand.
Fast and Free Tips for Establishing Your Brand:
Create a vision or Pinterest board of things that interest you.
Ask your followers what they think of when they hear your name.
Scroll your page (personal and professional) and write down the topics you see yourself posting.
Has anyone ever tagged you in a post? Write that down and put a star beside it.
Look at font and color combos. Which style grabs you the most? (If you’re branding off of your genre, you’d want to work within the realm of what works for your genre. But if you’re branding the person, you get to decide what represents you.)
Talk with your faithful readers and street team and ask them to help you understand which elements are always present in your work.
Scan reviews of your books and look for reoccurring comments. Ex: Is it always uplifting? Always a page-turner? Always swoon-worthy? Etc.
Ask yourself some questions. What message do you most want to share? What is your goal for your writing?
NOTE: After you quiz yourself over what you mean for your brand to be, double-check it against what others are picking up. It may be that you think you offer family-friendly fiction but your readers keep commenting on how edgy it feels. Don’t be ashamed if you’re slightly off on what you meant for your brand to be. Sometimes we think we’re putting one version of ourselves out there but our audience is seeing something different.
If your idea of your brand is different than your audience’s idea then you’ll need to make some changes. Consider if you’re simply not putting your brand to practice? Are you posting regularly about the things that make up your brand? If not, get started.
Consider if their idea of you is more accurate? It may be time to rethink who you are as an author.
Or consider if there’s room to marry the two ideas together.
Fast and Free Tips for Putting Your Brand to Work:
Remember your brand is where you are!
Post about things other than your release.
When making graphics stick to a style of fonts and color schemes.
When sharing quotes, consider your brand. If you’re the swoon-worthy author, posting the kiss scene makes more sense than the inspirational quote that another author might use.
When designing your website, blog, and newsletter be sure it matches your social media side of your brand. Look for the same color and font schemes.
Consider a posting schedule to keep your brand even. (see tip below)
Showcasing Your Brand Through a Posting Schedule:
This is probably my biggest tip for putting the brand into practice. We all want to stay away from the trap of becoming a billboard. But how do we do that?
The key is to understand that you’re more than the mother of that book you keep talking about. So ask yourself, WHO … Are … YOU? (Am I the only one who heard the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland in my head?) So grab a piece of paper and ask yourself this question, and we’ll use little ole me as an example.
I am an author.
I am a Christian.
I am a history lover.
I am an avid reader.
I am a wife and mother.
I have other interests: tea, Jane Austen, the color pink, etc.
With my list in hand, I sat down and considered how often I want to post. When I blogged regularly, I posted on Mondays. When working on Facebook, I’m posting Mon-Fri. So now that I know what categories I can place myself in and how often I want to post, I assign a different category to a different day.
My blog schedule was:
1st Mon: About my Books (NEVER leave this out! Just don’t make it the only thing you post)
2nd Mon: Spiritual post
3rd Mon: Miscellaneous. It was always personal. Maybe my reading list or favorite books. Or a new recipe I was trying.
4th Mon: Historical post.
5th Mon: Either a day to catch up or skip completely.
My Facebook schedule looks a little different:
Mon: #MondayMorningMugs I share the fun mug I’m drinking out of, give a recap of my life or current project, and ask my followers about something going on in their life.
Tues: Fun day! I share a fun game or silly meme. We see a lot of Austen posts on Tuesdays.
Wed: Spiritual day. Either scripture, quote, or song.
Thur: #ThrowbackThursday For a history lover this is like a holiday every week. Sometimes the posts are connected to my research and sometimes they’re not.
Fri: #FictionFriday I share what I’m reading, spotlight other authors, first-line Fridays, etc.
Keeping a schedule in hand helps me to space out my content. Granted, when there’s a release, things are uneven and I’m posting more about the new book. That’s normal. When there’s a sale or giveaway, we’re going to see an increase in those posts. But generally speaking, I wanted to keep my page interactive and featuring more than my personal novel.
What happens if you can’t keep up with your schedule? Either make adjustments so your schedule matches your posting abilities or pick up where you left off. I’m not always able to post daily on Facebook. But when I sit down on a Thursday morning, hoping to post, I’m not searching my brain for a topic because I already have one. And that narrows down my options and helps me not to waste so much time considering what to post. And because there’s so much of my personal life mingled in, I’m slowing establishing my brand.
Because the Writers’ Clinic focuses primarily on content revisions, I wanted to focus on cleaning up our branding content. I broke the tasks down over 4 weeks through the month of Jan. Feel free to work ahead, out of order, or to skip whatever you desire.
Week 1: Bios
If you’re like me, you probably have multiple bios circulating. I have a “serious” one for my Amazon page. There’s a fun one for Goodreads and other sites. And a short serious one for the back cover of my books.
The goal this week is to pull out all of your existing bios. Make sure they currently describe you. Look for typos. Let your critique partners read it to ensure it still sounds good. Or scrap it and write something fresh.
Here are some areas to look for bios:
Back of your book
Week 2: Meat and Potatoes of Your Brand
This week we’re looking at areas that regularly promote who we are. Check to make sure your image is current. Look for areas where you can create something fresh.
Author Tagline or Mission Statement – I was challenged to create a mission statement in one of the branding classes I had taken last year. It was hard work, I won’t lie. But it was so essential. It helped me to see my purpose in my writing and weeks later when I was struggling with one of my drafts, a dear friend pointed me back to my own statement and said that I was lacking the very thing I said I wanted to provide. WOW! It honestly helped to bring me back on track.
What is a tagline or mission statement? Some authors may use these differently but I’ll share how I’m using them.
My tagline is the short and sweet sum of my writing. It’s found on my banner on Facebook and here on the page as well. It reads: Read. Write. Live. And glorify Christ. (preview other authors to see what their short, and typically 3 word statement is about themselves to get more ideas.)
The mission statement is 1-2 longer sentences. It basically blankets all that I mean to say about my writing. Start by asking what you write and why, then keep narrowing that down, being as specific as possible, until you find exactly what you offer and why you offer it.
I recommend taking the time to write your tagline or mission statement, or both! It’s great practice for discovering who you are as a writer. But the key this week is to make sure that whatever you do have posted is STILL accurate.
Take a look at your branding graphics. Check your banners on Facebook and social media sites. Look at your email signature. These are great places to showcase your tagline. If you have one, make sure you’re using it! Also look at the graphic itself. Do you need to create something fresh? Does it match the fonts and color scheme that you said would represent your brand? Does the image itself represent your first novel or all of your novels as a whole?
Look for other areas where a mission statement could go. Is it posted on your blog or page? Did you know that Facebook has a new feature just perfect for a mission statement? Look in the About Page section if you haven’t used yours already. It’s a block on the right side of your page that contains a bonus picture and some room to talk about your page.
Remember the key this week is to make sure what you have visible represents the author you currently are and not the author you started out to be because sometimes those are two different people. I started off writing Civil War fiction but have evolved since then and my plantation-style fence picture isn’t an accurate representation of my writing anymore.
Week 3: Website Details
This week we’re going to take the time to look at the various details on our website (although you may need to do this on other platforms as well). Here are some suggestions of what to look for. Feel free to add to your list.
Double-check your list of Available Publications.
Check your list of WIP if you have those posted anywhere.
Check all of your links. Do you need to add any? Has anything changed?
Week 4: Author Picture
This week is easy peasy. Sorta. 😉
Take a look at your author picture. Is it time for something fresh? Or maybe something taken within the last 4 years?
It may take more than a week to get this one done but if you know you need an upgrade, start brainstorming locations, poses, or your wardrobe. Make an appointment. Or set a personal deadline for yourself.
I hope the overview on Author Branding and the Cleanout Checklist was helpful to you.