Author Branding: How I Built an Author Brand That Sold 6+ Million Books

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An author brand is what makes your work unique or distinctly you. It tells readers (and potential readers!) what to expect from you as an author as well as what to expect from your books. Today, let's look at how to build an author brand.

Author Branding

This is part of our ongoing series on How to Write a Children's Book. Learn more about how to write and publish a children's book here.

What is An Author Brand?

Think of one of your favorite authors, maybe a children's book author, since that's what I write. For little ones, it might be Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. And for older kids, perhaps you like Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

When you purchase one of these books, you know what to expect. Eric Carle offers soothing rhymes and stories with bright and cheery collage artwork. Jeff Kinney, on the other hand, gives readers funny, endearing stories featuring his signature cartoon protagonist, Greg.

These are two examples from successful authors of a powerful author brand.

An author brand is what makes your work unique or distinctly you. It's the collection of impressions you make across your interactions with readers, including your books, social media, and face-to-face meetings.

Your brand tells readers what to expect from you as an author, as well as what to expect from your books, and it is built over time.

Why Do You Need an Author Brand

There are a LOT of books out there for readers to choose from. Why would someone choose your books in the sea of options? One answer is your author brand.

Developing an author brand ensures that you're presenting yourself and your books consistently over time. This is part of growing your author business and author platform! You are cultivating an emotional connection with your audience.

When you hear someone effuse, “Oh, I LOVE _______'s books,” you are hearing a response to a strong author brand.  The “why” of this love is an insight into brand.

Just as your book cover is a promise of the story inside your pages, an author brand is a promise to your customers of what they can expect from YOU and your creations over time.

Think of it as a relationship. When you think of a good friend, you might say, “I love my friend, Julia, because she is funny and thoughtful and loves camping and other outdoor adventures!” You are responding to the “who” of Julia, similar to how you respond to the “who” of an author.

Using my books, for example, I create books that help people share their heart and connect with those they love. Over and over, I hear from readers that my books give them the words they want and need to convey to their children and families. My books are emotional, gentle, and sentiment driven. Often, it's your customers who will give you insight into your brand!

How to Create an Author Brand

This process of creating an author brand is part organic and part how-to, because your writing is a direct output from your thoughts, feelings, ideas and creative storytelling. However, in the interest of offering you some things to consider,  I recommend taking yourself through the following thought process to discover your author brand.

Who Are You?

Do a personal inventory of your characteristics. Are you emotional, funny, sarcastic, playful, assertive, thoughtful, spiritual?  Are you passionate about anti-bullying, social justice, neuro-diversity, adoption, God, food, technology, science, or the arts?

My guess is your writing is an outpouring from the very heart of who you are, so it helps to familiarize yourself with …. yourself!

For the sake of example, let's say I'm a witty foodie who loves organic cooking. What type of kids cookbook might be created from this personal brand versus from someone who is a quiet, romantic baker passionate about reviving her grandmother's family recipes?

The reading experience created by both of these individuals points to one's author brand. In previous articles, we've discussed knowing why you are writing your books, and that knowledge comes in handy here, too.

Know Your Reader

If you are true to yourself, your reader will likely emerge, because they want to receive what you offer through your creations. This is your target market or target reader.

If you, like Mo Willems, for example, are known for writing funny children's books (he is the brain behind Knuffle Bunny and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) with a deeper message, you'll work to attract the readers looking for this, too!

But what exactly are people responding to? The answer is your brand voice!

Identify Your Brand Voice

Think of the strongest product brands you know, for example, Nike, Lululemon or Trader Joe's. What's consistent across these three brands? You know what you're going to get from them in terms of products and customer experience.

It's not so different as an author.

Imagine how someone would describe the “experience” of reading your books and/or interacting with your content. How would someone describe you and your books if they were telling a friend about you? That might give you an inking as to your brand voice!

According to the Content Marketing Institute, a brand voice is a consistent voice that enables your brand to be an easily identified and authoritative source in your area of expertise.

How do you figure out your brand voice and begin to implement it?  A helpful exercise is to brainstorm a list of words that define your personality: quirky, heartfelt, adventurer, honest, sincere, teacher, to-the-point, spiritual, assertive, etc.

Now, whittle this list down to just a few words. How do these adjectives come across in your creations and other communications with your audience?

It's important to note here that voice goes beyond the words your write. It's all the ways you connect with your customer including your books, your website, your author bio, your social media posts, and your in-person appearances.

Consider these your customer touch points.

Write a Brand Promise

Building on what we've talked about, I recommend you write a brand promise to connect with your target audiences. This is a short phrase that describes the value you are delivering to customers. This phrase should be benefit driven.

For my books, my brand promise is: Books to share your heart and connect with those you love.

It may help you to look at the brand promise of larger companies to get your own mind brainstorming the possibilities. For example, Starbucks exists “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”

What might be your promise to your ideal reader? This clarity can help you focus which will hopefully lead to more book sales!

Review All Your Customer Touch Points

There are many ways a reader can experience an author, whether an indie author or a traditionally published author. As part of formulating your author brand strategy and marketing plan, you can consider the following list and ask if your brand voice is being communicated consistently.

The strongest author brands will ensure their voice is “heard” in a myriad of ways:

  1. Social posts and social media profiles. The content and topics you post and talk about should feel consistent for your brand across any social media platforms where you interact.
  2. Author Headshot and Bio. Your author photo and bio can be a great way to introduce yourself. Are you dressed casually? Do you have a signature outfit, hat or color scheme? Do you always wear red tennis shoes? Include a Q and A on your website answering the questions you get the most!
  3. Newsletter. Time and again, we hear your email list is your biggest marketing tool for connecting directly with a reader who is choosing to have you show up in their mailbox. How can you deliver value to your ideal customer?
  4. Author logo and website. Is there a particular color palette and font that conveys the spirit of your voice?
  5. Blog posts. What blog categories and topics might you write about that support your target reader?
  6. Podcast. What topics would be consistent with your brand?
  7. In-person readings. How does your true personality shine through? If you want humor to be part of your brand, how does this come through in person?
  8. Speaking events. What type of events would make sense for you to pursue? When people meet you in person, will they be surprised when they interact with you or will they think, “This is exactly who I was expecting to meet!”
  9. Media kit and business cards. Ensure the look of these items reflects a similar vibe as your other graphic elements like your website.
  10. Book marketing. Brainstorm marketing ideas that convey your brand. If you write mysteries for kids, you might consider hosting a scavenger hunt for kids or featuring mini mysteries to solve on your website.

Lest you think that being a children's author is just about the writing, I'm here to assure you it's so much more! It's about knowing yourself, finding the people who want to know you and consistently delivering on what you promise.

PRACTICE

Today, take fifteen minutes to brainstorm how others might describe you and your writing. Start by making a personal inventory of your characteristics. Then describe the themes and messages that seem to always come through in your writing. Finally, write a draft of your brand promise: a short phrase that describes the value you are delivering to customers.

Share what you come up with the practice box below and give feedback to a few other writers. Have fun with it!

Enter your practice here:

I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products.
Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).

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