We’ve all heard about author “branding,” or creating an effective, identifiable writer persona that will draw readers of certain genres and styles to our work. After all, whether out shopping for cars, tools, groceries or clothes, through experience or advertising, we expect certain things of a maker when it comes to fit, styles, craftsmanship.
It’s the same for manufacturers of fiction. Any kind of fiction, romance to mystery, family drama to literary. The author name on a book cover should raise readers’ expectations about what’s inside regarding genre fit, styles and craftsmanship. Therefore we author’s can’t be shy creating a literary persona. It is an authentic representation of who we are, what we care about, what we write.
This is not about one’s deep feelings, doubts, day to day triumphs and tragedies. Although if one “does” social media as part of the marketing plan, it can touch on such things. No. This is about a persona we create and reinforce, a detached name-brand guaranteeing a certain prose behind your name. Shrinking violets take heart. You, rather your public brand, are about writing or selling books. Maybe Ralph Lauren is the same dude who’s suggested in his company advertising with its depictions of an idyllic life sailing, attending polo matches, and living on an upscale Aspen ranch. But l’ll bet the farm he’s not telling all, and certainly is not spending sleepless nights thinking The Real Ralph (poor, shy, artsy Jewish boy from Brooklyn or wherever) will be discovered via his advertising.
When I began writing fiction for publication in 2014 or so, I sought a marketing mentor in a program offered free by Mystery Writers of America. They paired me with bestselling thriller author, Libby Fischer Hellmann. In phone interviews, she suggested I first identify and codify my author brand. That would go into a website, so readers could find and learn about my work. She had me pick a selfie or other portrait that captured what I am about—expression, favorite genre, and loved setting, etc.
Then she had me create my motto, or logo—six to ten words expressing the kind of books I write. Currently it is “New West Mysteries with Heart,” suggesting modern, cozy whodunits with a dash of romance. Writers with more than one category or genre can create a different logo or motto for each category.
Finally, this Carole T. Beers branding effort, after I’d identified what “look” and “motto,” stood for how I look, what I like to do, how I live and what I believe in, took me into social media. Free friending, free marketing, but first, gathering like-minded souls and responding to their posts. My brand was launched! Now I have 5,000 “friends” of my Facebook profile, 1,500 “likes” of my FB Carole T. Beers Author page, and opportunities daily to spread my message and reinforce my brand.
I am a friendly type, though clinically an introvert, and absolutely love doing it all. It does take time from writing. But what will my writing be, with no one drawn to read it?!
Let’s do a little exercise, to make sure you “get” this branding thing., whether or not you’re a writer. Because every public thing an you do or say, whatever you post, drops info about you, for good or for ill. And you don’t want people confused by what you reoresent. Write down the names of three of your favorite or influential authors. Take a moment and pick out the best. Write down three qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or writing style you admire in these authors. That is their brand.
Now write down three to five of your own qualities of personality, outlook, lifestyle or style that you would like to be known for, or at least would not mind people knowing. Congratulations! You’ve just identified your brand. This can define and shape manuscripts. Or lives!
I had an idea about my brand long before I was published: New West Mysteries with Heart. I love the West old and new, books and art dealing with it, people navigating it, as well as horses, dogs and growing things. I love a mystery, risk, adventure. And celebrate our connections, gnarly or mutually gratifying. Energy and humor are musts. My website and posts reflect this. Unbranded livestock can be stolen or get lost in the herd. It simplifies my writing life, brings it into sharp focus.
For me, there’s no room for doubt. A brand tells readers what they need to know. What they might reasonably and reliably expect when they borrow or buy a book with my name of its cover. I write, therefore I brand. And I’ve branded myself so I can write even better. And be discovered, read, and relied on. Consistency and standing in your truth is a powerful thing.