Create your author brand and make it stick.
When most people consider branding, they think Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, but these days, that’s less branding and more commercial juggernaut. People know what they want and expect from such authors, and when they don’t get it, they don’t buy (see Stephen King’s attempts at romance novels and J.K. Rowling’s post-Harry Potter novel).
Of course, there are plenty of authors who are masters at author branding. It doesn’t just mean your ability to create merchandising and film opportunities (in fact, that’s a very small part of it)—it’s about your ability to create a consistent image, niche or writing style. People want to recognize your author’s voice when they pick up your book. In short, they want to know what they’re getting ahead of time.
For example, you know what you’re getting when you pick up a Dean Koontz or John Grisham book. The same is true of Mo Willems, Nick Bruel, Doreen Cronin, James Patterson and plenty of other top-notch, top-selling writers. But local authors can develop big audiences, too, by developing a brand.
Let’s look at how two New Author Editing authors did it using two very different approaches.
- Zackary Richards. Zackary Richards has a brand that meets his personality. He’s brash, opinionated, loud and straight out of the Bronx. Sorry, da Bronx. His books are fast-paced with unforgettable characters, otherworldly plots, a bit of sex, a lot of violence, and intricately woven plots with turn after unexpected turn. This style remains consistent even when he changes genre. Zack mostly writes science fiction, but he’s written it for adults and young adults. He’s been able to use his brand to develop sci-fi, fantasy, religious themes, and even non-fiction. How is his brand different than his “author’s voice?” Simple: voice can change from book to book, branding does not. When readers pick up a Zackary Richards’ book, they know what they’re getting, regardless of subtle shifts in genre, reader age, narrator, etc.
- Tommy Moore. Comedian Tommy Moore used an approach completely different than Zack’s. His brand – clean, fun, funny, friendly and sentimental – existed long before he wrote his book A Ph.D. in Happiness from the Great Comedians. Tommy had nearly 40 years in stand-up comedy when his book came out. His voice, his brand, and his platform existed. All he had to do was capture what he’d been doing on stage, TV, and radio and put it on the printed page. He did it beautifully, allowing him to bring the two together and naturally promote the book through his stand-up and media appearances. Tommy is known as The Professor of Fun. Notice how his book offers a Ph.D. in happiness? That’s a terrific extension of his brand. Everything is tied together nicely.
Steps to Establish an Author’s Brand:
- Have a consistent voice. Whether you’re being interviewed, writing a blog, telling a story, Tweeting, etc. have a consistent voice. If you write funny books, try to give lighthearted interviews. If you’re philosophical, be poignant. If you check out Zackary Richards blog, you’ll see how consistent it is with his novels. His readers pick up his books because they feel like they know, and fans of his books with turn to his blog to get updates on his work, etc.
- Have a consistent style. This doesn’t necessarily mean your voice within a story (first person vs. third, optimistic vs. pessimistic, male vs. female, etc.) but you need to maintain certain qualities. Even Mark Twain (another master at branding, despite changing voices drastically between stories), who changed American literature and writing style in his shift between Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, kept certain parts of his brand alive: life on the Mississippi, a reflection on American culture, and wry observations on subtleties in human behavior.
- Know what your readers want. It’s almost impossible to jump from genre to genre, voice to voice, once you have a following. Change can happen, but it has to be subtle. Perfectly executing a radical change simply takes a genius most of us don’t have. (I know, disappointing, right?
- Know who you are. Exaggerate the parts of you that are on the page. Be consistent. You don’t need to become an outright character or caricature of yourself, but make yourself as memorable as the characters you create. If your books are funny, be funny. Gritty, be gritty. Homey, be homey, etc.
- Use your expertise. If you’re an expert in something, include it in your book. Write what you know. It will be believable, increase your interview and speaking opportunities, and help you carve out a niche in the populated world of popular authors. Start by reaching out to local organizations that share your interests, or schools that teach your subject. Use your expertise, like comedian Tommy Moore. Make your expertise your brand.
Being a “brand” doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen with the right approach. Your brand is your bond. Don’t break it.