You’re working on a book. But are you focused on the right elements?
I’m not asking about grammar, voice, and flow. I’m referring to the most overlooked aspect of the business of writing: your personal brand.
Believe it or not, your brand is more important than your book. Here are five reasons why—and guidelines for improving your brand.
Agents represent brands
In the nonfiction world, a professional web site with a blog is a must. As a niche literary agent, I receive dozens of book proposals per month. No matter what I think of the book’s premise and writing, if the author doesn’t have a web site, I have the unhappy task of informing them about the importance of a platform.
When it comes to signing with a publisher, a mediocre book from an author with 500k Instagram followers probably has more of a chance than a remarkable book from someone with no blog. Agents won’t take on the difficult and speculative work of representation if the author hasn’t invested in their brand.
Publishers sign brands
Yeah, I know—twenty years ago publishers helped create and grow an author’s brand. They discovered amazing writers and promoted them. But now, authors and publishers share the marketing load. (That’s a diplomatic way of putting it.)
This might not seem fair to a gifted writer, but let’s consider the flip-side. A publisher wants to know the author is committed enough to invest a few hundred dollars on their brand, and that their blog and social media posts actually resonate with people.
It’s in your best interest to take the lead, and plan to successfully sell books to your own audience by creating an online brand. This also gives you the best shot at receiving an offer from a solid publisher. (By the way, a “solid” publisher is one that writes you a check—not the other way around.)
In self-publishing, the same holds true. You must build an audience with your writing—now. Yes, there have been exceptions—“sleeper” books that quietly wake from obscurity. But if someone loves your blog and your social posts it’s very likely they have a connection with your brand—and will buy your book.
Endorsers evaluate brands
Endorsements sell books (and sell publishers). Admit it, you’ve bought a book because the Foreword was written by someone you respect.
A solid brand is key for influential endorsements; and influential endorsements help persuade buyers. When an influencer considers an endorsement request, they first check the author’s web site. Only if the brand passes muster will they skim the manuscript.
Readers buy brands
Have you ever pre-ordered a book, simply based on your respect for the author? Of course!
Ever bought a mediocre book from a well-known influencer? I bet it sold a bunch.
Have you read an amazing book from an unknown author with no blog? Sure, but I’d be surprised if it sold over one-hundred copies.
Seth Godin once said, “A book is a souvenir of an idea.” If people connect with you (and your big ideas) investing fifteen dollars on your book is a no-brainer.
Companies hire brands
An author’s business plan must include revenue streams beyond royalties. Even for many well-known authors, royalties don’t pay all the bills—especially in the years after a book is published.
Does your brand have a business plan? Is your book the only revenue source in your business model? Once someone has enjoyed your book, what’s the next step for them? Hire you to speak at an event? Consult? Enroll in your course?
Create a cafeteria of choices and make sure the back matter of your book (and your web site) includes options with a clear call to action.
How authors build brands
Brand are built three ways: words, images, and actions.
Do your words resonate with your audience? (Can you prove it?)
Do your images and photos portray authenticity and personality? (Not necessarily professionalism, but are they true to your personal weirdness?)
Do your actions prove you’re committed? (Do you guest post? Do you speak at events? Do you offer products and services for sale?)
Are all three cohesive? (Do they send the same message?)
An established brand means you’re known for all the right reasons. That’s where branding’s cousin, “positioning” comes in. Here’s how this works…
Who’s the best personal finance author? Who’s the most helpful relationship expert?
When I ask those questions, people (personal brands) come to mind who fill that position.
So you must know what position you want to own as a communicator—and work to own it.
Personal branding does not mean a fake facade
I define personal branding as “the public expression of your calling.” Remarkable brands are both authentic and persuasive. It’s possible to be authentic but boring, and possible to be persuasive but over-hype. You must find the balance of both.
Aspiring authors are almost always nervous about their brand. The best writers are usually the worst marketers and can’t stand self-promotion. But marketing is part of the business of writing. It’s okay to be scared, but don’t have a scared web site, self-defeating bio, and crummy photos.
In other words, the marketplace is crowded enough, don’t sell yourself short by tolerating a brand that makes you look like a hobbyist.
If you’re a first-time author, the goal of your brand is to have people wonder, This writer is amazing—why haven’t I ever heard of her?!
Think beyond the book
Create your own category—not just “author” or “writer.” Why not a unique combination of your experience, talents, and interests?
Can you articulate your authentic and persuasive brand in 5 words?
My video course, Your Brand Is Calling, guides you though this process and more. (And it’s 50% off for readers who contact me and mention this blog)
Click below to learn more about the book and course.