by Barbara Renner
The golden arches. When you see them, you know exactly what they mean; they mean you are going to enjoy a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder at McDonalds. Personally, I’d stop for their fresh French fries every time. Similarly, the image of an apple with a bite taken out of it can appear in a rainbow of colors or black or white, and we know right away it is the logo for an Apple/Mac product. In Western states where cattle roam on open ranges, ranchers poke a hot iron onto the haunches of their cows to determine ownership. All these examples describe branding. According to the American Marketing Association, “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” It’s important for authors to brand themselves, as well, so readers will recognize their name and automatically know what they write, but probably not with a glowing poker.
Build your author brand around one genre. If you enjoy writing romance novels, build your brand around that. If children’s picture books are your passion, think of a way to set yourself apart from all the other picture book authors. What if you have been writing in one genre, and now want to publish a book in another genre? This may involve either using a pen name or re-branding yourself. Of course, when you become famous like James Patterson, it will be easy to switch genres like he did because his name is already recognizable.
Create an author website and logo around your genre. Before you spend money and time on creating a website, research the websites of other authors in your genre. Take notes on what you like and what you don’t like. What message do you want to impart to the readers who land on your site? It should be consistent with your author brand. Take a look at Bobbie Hinman’s website, and you’ll know exactly what her genre is. The banner on Michael Connelly’s website has you riding as a passenger in Detective Harry Bosch’s car speeding through the streets of Los Angeles. Take a look at Cynthia Port’s website to discover what she writes about.
Choose a color or color scheme when creating your website, marketing materials, and social media sites, and then be consistent. The chart below shows that colors can inflict certain emotions. Researchers have found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone. My website, business cards, and marketing materials are in red, simply because I happen to like red, and I chose the color for my website and business cards before I became an author. However, I wouldn’t say that my children’s picture books are bold and exciting. If I were to rebrand myself, I probably would choose blue or green.
Once you’ve created your website and logo, find the best social media sites for your genre and point your new social media friends to your website, then ask your friends to share your posts. For every platform you use, such as Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, make sure you are consistent in promoting yourself. This includes your logo, bio information, headshot, website, and social media links.
I completed a profile for a website that connects authors and speakers with schools and the media. One of the questions was “What do you want your listing headline to read?” After inspecting what some of the other authors wrote, I determined they were asking for a tagline. We recognize companies from their taglines all the time: “Just Do It”; “Because You’re Worth It”; “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands.” In creating a brand for yourself, consider a tagline, or catchphrase, that conveys a feeling for what you write. Ideally, it should be short, catchy, and easy to remember. The one I decided on for mine is “Author of picture books that are entertaining as well as educational.” The tagline for Katherine V. Stevens, poet, photographer, and novelist, is “Promoter of People, Poetry, and Prose.” Published author and journalist, Alexis Bloomer’s tagline is “Teaching Kindness.” “Guardian of Memories, Preserver of Family History” is the tagline for Jackie Madden Haugh, author and professional speaker.
I don’t profess to be an expert on author branding, and I still have a lot to learn about marketing my brand. The information I’ve provided in this blog is from my research. What about you? Do you have an author brand? Is it working for you? I’d love to hear what others are doing to brand themselves. I would also love to eat something “finger lickin’ good” right about now.
Barbara Renner and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Birds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.