As most published authors will tell you, completing your book is often the most straightforward part of being a professional author. Your marketing and promotional plan come next, as well as author branding.
Author Branding sounds like just a buzzword, but it’s a critical part of your work as an author. More importantly, it’s visible and real the moment you put yourself forth in the marketplace. It’s who you are on every page of your book, every screen of your website, and every image and word of your promotional materials. It’s with you in person, too, at every industry event or booksigning.
By the same token, effective Brand Marketing is within reach of EVERY author, from the first-time-writer to the multi-published star. It’s not about how many bookmarks you have or whether or not your website features the latest video trailer technology, it’s about expressing who you are to the best of your ability, consistently and memorably.
Here’s how to get started!
No, really. The most important part of anyone’s Brand is the actual product he or she is selling, or in the case of authors, your books. If you don’t have a solid book, you will not have sustained or breakout success—so take the time to put forth your best possible work before getting caught up in all of the distractions of marketing.
Authors have the opportunity to sell books to publishers of almost every shape and description—large or small, print or e-book, boutique or Big 5 or self publishing to maintain total control of every aspect of the process.
While any publisher can potentially add value to the writing process, choose wisely. You want a publisher who publishes the kind of books YOU want to write for the long term, who has a good track record with authors and readers, and who produces professional-looking books. And, if you’re self publishing, be sure to hold yourself to the same high standard!
It’s very tempting to skip this step. You want to get on to the fun part of designing marketing materials, not think about your industry peers or how you and your work might stand out.
But positioning yourself is critical for you to ensure your Branding efforts are effective.
After all, you’re not “just” a writer of romance… your romance is unique because it is—what? Amazingly funny? Packed with thrills? Dark and edgy?
Before you start considering your promotional strategy, determine what makes you and your work fresh and new, particularly if you’re a new writer or if you’re trying to break through to the next sales level. It is time and effort well spent.
This applies on two levels. First off, there’s your personal appearance—which is necessary for in-person book signings and meetings with your industry peers and publishing professionals. Just remember when you’re in public, you’re always “on.”
Your marketing materials are another method of packaging yourself and your work—your website, business cards, stationery, and, yes, giveaway items are all part of your overall package. If you’re published or are actively marketing your work, create a professional-looking website and online presence. It does not have to be elaborate, but it should be appealing, easy to navigate (with your books front and center!) and genre-appropriate.
The same holds true for your marketing materials—it is not worth your time to create materials that don’t present you professionally, so spend your money and resources wisely in this arena.
This is another area that is tempting to overlook, but the placement of your books can help determine how well they are sold. Brainstorm innovative marketing ideas to get your books placed in unique venues—especially if your book lends itself to a particular tie in (such as rodeo or cooking-themed series). Help your editor sell your book to the sales department by suggesting marketing hooks and ideas to make your work memorable. When it comes to helping ensure your books are as marketable as possible, consider it part of your Brand duty to be an active participant in your own success.
Yes, absolutely: promotional materials can be a part of a successful sales plan for any author. Bookmarks that have a unique hook or design, and “useful” items such as mini-calendars, mirrors, pens, lanyards, clips and magnets can absolutely boost name recognition. But here as in all areas of Branding, make your promotional materials carry their weight. Any giveaway items should contain your identity—your name, book title, and/or website address—and they should ideally be represent your Brand in some recognizable way. For instance, if you have adopted a hummingbird as your mascot, that hummingbird should be all over your marketing materials, website… and giveaway items.
Creating a positive, memorable author Brand can be a rewarding process for an author—because it allows you to clearly articulate who you are, what you write, and why your books are worth the attention of a reader. So take the time to create a Brand you truly love—and watch your readers fall in love with it, too.