Nowadays when we hear the word “branding” we tend to think in terms of marketing, but branding originally meant to mark something or claim it. Whether this was done to prove that a cow belonged to a rancher and not to the rustler that stole it or whether it was done to ostracize someone, the point was to notify the world.
As authors, it’s time for us to make our own marks on the world and claim our writing space as our own.
There are numerous resources on branding with amazing advice. You’ll find everything from making sure you keep a cohesive visual look (always a good idea) to step by step guides on how to increase your Snapchat followers (not a bad idea if you write YA). However, above anything else, there’s one golden rule in creating your author brand:
YOU HAVE TO BE YOURSELF.
You have to present yourself in your own authentic way. This means in many ways both the good and the bad. So, as a practical example, on Wednesdays, I’ve been showing my daily word counts for the week. That means I show off that week where I went to a retreat and wrote 13k words in 4 days. But it also means that I show last week where I sunk into an anxiety spiral over my kid starting school back up and wrote 0 words in 6 days. The good and the bad.
You also can’t take on a persona that just isn’t you. For example, if you hate cats, you can’t become the cat expert who posts grooming tips and cat memes 14 times a day. It’s going to come off as faked and forced. Cats are kind of a silly example, but you don’t want to suddenly force yourself to become the darling of the literary event scene if you’d rather sit at home reading. For one thing, you’re going to burn out doing something you don’t ultimately love, and again, you’ll come off as insincere.
This of course doesn’t mean you must overshare. It’s no secret that I have an autistic kid, but I’m not posting daily updates or even his current diagnoses. For one thing, it’s not actually relevant to a website primarily dedicated to writing, editing, and marketing books for kids and teens. For another, that part of the blog (the Parenting is Overrated part) no longer serves the function it was started for. It was started when I felt alone and wanted others to know they weren’t alone too. I have a community now, and so no longer need to maintain that portion. At some point it will come down completely although I’m not quite ready to take that step yet. When it does, it won’t be because I’m trying to “hide” that portion of my life. It just won’t feel relevant to my particular brand anymore.
So how do you decide what is relevant to your author brand?
The short answer is: I don’t know.
Clearly, it’s something I’m still working on. However, I did find a resource (the one I mentioned in my newsletter) that I’m enjoying working through. At this year’s RWA, I attended the Author Platform workshop led by Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan where I gleaned so much information. I also got their book, Your A Game, which I highly recommend. There are so many great ideas and suggestions and ways to help you think about your author brand and public persona.
In the end, how you present yourself (aka your brand) is a personal decision you’ll make on your own, but remember you aren’t alone. There’s a whole community of writers both here and on other platforms. You can also leave comments below or discuss this with me on Twitter or on my Facebook page. I’m always up for a good branding discussion.