You spend your days (and nights!) writing, rewriting, and submitting your work to literary agents or journals. That’s everything a “hoping-to-be-successful” writer needs to do, right? Not quite. In today’s media-savvy publishing industry, it’s just as important for writers to develop their author brands.
What do we mean by “having a brand”? We don’t mean flashy neon logos or costumed characters hawking your latest novel at bookstores. But literary agents do like to see authors with a clear idea of how to market themselves and their work.
Think of it this way: When you step into a theater to see the latest Woody Allen movie, you’re expecting to watch something quirky and character-driven. If instead you found yourself bombarded by car chases and fiery explosions, you would be confused and perhaps a bit annoyed. You’d want your money back!
The same logic applies to your author brand. You’re promising your audience a particular kind of reading experience, and you shouldn’t let them down. From project to project, maintaining continuity in your voice as a writer is vital to building a successful author brand and establishing a strong fan base.
But I can’t write the same thing over and over again! Don’t stress! That’s not what we mean. You don’t have to write the same story every time, recycle the same characters, or use the same settings or situations. Hasn’t Woody covered the golden age of radio, gangsters on Broadway, even time travel? In the same way, your writing can vary incredibly while maintaining the reliability your readers crave.
There’s a difference between “branding” and “genre,” right? Genre typically comes first, and branding follows after. Your brand will exist within the genre you’re writing in. For example, there are countless science-fiction writers in the world, but what will make you stand out is the unique way in which you approach writing science fiction.
And branding is not limited to book authors. Short story writers, essayists, and yes, poets will all benefit from having a distinct brand within their genres.
I still don’t see how a strong brand makes a difference for writers. Then take a look at Stephen King. King has mastered the art of author branding, creating an empire out of his horror, suspense, and science fiction. When you pick up a Stephen King novel, you know what you’re getting yourself into. Nightmares, for sure!
What if Stephen King suddenly decided to write romance novels? (Now that’s scary!) It would be best if he did so under a pen name—and probably a different one than Richard Bachman. Stephen King has already strongly associated himself with a particular writing style, and to drastically change that aesthetic would disappoint and alienate his readers. Now this doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck writing in the same genre for your whole career. You just need to be smart when you decide to switch it up.
I’m convinced! What are the best ways to establish my author brand? First, find your voice and be consistent in your writing. Book cover design is a great place to display your author branding. So is your author website. We all know social media is becoming more and more relevant in the publishing industry. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social media sites are excellent tools for growing your fan base and solidifying your writer brand.
Remember: A clear, consistent author brand can make the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career.
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