Make a memorable introduction while building your author brand
by Mike Bohdan
A bookstore employee outed Richard Bachman as Stephen King in 1985 despite all his efforts to hide the fact. The clever person recognized King’s style following its breadcrumbs scattered in Bachman books.
One of the breadcrumbs was the word “mangler.” The characters in King’s and Bachman’s books used it to refer to laundry pressing machines.
This anecdote from King’s life shows that an author brand is every decision that can impact how people perceive you.
And, when it comes to creating your public image, it’s better to have a branding strategy than bet on blind luck.
What Is an Author Brand Strategy?
In 1887, Guy de Maupassant paid for a hot-air balloon with the name of his new story on it to glide over Paris.
At the time, an average person knew about Guy and his personality as much as newspapers wrote about him. Thus, extravagant, grand gestures were great for boosting one’s brand and recognition.
Today, the situation is drastically different. Your reader may know as much about you as you’re willing to communicate. Like a sculptor over wet clay — you have unprecedented control over your brand. Shape it as you will.
Doing it blindly can lead to a bad result though. A shapeless mess that harms more than benefits.
On the contrary, brand strategy can help you avoid such an outcome.
Brand strategy is a set of tools, approaches, and methods that help you achieve desired recognition and convey:
- What you stand for;
- What are your beliefs and principles? Maybe, you want to spread the word of love and acceptance? Or maybe, you believe in the power of imagination to change the future?
- What you promise;
- Each story has something to offer. What about yours? Maybe it’s a great imaginative adventure or a chance for introspection?
- Your personality.
- Let your personality and charisma shine through your branding efforts and win you new followers.
Now that you have an idea of what the branding strategy is, let’s figure out what makes it good.
What makes a good author brand strategy ?
There’s a peculiar quote in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House:
“As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”
First, the prose is great. Second, is that the reference to a dinosaur in a positively Victorian novel? Yes, yes it is. Dickens knew what the public found fascinating and wasn’t afraid to use it. Consider it his brand.
Most likely, Dickens didn’t have a well-defined brand strategy. His success is the result of hard work, entrepreneurial instinct, and luck.
For us, mere mortals, relying on luck and instinct is not a viable strategy. We should make plans and stick to them.
And the first step of planning an effective branding is researching your target readers. Often, it comes down to answering the proper questions.
Afterward, you should determine how to convince them that you and your writing are what they are looking for.
To achieve this, you need
1. Find your brand voice
If you want to be perceived as a person with a dry sense of humor, your tone should be so.
Develop your voice and stick to it. It also means that content posted in other styles will seem off-brand (which can be beneficial under certain circumstances if carefully planned).
2. Determine unique selling point
Now, determine your unique selling point (USP). What makes you stand out among the crowd? You can ask your readers or compare yourself to your peers.
For example, famous fantasy writer, Brandon Sanderson is well-known for meticulous world-building and systemic approach to work. The author accurately documents and reports his progress. He even has progress bars on his website.
3. Compose your author brand tagline
Author tagline is a small distillation of your brand’s promise into a catchy phrase. Ideally, it should hint at your genre and your brand’s promise (though taglines can be abstract, yet effective):
- Mikki Noble — Conquering the impossible odds.
- Aaron Oster — Epic Worlds. Thrilling Stories. Unforgettable Characters.
- Mary Maddox — Writing that’s not afraid of the dark.
4. Brand yourself and do it with style.
You brand yourself for the long-term benefit of your career. Your website and social media should focus on you first, while marketing of books comes second.
Have in mind that branding is not the substance-over-style situation though. What you present is as important as how you present it.
To quote Sir Terry Pratchett:
“If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.”
Visual identity as an integral part of your author brand
Usually, you have 3 ways of expressing your brand through graphic design:
- Author logo
- Book covers
- Marketing materials
Your Author Logo
The author logo is your visual signature
At the beginning of the career, it should catch the eye and give people a general idea of your style and personality.
Later on, ideally, it will be a recognizable sign of your credibility and authority.
The author logo can be tricky to get right.
It should be a minimalistic distillation of your brand. Without too many details, yet telling enough. Legible and emotionally charged. And, what’s most important, your target audience should love your logo.
Author logo has three components you should get right for a good result.
1 The first is typography.
We have three tips for any text on your logo:
- The font should suit your genre;
- Avoid prevalent classic typefaces as they already have strong associations;
- The text should be easily readable.
2 The second is color.
You want the colors that carry the emotional weight of your writing style.
Let’s assume you write horror, and the majority of your readers belong to the Western culture. In this case, you can choose a combination of red and black for your logo. The stark contrasts of the palette and the “angry” quality of red signal danger.
Choose colors carefully though. For example, in western countries, white is a symbol of purity. At the same time, some Asian cultures associate white with mourning and death.
Also, no matter what colors you choose, ensure that the logo is legible in black and white.
3 The third is imagery and embellishments.
The embellishments of the logo should suit its vibe and not distract from its focal point — the author’s name. Any visual elements of the logo should tell more about your genre, style, and personality.
Keeping this information in mind, let’s take a look at several author logos along with business card examples.
First is the logo for Luna Pierce. The combination of blue, pink, and purple hints at sensuality and intimacy. The crescent moon and stars remind of fairy tales. Combine it all with an elegant font, and you have a suitable logo for an established paranormal romance writer.
This logo is full of the dark blue to purple colors of nebulas, modern-looking angular font, and ‘high-tech’ texture. You need but a single look, and you already know that Ajay Hayward writes science fiction.
The minimalist logo for Katlyn Derouen with a single pastel hue. It is warm and tender like morning sunshine or a sincere embrace — a great choice for a romance/poetry writer.
The mentioned rules of colors, typography, and imagery apply to book covers as well. With the following adjustments though:
- Colors should emphasize the emotional punch of the book;
- Imagery should intrigue and hint at the plot;
- Typography should emphasize the title of the book first, the author’s name second.
A book cover should be clear about its genre and hint a target reader at an intriguing story… On top of reinforcing the author’s brand.
Keeping such a balance between serving the story and the author’s brand is a tricky task. It is easier done with book series that lend themselves to a singular style well.
Books that belong to different series are trickier. In this case, you can achieve author recognition by using a similar approach to typography.
For example, the modified ITC Benguiat Gothic font was used for several of Stephen King’s novels published in the 80s. If you are familiar with King’s work, you’re likely to know this font well.
Or, if you prefer illustration, you can achieve brand recognition by working with the same artists.
Finally, you can create genre-friendly covers that cater to your readers and convey the promise of the books well. Having catchy covers that suit the stories perfectly is also the brand.
Marketing materials are your promotional banners, ads, bookmarks, animated bookmarks, and other merchandise.
If you have an author logo and/or a cover of the book you want to promote, you already have the basis for effective marketing materials. It all comes down to combining your visuals into catchy beauty.
Each piece of visual art you present to the world under your name is just another brick of your brand. So, it’s better to make sure that they convey the promise of your stories and your personality.
Our final advice: be yourself, be sincere, let your creative energy lead you in forging your brand. Who knows what exactly will bring new readers to your books.
by Mike Bohdan (@miblart) April 11, 2021
What about you? Do you work on your author brand? If so, what’s the hardest part of the process for you?
Miblart is a book cover design company for self-published authors. We believe that book cover design is an effective marketing tool, and we help authors to get the most out of it.
As a part of the MiblArt marketing team, Mike Bohdan helps authors on their self-publishing journeys by creating content on marketing, graphic design, industry trends, and advice from the experts.