By Korina Garcia
Branding is never simple. Deciding on the look, feel, and appeal of your business can often be difficult to peg. But when you are your business (and, therefore, you are the brand) putting your finger on how to represent yourself properly can feel… well, scary.
You certainly want to represent yourself honestly, but maybe you’re worried the “real you” isn’t exciting enough to market. Perhaps you’re afraid your edgy attitude could negatively impact your books. Maybe you’re not even sure what parts of you to pull into your branding and what to leave out.
Whatever the case may be, there are a few ways you can start developing your brand as an indie author. This persona, and all the aesthetic elements that go with it, will impact your website, your social media activity, publicity, and possibly even your writing, so it’s important not to overlook the basics of branding as an indie author.
Connecting You and Your Book(s)
It may seem like the most obvious place to start, but so many indie authors struggle to unite their personal brand with the content of their books. This is crucial for growing your readership and finding your ideal audience.
If you write fantasy fiction, but your website looks eerily similar to a divorce attorney’s webpage, you’ve already started down an unfortunate branding path. If you write dark, crime thrillers, but your headshot is ethereal and romantic, you could be sending mixed messages.
Before you start building your platform, complete a few simple tasks that will help you unite your personal brand with your books:
Research fellow authors in your genre
This can be beneficial for finding good ideas and avoiding bad ones. You’ll find some who have zeroed in on how to represent themselves and their books. You’ll find others who are hopelessly sharing cat videos while plugging their YA series. Model off of the platforms that feel the most natural and symbiotic.
Use book covers as a way to help establish aesthetics
If you already have a number of titles produced, your book covers should be a big driver for the way your website, social media profiles, and other visual assets look. If you are just starting out, again, research other authors to get a feel for color and tone within your genre’s book covers. Make sure the impression you are leaving is consistent across the board.
Pick five images that represent you and your books. You can log on to Shutterstock or do a Google image search or peruse Instagram, but try to find images that not only encapsulate you and your books, but also have a unified look when placed side-by-side. These images don’t have to be something you share, but it’s good practice for unifying your brand’s aesthetics and nailing down the things that are important to your brand. For example, if I were Gillian Flynn (if only!) I might choose this set of images:
Stalk hashtags related to your writing
Want to know how your themes play out on social media? Hunt down relevant hashtags. If you write modern romance novels, take a peek at what #romance looks like on Instagram and what articles use those hashtags on Facebook and Twitter. You will also make it easier for those who might not know you learn more about you by searching through hashtags.
The beginning to any good branding strategy is research. What images represent you? What articles align with your books? Are there visuals or blog posts out there that do both?
Start by seeing what others are doing and consider how that might be incorporated on your own platform.
Deciding How Much You to Use
Once you start to get a feel for the look and mood your brand may take on, you have to start considering how much of yourself will be part of your brand. For some indie authors, their personal life and their brand are one in the same. They share pictures of their kids and invitations to book events in the same space.
This works for some. Authors who write about family and make their writing life and their home life a part of their brand can work this angle. However, it isn’t something that makes sense for everyone.
If you write CIA suspense novels, your audience may be interested in your review of the newest Jason Bourne movie or an image of you in the location where your book is set. However, they may not want pictures from the marathon you ran last weekend.
Create a Venn diagram
Oh yeah, we’re throwing it way back to those overlapping circles. Now you don’t necessarily have to create Venn diagram, but think of your branding in a similar structure. In one circle, you have your personal life (parenting, family, work, pets, politics, religion). In the other circle, you have your life as an author (book events, genres, pub dates, writing, researching, editing). Find the areas where the two overlap, and write them down. This could help keep you from sharing things that would be irrelevant to your audience or leaving out personal aspects of your brand that could be interesting.
Know your books, your audience and yourself, then decide what aspects of your personality and personal life can coexist alongside the content of your books. You may find that only 20 percent of you fits in with your books’ themes, but that’s okay. You just need to know what that balance is – there’s no perfect ratio.
Now that you know how much of your personal life to include in your brand, it’s time to put a voice to that persona. If you are incorporating a lot of your personal life into your brand strategy, then your voice may just be your voice.
For many though, there will need to be a deviation from the typical way you talk. You may need to be darker, funnier, bubblier. You may need to swear less (or more!). You may need to embody your characters more and shed some of your own tendencies.
Remember you’re creating a platform to sell your product. That doesn’t mean you have to change everything about yourself, it just may mean you have to amplify certain parts of you.
Just like your office personality may differ from your party personality, your author identity may not be a dead ringer for who you are at home.
Practice your voice on Twitter
Assuming you’re still working on building an audience, there is no social platform quite as forgiving as Twitter. On a platform that limits you to 140 character, information moves fast. Start introducing your author voice in small bursts. It will be good practice and it’s something you can go back and read after a day or two to see if it feels right for your brand.
The Branding Elements
Once you have an idea of your brand’s identity, you have to start thinking about the physical and digital elements that will incorporate the look and feel you’ve established.
This part is perhaps the easiest to decide, but the most cumbersome to create. Before diving all in, decide what elements are most important to you and your brand.
List your assets
The bottom line is you need to know what has to be created in order to establish your brand and promote your platform. So make a list of what you need. Logos, Facebook pages, blog posts, business cards, media kits, book covers, fonts, colors, professional headshots – these could all be parts of your brand that get the word out about you and your books. Some you’ll be able to create on your own, others, you may need to hire an expert for, but first things first, you have to know what you need.
As an indie author, you may not have a huge budget for branding, so start out by completing these seven tasks that will get your brand off the ground.
KORINA GARCIA is a publicist at BookSparks. She works with indie authors to promote their books to audiences that make the most sense per their brand standards. With experience in various industries, including healthcare, multicultural marketing and publishing, and as a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations, she works to bring awareness to the varying voices in indie publishing. She has executed many book campaigns including London Belongs to Me, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, First Rodeo, The Witch House of Persimmon Point, Army Wife, and others.
About City Book Review
City Book Review is the publisher of San Francisco Book Review, Seattle Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, and Kids’ BookBuzz. Since 2008, we’ve been helping readers find their next favorite book. We’re proud to be deeply involved with the indie writers community. We are one of the few national book review magazines to review and promote self-published books. We also work with publicists from around the world to bring you the latest books. To round out our services, we also offer authors and publicists assistance with promoting their books through book review videos, book cover design, blogger outreach, social media marketing, and press releases. If you’re interested in getting your book reviewed by us, please see our How to Get Your Book Reviewed page.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.