Have you figured out your author brand?
Self-publishing indie authors are in a unique position to control their author branding. With no publishing house breathing down your neck, you get to choose pretty much everything. Your book title, the cover, any editors you choose to work with, and your website design.
This freedom can come at a price: the huge overwhelm of so many options and even an inability to see how these different elements – title, cover art, website design, and more – need to be tied together into an integrated author brand. One that, over time, will become identifiable to readers and potential readers.
Author branding includes a number of components:
- Genre, including subgenre
- Cover art (which should match genre)
- Book titles can also fit in with genre and brand
- Your website, social media banners, and marketing
- Branding colours – which can also tie to book cover art
- Voice and tone of your language – romantic comedy will have a very different tone and voice from gothic horror
- Vocabulary – for example, for children’s books your vocabulary will be simpler
It’s important for these elements to be consistent across the board. That’s how you establish a distinctive author brand.
Let’s dig deeper into these different components to see how they work.
Genre and subgenre
If you work in a single genre or subgenre, you have the advantage of a consistent marketing category. If, for example, you write cosy mysteries, then your author brand should reflect this.
You should check out the competition in your own category, especially the most successful authors, to see what is commonplace. This includes the kinds of book titles people use.
While you don’t want to copy someone else’s title, by looking across the genre you can get a feel of what works best.
Cover art and titles
Your cover art and book title should work within your genre.
It obviously wouldn’t make sense for a cosy mystery book to have a dark, blood-splattered cover.
Likewise, the book’s title can be important when it comes to conveying the genre and tone of the book. Title and cover art should work together, giving each other context.
For example, if you had a novel called Death Comes to Oxford, the image will contextualise the genre. Is it a lighter cover? It might be seen as a cosy mystery. If it’s darker, with more violent imagery, it will look like a completely different type of book. Even the font will influence a reader’s perception about genre.
How does your title interact with your cover art? Some titles will fit more than one genre and the cover art gives the clue to the genre.
Cover art is very important in drawing a potential reader’s attention. It is the first thing they see. The human brain processes visual imagery much faster than text. But the cover art must fit into the author branding – this includes the genre.
Your website and social media banners
Ensure that you use consistent colours and tones and images across your website and social media banners. You could develop a set of brand colours associated with the colours you use in a book cover. Or the dominant colours you use in your cover series.
One thing you can do is run an image through an online program to extract the hex code numbers for the colours. Some apps give you the basic dominant colour palette.
Once you have your basic colour scheme for your brand, you can keep a note of the colours in your own brand guide. This guide is for your own use when you’re updating parts of your website or adding new material.
Different business brands can have their own preferred fonts which they will list in their own brand guides. Are fonts so important for indie authors? Well, when it comes to your banners, website fonts, etc, it’s best not to use something radically different! You don’t want comic sans, for example!
Fonts are also important for your book covers. They should be consistent with genre and if you have books in a series, the entire series should be using the same font. Ideally, all your books should be using the same font if you want to maintain brand consistency.
Voice, tone, vocabulary
The language you use in your marketing should reflect the tone of your books. If you write breezy contemporary romances, then your marketing language and the voice, tone, and vocabulary should reflect this on your website.
A darker tone, pessimistic and depressing, isn’t going to go with a lighter-toned novel!
Benefits of consistency in branding
So what are the benefits of author branding and consistency in branding?
- Over time your brand will become familiar and easily recognisable to those who’ve seen it before
- It shows consistency and professionalism that matches mainstream publishing
- Your brand colours and imagery, plus your taglines and titles, can immediately flag your genre or subgenre
If you write in more than one genre, author branding might seem more intimidating. Certainly, it could be a problem if you publish different kinds of books under the same name. Especially if those genres are very different in tone – again, gothic horror versus contemporary romantic comedy.
Some authors choose to use different names or variations on the same name to differentiate different genres. Think Ian Banks versus Ian M. Banks. If you’re only dealing with two major writing tracks, that could be your best option.
There are writers like the late Tanith Lee who wrote across genres – science fiction, fantasy, horror – though these all have certain things in common. They are fantastical, and her lush prose was there regardless of genre. That was part of her author brand. Fans didn’t expect her to write in a completely different style for each genre. Her distinctive voice WAS a major part of her author brand.
So, have you figured out your author brand yet?
Indie authors are already up against a lot of snobbery in the publishing sector. That’s why, where possible, it’s better to produce polished books with good covers and a good marketing strategy. This benefits the reputation of indie publishing.
But it’s hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Readers are inundated with choice. When you think strategically about branding and marketing, you give yourself a better chance at standing out. You become recognisable.
It’s important to remember that single exposure to your marketing will not usually net a new reader. It takes many points of contact usually to convert someone to your product or service. However, an integrated author brand will already help you stand out from the crowd.
So, have you figured out your author brand yet? If you haven’t, it’s time to give it some thought.
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