Monday, July 28, 2014

How did I become a brand?

In my quest to learn more about marketing, the topic of author branding has come up quite a bit. 

What is that? Well, I'm still working that out myself, but the basic answer is... it's not marketing a "book," it's marketing the author. You want to be the "go to" person readers think of when they consider books in your genre.

 

For example, who comes to mind right off the bat when you think of YA Fantasy? 

JK Rowling would be my answer. And what do I think of when I consider what the name JK Rowling means? It's not just Harry Potter and Hogwarts. It's the fact that she is the creator of a fantasy world an entire generation knows, and half believe exists. She is THE YA fantasy icon of the past several decade because her books made an impact on people with their creativity and uniqueness. Everyone knows her name and what she writes and they have an emotional connection to the "idea" of JK Rowling. That's the concept of author branding. 

So, how do you achieve author branding without becoming a super star like Rowling? First step first. Figure out who you are, or who you want to be to your readers. 

Who am I? That's a whole discussion in itself, but let's get the basics down before delving into childhood scars and dramatic backstories. 

I am crafty. 


Not in the tricksy and deceptive sense, but literally crafty. I love to sew and draw and paint and make ribbon bookmarks and design and be creative. 

How does this apply to branding?

I do a lot of my own cover art, promo pics, blog and website design. I have an eye for detail and I try to put that to use by making my appearance online consistent. I also love to share my hobbies with my readers. It's a fun way for me to get them engaged in the behind the scenes work that goes into publishing. I'm also always willing to help other authors when they need graphic work done, bookmarks designed, or what have you. 

Consistency is important in branding. If this sort of thing isn't your strongest area, find someone to help you decide on fonts, colors, layout, and tone for your online presence that will help give readers a sense of who you are. Are you fun and silly or dark and serious? Personally, I use a lot of pinks and fun fonts. I use pictures of me smiling and try to keep my bio light and personal. I want to be approachable, but that may not be the persona that's right for a different author. I also put a lot of creativity into my book concepts, and I love sharing that with readers. 


I am girly and romantic. 


I think I might have mentioned my love of pinks a moment ago :) I love bright colors. My favorite is actually orange, not pink, but orange can be a bit overbearing if used too much. I also love flowers and upbeat music, though I have a decent collection of darker songs that come in handy when writing certain books. I adore a good romance. If a book doesn't make an emotional connection with me as a reader, I consider it to have something missing. 

How does this apply to branding?

I want readers to know what to expect when they pick up a books even if they haven't read the summary on the back. Am I going to write about grisly murders and explicit sex and use a bazillion swear words while I do it? No. Of course, my Someone Wicked series is considerably darker than most of my other work, but I do give ample warning of that. The majority of my books, though they contain serious topics at times, are fun and light and filled with emotion and adventure and romance. Even when it comes to the Wicked books, they aren't the kind of books you will put down and feel depressed when you finish. That's not my style at all. I write about overcoming limits and finding your inner strength and proving all your doubters wrong. I set that tone on my various social media outlets, marketing material, and reader interactions. I leave the suave mysteriousness to other authors who have reason to put out that kind of persona. 



I love surprises. 


I love being surprised, and I love surprising people. For those who have read any of my books, you already know this about me, thanks to all the twists and turns I throw out. Having things stay stagnant drives me crazy, so keeping things fresh is important to me. 

How does this apply to branding? 

Not only do I love playing games with my readers, like having them guess the names of certain characters or who said what in a quote I post, I try to keep things interesting by having a variety of things to talk about when I post online, and not dominating the conversation with one book or one thought. 

It's also important to keep things up to date. Recently, I redid my website so keeping it up to date would be easier for me. I also post regularly on my blog with interesting topics and news about my books. I don't want to be the kind of author that has one idea or one book and nothing else to talk about. I want to be the author readers get excited about because I always have something new, whether that be a book, a fun idea, or just something interesting to talk about. 



I am not one-dimensional. 


There isn't just one thing I'm passionate about. I love being outdoors with my family, I love taking pictures of flowers, I enjoy cooking even if I'm not the best chef, and I try really hard to be a gardener regardless of the fact that I am terrible at it. Building self-confidence in kids is important to me. I hate the idea of anyone being made to feel like they are less than they really are. 

How does this apply to branding? 

I'm not a picture and a bio. I'm a person, with a family and a life outside of books. I'm not a flat image. My characters aren't flat. My stories aren't flat. I write with a lot of emotion, and I want readers to understand that who I am influences my writing. If I am an interesting, fun, entertaining person when I interact with people online or offline, then readers will want to pick up something I wrote, because they'll know without me having to tell them that my stories will be engaging and fun and captivating. Getting to know an author should make readers want to pick up their books, not because they think you are the next literary genius just because you told the most witty joke at an event they attended, but because something in your interaction with them sparked a desire to know more. Curiosity, it will get them every time ;)

I am creative and romantic and surprising and multifaceted... 

and so are my books.