Updated: Jun 10, 2020
I’ve been on both sides of the aisle when it comes to being a writer. I’ve worked for a publisher combing through book proposals and query letters, and I’ve been the one trying to get a book published. It’s hard work being a writer. There are so many people out there trying to get their books published. It’s important to do EVERYTHING you can to stand out when the time comes to send your manuscript out into the world.
As a writer, it’s easy to focus on the craft of writing. Perfecting your sentences, becoming a master revisionist, crafting beautiful stories. What’s not so easy is the business side of things, but that’s what will make you stand out. It’s what will make you thrive as a writer rather than just survive. Being a starving artist is overrated. We want you to make money doing what you love, and that means building a business and a brand around your writing. What does that entail, you ask? Well it’s not as complicated as you might think. YOU’RE the business, YOU’RE the brand!
In fact, doing some of this business and branding work now will not only make you more appealing to publishers, but it’ll make your life easier once you do get published and want to continue your journey as a writer.
Having stellar, professional branding is so important, especially when you’re branding yourself. However, there are plenty of things you can start working on now to get that process started. Here are 10 things that you can do to kickstart your branding:
Brainstorm Your Vision Start a Pinterest board to act as a vision board. Look for logos, fonts, color palettes, vibes and companies you like. Collect them all in one place. Eventually, your branding specialist or graphic designer will be able to go through that board and look for aesthetic trends that are showing up repeatedly and start working on your branding from there. (Keep this board private though, so it’s not mixing in with the message you want to send your audience).
What is Author Branding? Contrary to popular belief, branding is not just your logo, color palette, and aesthetic. Brands live within culture so they are a reaction to us, our world and all that happens in it. It really boils down to a set of expectations. Free-write about what expectations you want your audience to have of you. It’s these items that will guide your brand strategy when the time comes to create one.
Research Your Competition Look for authors that have great branding and remember to consider more than just their aesthetic. Make another pinterest board of these authors who are doing their branding really well. What do they do well? What do they need to improve?
Define Your Mission Free-write about your brand purpose. If you need some extra inspiration watch this TED talk. If you were a nonprofit you’d call it your mission statement. Some people call it a driving statement. Your brand purpose is a driving force — it’s the reason you’re a writer. It’s the core of your brand. If you don’t know who you are and what you care about, how can you expect anyone else to?
Catchy Copy Will Set You Apart So many authors think that because they’re professional writers they can write great copy (copy = everything that’s not creative writing - your website content, your blogs, your social media captions, your newsletters). They’re wrong. Some of the worst copy we’ve ever read comes from authors. Part of branding is about the consistency of your copy. Your brand voice is the tone and voice of all your non-creative written content. This goes a long way in relating to your audience. A consistent brand voice generates trust. Free-write about the following questions to start thinking about your brand voice:
What is your purpose as a writer? Condense it to one sentence.
Describe your writing style/writing self as if you were describing it to a good friend.
Pitch Yourself Write an elevator pitch for yourself as a professional writer. Write an elevator pitch for your book. Keep it to no more than 2 minutes. Shoot for 30 seconds if you can.
Identify Your Marketing Channels We believe that you can’t create a solid marketing strategy for yourself without having a branding strategy to fall back on. That doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about your brand environment though. A brand environment consists of the things that you utilize to get your name and your writing out there. What social media channels do you want to utilize (be realistic because posting consistently is important)? What do you want the feel of your website to be like? What are some of your ideal, shoot-for-the-moon publications or publishers?
Ditch the iPhone Photos We can’t overstate how important it is to have great photos on your website and social media. Make another Pinterest board and find lots of author headshots and author lifestyle photos that you like. That way, when the time comes to hire a photographer you can show them some examples of photos you like. Want to take it one step further? Look for photographers in your area that you like and keep their contact information on hand so you know who to reach out to.
Determine How Your Brand Will Behave Brand behavior is all about the topics and themes you choose to interact with on your website and social media. Write down 5 things that define you as a writer. How do those things translate into topics you might want to interact with? For example, maybe in your writing, you focus heavily on setting. On your social media and blog, you might be interested in talking about environmental justice or travel. Make another list of 5 topics or themes that you’d like to bring into your branding.
Start Building Your Email Marketing List Building a robust email list can be an author's greatest marketing asset if it’s done well. However, you can’t just beg people for their emails. Sure, you’d get a couple that way, but if you want to think more long term, you need to provide AMAZING FREE content. Make a list of 5 different free downloadable worksheets or items that you could use to collect email addresses. Think about other people whose email newsletter you signed up for. Did you get something to sign up?
Go Full Blown Blogzilla It generally takes a few blogs before you figure out your tone, what works for your brand, and what kind of content drives traffic to your website. Get in the habit of writing blogs 1-2 times per week, if you can dedicate more time, all the better! Blogging is generally overlooked and viewed as a task similar to doing laundry. However, it’s a great way to engage with your audience and eventually rank on SEO. This also gives your audience and publishers a better taste of what your writing is like!