Kids, Love, and Heroes: Inspiration for the Values that Define Your Author Brand
There are many critical ingredients to being a successful author. First and foremost, the best authors write often, and write well. They are excellent storytellers who captivate their audience from their book’s first sentence and leave them spellbound until the last. The most pragmatic authors are proud of their craft, but not so much so that they don’t aggressively rewrite and edit their manuscripts.
You probably know all of these things if you’ve been writing for more than a month. But many aspiring writers don’t know that most authors also market themselves to their prospective readers.
The Importance of Branding as an Author
Decades ago, traditional publishers had internal sales and PR teams tasked with selling an author’s recently published book. These teams would pitch the author’s book to interested booksellers and media, such as magazines, daytime talk shows, and syndicated television. They also helped develop the author’s “public persona” through book tours and interviews, so potential readers would know how to perceive the author and their book. In short, these teams helped attract the author’s audience, who would eventually purchase the author’s books.
Sometime during the Recession, marketing became less of a priority for traditional publishers. Although PR and sales teams still exist, traditional publishers expect authors to self-advertise more often than they have in the past. And self-published authors may be solely responsible for selling the books they’ve written. Fortunately, the Digital Age has made self-advertising easier than it has ever been.
The Internet has allowed authors to establish an online presence and attract fans from around the world. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are great forums for authors to establish their personal brand, or their online public personas. An author’s brand is a reflection of their personality, and authors with a strong brand are more likely to attract followers online. These followers may become dedicated fans, and ultimately, customers.
The Key Ingredients of Author Branding
What are the key elements of an author brand? The most important is sincerity. Your online fans want to see your authentic self, and they want to be treated as people, not potential consumers.
Consistency is also important. Your fans may not appreciate erratic behavior that deviates from your brand. If your author brand is classy, keep it classy. If you’ve adopted a literary brand, try not to delve too deeply into conversations around genre fiction. No only does inconsistency make it difficult for your fans to identify with who you really are, but this kind of bait-and-switch is often characteristic of cheap salesmanship and should be avoided.
Another important element of your personal author brand is transformation. Not only do you need to make the life changes necessary to become an author, you have to transform into a person that others want to follow. The values you embody when establishing your author brand will influence the people who follow you and buy your books.
So Where do I Find These Values?
Let’s say you’re a fiction writer without a tribe and without a brand. It’s important to start with a series of values that your brand can represent. These values should represent your writing, personal interests, and fans’ interests. The genre you write for may also influence your author brand and the values it embodies. For instance, branding for children’s book will likely be different than branding for a popular horror series.
Identifying the appropriate values for your author brand may be challenging, but there is inspiration everywhere. Brands have been inspired by childhood memories, works of art, and memorable vacations. Some people wake up with an idea for a company and its corresponding brand. The point is, virtually anything can help you find your brand’s values. So let’s with three muses—kids, love, and heroes—and see how they can help fantasy, romance, and thriller/suspense writers identify the best values for their brand.
If only we could hold fast to the spirit of youth. The sobering realities of life haven’t yet dampened a kid’s imagination. Kids believe in the boogeyman and the Tooth Fairy; that one day we’ll all be able to fly or live on the moon.
When we think of kids (or their personalities), some adjectives come to mind:
- Fantastic (as in, “based on fantasy,” but they’re awesome too!)
Kids really believe that the possibilities are endless.
The belief that anything is possible is a core tenet of the fantasy genre. As a fantasy writer, you want to unleash your reader’s dreams and imagination. You want to allow them to escape from reality and into a world where the impossible is commonplace.
If you’re a fantasy writer looking to establish a brand, consider building one around the childlike values your readership holds dear: imagination, magic, creativity, and impossibility.
Love conjures as many thoughts as there are people on Earth, and yet, it’s an experience we all share in its different forms. We might describe love as:
The list goes on.
Obviously love is a hallmark of the romance genre. Because love is so broad, romance writers have the benefit of writing for diverse audiences, and thus embodying different values. For instance, an LGBT writer might establish their brand on the foundation of inclusivity, diversity, equality, and acceptance. A chick-lit or romantic comedy writer might embody the concepts of femininity, easygoingness, candor, and chic. These values may differ from those held by contemporary romance readers, who care about passion, romance, timelessness, and glamour.
Heroes range from the firefighter who rescued a baby from a burning building to the ones in suits with superpowers. One thing most heroes have in common is that they are known for their courage in the face of adversity or danger. Their stories are often harrowing and heart-stopping, perfect fodder for the thriller and suspense genre.
When we think of the heroes themselves, one might imagine they’re:
Additionally, the situations heroes find themselves in are usually:
Knowing that their fans appreciate a good dose of thrall and risk, thriller and suspense writers might want to consider building their brand around the tenants of intrepidness, valiance, excitement, and adventure.
The specific values you choose are not important; they just have to represent your brand and resonate with your audience. Your brand should stand for something realistic and that is related to your books. Your brand should also help connect like-minded people with common interests. This is a critical ingredient in self-promotion and acquiring a large online following: your values should represent your brand, which should help attract people with similar values that they believe are best represented by your brand. Eventually, these people will become faithful followers of your brand and consumers of your merchandise.
If you’re interested in learning more about brand values, please check out the course I’ve developed to help authors learn more about personal branding. This course will help you establish and successfully use your brand to attract a larger audience of likeminded fans who can’t wait to read your next book.