Unwrapping Your Author Brand

You've received two gifts: one wrapped in crumpled newspaper and duct tape, the other in royal blue paper and silver ribbon . Which would you want to open more? Which is most inviting? It's a no-brainer: the blue gift. Why? Because of how it looks. It's made with better quality materials and more care was taken to make it look beautiful. Whatever’s inside must be worthwhile since the wrappings are so elaborate.

Now you’re probably imagining that we’re going to tell you that the same holds true for your book’s cover. That people will judge your book by its wrapping. And though that is true, we’re actually talking about something larger than your book. We’re talking about you, the writer.

Once you’ve published your book, you’ll need to find ways to convince people to “open” it, and that requires more than just a pretty cover. An important - and often overlooked - part of your book’s “brand proposition” is you. Readers like to have a sense of who the author is, what makes them tick, or what’s interesting about them.

Most authors start off with little to no branding, perhaps just a blurb on the back cover. “Roger lives in Estevan with his dog, Rover.” That might be interesting for someone living in Saskatchewan, but doesn’t say much to people who might not know where Estevan is.

A brand is the whole of your commercial identity. It's what makes you stand out from other authors. Everyone has some unique aspect that can help readers to form an impression of who you are. Perhaps you spent the 1980s on an ashram. Or perhaps you’re a leader in your field. Or maybe you wrote your novel on the train to work every morning.

Branding also ties into your “visual identity.” Good branding should give potential readers a sense of what they can expect from you by evoking a certain mood or feelings when they see it. An author calling himself William Carter Smith and always wearing a bow tie sets a different expectation than Bill Smith dressed in jeans and a beer t-shirt. And, depending on your book and its audience, one is probably preferable to the other.

A consistent author brand identity can positively impact the perceived value of your book. Everything from how you dress to the look and feel of your website can attract readers, the attention of media, publishers, agents, and even film producers. Just like you, they have a story to tell and are looking for something interesting to say. You can make their job easier by considering the following points and reflecting on how they might be reflected in your personal brand:

  • The themes of your book – What message is your book getting across to readers?
  • The purpose of your book – What is your book contributing to the greater conversation? What do you stand for?
  • The readers of your book – What kinds of people are you trying to reach?

Your message is the core of your brand. The purpose of your book and the gap it fills is what fuels your brand. And your readers, of course, are the people your brand wants to attract.

Armed with the answers to these questions, consider whether there are any colours, images, symbols, fonts, language, and other visual elements that can contribute to the overall feeling of your brand. Look at your book cover for ideas. By incorporating some of these elements into your promotions and presentations, you’ll make it easier for others to determine what you’re about and will promote interest in what you say, do, and create. When deciding which elements to use, ask yourself, “How do I want to be perceived?”

In branding, consistency is everything. [Tweet this!] By using the same visual elements on your website, social media, and promotional materials, you’re strengthening your brand and making it more recognizable and memorable. Consider this: if you want to find a Starbucks Coffee nearby, you know to look for their green patio umbrellas. That's brand recognition, and it works because in every city across the globe where Starbucks Coffee exists, they'll have those same green umbrellas.

Once you’ve established the visual elements you'd like to use for your brand, there are a few ways you can incorporate them into your promotions:

On your website

  • Use header images that relate to your book. You can use the book cover image itself or create custom headers using free, user-friendly, online photo editing tools like Canva, PicMonkey, or BeFunky.
  • Bring in some of the colours from your book cover for backgrounds, title fonts, buttons, or the header. If you don't want to use your book cover colours, try to find ones that reflect your book's themes or mood.
  • Use fonts that are the same or similar to the ones on your book cover, or use fonts that coincide with your book's themes. For example, if your book is sci-fi, consider using a space-y font. Just make sure that your font picks are still legible – don't go crazy!
  • If there is a key message, tagline, or subtitle to your book, be sure to use it.

On social media

  • Your social media accounts should all reflect the look and feel of your website.
  • Be sure to use the same profile picture across your social media platforms.
  • If possible, use a consistent username for all your social media accounts – one that stands for your brand or relates to your author name.

On promotional materials

  • Use your book cover image on business cards, posters, bookmarks, postcards, etc.
  • Incorporate your brand colours where possible (for example, in headings or body text)
  • Include your website URL

With a consistent “look and feel” and a recurring message that appears on all your online and offline promotional materials, you have begun creating your author brand. In time, readers will recognize you and your books, and will have a consistent feeling about you. Just as someone might look for those green umbrellas when they want a latte, your readers can now look for your wrapping paper and ribbons when they want to open one of your books.

Written by Oriana Varas, FriesenPress Book Promotions Specialist
Edited by Christian Fink-Jensen, FriesenPress Marketing Manager