What is an author brand, anyway?

“If you are an author, you need a brand!” they keep saying but they rarely explain what they mean by brand. It’s not cowboys on horses rounding up a herd of authors and applying hot metal brands to tender author-flesh.

According to Jeff Goin’s book, ‘You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)’, an author brand has three elements.

  • Author name. Ideally, your real name. But if you have the family name of Dickens and the first name of Charles, you need a pen name. Same if you could lose your day job by the politically incorrect things you write, or if it would cause problems to your family members.
  • Image. Your author photo. It’s like when you are on Facebook and someone you know ONLY on Facebook has a photo of himself as his FB profile picture and it kind of feels like you know him in real life. Or it could be a logo. That’s less personal, you need a reason to use a logo, and you need a professional to design one unless you are a professional graphic designer.
  • Your Voice. That’s the hardest one. A writer needs to develop a unique voice and no one really tells you how to do that. But it’s really just when you are being YOU and you say the you-things you might say in real life with your friends. OK, when you are writing online or in books you may develop you-things to say that you wouldn’t say in real life. Maybe it’s just the a few unique turns of phrase you have that you use in certain situations, or some issues you can’t shut up about. If you are still unsure, ask some of your best social media friends— ‘Is there something you recognize about the things I say when I post? So if I posted on someone else’s account by mistake, you would guess it’s really me?’

Warning: Although your voice will develop and change over time, you shouldn’t be switching names or images/logos much. Once you start putting yourself out there as a writer/aspiring writer, you can’t expect people to follow you to your new identity.
If your image is your author photo, it’s better to keep the same one for a long period of time than to switch each week. If you need to update because your old photo was taken when you were twenty and you are now 108, try to have similarities in your background, clothing and overall look so people can pretend to recognize you. Remember, Coca-Cola is a success because it’s kept the same name and logo for a lot of years! You need to do the same.

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