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.


11 Tips for writers entering the Twitterverse

twitterTwitter. A lot of my writer friends have tried it and feel it’s a waste of time. But others are regular users of Twitter and seem to feel it’s worthwhile. If you haven’t tried Twitter, are new to it, or haven’t managed to make it work for you, here are some tips. My own Twitter, by the way, is @nissalovescats

  1. Add your reading/writing friends to the people you follow on Twitter. Suggest that they follow you back. If you are an Aspie, perhaps you don’t have real-world friends. So go on Facebook if you are not there already and join a couple of groups, especially those for writers. Try to find specialized groups that relate to what you write. There are a number of Aspie/autism writers groups. I’ve listed a few on a page on this blog.
  2. Take a minute to compose a short profile for yourself on Twitter. It should mention that you are a writer or poet, and perhaps mention a thing or two that is part of your author brand. Mine mentions my ‘poet, Aspie & cat person’ tag.
  3. Put up a profile picture that is a picture of YOU. Your face— even if unattractive like mine— helps your followers see you as a person. Post it.
  4. Put up a cover picture to help your Twitter profile look complete. I used one of my best kitten photos— one of a kitten in a boot— because ‘cat person’ is part of my author tag. And since it’s a photo I took with a kitten I own, it’s a unique image to me. Well, others may have downloaded it but they probably don’t use it on their Twitter profile.
  5. Think about some things that are a part of your author brand. For example, I am a poet, a person who likes zombie fiction, a Catholic, a person with same-sex attraction, a cat person, a Star Trek fan…. What you do is you look for Twitter accounts that relate to the topics that touch your author brand, and follow them and retweet some of their stuff.
  6. Learn to use hashtags. You need to know some broad hashtags— #amwriting, #books #Catholic — and some very specific and narrow hashtags. Like #haiku, #micropoetry and #catsforTrump
  7. Click on hashtags that you use to see what other people are saying about your topics. Click ‘like’ on some things you like.  Retweet a few things. Some of the people you have liked and/or retweeted will become your followers.
  8. You will get notifications when people follow YOU. Most of the time it’s a good idea to follow back. Other people you shouldn’t. Such as accounts that have never tweeted but have a thousand followers, accounts selling ‘author services’ or Twitter followers, and accounts that aren’t compatible with your author brand. For example, Evangelical fiction authors won’t want to follow an erotica ‘writer.’ And I, as a conservative, never follow anyone with ‘social justice warrior’ in their profile. Or any progressive account, unless they are poets. Particularly sijo or haiku poets.
  9. Don’t have a service tweet for you. Someone I know used a service to tweet science fiction related things, and it ended up tweeting pictures of naked teenage girls under his name. And he’s an Evangelical Christian author.
  10. Do use free Twitter services that are helpful. Buffer allows you to compose Tweets that can be tweeted at a time you pick. So if you are at work during peak Twitter hours, you can still have Tweets going out then. I have another service that tweets a thanks-for-following to batches of my new followers. I used to have one that would help me unfollow accounts that don’t follow me back. I do unfollow some of those, unless they are the Pope.
  11. Try to get together with Twitter followers you can relate to. Don’t go after teen Twitter users just because they are teens and you write YA. Some teen Twitter accounts are rather appalling— teens who won’t read, have contempt for the 1%, and think that the words ‘but I’m an atheist’ are a logical argument to practically everything. Though they normally spell it ‘athiest’. YA authors, you need to connect with teens who read and think and don’t believe every stupid thing some atheist, progressive or social justice warrior has told them.
  12. Limit your twitter time. Set a timer and do a ‘Twitterdoro’— timed Twitter session— and when the timer goes off, go do something else.

Do you use Twitter? Do you have any tips and tricks of your own that might help me (and others) get better at it?

Note: if learning to use Twitter better is something you are interested in, please say so in a comment. I have some friends who are good with Twitter that I could ask to do a guest post.

The Truth about Author Branding

In the 19th century, vast herds of feral authors roamed the American West. In the aftermath of the Civil War, some Texas ranchers began annual author roundups. Each individual author would be chased down, roped, and branded with the official brand of the ranch that captured him. This brand was useful because the authors from several different ranches would be banded together and herded to the marketplace on a trail drive. The brands helped the trail boss fairly distribute the money earned from the marketing of the authors at the end of the drive. There were several John Wayne movies about these famous author drives?

OK, the above maybe is not 100% accurate. But how do you, the author, handle the thing that is described with the new-and-annoying buzzword ‘author branding?’

Think of it this way: Have you ever had a favorite author? An author that you would read anything he wrote, even if he wrote in some genres you didn’t usually read? Think of the things about that’s author’s book that you liked. Some of those things would be described as the author’s brand.

Your author brand is about you: the person you are, your ideas, your values, the kind of things you like to write. A personal example— I write poetry, and I often write certain forms— sijos, haikus, Collom lunes, found poetry. There are themes that pop up in my poems— often horror or science fictional themes, or themes about the Catholic faith. Some of these things would be considered part of my brand.

For Aspie writers, one source of things that might be a part of our brand is found in our Special Interests— those intense, obsessive things that animate and delight us. If you have an intense special interest in the television series Doctor Who, and you have written fiction about time travel, or about mysterious aliens that look like humans and travel about on Earth and other human worlds, these writing themes can be a part of your author brand. If you have an intense interest in Reformation-era Germany or ancient Korea, you can use those for settings in your fiction.

An author’s brand changes somewhat over time as you-as-author explore new themes and issues along with the old. A big change, or reversal, may be hard to manage. Example: many of my early poems were written in my Youthful Marxist Phase, and were published by Marxist/leftist literary magazines. Most of my early published poems were published in a Communist literary magazine called ‘Struggle.’ When I matured and rejected Marxism, and then became a conservative-libertarian, that changed my unofficial poet brand to the point that if I had accumulated any fans, they would have left me.

I’m working lately on developing my author brand. I still don’t quite understand it— most of the how-to-write books I own were written before the term ‘author branding’ came along. But I’m studying the topic and I intend to pass any useful information on to my blog readers.

Questions: What do you make of the whole ‘author branding’ thing? How do you understand the term? Have you developed an author brand? Or are you still lost and confused on the subject like me?

Some blog posts about author branding:

Nina Amir: 6 Branding Tips for Writers and Authors

The Creative Penn: Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform

The Book Designer: How to Build Your Author Brand from Scratch (And Why You Need To)