What do you want readers or others in the writing industry to think of, or feel, when they hear your name?
If you haven’t considered this question before, then now is the time to do so. Knowing, and getting to grips with, your ideal ‘author identity’ will help you with all aspects of the writing life: from doing the actual writing, to networking and marketing yourself.
In the following post we will consider the meaning of your author brand, and begin brainstorming elements of yourself you could incorporate into your author brand.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY AUTHOR BRAND?
The concept is loose and difficult to define, and there are multiple definitions around. However, I think of author brand as the image or persona readers and others in the writing industry associate with you when they hear your name. This is related to, but distinct from, the types of books and stories you write.
The easiest way I can explain it is to provide a concrete, real-life example.
You may or may not have come across Joanna Penn and Sacha Black. Both are indie authors and podcasters. Both are British and female. Both publish fiction and writing-related nonfiction. They have many things in common, and yet each embraces different facets of their personalities and strengths to connect with readers and writers, and to market their books and content.
The Creative Penn podcast’s tagline is to provide interviews, inspiration and information for fellow writers. She repeats this tagline at the beginning of every podcast episode. She uses her natural interest in new technologies and futurist topics to explore changes and innovations in the writing and publishing landscape, and provides value to others by being an early adopter of new technologies and passing on what she learns.
Sacha Black’s The Rebel Author podcast celebrates her fun and rebellious nature. Her content is highly informative, and her tone is sweary, funny, and informal. Her brand is built on being rebellious and not letting others control you, with weekly rebellion stories submitted by listeners and read aloud on the podcast. Sacha Black consistently utilises a purple and black colour palette across her branding.
Both podcasts are excellent, and very much worth subscribing to!
In my opinion, both Joanna Penn and Sacha Black are highly successful in embracing, developing and celebrating their respective author brands. Both looked to their own personality traits, their own natural strengths, and the things they enjoyed doing, and used these to (however intentionally) build a unique and memorable author brand for themselves.
As you can see from the above examples, author brand can encompass many facets of yourself and your author business: your personality traits; your tone; the ways you engage with readers and others in the community; the types of books and other products you create; even the colour palette and images you use.
WHY IS AUTHOR BRAND IMPORTANT?
Your author brand is the thing that makes you memorable and distinguishes you from most other writers. It is key to helping readers and professionals in the writing industry find you and remember you and your content.
Most importantly, it helps guide you in deciding how you will tackle different aspects of your writing business.
For example, if you were naturally chaotic and unorganised, then instead of fighting your natural tendencies, you may decide to embrace this facet of your personality. You might write your books in bursts of inspiration rather than holding a consistent writing habit each day. You might post on social media about your scatter-brained process, reassuring others that you don’t need a consistent writing habit to publish stories. You might get on well with TikTok rather than Twitter (or is it X now? The man-child’s tantrums are giving me whiplash). If you were an indie author, you might decide not to commit to pre-order campaigns, instead publishing your books as and when you finished them.
All writers are not the same, and hopefully the example above demonstrates that embracing and focusing on even one personality trait can help your writing process, your business practices, and your marketing. Even a ‘weakness’ can be considered a strength in the right circumstances!
FIGURING OUT YOUR AUTHOR BRAND
It might help to brainstorm the following questions on a piece of paper or in an electronic document:
What are your main personality traits?
What is your Enneagram type? This might help guide you to your natural strengths and weaknesses, and the types of activities and content which are more likely to bring you joy
What are your strengths and weaknesses? (Be honest! No room for shying away from uncomfortable truths, and don't be modest either)
How would others in your life describe you? Ask them if you’re unsure
How would you like to be perceived by others? (Readers, writers etc)
What genre(s) or type(s) of stories do you write?
What are your writing habits like? Structured? Outline upfront or after the first draft? Fast or slow? Preferred writing location? Fitting writing in around other life stuff?
Do you combine your writing with another profession or hobby? Are there any topics you know about, or topics which you geek out on, which might be related to writing?
Do you have any life experiences or perspectives which others might not share? Are you from a marginalised group? Have you had any unusual life experiences? Did you grow up in a unique place or situation? Etc.
What do you enjoy doing?
What do you hate doing?
Are you introverted or extroverted? Do you like connecting with or helping others, or do you work better in isolation?
Which social media platforms (if any) do you prefer?
What are your favourite colours? Are there any colour palettes or themes associated with your preferred genre?
Do you already have a website, books, social media presence etc? Have you been (intentionally or unintentionally) building an author brand for yourself already?
Any other considerations for you personally which aren’t covered by the questions above?
When you’ve been through this process, look down your list and identify topics, strengths, weaknesses, personality traits etc which stand out to you.
IMPLEMENTING YOUR AUTHOR BRAND
This is subjective as it depends heavily on your specific list. However, the list is very helpful as a starting point for figuring out both your ideal writing life and your ‘author brand’. I have a few generic tips for using your list to do this:
The most important consideration of all is that building your author brand should not be a chore or something you dread doing: the whole point of this process is to deliberately focus on the things that make you happy and bring you joy! If you enjoy what you’re doing, readers and others will sense that too
Don’t do anything you hate doing! There’s no point committing to becoming a TikTok author sensation if you hate TikTok and you hate making videos (no matter how much others rave about BookTok)
Lean into the things you are passionate about, the things you like doing, and your natural strengths
However, also pay attention to your weaknesses. Can you embrace them and turn them into strengths?
Don’t try to fundamentally change who you are or how you work for the sake of your author brand! This comes across as inauthentic, and you would do better to embrace your true, wonderful, flawed self.
Are you already building an author brand? How is that going? Do you need to make any adjustments to bring it more in line with your vision and preferences?
Consider your author brand in your writing, your genre(s), your website, your social media etc. I’m not saying you can never post things which fall outside your brand, but you should keep your brand in the back of your mind at all times (one reason it’s so important to focus on topics and strategies which bring you joy!)
If you have a profession or hobby or life experience which can inform your author life, then explore this. Can you offer financial or legal help? Do you enjoy photography? Are you living with a disability or mental health issues, and have worked out ways to write alongside these? Can you offer help, services or content to other authors to help them with an aspect of their business? To give a personal example: I’m trying to write fiction and run an editing business while raising a family, which is something many writers can relate to but not many people offer help with! I enjoy connecting with and helping others, so a lot of my content focuses on the challenges of writing with young kids. Even if your hobby, profession or perspective doesn’t seem related to writing at first, you might be able to provide great and unique value to readers and other writers (if you so wish)
Author brand is a tricky concept to define and pin down, and an even trickier one to embrace and promote in your writing and marketing life.
Each of us is unique, so we each need to consider our own personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences, personality type, work styles, and the topics which interest us. This is an excellent starting point in working out, and embracing, our own writing styles and practices, and the ways in which we communicate with others, offer value to others, and promote ourselves and our work.
BEFORE YOU GO…
What are your thoughts on author brand? (contact details below).
Please feel free to comment on the article and/or contact me if you have any questions!
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I welcome respectful and friendly discussion on the topics I write about, including if your opinion differs from my own.
Disclaimer: generative AI
I do not use generative AI to produce or inform my blog, my images, or my fiction. All of my content is generated by the chaotic firing of my own (human) brain! (I have access to some images through my Wix subscription). I do not consent to the use of my content, images, or fiction to train generative AI models. Please contact me to discuss permission and compensation if you wish to use my content in this way.