For most authors, the idea of having a brand at all is confusing. Brands are for companies, not people. You’re not even sure how to market your book, how are you supposed to market yourself? And, with that, how do you market yourself as an authorbefore putting your work out?
The complicated, technical answer involves keeping a consistent posting schedule, interacting with others in a way that promotes the fact that you’re an author, and building a relationship with influencers who already have a rapport with your intended audience.
The simpler, more human answer is spelled out in three easy steps below.
1. Define Your Core Values
Defining core values is the most useful thing any new author can do. When you start building your brand, reaching out to potential readers and promoting your work, you’ll inevitably run into the issue of ‘sellable versus honest.’
#Ownvoice flies off the digital shelves. Diversity is king. You’ll want to be perfect and have a handle on everything while retaining an air of relatability and realism. You’ll want everyone to love you.
But they won’t.
A new fad will come up that has nothing to do with anything you write. A question of opinions—political, writerly, moral, etc.—will arise, and the honest answer could lose you readers. Your response in these situations will depend entirely on your evaluation of core values.
Core values are what motivates you in life. They’re the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. They’re your guiding light, telling you whether or not you’re on the right path, and they’re the essence of your ideals, which should show through in everything you do.
Most people have somewhere between three and seven core values, and they can range from religious faith to money to bodily health.
I struggled with building my brand for years, hating it every time someone told me to “be your best, most authentic self.” Then I took a look at my core values, and suddenly it made sense.
My primary value (the value I care about above all others) is honesty. I’d rather lose sales than lie or hide. My second-place value is quality. Getting stories out quickly will up visibility and sales, but if my work isn’t up to par, I’d rather take the hit.
Now, do I always feel this way? Absolutely not. People talk about the “right” way to do things being fast and friendly, and I get nervous. I read about what sells, look at my bank account, and reconsider.
But then I look back at my list of core values, and even when I’m feeling jittery and unsure, they ring true. It reminds me of what I believe, outside the hustle and bustle of chasing my dreams, and keeps me centered.
You’re more than a romance(fantasy, non-fiction, literary) author. You care about more than bringing across believable characters and making readers laugh. You don’t fit in a box. So take a look inside, figure out what your core values are, and build your brand around them.
2. Treat It Like a Job
There are guaranteed to be moments where you hate branding. You’ll create an amazing post that gets no engagement. You’ll come across posts where someone says something so incredibly off-base that the only way to describe it iswrong.
Your fingers will twitch with the urge to say something you’re guaranteed to regret. And in that moment, you’ll understand the need to be both a person and a corporation.
If you want to switch over to your personal account and spit vitriol, that’s on you.On your professional platform, however, you have to be an author first and an opinionated individual second. Avoid things that could be considered bad press, avoid a scandal, and remember that the internet is forever.
The moment of vindication that comes with starting a fight on Twitter isn’t worth the fallout. The political view that has nothing to do with your book(s) will isolate more people than it will attract.
And if you’re ever questioning whether to post or not to post, pretend you’re a much more official entity. How would you feel if a hospital, hotel, or even Walmart posted what you’re about to post? Would it be unprofessional? Biased? Would you be okay with it?
Your brand is based in your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, but you are not your brand, and your brand is not you. It’s not personal. It requires sincerity coupled with professionalism and emotional distance. It’s a job like any other, and the faster you treat it as such, the better you’ll do.
3. Don’t Make Yourself Miserable
Sounds easy, right? You’ll do what you need to do, and if it makes you miserable, that’s because the task itself is miserable. Not your fault. Right?
Sort of right.
If you hate all social media, branding yourself on social media is going to suck. There’s no way around it. There is, however, a difference between an irritating task and a task you dread for hours in advance.
Most branding advice is going to be go wide (e.g., use as many applicable platforms as possible) and update consistently. For every platform other than Facebook, updating “consistently” is at least once a day.
For those of you who don’t find the idea of updating three-to-six platforms multiple times a day intimidating, you’re amazing. Kudos and bravo. Teach me your ways.
For those of you who can handle one to two platforms, two to three times a week, know that you aren’t alone. Keeping up with so many platforms can be overwhelming, and the most important thing for your brand will be taking note of and understanding your limits.
It’s better to have one stable, interactive platform than six platforms that update every six months.
If you love taking pictures but hate making videos, get on Instagram and forget about TikTok and YouTube. If you’re good at talking to people but stress over finding a photo worth sharing, dedicate yourself to Twitter and ditch out on Instagram.
Pick two or three platforms, and update four or five times a week. Set aside dedicated time for social media, and at all other points in time, let it rest. Take weekends off. Breathe.
Pursuing your dream can get messy. It can be irritating and require you to dabble in activities (e.g., marketing, promotion, and branding) you’d really rather have avoided. But it should never make youmiserable.
The second a task gives you undue anxiety or ups your depression, take a step back. Figure out what it is that’s stressing you out, and look for ways around it.
It’s surprisingly easy to convince yourself that if you don’t execute certain parts of your dream in a certain manner, the dream will crash and burn. Like if you can’t handle all of these platforms, all the time, there’s no such thing as having an amazing debut.
That’s just not true.
There are a million or more solutions to every problem, and the best thing for your brand is going to be finding the path best-suited to you. Grant your mental health a place of importance. Give yourself a break. Don’t make yourself miserable.
If you’re ever unsure how to proceed with your author brand, refer back to your core values, stay true to yourself, and know that your dream is within reach. There is no right or wrong answer. There’s only you and your path to success. Go forth.