Write Your Novel In A Year: Week 50: Building Your Brand As An Author

Welcome to week 50 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Building Your Brand As An Author – Where Do You Start? 

Goal setting
  1. Create your author platform and brand.
Breaking it down
I was lucky enough to attend an author evening with the bestselling Australian ghostwriter and novelist, Michael Robotham. His advice to aspiring writers was to treat writing like a ‘passionate hobby’.  Great advice.

I think it keeps you focused on why you’re writing, rather than becoming obsessed with getting published. However, at some point, you have to treat writing as a career or even as a small business. And that means becoming more professional. Marketing yourself. Taking some time to understand what your brand is as an author.

You have to start acting like an author – how else will people take your seriously?
First readers
Finding first or beta readers for your novel is much like testing your product – like a focus group for a new lipstick or beer.  You want to get some feedback from a small group before you launch it to the world.

When looking for beta readers online, it’s important to find the right readers – readers who typically enjoy your genre. It’s no good inviting people who read Young Adult fiction to read your Action Adventure story.  There are quite a few platforms for beta readers online – so it’s worth doing some research before you go this route. Often it’s a good idea to start as a beta reader yourself – this will give you a better understanding of the process.

If this doesn’t strike you as a good idea – or if you’re a bit technophobic – then you can approach your writing group for a critique.  I have a handful of trusted friends who are also writers with whom I’d share my manuscript.

No writing group?  That’s not a problem. You could always show it to one trusted person – it may be your wife, your partner, an old school friend whose literary opinion you trust.  You’ll be in safer hands than a hundred anonymous readers.

My sister is a voracious reader and she’ll always offer an honest opinion. She may not know all the technical reasons a book doesn’t work, but she’ll be very clear about whether she enjoyed it or not. I probably value her opinion the most.

Your author platform
In the digital age, no writer can ignore social media.  It’s a must. If you haven’t done so already, you should register a domain name for your website. This should be in your writing name – so if you’re using a pseudonym, this is the name you should try to register.

You don’t have to create a website right away; all you have to do is ‘park’ this domain so that no one else grabs it when you become famous. Depending on your country, this is relatively inexpensive and easy process. 

At this point, you can also think about starting a Facebook author page separate from your private Facebook account, as well as creating a specific Twitter handle. You don’t have to be on every social media platform – so think about the platforms that will suit your genre.  For example, Young Adult novelists will probably do well on Instagram, while women’s fiction may lend itself to Pinterest. 

It’s probably a good idea to invest in some really nice pictures of yourself for your social media and PR.  A selfie or a picture of you in shorts and t-shirt at the beach are probably not the best images you wish to portray.  Choose something that reflects your personality and the type of fiction you write.

You don’t need to hire a professional photographer and spend a lot of money. A friend with a good eye and a decent smartphone could probably do the job.  And your pictures don’t have to be posed and artificial – they can be relaxed, but professional. 

For example, I love the pictures that Nora Roberts used on some of her J.D. Robb hardcovers — the author is walking across a bridge in New York at night, in jeans and a leather coat. It gives the edgy crime flavour that comes across in these detective stories.
Build your brand, reveal your personality
I know that some of you may shudder and grimace when people tell you that an author has to become a brand. I know. I used to be one of them. ‘Brand’ sounds so cold, commercial, and even a bit artificial.

You’re not a bottle of cola or a new watch; you’re an artist, right? Yes, you are – but even artists have a persona, a face they show the world. Picasso, more myth than man, was probably the best PR for his art – his personality and private life was almost as colourful as his art.

Thomas Pynchon, literature’s most famous recluse, is also making a bold statement about who he is and what he writes by not revealing his hand.

So … don’t think of it as a brand. Rather, think of it a bridge between you and your readers. You want to invite them into your fictional world and give them a snapshot of who you are as a writer – in the digital world, writers and readers have never been closer. Use that to your advantage.

Having a clear brand is a way to introduce yourself and your books to your readers. You want to invite them in; not shut them out.

Picture your ideal reader in your mind. What would they like to know about your books? What genre do you write in? What is the promise you’re making to them when they pick up one of your books? What inspired you to write your books? 

For me, branding isn’t about selling books. That’s far too blatant. It’s about It’s about making an emotional connection between the reader and the author – creating trust, intimacy, and a shared value or belief. Fans love strong personalities; they love quirks, humour, boldness.

Timelock — 3 to 5 hours

Spend a couple of hours creating your action plan for your author brand and platform.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Draw up your Facebook page or website on a piece of cardboard, using sticky notes or cut-outs from magazines. Make it as visual as possible.
  2. Write a press release announcing yourself as an author and your new book just for fun. Get over your shyness about talking about yourself.
  3. Find five author websites you like. What do they have in common? Why do you like them?
  4. Speak to design students or photographers looking to create a portfolio of work. Often they’ll be willing to help you for a smaller fee than professionals.
  5. Write out five ideas for blog topics if you’re going to have a blog on your website.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you!’ — Steve Martin

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:
  1. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 49: Why Writing ‘The End’ Is Not Goodbye (Yet)
  2. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 48: 5 Elements You Need In Chapter One To Hook Your Reader
  3. Write Your Novel In A Year: Week 47: 3 Secrets to Successfully Submitting Your Manuscript

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