Just Yesterday, Authors Needed An Agent


Just yesterday, authors needed an agent. The agent went to a publisher. The publisher edited, marketed, printed, published and sold the book in to booksellers. The booksellers sold it to readers. But today, authors can go directly to readers – by self-publishing and through e-publishing. Authors have websites, Facebook fan pages; they blog, tweet, speak, conduct seminars, and even sell products.

What does this new breed of authors need? They need to think about their futures, take responsibility for marketing themselves, and to write more than one book. Franchises are all the rage. Because of this, authors must create unique, consistent, relevant and authentic brands.

Over the past 25 years I have worked in fashion, technology, food, and digital research. I have worked within companies, as a consultant, and through agencies on three different continents. My passion and focus in the past ten years has been working with “personality-led” brands such as Jamie Oliver, Stella McCartney and Lewis Pugh.

Using simple tools I’ve developed over the past twelve years, I facilitated a course through Writers Write, an organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa that teaches both creative writing and business writing.

As an aspiring writer, I have attended many of their workshops and have been thrilled with their hands on teaching techniques. When asked to facilitate a course on brands, I was excited to become a part of the team and use the same approach in my work.   

Attended by eight published and unpublished writers, the course was a fascinating exploration in developing brands. We had eight budding brands from all walks of life. We needed to brand writers and writing styles that included sex, psychological thrillers, personal development, children’s stories, rugby and spirituality.

On the first day we focussed on creating a foundation for understanding brands. We explored personality brands and author brands. We talked about our favourite brands and why we had such an emotional connection to them.

The work I did with Jamie Oliver over an eight year period to help him build his brand around the world provided a perfect example of a successful personality brand.

With the foundation laid, we rolled up our sleeves on day two to delve into the brands that were sitting around the table. Some of the brands were based on their own name, some a pseudonym, some a title, others their protagonist. That is the first thing that is so important to understand – what is the name of your brand

  • Is it James Patterson?
  • Is it Twilight or Stephenie Meyer?
  • Is it Bridget Jones or Helen Fielding?
  • Is it Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling?
  • Is it ‘How to Expect’ or the three authors that write the books?

That brought up some very real observations for each of the eight distinct brands sitting around the table. All of their answers were very different.

What is the name of your brand? What are the options? What has the most longevity? What can extend to other product areas? We then put pen to paper to define our brands using the BrandPrint. We gave these budding brands a personality, values, beliefs, benefits, a promise, a vision and a mission.

What better group to do this than a group of writers? This is a craft that requires the use of words that come together on one page to define everything that the brand stands for – or the “soul”. To watch these brands develop was magic. Before my eyes each of one of them evolved their core meaning.  And, as a result, what they have the ability to stand for, write about and publish – even lecture about, create products based on and ultimately commercialise.

There was a unanimous opinion amongst the group that anyone could benefit from the work that we did and what was uncovered. The Write Brand is a very personal exploration about what is important to you and where you want to take the brand called “me”.

New ideas emerged, unfinished novels suddenly had meaning, future books and even products became possible. Once you understand your brand you can develop them in social media.

Social media and digital technology is the way forward. It is redefining everything.

By Tessa Graham 

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.