Many indie authors, including many earning an impressive income, begin the journey with one book in mind. It isn’t until the second or third release that they begin pondering questions critical to long-term success. What genre (or mixed bag of genres) do I write? Where do readers of my genre typically hang out? How will I distinguish my unique voice in an overheated market?
The answers to these questions will lead you to the creation of a distinctive brand readers will remember despite the vast selection of books (especially eBooks) now available. Sure, you’ll do some experimenting along the way. But if you ignore branding, you do so at your peril.
Indie publishing is no longer an outpost for eccentric writers. Today many established authors are buying back rights for out-of-print books and republishing independently. These career novelists have a brand in place, connections and a solid readership. I know of one romance author who bought back rights to twenty books; she uploaded a new book to Amazon, B&N, Kobo and iTunes every two weeks.
Bashful writer, she’s your new competition.
What should you do? Get serious about solidifying your author brand.
No Pajamas at the Office. Or political diatribes on GoodReads or offensive jokes on Twitter or…you get the point. Fiction writers are first and foremost entertainers. Readers purchase your book for the sheer enjoyment of reading, not because of your political leanings or love of scatological humor. If you write erotica then please do fill your Twitter feed with commentary sure to make most people blush. Your brand is racy. If you write sweet romance, consider adding content across social media sure to appeal to your readers—recipes, heartwarming vignettes about your home life or stories depicting forever love between well-married couples.
Your Distinctive Voice, Everywhere. Analyze your writing style. Do you write thrillers dominated by short, staccato sentences? Are you a literary author with a meandering narrative style? The general flavor of your prose should appear across platforms to solidify the voice you want readers to hear.
Amateurish Cover Art. I know. Your brother-in-law designed the art during your initial foray into publishing. Now it’s time to hire a professional designer. If you’re tight on funds, consider swapping an edit or a Beta read—many talented cover designers also write fiction and will consider work in trade. Join writer’s groups on FaceBook to find them.
Cover Art Chaos. In the mad dash to publish, you released three books at once with three different artistic styles. Trust me, you aren’t the first author to start over. Upload new art with a recognizable style you won’t change quickly. One glance and your readers will know your books are professionally produced, and therefore worthy of a read.
Looking Good Everywhere. The art direction used on your website and other author platforms should mirror the general design used for your cover art. I’m partial to bright colors, which compliment the upbeat stories I publish. You’re just as unlikely to find dark colors on my Twitter feed as you are to find commentary about vampires on my GoodReads posts. If you write horror, readers expect a brand sure to shock or surprise. If you write inspirational fiction, add spiritual themes to your art and your social media comments.
Ask Readers. This last point should be obvious, but isn’t. When you receive fan mail from readers ask these questions: What drew you to my book? What topics would you like to see discussed on my blog? What did you enjoy most about my novel? The least? Your author brand is never fully within your control, and the readers who become your most avid fans will happily offer advice to help you fine-tune your message—and perhaps even your next plot.
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