Now, don’t be shy: Did you begin indie publishing with the sole objective of releasing your heart’s work to the world?
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 a crowded market?
The answers to these questions will lead you to the creation of a distinctive brand that readers will remember despite the vast selection of books now available. Your author brand will communicate who you are and will distinguish you from other authors. From social media posts to press photos to your website design, the big picture of who you are is being expressed. If you ignore branding, you do so at your peril as your reputation as an author may be impacted.
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, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes every two weeks. Why? Because independent publishing is a flourishing market.
Bashful writer, she’s your new competition.
So, what should you do? Get serious about solidifying your author brand!
Create an Identity. Your brand identity will bring together the visual and written elements that communicate who you are as an author and what you write. Think about your favorite clothing brand or restaurant chain. What is their tagline or logo? What images do they use to communicate what they do or who they serve? Which colors and fonts do they use in marketing? All of these elements allow you to feel the company and understand who they are. You, dear writer, must do the same.
Looking Good Everywhere. The art direction (colors, images, fonts) used on your website and other author sites should mirror the general design used for your book’s 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 graphics.
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. Being consistent with your voice further builds your brand.
Professional Cover Art. I know. Your brother-in-law designed the art during your initial foray into publishing, but now it’s time to hire a professional designer. A designer will ensure there is consistency among your cover art and communicate to readers you are a professional author. If you’re tight on funds, consider swapping services! Perhaps you can offer to edit or beta read a manuscript in exchange for design services. Many talented cover designers also write fiction and will consider work in trade. Join a writer’s group on Facebook to find them.
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.
Following these simple tips will get you started down the road to effective marketing and strong reader engagement. Be willing to test out ideas and looks, as authors rarely get it right the first time. But in time, you will have a brand that is memorable and compelling.