Branding is Important for Your Author Platform

Branding is just as important to Authors as for any business model and forms a core element for building the Systems Framework of your author platform. Done correctly it will build on the work you performed in the Foundation Framework and will facilitate the sales of your first and subsequent publishing efforts.

In previous articles, I explored using the Marketing Pyramid approach to building you Author Platform. To recap the Marketing Pyramid consists of three frameworks:

  1. Foundations
  2. Systems
  3. Media

With this article I’ll be focusing on the Systems Framework which is made up of the three following elements

  1. Branding
  2. Marketing & Sales Process
  3. Tools to make it happen

The Branding Element

With branding for authors, we need to look at three different brand themes:

  1. Author Brand
  2. Content Brand
  3. Book Brand

All three co-exist and need to be managed in a consistent and coordinated way.

Before I dive into each brand theme there are some truisms and falsehoods about branding in general that need to be dealt with.

  1. A logo isn’t a brand. A logo is simply a symbol that summarizes what a brand stands for. Take the Qantas flying kangaroo logo. Whenever you see it your mind immediately recognizes that it represents Qantas, a full-service airline.
  2. Qantas spends a lot of money conveying what the flying kangaroo symbol stands for however that can be quickly undone if you receive conflicting messages. For example they created Jetstar to cater for the budget market to maintain the full service aspect of the Qantas brand.
  3. Consistency is key to brand success. Inconsistent representation will undo all your hard work.
  4. It’s OK to have multiple brands as long as each are consistent
  5. What a brand stands for isn’t what you say it is rather it’s what others say based on their real-life experiences.
  6. As an author, you need to be true to your brand at all times…by that I mean 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.

Author Branding

In marketing terms this is usually referred to as personal branding and is vitally important to the success of the vast majority of books.

Most books are created from the authors own lived experience. It’s this wisdom that readers are looking to understand and learn from. In the first instance, it’s what often draws new readers to your work. Take J.K. Rowling for example, her story of being a single mum, living in near poverty drove the creating of the Harry Potter series, a rags to riches tale that resonates with many people around the World.

On the other hand, we have Belle Gibson. She built a large author platform based on how she conquered cancer. This lead to several lucrative book deals and a career as a wellness guru. Trouble happened when it was discovered that she never had cancer and was exposed as a fraud and scam artist. Her author platform was destroyed overnight and she has a reputation that will travel with her for the rest of her life.

While these are extreme examples, they do help to illustrate how powerful and precarious your author brand is. For most of us modest and honest mortals we still need to be careful of our personal brands.

Social media provides one of the biggest and fastest author brand building opportunities of our time however, the reverse also holds true. I regularly see inconsistency in authors social feeds. How would readers perceive an author of health and wellness books when their social feeds are showing an alcohol and drug fueled party animal?

Headshots and author images are another area I often see being poorly managed by many authors.  A picture does tell a 1000 words so you need to be just as careful with this aspect of author branding.

The key takeaways on author branding are:

  1. Define what you want to stand for and/or what your personal story is and stick to it.
  2. Ensure all your social media accounts are displaying a consistent profile
  3. Ensure your social posts are in keeping with the author brand that you wish to cultivate
  4. Invest in professionally taken headshots, they will last you for years to come.

Content Branding

Successful authors of multiple publishing projects understand that content consistency has a synergistic effect across all their titles. As a bonus, each subsequent project will enjoy rapid sales growth by leveraging their existing buyer base.

With fiction books, the power of this concept is demonstrated with the Harry Potter Series. While the key content brand element of the Harry Potter character goes some way to explaining the series success, the big success element is that the story or content was consistent all the way through. Every book built on the Harry Potter brand story which had readers clambering for more.

For non-fiction books, the same concept holds true however it’s the central theme along with the author brand that needs to be consistent. Take Michael Mosley for example. His books all build on the health theme primarily using a scientific approach to using food as preventative and curative medicine. This underwrites the success of every new book and TV show he releases.

The key takeaways on content branding are:

  1. Consistency rules. Just like with author branding, content branding becomes supper powerful when you apply this marketing truism,
  2. When self-publishers get this right they massively increase the probability of picking up lucrative coaching, speaking, TV and mainstream publishing gigs.

Book Branding

Book branding is the third element that authors need to manage. As with author and content branding, consistency is the secret to success.

With book branding, you need to consider the look and feel of the book as well as the premise of the content. While the prime purpose of a book cover is to catch the attention of a potential buyer in a crowded book store, it must also be visually consistent with the content. To illustrate this with an extreme example, imagine a book about wellness with a cover that is dominated by an “angry cat”. While the angry cat image may attract potential buyers, they will more than likely be turned away when they discover the book isn’t about angry cat memes.

When designing book covers, I often encounter authors who don’t understand how important this is. They may have a photo that they love, or a colour scheme that’s dear to their heart but it’s not about what they like, it’s about what will resonate with the reader. If the author has built the foundational framework correctly, they will have a clear understanding of their target market and their ideal persona. The visual look of your book needs to talk to your persona not you, the author.

The back cover is where the purchase decision is made. While the front cover attracts a potential buyer, it’s the words on the back cover that entices them to open their wallets. While the words must sell the book to your ideal persona, they must also be consistent with the premise of the book. If not consistent, the reader will quickly discover that your book won’t live up to its promise and you can say good bye to getting referrals and positive reviews.

If your book is part of a series, then getting book branding right is an imperative. The success of the “Dummies Guide” books rests on this branding truism. Just by mentioning the book brand you can picture them in a book shop, their yellow and black appearance stands out and you know that they are guide books through and through. If you’re after a guide book on just about anything, you will probably look first to a “Dummies Guide”. There are plenty of other examples of this principle in use, Harry Potter, Rich Dad Poor Dad and Lonely Planet, just to name a few.

Key Takeaways for Book Branding

  1. The book appearance and back cover must be congruent with content,
  2. Your book brand must resonate with your ideal persona not you as the author,
  3. Consistency is key, yet again.

I know, building your Author Platform can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In coming episodes, I’ll be exploring the simple, no BS and low cost approach to building a solid platform that you can leverage for many years to come.

Finally, I want to leave you with one piece of advice:

Branding is an important element in building an author platform and your subsequent success as an author. Look around you and try and understand the principles of branding as applied by big consumer brands along with successful authors. Do this and you will bring your branding under control is no time.