We, as writers/authors, are our own brands.
In most cases, our brand is our name (or the name we chose to write under). In the past, the chances of your name (or chosen pseudonym) being the same as another author’s were slim. However, with today’s internet, chances are you’re competing with others who share your name, especially if it’s a relatively common one. Just do a quick google search of your name to see what I mean!
Established authors again have an advantage in that the more well-known (and searched for) they are, the greater the chances are they will pop up at the head of search lists. Think of John Grisham, James Patterson, Robert Parker, Anne Perry or Patricia Cornwell. Other people share their name—and some of them may have websites of their own—but it’s the author’s “brand” name that will be easiest to find.
Writers and less established authors aren’t so lucky; unless you’ve got an unusual name. When I searched my name a few years back, I found sites for a photographer, a guitarist, and even an actor. All shared my name. And of course, the internet has only grown since then to include more “not-me’s.” After some thought (and an eureka moment), I chose The Poisoned Martini as my space on the web. This also became my brand, which continues to evolve.
Many authors have a secondary brand. Often these are to distinguish one series from another. Author Susan Wittig Albert, for example, has three series: The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and The Darling Dahlias, and under the pseudonym Robin Paige, she has The Victorian/Edwardian Mysteries (written with her husband, Bill Albert).
Traditionally—often at the behest of a publisher—authors picked pseudonyms to write a new series, but increasingly they are choosing tag lines, like the above examples. For my mystery writing, I’ve long used “The Mysteries of Syracuse” as the series’ tag line to distinguish it from fantasy and paranormal writing I’ve been working on. Today’s savvy readers know which series they like to read and will look for by tag lines.
So if you’ve decided on your pen name, your blog/website name, and a possible tag line for a series. What next? A large part of the branding process includes content creation.
“Content is the voice of your brand, and it is therefore important to allocate the respect, investment, and focus it requires. Creating great content is difficult, and delivering great content consistently through established process is complex. However, this is what is required if you want to take your brand from good to great in today’s communication environment,” said James Keady, digital marketing manager for British manufacturer McLaren Automotive. The quote comes from this article about content marketing.
By nature, writers/authors have a leg up on the competition when it comes to content creation. It’s what we’re all about. We write. Getting the word out about what we write and promoting ourselves is where it gets tricky.
Over the last couple years, I’ve heard a lot about publishers and agents wanting writers who have established platforms (see here), a means to put yourself out there and essentially get attention. A blog or website is ideal. A web presence helps build your audience in addition to establishing your brand. The very thing publishers and agents want. There are even books on how to get started and succeed in launching your platform! (See here and here for examples.)
Building a blog/website and growing it can be a challenge. For some great tips, check out this article and this WordPress centric article. And to help manage your brand, check out this article for handy tools you can use. The Book Designer has also posted 6 easy tips for considering your brand.
In the end, it all comes back to the brand, your brand. It’s how it distinguishes you from other writers/authors, and it’s a constantly evolving process. It’s a daunting task, but a necessary one.
And if you’re just getting started, consider the follow:
Who is your target audience?
What traits/characteristics best define your writing?
Who is your writing similiar to and how is it unique?
What is the best format to establish and grow your brand/platform?
And what are your goals?
Additionally, here are some useful links on branding, content creation and usage:
Building an author platform: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/03/20/branding-author-platform/
The reasons why: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/30/writing-tips_n_5241199.html
Re-purposing your content: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/49591.aspx
Revamping a brand: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/46887.aspx