RU is so pleased have Oliver Rhodes on board as a regular contributor. We are so excited to mooch off his vast experience and we invite you to come along. Welcome Oliver!
Your author brand – and how to make the most of it.
Understanding author brands
It’s easy to accept that Amazon is a brand, or Simon Cowell, and even authors like James Patterson – but does the same really apply to you?
In a word, YES. But let’s look at it slightly differently.
Substitute the word reputation for brand.
Brands aren’t just about logos and advertising. Your relationship with a brand is about every point of contact that you have with it. And what you think or feel about a brand – its reputation – is crucial.
Take the example of Amazon. Your view of the brand isn’t limited to their logo, or the latest advert for Kindle. In fact those things often come bottom of the pile. More important is how quickly they send your latest order, how cheaply you can buy your Christmas presents, or how many copies they sell of your books.
All of these things influence how you feel about Amazon. And of course how you feel about them will affect whether you’re likely to shop with them, publish with them, buy their devices, or recommend them to friends.
The same applies to you.
You might not have as many touch-points with consumers as Amazon, but that makes those you do have all the more important.
So why is your author brand important for you to take good care of?
It will influence whether people read your books or not, whether they review your books, whether they share your social media streams, or recommend you to their friends.
And what can I do about it?
What people think and feel about you will be influenced by every encounter that they have with you. You need to make sure that each of those experiences is saying the right thing.
So where should I start?
Here are three steps that will set you on the right path to taking a professional approach to your author brand.
1) Accept that you are in charge.
In your writing career Agents, Editors and Publishers might all come and go – you are the one assured constant. You also have more than anyone else invested in your success. And that means you are in charge.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t accept direction from others – but it is important that you have a vision for where you want to go as an author – and that those you work with share or enhance that vision.
You won’t always have control over everything (take a deep breath) but the decisions you do make will make a difference.
At Bookouture, we create publishing proposals for each of our authors. The reason? We want to be sure that our vision is aligned with that of our authors, because that is when the Author-Publisher relationship works best.
2) Decide what you want your brand to say – and to who.
Brands – or reputations – are essentially shortcuts for the brain. They boil all of the information about a company, or person down to a ‘summary’.
It’s not practical for us to consider every last detail each time we make a decision. So we use the shortcut. So, for example – a few of my personal brand shortcuts:
Amazon – great value, reliable and efficient
Apple – make really cool stuff that works beautifully
James Patterson – guaranteed thrilling page-turners
What do you want your short-cut to be?
What do you stand for? What’s your ‘trademark’? What emotional reaction do you want from readers? What can your writing deliver to them time and time again?
HINT – the best brands tie in to emotions, deliver something unique and do it consistently. Here’s a few examples…
JK Rowling – enthralling, magical escape
Jodi Picoult – heart-wrenching moral dilemmas
Lee Child – thrilling tough justice from Jack Reacher
This is surprisingly hard to do but definitely worth it. Once you understand what you mean to readers it will help guide everything you do.
Want some help? How about looking through your reviews on Amazon? Or asking your Twitter followers to describe your writing in a tweet?
Who do you want your audience to be?
You can’t please everyone. Who are the key people who are (or are going to be) your loyal readers? What are they like? What do they enjoy about your writing?
Focus on them. If other people don’t like your books, your covers, or your blog it doesn’t matter. Keep your readers happy.
3) Make sure everything you do enhances your author brand
OK – so now you know what you want people to think about you, that idea should work as the guiding principle for everything you do.
Understanding your brand will actually make many things easier – because you have something to measure them against. Does your latest cover fit with your brand? If not, you have a clear reason for your publisher, or designer why not.
Of course ensuring that everything is consistent and meets the right standards is a big task. But you accomplish it one part at a time.
And remember – the most important part of your author brand is not your cover design, website or Facebook page. It is your books.
Readers are investing their money and – more importantly – their time on your writing. The quality of their experience will impact your future sales through repeat purchases, reviews, and recommendations.
Time spent perfecting your writing is invaluable and can be the difference between a good book and a great one. Editing is a must, even if you are self-publishing. If you’re serious about writing as a career, it’s worth your investment.
Of course, getting your stories right doesn’t matter if no-one is reading them. You need every part of your author brand to reflect clearly and creatively what it is that your writing offers.
It won’t be just you doing this. You’ll be working with many other people – from Editors to Designers. Set high standards, work with the best people, accept other’s expertise – and always keep an eye on what you’re trying to achieve.
Remember – it’s your brand. If you want to be a bestseller, you need to act like one.
Wow. Tons of good stuff here. What puzzles you about developing and maintaining your brand? Oliver is standing by to answer your questions.
On Friday, Meredith Bond discusses the importance of setting.
Oliver Rhodes is the Founder of Bookouture  – a digital publisher of romance and women’s fiction. Recently picked by The Bookseller as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ of 2012, he’s passionate about building global author brands.
Formerly Marketing Controller at Harlequin UK, Oliver has worked in publishing for over 12 years. Some of his highlights from his time at Harlequin include launching Mills & Boon’s New Voices online writing competition and rapidly growing it’s MIRA imprint – establishing authors such Debbie Macomber, Diane Chamberlain, Susan Wiggs and Alex Kava in the UK market.
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