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Your Author Brand – How to Make the Most of It with Oliver Rhodes

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

You might find that thinking of yourself as a brand is a bit of an alien concept. [1]

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 [2] – 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.

 www.twitter.com/ollyrhodes [3]

www.twitter.com/bookouture [4]

 www.bookouture.com [5]

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30 Comments To "Your Author Brand – How to Make the Most of It with Oliver Rhodes"

#1 Comment By Sally Clements On December 5, 2012 @ 7:50 am

I’m curious as to your thoughts about pen names, Oliver. As well as romance, I also write mystery/crime and my instinct is to use a different name so as not to confuse my readers, but at the same time, starting with a new name means starting from scratch to build a readership. Any thoughts?

#2 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 5, 2012 @ 8:51 am

Hi Sally,

That’s a really good question.

Pen names are a great way of separating different streams of your writing and building separate author brands – Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb is just one example.

Equally there are authors who manage more than one type of editorial under just one name – James Patterson is the king of this ‘brand extension’.

I think the answer depends on how disparate your different brands – and their audiences – are.

My personal opinion is that pen names will increasingly become a thing of the past. In a world where readers can connect directly to authors, and social media is so important in building an audience, maintaining two brands is a step too far for most.

Having said that, you’re right to be concerned about confusing readers. My advice would be to use the one author name, but to be very clear to readers about the different content. Sub-brands can be really useful here – for example, Sherrilyn Kenyon publishes a ‘Chronicles of Nick’ series for a YA readership that helps to differentiate these books from her adult content.

Of course there will always be exceptions to that rule – I heard recently of an established children’s author who was planning to branch out into erotica. That’s clearly a stretch too far, and a very good case for a pseudonym!

#3 Comment By Sally Clements On December 5, 2012 @ 10:40 am

Thanks for the answer, Oliver. I agree, I see more and more often that authors are writing more than one genre under their names. I think what I’m leaning toward at the moment is sticking with my own name for my crime/mystery, but really diffentiating my covers and blurb so that the readers aren’t confused.
Thanks for your take, Oliver! Appreciate it!

#4 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On December 5, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

Great question, Sally! I was wondering the same thing!

#5 Comment By Carrie Spencer On December 5, 2012 @ 9:30 am

Morning Oliver!

One of the first things we’re taught in any author branding class is our tagline – and boy there’s a variety of them out there!

How important is the tagline? Do you think people really notice it or associate it with you? Or do they do as you did above with JK Rowling and James Patterson, and make up their own version, the trademark?

Thanks for posting with us today – and thrilled to have you on board as an RU contributor!


#6 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 5, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Hi Carrie,

Another good question – and thanks for having me!

In my view, a good tagline can be powerful if it

1) Does a great job of reflecting your writing (or ‘brand truth’ to use the marketing lingo).
2) Gets seen a lot by readers.

My favourite tagline, which is used on the front cover of all Jodi Picoult’s books in the UK is: ‘What would you do?’. So, for example, the line on the front of Nineteen Minutes is:

‘Your son says the bullying was unbearable.
But his revenge was murder.

To me that really sums up the moral dilemma element of Jodi Picoult’s books and, because it is used a lot (it’s on every book and also featured on her advertising), it has a chance to get noticed by readers.

However – I’d make a clear distinction between a tagline and your author brand. A tagline is just one expression of your author brand. Your tagline might change – but what you represent to readers shouldn’t.

So what is more powerful is having an understanding of your brand (or ‘brand statement’) which guides everything from your writing, to your covers, to your website.

That brand – what you stand for – will be something that readers understand, even if they can’t remember the tagline.

#7 Comment By Mary Jo Burke On December 5, 2012 @ 9:50 am

Hi Oliver,

This post is another reminder that being an author is like running a small business. Your name is on the ‘front door’ and you are responsible for everything. Great ideas!

Mary Jo

#8 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 5, 2012 @ 10:43 am

Thanks Mary Jo – it really is! I know it can be daunting, but it’s also a great opportunity – I think this is a fantastic time for authors to be publishing.

#9 Comment By Kelsey Browning On December 5, 2012 @ 10:26 am

Hi, Oliver –

Welcome to RU!

Do you have suggestions for how to pinpoint the commonality (ies) in what an author delivers to her readers when she writes in two sub-genres? My paranormal is grittier than my contemporary romance. I’ll debut with contemporary, however, but would love to “keep my promise” to my readers when my paranormals eventually make it into their hands.

Many thanks!

#10 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 5:32 am

Hi Kelsey – thanks for the welcome – good to be here.

That’s a great question – and a tricky one to answer without reading both streams of editorial – but I’ll give it a go!

In terms of pinpointing commonalities an Editor, fellow author, or even a loyal reader can be a great sounding board.

Having said that, my view would be that rather than looking for similarities, it’s about making a conscious decision about the aim of your new strand of editorial. Is it designed to appeal to the same audience as your contemporary romance, or a different one?

Once you have your target readers in mind, that should help guide how much you can you keep from your existing style and what you have to change.

Of course ‘Brand-extensions’ are always a risk – but there’s the potential reward of a whole new readership.

Very exciting that you’ll be published with Carina – Aideen is doing a great job with the covers there!

#11 Comment By Kelsey Browning On December 6, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

Thanks, Oliver – I’ll mull all this over.

I can’t wait to start the cover process with Carina. Guess these edits should go in first though :-).


#12 Comment By Adrienne Giordano On December 5, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

Hi, Oliver. Thank you for being here. I’m going to add on to Kelsey’s question. How should an author handle branding his/her website when he/she writes in two different genres under the same name?

I’m published in romantic suspense, but I also write mysteries. I’ve been thinking about how to handle my website when my mystery book is published because right now, my website is branded for romantic suspense and my mystery books have a completely different feel.

Terrific post!

#13 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 5:43 am

Hi Adrienne – thanks!

And another good question!

Firstly the marketing textbook answer – which is that there should be an element of your brand promise which is consistent across both genres and that should help guide the design of both the website and both sets of book covers, so that there is some consistency.

I think with romantic suspense and mysteries, you’ll probably find enough cross-over between the two strands to have an overall feel for the website which both sets of readers appreciate.

You could then have different sections for both genres on the site that are very clearly signposted.

Without changing the overall architecture, you’ll be able to create quite a different look and feel for each section by using different imagery (of course the different cover styles will help).

I hope that helps!

#14 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On December 5, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

Good questions – and a great post! I’m still trying to figure this out. I think my brand has multiple personalities right now!

#15 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 5:47 am

Thanks Becke,
I’m sure you’ll get there – figuring out exactly what your brand should be is all part and parcel of an author journey!

#16 Comment By Sonya On December 5, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

Great post! ‘best brands tie in to emotions’-brilliant advice.

#17 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 3:30 am

Thanks Sonya! It’s great to work in an industry where so many authors produce amazing work that does have such an emotional connection with readers – that’s really powerful and what makes readers so loyal.

#18 Comment By Penny On December 5, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

I’m not published yet. How should I handle my branding? It seems strange to have a website/blog up when nothing has “happened” yet. Thank you.

#19 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 3:19 am

Hi Penny,

At the heart of it, your author brand should stem from your writing, and what you mean (or will mean) to readers. So, as long as you’ve written enough to understand that, then it doesn’t matter whether you have been published or not – you have a vision for your author brand!

I’d say that it’s never too early to have a blog set up – at the very least it gives you a platform to connect to other authors, and starts to establish your site with search engines like Google. You’ll probably find you learn a lot and have some fun along the way too.
The content of the site and what it looks like should be guided by your brand vision – and the readers that you want to connect to. So if you’re planning on writing laugh-out-loud, uplifting contemporary romances set in Texas (for example) – your site and posts should reflect that.

It doesn’t have to be expensive (I’ll cover website options for authors in another post, but my suggestion would be to go with WordPress), and you can blog about your author journey, your stories and the genre that you’re writing in.

You might find that when you’re published you’ll want to evolve the look of your site to tie in with your cover design. That isn’t a problem – your brand is about more than just the visuals.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey!

#20 Comment By Kelsey Browning On December 6, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

Oliver –

Your comment about contemp romances set in Texas made me smile. Made me wonder if my site hit the mark or not :-).


#21 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

Ha! You’re right – it clearly made an impression and was still on my mind!

#22 Comment By Jennifer Tanner On December 5, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Hello, Oliver!

Wonderful post.

You nailed it…”the most important part of your author brand is not your cover design, website or Facebook page. It is your books.”

So true. I’ve got an author auto-buy list and an author never-buy-again-list. Authors need to put out their best work. Investing in a good editor pays off in the long run.

We’re ecstatic to have you on board!

#23 Comment By Oliver Rhodes On December 6, 2012 @ 3:23 am

Hi Jennifer, thanks for the comments – and the welcome!

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#26 Comment By Nancy Barone Wythe On January 7, 2013 @ 8:59 am

Hi Oliver,

great article and helpful answers to all those questions!

#27 Comment By Donna Alward On January 9, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

Olly, I really love this post. It’s exactly how I look at branding. Dan Blank did a post that is similar on platforms, and what your author platform really means.

I especially like the part about writing enough to know what your tagline or branding statement should be. For a long time mine was “Emotional, Feel-Good Romance” because I knew no matter where I ended up, those things would be true of my writing. But I’ve written a lot since coming up with that (which was about 25 books ago, lol) and so my “Where Your Heart Finds Home” tagline is based far more on the common theme you’ll find in my writing and the emotional resonance of that statement, know what I mean?

Thanks for the great post. 🙂

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