Posted On December 2, 2013 by Print This Post

Oliver Rhodes – Author brands – Why Consistency is Worth Paying For

RU Writers – listen to what marketing expert Oliver Rhodes has to say – he certainly knows what he’s talking about!

With the current whirlwind of change within the publishing industry – led by the rapid growth in ebooks, self-publishing and the growth of social media – there are few reassuring constants.  Format, price, retailers, publishers, agents and the way that readers discover and choose their books are all constantly evolving.

Sometimes it feels impossible to keep up with the changes.  What is the latest thing that is going to make your books a success?

Reassuringly, one thing remains resolutely the same.  It’s something that almost all bestselling authors, whether traditionally published or self-published have in common.  That is the importance of the author brand and delivering what your readers want consistently.

I have written at Romance University before about understanding author brand and how you can make the most of it.

But why exactly is author brand (you can substitute the word ‘reputation’ for brand if you prefer) important?  And how can it make you more money?

AUTHOR BRAND AND CHOICE

For readers faced with an increasingly bewildering array of choice, author brand is an important way of navigating through the millions of titles available.

Your author name should be a reason for readers to choose your book over the others in the chart – a guarantee that their time and money will be well spent.

Even better, your name can be something that readers search for directly – cutting out the competition.

That’s not to say that having an established author name means that your work is over and you can charge whatever you want for a book.  There is so much competition that, for long term success, you need to keep giving readers what they want and price fairly – or they will find replacements.

What it does mean is that having an author brand – stories with consistent qualities and of consistent quality – is a competitive advantage that will help you sell more books.

AUTHOR BRAND AND PRICING

Any quick surf through the Kindle charts will reveal a mountain of content available for FREE, or at a very low price.  As a consumer you could quite happily spend all your reading time on free (or very cheap) content.

So why pay?  The answer is relatively simple – the reassurance of high quality content.

As a reader, you invest more than just money in a book – you invest time.  In a world where leisure time is increasingly at a premium, reading a book is a considerable investment – much more so than listening to a CD or even watching a film.

Put simply, life is too short to read bad books.

Your author brand is a guarantee to the reader that they will be investing their time in something that they will enjoy or find rewarding – and that is worth paying for.

How much? That will depend on 1) how much readers want your book and 2) how much competition you have.

Of course, if you are traditionally published you won’t have control over pricing.  But you do have control over your content – and by concentrating on writing books that delivery on your brand promise again and again, you’ll help your publisher to help you.

A note on pricing if you are self publishing…

An excellent strategy when you have several books available is to use low pricing, promotional pricing (or even free) for one eBook – which you use to get readers to trial your writing.  If they haven’t read any of your books before, they’ll need a good reason to pick you (as opposed to one of their other favourite brands).  Don’t use your weakest book.  Use your best one.  The book that is most likely to have readers wanting more.

Your other books can then be priced higher.  Once readers have read your work they (hopefully) have a good reason to pay for more of the same.

WHAT DOES THAT ALL MEAN FOR ME?

Author brands aren’t established over night.  Keep going and deliver consistently, book after book, after book.  Author brands are built one book and one reader at a time.  Plenty of bestselling authors (from Nora Roberts to Debbie Macomber) didn’t take off until they’d written a lot of books.

Consistency is key.  If you’re switching genre or writing style from book to book, don’t expect readers to follow you, even if the new book is great.  For your brand to mean something, you have to be consistent.

Don’t be afraid to stand out.  Being different means you’ll have less competition – and be harder to replace.  If readers are getting something from your writing that they can’t find elsewhere, they’ll keep coming back.

Write series.   Writing in a series – with a returning world or characters – is a way of guaranteeing that you’re offering something that readers can’t get anywhere else.

Understand the link between brand and price.   Use price to hook readers in, but understand that by delivering consistently great books, you can afford to charge more once you have done that.

IN SUMMARY

With the rate of change in publishing and marketing, it is tempting to look for quick routes to success.  Being a whizz on social media and understanding how to promote your books effectively can all help.  But the most important part of marketing – and the cornerstone of any brand – is still your product.  Focusing on getting that right consistently is an author’s first and most important job. And it’s what readers will pay for.

Who are your must-buy authors?  Are you prepared to pay more for authors that you trust?  Let me know via the comments section!

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Join us on Wednesday for To Publish or to Self-Publish: the Wild West of Publishing with Agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein

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Bio:
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 its MIRA imprint – establishing authors such Debbie Macomber, Diane Chamberlain, Susan Wiggs and Alex Kava in the UK market.

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10 Responses to “Oliver Rhodes – Author brands – Why Consistency is Worth Paying For”

  1. The only thing that bothers me about the concept of consistency is that it must make it difficult for writers to try new things. You’re right, of course, you can’t reasonably expect your romance novel following to enjoy your horror stories or vice versa. Do you think it actually detracts from an author’s brand if they specialize in more than one genre? I mean, suppose an established romance author did also consistently write well-received horror novels. He or she would probably have a different audience for each – but would knowing that the author also wrote horror actually diminish the author brand from the perspective of the romance audience? I’d be curious to know what you think about that.

    Posted by Lori Schafer | December 2, 2013, 8:45 am
    • Hi Lori,

      Thanks for the questions!

      I think the key is that, if you have readers out there wanting more of what you’re writing, then delivering to meet that need is what will make you commercially successful.

      Especially when you are trying to build a career as an author, every new reader is hard-fought for, so maintaining momentum is key.

      If you’ve written 3 or 4 romances and then switch to horror, then it’s unlikely that the reader following you have is going to follow you. That won’t necessarily harm the new book, but you’ll be essentially starting from scratch again.

      You might make the decision that the risk is worth taking, because the potential of the new editorial direction is much higher – which is a perfectly valid decision. My advice would be though that once you find what you’re good at and a readership who loves what you do – keep meeting their expectations. That’s how 95% of brand name authors have built their careers.

      Oliver

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | December 2, 2013, 9:42 am
  2. Morning Oliver!

    Nora Roberts is a must buy author for me, as is Kristan Higgins. One of my other favorites – I won’t say her name – has with this last book, gone from “must buy” to “i can wait for the paperback to come out”. Her books no longer hit the mark for me, so paying the $18-$20 for the hardback isn’t a priority anymore!

    Even though Nora writes quite a variety of different types of romance, I still know I’ll get a good read from her…it took me forever to read her vampire series, but once I did, I was hooked on those too!

    Thanks so much for a great post Oliver!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 2, 2013, 9:02 am
    • Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for the comments! It does show how important it is to keep pleasing readers. Most readers have a certain amount of loyalty – they might forgive one bad book – but it doesn’t pay to test that loyalty!

      And Nora Roberts – who I worked on at Harlequin – is one of those rare authors (like James Patterson) who has a page-turning style of story-telling that does seem to work across different genres… though her sales do vary depending on what genre she is writing in.

      Oliver

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | December 2, 2013, 9:46 am
  3. Hi, Oliver. I always love your posts. Thank you!

    Two of my auto-buy authors are Lisa Gardner and Harlan Coben. As you said, I’ll pay more for their books because I know I’ll get a great read.

    I recently indie published a book that’s more of a romantic mystery rather than my normal romantic suspense. The mystery was a book I’d written prior to my suspense books being published. I’d received strong feedback from publishers on it so I wasn’t comfortable with it “sitting in a drawer”. I had it professionally edited and hired a cover artist who was able to pull in some of the branding elements (fonts, name placement, etc) from my romantic suspense books. The mystery cover is very different from my suspense covers but the branding elements are there.

    Publishing the mystery was an interesting experiment because I wasn’t sure my suspense readers would go for the lighter feel. I was actually somewhat terrified.

    What I found was that many readers crossed over. Even though the mystery was lighter, the characters (independent and sassy heroine, alpha hero) and the dialogue were consistent with what they’d find in my other books.

    It was a terrific learning experience.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | December 2, 2013, 5:14 pm
  4. Hi Oliver,

    I have a handful of auto-buy authors. I like character driven stories and it’s the character development and the emotion that hooks me. Good writing matters, too, otherwise I find myself rewriting awkward sentences in my head as I read. Consistency really matters, too. If an author produces good books, I’ll read anything they write, no matter the sub-genre.

    Thanks for another fabulous post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 2, 2013, 6:33 pm
  5. Oliver – Thanks so much for the additional clarification on author branding and why it’s important. I should know this all by now, but apparently I’m a slow learner!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 2, 2013, 6:35 pm
  6. As a multi-genre writer, I love hearing this again and again because it reminds me to put aside the others and focus on one set (for a while, at least) and build that readership. Thank you!

    Posted by Robyn LaRue | December 5, 2013, 5:19 pm

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