January 6, 2011

How Do You Decide on Your Author Brand – Part Two

Girl with Shush Finger

Disclaimer: I love Maureen Johnson’s “I am not a brand” manifesto down to the last punctuation mark.  That’s not the approach to branding I’m talking about.

An author’s brand isn’t about selling.  It’s about recognizing that what we say and how we act affects what others think of us.  It’s about then taking an active role in shaping that impression.

Chuck Wendig had a great post yesterday that made a similar point:

Your platform is how people know you — it’s their perception of you as an author, but even more importantly, of you as a human being.

As we talked about last time, we all have different facets to our personality.  We show some more than others, but they are all essentially us.  Every time we interact with others, whether online or face-to-face, we decide which aspects to reveal.

For most of our lives, these choices have been made at an unconscious level.  Those who work in a technical field automatically switch between acronym salad with co-workers and non-geek-speak around grandparents.  However, by becoming conscious of those choices, we can more effectively mold how others perceive us.

Step One: How Do You Want to Be Perceived?

Yes, this brings back all that teenage “who am I?” angst and “What Color Is Your Parachute” type of thinking.  We need to think about what aspects are important to us.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What aspects are reflected in your writing?
  • Do you have privacy or safety concerns?

Going back to Chuck Wendig’s post, he says:

Figure out who you are and who you want to be. … You are transitioning from Regular Human to Author Human. … [N]ow is a good time to slap a new coat of paint on who you want the world to see. … This should be the best and most interesting face of who you already are. No ruse, no illusion.

Analyze what makes you tick, what makes you excited, and what makes you uncomfortable.  Maybe take some of those online personality tests.

My friend Diana Paz from Twitter found a fun quiz to match your personality with a literary character.  I love my results, both for the fact that it picked a character from my favorite books and for the description:

You are Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. You are trusting and intensely loyal. You would go to the ends of the earth for your friends and would never betray them.

The characteristics that generated my result are some I do consider integral to my being (seeing the best in people, helping others, not getting offended, and never wanting to be seen as a liar or a cheat).  That world-view likely shines through in my writing as well.  So those are great aspects for me to focus on in creating my brand.

Step Two: Incorporate Those Traits into Your Interactions

Oh wait, my brand (i.e. my blog and Twitter stream) probably embodies those traits already—because they are such a core part of my personality that my words and actions reflect them naturally.

And that’s my point.  Your brand isn’t a false representation of yourself, and it’s also not some limiting little box.  It’s you as you consciously choose to be.

If you want your brand to be all professional all the time, that’s your choice.  If you want to talk about your kids all the time, that’s your choice.  Make the choices that are right for you.

Does the fact that I consciously thought about how to answer the questions in my interview at Rachel Firasek’s blog make it less genuine?  I don’t think so.  Just because I answered in a way that reflected the impression I wanted to create doesn’t make any of it a lie.  The answers are still completely truthful—and me.

Did I share every story from my life?  No.  For one thing, that recitation would be too long for a memoir much less a blog post.  Also, not even my family knows everything about me.  Heck, I don’t know everything there is to know about me.

So of course I had to choose which things to share.  Making a conscious decision is not bad.  And not revealing everything about everything is not being false.

Authors choose certain words, sentence structures, setting details, or character movements for their books to create the desired response in the reader.  We can, and should, take that same approach to our brand.  What we choose and how we choose is our brand.

What aspects of your personality do you want people to see?  Does your brand reflect that?  Do you disagree with me—does making decisions consciously make them less genuine?

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Comments — What do you think?

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RK Charron

Hi Jami 🙂
That was an excellent post!
Thank you for incorporating the links too.
All the best,
…off to take the character personality quiz…

RK Charron

It says I’m GANDALF


Hi Jami!
Great post and yep, I totally agree with your character analysis. What a great way to look at how to brand yourself – I loved Chuck’s line too: This should be the best and most interesting face of who you already are.

Okay, you had to know I’d do the character quiz too. This is who it says I am:

You are Eowyn from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. You are a strong woman who will not compromise your values. You stand up for those who are misunderstood and you are not afraid to fight. You are unafraid of death and to some you may seem mysterious.

Thanks for posting this one!

Jami's Tech Guy

Great post Jami! It’s all true, especially the no using “geek speak” around grandparents. We really learned this when we advertised in a local retirement community newsletter. But I digress… To the point, while you’re specifically talking about authors, your message goes beyond the writing world. Everyone should consider the image they’re creating for themselves, especially online where your image is often formulated with incomplete pieces and snippets of what you say or write. My number one goal for my online presence (and for my company) is to be perceived as competent and approachable. I chose to talk about my family online and have two primary reasons for this. First, most of my online clientele is female, by talking about my family they can be reassured that I’m not going to hit on them – tech geeks aren’t exactly known for their social skills. Second, I’m so happy with my family that I want to shout it to the world. Even so, I filter a lot. Not the bad/good but the stuff that makes us easily identifiable. As to the test: You are Superman. You are a hero who fights for justice and you have a strong sense of right and wrong. You stand up for the down-trodden and fight evil with all your strength. You are unafraid of death and to some you may seem mysterious. Not bad but I’d rather my toughest challenge of the day be figuring out why a web site is slow over running into…  — Read More »


TG, you brand yourself fantastically. I’ve never worked with you, but after getting to know you on Twitter I know you’re uber-competent and very approachable. I’d also add: damn good human being.


Jami, you rock and your blog rocks. I love this post particularly because I’ve been thinking along similar lines. Weirdly, deciding how I want to be perceived has helped me hidden parts of my personality shine through. For example, when I was in high school I was painfully shy. Most people took this as being snooty because I also got some of the best grades in the class. When I was with my one or two trusted friends, I made them laugh a lot and had a great time, but no one else saw this part of me. Then I went away on a week-long leadership trip to Valley Forge and DC, and I realized no one there knew me. I could be anyone I wanted because there were no expectations that I’d act a certain way. So I tested out a few jokes, made some people laugh, developed some great friendships, and came back a much more confident person. That was my junior year, and I really came out of my shell in time to enjoy my senior year. As a writer, I make conscious decisions about what I want to post. I don’t want to be rude and negative. Sarcastic, yes, because that’s me and my humor. But I would NEVER aim that sarcasm at anyone else – at least, not unless they were a good friend and we had that sort of relationship. I’ve seen authors online who write rude, frustrated things and they aim barbs at…  — Read More »

Jami's Tech Guy

Thanks Katrina, I really appreciate your kind words. You’re a fabulous human being too, you help so many people in your day job. So yes, you’re right on target with your brand too. As to your sarcastic sense of humor, I love it.

Murphy: Looks like we had the same results with only the gender swapped. Heaven help anyone that gets on our combined bad side. 🙂

Jami: It’s wonderful to see how your blog has grown and the amazing community of brilliant people you’re attracting.

It’s also interesting to read just how many people here used a move or some other ‘life resetting event’ to remake their brand. I also did it as a kid when we moved cross country.


Roni Loren

Great post! And thanks for the Chuck Wendig link. That was great.

I don’t think making conscious decisions about your image means its not genuine. I just think it’s smart. It’s too important of a thing not to give real thought to it. : )


I’ve been blogging as a fiction writer for less than a year, and am discovering more about my personal brand with each post. It’s a long process. Interacting on Twitter has also helped me identify my personal brand.

I agree that we as writers and authors should be thoughtful and selective when blogging, commenting, tweeting, et cetera. Just as I don’t show my entire personality to everybody in my offline life, I am discretionary when interacting online too. Interacting the same way with your friends, your spouse, your colleagues, and everybody else would be exhausting and silly IMO. And soon most of those people would start to look at you funny. lol

Diana Paz
Diana Paz

This is great advice, and definitely something I need to think about. Sometimes I have so much fun with social media I don’t remember that platform and perception is happening too *checks twitter timeline nervously*

That quiz was soooo funny! I was Galadriel from Lord of the Rings, as you know– TERRIBLE TO BEHOLD!!! Lol And I’m still jealous that you got Lucy. Those are some of my favorite books ever. *sighs* *tests out her elven magic* *contemplates eternity as an elven queen*

Kiersten Krum

Hi Jami! I’m really enjoying these posts – especially as I have the time to read them and not just print out for later. People talk about how, in publishing especially, a “voice” is essential. Just like a brand, a strong voice distinguishes itself on the page very quickly and, if compelling, keeps readers glommed to the page. The trick is translating that voice into your branding/marketing platform. Yeah, still figuring that one out.

Oh, and here’s my literary character:

You are Karen Blixen from the book Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. You are a strong woman with an adventurous nature. You can hold your own and aren’t afraid to speak your mind.

They only forgot to mention the tendency to snark.;-)

Piper Bayard

Hi Jami. Great blog. I think finding your brand, or your voice, is one of the most difficult aspects to marketing yourself as a writer. It says I’m a Peter Pan, by the way. A free spirit and a bit of a rebel who lives in the moment. Guilty. Thanks for the great post. All the best.

Andrew Mocete

I’m still working on my brand. Like you said, the hard part is knowing which aspect of your personality to present and which is TMI.

I’m Sherlock Holmes. You are smart, witty, and love a challenge. You use rationality and reason in all things and don’t let your heart rule your head. You are measured and stable and you don’t let people push you around. That made my friggin’ day.

Todd Moody

Hi Jami! Great post! I started blogging for this very reason, but so far my personoa is mostly “writer who writes about writing stuff”. Not sure where I want to go with it yet. I think I’m hoping ot sell a boatload of books and have a following pop up all by itself, LOL. Not very realistic, but I guess I’m not too worried about it at this stage. I make good money in my paying job and will have a comfortable retirement to sustain me in my writing career. If I only sell 500 books I guess I’ll still keep on plugging away at it.

My character was: You are Sam Gamgee from the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. You are a gentleman and intensely loyal. You would go to the ends of the earth for your friends and would never betray them.

I’m more loyal now as an older guy, but I definitely treasure integrity.

I love your blog Jami!

Rachel Firasek

Okay, I’m so glad I know you. You should really consider writing a non-fiction social media book. Not kidding! Here’s my quiz results. *winks* I kind of like what it says about me!

You are Galadriel from the trilogy the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Recently played by Cate Blanchett in the epic movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, you are a strong woman and you know what you want. You are a visionary with grand ideas.

The Lord of the Rings is an epic trilogy which is often considered to portray the mythic past of England. Published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955, the story is part of the mythology that Tolkien had been working on in 1917. Another well-known work that precedes this is The Hobbit.

Suzanne Johnson

Amazing post, Jami! I think as authors we become “public figures” so we have to be conscious in our decision-making (even if it’s a decision to be more spontaneous, if that makes sense)! Oh, and I am Hermione from Harry Potter. (Geek! But a nice geek!)


Mine said that I’m Juliet. I think it’s on the money. Here’s what it said.

You are Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. You are a romantic, but are not afraid to stand up for what you want. While you believe in happily ever after you are no damsel in distress and have a strong mind.

Daisy Harris

Can’t believe I missed this until now! I’ve been thinking a lot about branding in the New Year. A particular aspect of branding I’m trying to embrace lately is the idea of polarization- that in identifying what you are, you must identify what you are not.

I’m a people pleaser, and I always want to find common ground, so this has been hard for me. But lately I’ve noticed that the more clearly I state who I am and what I stand for, the more people respond to me.

A great podcast I recently watched said, “yeah, if you take a strong stand, you may lose a few people. But those people you didn’t want anyway. They were not your target customers. If you take a stand, the people who ARE your target customers will glom on to you forever.”

Anyway, this is long winded, but the point is important. It’s not just about deciding what your brand is, it’s also deciding what your brand isn’t.


Michele Shaw

Great post! I think people tend to forget that every tweet, blog post, and fb post contributes to their brand. Perceptions form the minute you step into any form of SM. What’s important, at least for me, is being myself and not trying to put up a false, overly formal persona. I have fun. I crack jokes. Life isn’t all business, though I hope to convey how serious I am about my writing . It comes down to balance and being secure enough in yourself to put the real you out there. According to the quiz, I am Hermione from HP 🙂

52 Faces

LOVE this post! (Roni Loren pointed me to Kristen Lamb who pointed me here)

I’ve been trying to decide whether to blog with my real name (or use a penname at least) to start social networking pre-querying. (I would have to start a new blog.)

My fear is having my work life find me and seeing photos of my personal life. On the other side, my fear is not being able to post photos of my personal life or posts about my real opinions for fear of offending people. I already censor myself so much in my blog (I’m so utterly unPC in real life) that if I go completely public I feel like I’d have to water down my personality. Thoughts?

I got Galadriel, btw. 🙂


[…] How You Decide on Your Author Brand Part II by Paranormal Author Jami Gold […]

Susan Bischoff

I agree with you: thinking about what you want to portray, or even who you want to be, doesn’t make being that, or showing that, less genuine. (I think I’ll be hitting a Clauseholics’ Anonymous meeting after this.)

Some of my ‘who I am’ keywords may be getting me into trouble. Helpful, honest. In an attempt to show ‘this is where I am, this is where you may be headed,’ I may also be showing keywords like neurotic and whiny which are not so much where I want to be–especially whiny.

I’ve hit that point on my blog where I have regular visitors and I talk to them through the posts as well as in the comments, and while it’s real (part of who I want to be), it’s probably starting to veer into unprofessional (part of how I don’t want to be seen). I may be a little too comfortable in my space right now.

And, on the other hand, maybe this fits. Maybe it is the most interesting part of who I am. I’m an intensely emotional and fairly neurotic person, and I write with that. When people come back from reading my book and they say stuff like, “You really made me remember what it felt like…” or “I really connected with…” Well, that’s how that happens.

I don’t know. Probably part of why I took so well to writing teens is because I’m still trying to figure out who I am.


Yes yes YES! Especially on the “being you but a better you” part. My persona is…perhaps a little wonky. But it’s me. It’s who I am. My stiletto collection is a real thing. I really do have several knives. I adore true crime, I’ve been trained in physical restraint, etc etc. But I’m not home seducing strangers and throwing assailants to the ground. I’m baking star-shaped lemon cakes, for crying out loud, and I love that it’s part of my persona as well.

You are fabulous and I adore you and your amazing blog posts. 😀


I read Chuck’s post and yours and you both make very good points about a writer’s platform, although you touched my analytical side, and Chuck, well he had me laughing after you fall down in a large crowd kind of reaction. Funny quiz to post too. I got the same as CM, Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings. I come up with grand ideas!


[…] Jami Gold’s How Do You Decide On Your Author Brand? – Part 1 and Part 2 […]


[…] Jami Gold’s How Do You Decide On Your Author Brand? – Part 1 and Part 2 […]


[…] Random Musings Our brand is the impression others have of us.  So we all have a brand, whether we know it or not.  Hopefully, we’re building a brand that reflects who we really […]

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