Brand. Platform. Social media presence. How many of us cringe at those words? Whatever happened to the days when writers could simply write?
But the truth is that as soon as we’re sociable as a writer, whether online with Twitter or in real life at a conference, we’re forming our brand. Branding is something that happens whether we’re ready or not. Essentially, our brand is what others think of us.
It’s human nature to categorize. When we first meet someone, our brain has to decide where to store the information we subsequently learn about about this person. Should they be filed under “Bob’s friend” or “business associate” or “neighbor”? Our first question to people is often “What do you do?”
This tendency has caused some concern among writers. We want to be known as authors, preferably with our genre and tagline attached: Jami Gold, author of paranormal stories that mix escapism with deep issues. Okay, that’s great, but how do we build that impression?
Building an Author Brand
Some writers keep their online interaction and blog posts related to their genre. They post samples of their work, write flash fiction, or blog about their research. Their online efforts are targeted to those they consider their readers or potential readers.
That’s a valid approach for many writers. They’re making a name for themselves and getting others to place them in categories based on their writing. They are building their author brand.
Building an Online Brand
But what if that doesn’t work for us? Personally, I’m not comfortable posting samples of my work (and I’ve heard mixed messages about whether that’s even a good idea), I don’t write flash fiction, and my research is too scattered to build a brand (from Ancient Greek mythology to modern politics, not to mention everything in-between).
Should I be worried? The impression you all have of me isn’t based on my fiction writing and isn’t tied to my genre. Let me tell you a secret. *leans closer* I’m not worried.
I’m okay with people forming an impression of me based on my blog posts, tweets, and how I relate to people online. If others think well of us as people, we’re building our online brand.
What an Online Brand Can Do for Us
Don’t underestimate the value of being seen as a nice / helpful / opinionated / knowledgeable person. I’ve purchased books outside my normal reading habits because I liked the author—as a person. Any genre-specific, market-positioning efforts they made under their “author brand” would have passed me by, but their general “online brand” made an impression. I suspect I’m not unusual in this regard.
We never know how a positive online brand might bring in new readers. This past weekend, I introduced my parents to a new-to-them author via their Kindle. I hadn’t paid much attention to Bob Mayer’s books because I don’t read the thriller or military history genres. However, Bob and I have chatted on Twitter and we’ve visited each other’s blogs. I respect him as a person and respect his dedication to the craft. So during a conversation with my parents about how they’ve already read all the books released by their favorite thriller authors, I told them to check out Bob.
How to Make Our Online Brand as Strong as Possible
How did that happen? How did Bob get new readers when I had only the vaguest idea of his author brand? Because his online brand was consistent.
Bob uses the same picture as his avatar at his blog and on Twitter. He uses the same name/handle/ID wherever he presents himself as an author. Each encounter with his name and picture added to my brain’s file on him. Then only a single mention of his genre was necessary to tag all those notes in my head with that information.
We can do the same. Even if 99% of our online efforts have nothing to do with our genre or tagline, it won’t take much to tack on an impression of our author brand if people already have our online brand in their head.
- Use a consistent name and picture/avatar in all places you present yourself as a writer. If you use a pen name, use it everywhere.
- For commenting on others’ blogs
- Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Flicker, Tumblr, Trunk.ly, YouTube, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc.
- Set up a Gravataraccount and link to all email addresses you use for blog comments.
- Just like how Blogger blogs link to your Blogger profile for the avatar picture next to comments, WordPress blogs (and other websites like Bit.ly) pull avatar pictures from Gravatar. For example, if you want your picture to show up next to your comments here on my blog, set up a Gravatar account.
- Your comments on blogs will add to your online brand.
- Be the kind of person you want to be seen as.
- Work in the occasional reference to your genre.
If we’re inconsistent, the knowledge others have of us is scattered across various files in their brain. When we’re consistent in how we present ourselves, we’re building on that same online brand in others’ memories. The stronger online brand we create, the easier it is to have an occasional reference to our author brand take root.
Have you ever purchased books just because of what the author was like as a person? Do you concentrate on building your author brand or your online brand? Have you had problems trying to establish an author brand? Has this changed your mind about how to approach the issue?Pin It