I originally wrote this as a guest post for  The Writers In The Storm Blog and it appeared in December 2015.  I wanted to include it here, as well, as quick reference for readers.  Make sure you go over to The Writers In The Storm Blog.  The have SO MUCH solid information for writers, both new and experienced.  Bookmark them, follow them.  You won’t be sorry.

Building Your Author Brand

What is an author brand?  Some say it’s the genre you write.  But it’s really not, at least not entirely.  Your brand is what makes you recognizable to readers.  In short, your name is your brand.

If you are a romance reader and someone says “Hey, I’m reading the new Nora book,” you don’t need to hear the last name to know exactly who they are talking about.  That’s a brand.

Since you are probably like me and haven’t been a bestselling author for thirty years and aren’t considered the Queen of Romance, you need to build your brand.  One day you may be a household name, but for now, your brand is not only your name, but everything associated with who you are as an author.

There are many components of branding and marketing, but my particular expertise are the visual aspects of creating an online presence.  That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

In today’s digital world it’s important to have a way for your readers to recognize you immediately, from your website and across all of your social media platforms.

Many authors confuse their current book with their brand.  The pitfall with that is every time you write a new book or venture into a new genre, you have to change everything on your website, social media, and everything.

This is something I use to promote one of my series. It IS an example of BRANDING, but it is not AUTHOR BRANDING. Don't confuse a book or series brand with your AUTHOR BRAND.

This is something I use to promote one of my series. It IS an example of BRANDING, but it is not AUTHOR BRANDING. Don’t confuse a book or series brand with your AUTHOR BRAND.

Think about every company you know.  When you see or hear their name, you know what to expect, even if they sell many different types of products.  The only difference between an author and a company is that instead of sending a message (like “easy to build minimalist furniture”), an author’s brand should invoke a feeling or an idea.

What does that mean?  Essentially you want readers to associate certain feelings, concepts, or ideas with your name.  The first thing you have to do is figure out what best represents you.  It sounds hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

One thing I tell my author clients to do is to think about something all of their books have in common.  Even if they write in different genres, there is usually some sort of uniting factor or theme.  For example, I had a client who has both non-fiction and young adult fiction books.  The uniting factor is that all of her books deal with healing from devastating pasts.

Another client writes various genres of YA and New Adult fiction, but the thing that is true about everything she writes is that she pulls the readers into the lives and worlds of her characters.

Or perhaps you have a tag-line that gives a reader an idea of what to expect, like my own “Damsels Not In Distress”.  Can you guess that I write romance with strong, butt-kicking heroines?

You don’t have to have a tag-line, and really they can be detrimental if they don’t represent all of your work, but if you have one you really like, you can use it as a basis to start building your brand.

So once you know what you want readers to think about when they read or hear your name, how do you convey that feeling?  I like to start with the website header.  Since it is the first thing anyone sees when they go to your website, it becomes the visual basis of your brand.  Your name is your brand, so how your name is written on your website and social media banners becomes a “logo” of sorts.

What is important here?  Font and color.  If you prefer a minimalist look, you can stick with just those elements, but many choose to also have an image.  I like having an image because it helps push through that “feeling” or “idea” of you and your books.  If you find an image that conveys what you want your brand to represent, you can then pull the colors for your fonts, and then your website, from that image.

When I redesigned my website I decided not to have an image on my header (for theme compliance reasons). However, you will see the colors match my website and the font and colors match other branding materials I use, that do include an image.

When I redesigned my website I decided not to have an image on my header (for theme compliance reasons). However, you will see the colors match my website and the font and colors match other branding materials I use, that do include an image.

Going back to the first client, we chose a breathtaking landscape picture with a sunburst that evokes a feeling of peace and hope.  Then, when deciding on colors, I took into account the author’s personality and likes.  She’s sweet, and very minimalist and her favorite color is purple.  I pulled the website colors directly out of the image, using plum and neutral tones.  Sticking with her minimalist personality, we chose a very simple, straight font.

This is the button I give to my street team members. As you can see it uses the same colors and fonts as my banner, but also has the image I use as the background for my business cards and social media headers. It is a very distinctive, easy to recognize image of a woman with purple hair. (I have purple hair. )

This is the button I give to my street team members. As you can see it uses the same colors and fonts as my banner, but also has the image I use as the background for my business cards and social media headers. It is a very distinctive, easy to recognize image of a woman with purple hair. (I have purple hair. )

The second client chose a vibrantly colored abstract fantasy village to invoke that feeling of being pulled into a new world.  We pulled purples and blues out for the colors in her website and chose a decorative font for her name and a script for “bestselling author” underneath.

There is so much more to your author brand than font and colors.  It’s every detail in your website, it’s how you utilize social media, it’s what you post, and who you are as an author.  But the essential, recognizable factor is your name.

That’s why I start with the website banner.  Once you have that, you can pull those colors and font (and image if you so choose) through everything you do, from your social media headers, to your business cards and even signage & banners for book signings and speaking events.

Alternatively, if you don’t want an image banner on your website, but you want one on your social media headers and other branded items, you can do that as long as you keep your fonts and color scheme consistent with your website.  The key is to be as cohesive and consistent as possible.