Have you ever looked another author’s Instagram grid, Facebook posts, website, Snapchat prowess, candid Tweets, dazzling website, or just all around online persona, and thought, “Wow!“
Chances are the wow factor you’re seeing is a gorgeous marriage of that author’s brand and her branding.
What’s the difference?
An author brand is what your readers/followers come to expect from you— it’s what you bring to the table and deliver consistently. It’s your vibe, as well as the vibe of your books. The way people describe you to their friends. For example, within the romance world, one wouldn’t describe JR Ward to a romance newbie in the same way they would Lauren Blakely. Both are fabulous,, both write contemporary romance, but they’re also entirely different. That’s their strong brands at work.
Also known as branding, brand design is visual representation of your brand. It’s the colors you use, the fonts you choose, your logo, whether your graphics and photos are minimalist or bold, and so on.
Done right, the combination of a consistent brand and a brand design is the foundation of your author platform.
For example …
Elegant. Contemporary. Big City. Ambitious. This applies to my personal brand, as well as the tone of my books. This isn’t intentional, it comes out organically because it’s who I am. Meet me in real life, and quite honestly, I’m a lot like some of my characters. I like high heels, I like dressing up, I like fancy beverages and drink champagne on weekdays. I wear makeup every day, and my apartment is never without fresh roses. If I invite you over for a snack and drinks, the napkins will be linen, the stemware crystal, the snacks artfully displayed, and the champagne from France. In other words? I’m fancy. As is …
You’re reading this on my website, and you may have noticed—the website aesthetic is fancy. There are champagne pictures, flowers, high heels, and elegant font choices all over the place. I have plenty of negative space, which reflects my real life minimalist style (my apartment has little furniture as necessary, and you’ll see a lot of NYC photography, which is representative of my books and my real life. Even the colors tend towards cool, which is exactly reflected in my personal style, in which case black, greys, and cool pinks reign supreme, and you’ll rarely find rich browns, or oranges, or warm-tone anything.
In other words, my visual vibe looks like me and my books, and to toot my own horn for a moment, I think people can feel that.
It’s both authentic and consistent.
And if I had to offer one bit of advice to writers looking to create an author brand it would be exactly that: to prioritize authenticity and consistency.
It’s less about manufacturing something gorgeous, and more about showing up like yourself, and doing it regularly.
For example, let’s take a look at RS Grey’s Instagram feed:
#Goals, right? She’s doing Instagram right. For starters, the overall look of her posts is consistent from day-to-day. I’d be willing to bet she uses a similar filter or editing style with most of the images, or maybe just has a natural talent for curating photos with similar colors and lighting. She never posts an ugly post, or some fugly graphic of a giveaway or Instagram hop that is off brand.
But equally important to the day-to-day consistency is that her Instagram style matches her vibe. This feed simply looks and feels like the woman I’ve met in person, and it looks and feels like her books.
On the flip side, I can think of other authors who don’t get it quite right. Either they’re all over the place with their visual aesthetics, creating in a rather fugly, random online presence. Or, curated a super attractive online aesthetic—that doesn’t feel like them.
So how do you emulate RS Grey’s strategy, and not the other authors?
Figure out your brand—and then match your branding to that vibe.
The bad news first: I can’t tell you exactly what your brand is. No one can! Because your brand is you.
It’s what you talk about, the way you talk about them. It’s your love of wine or fresh flowers. Your affinity for big city life, whether or not you actually live in the big city. It’s your knitting club, your sunny outlook on life, your love of smoothies, or your intense chocolate-obsession. It’s your staunch defense of animal rights. Maybe you’re outspoken about everything, or maybe you have a slightly mysterious bad-ass vibe. It’s whether or not you show up to your laptop to write in fuzzy Darth Vader socks, or red stilettos.
Not that you aren’t allowed be nuanced and have a multitude of interests and styles, but never estimate people’s instinct for genuineness. I think that most of us know or sense when the visual vibe someone is putting off isn’t who they really are.
The hallmark of a strong author brand:
Someone should be able to describe you and/or your books to a friend in a single sentence.
The hallmark of strong author branding:
A reader knows what to expect from you (and your books) just by visual cues.
Again, using RS Grey as an example, her Instagram feed picture above reveals someone who is warm, friendly, and approachable, and whose books are equally warm, friendly, and approachable.
There’s a damn good reason she’s at the top of her game and the Amazon charts. She’s a strong writer, yes (never assume that strong brand(ing) can substitute for great books!!), but RS Grey’s also killing it because readers and followers know what to expect from her, and I suspect they sense (accurately) that they’re getting the real deal.
Where to start
There are plenty more resources on this website on brand and branding, but if you’re brand new to this, here’s the single most important exercise I can recommend:
- Describe yourself in three words.
- Then describe your books in three words.
- From those six words, pick the three that most reflect your author/writer persona.
There may be some overlap between the two sets of words, or there may not! Plenty of small-town writers write big-city romance, and vice versa. Plenty of sweet-as-sugar people in real life write super gritty stuff. Totally fine.
Remember, the key here is to teach readers and followers what to expect from you.
How will they describe you to their friends? Start showing up as that person on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, your website, and so on.
consistency + authenticity
You’ve go this.