Your brand as an author is just as important as writing a great novel. And I think most authors are aware that branding is a necessary part of marketing their books, but I’m often asked where a new author should even begin when working on their brand. Your brand is a promise to the reader. If done properly, your brand will tell readers whose book is being promoted even if you left your name out of the materials. It consists of the color scheme you use, the fonts you use, your personality, the words you choose, and the overall “voice” you give out when talking to your followers.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is that it’s never too early to start building your brand. It’s also never too late. So, whether you’ve just started writing your book or whether you’ve already finished, you need to start working on your brand right now.
I can hear you now. “I don’t even know where to start or what to do!” Let’s discuss some of the key elements of your author brand and when you should start working on each step.
When to Start: As soon as you start writing your book
Total Cost: Free to $500
Often, people overlook the power of having a website. Either that, or they think that, with social media so popular these days, a website is no longer essential. They couldn’t be more wrong. A beautiful, well-thought-out website is crucial to your brand. After all, once you start putting your name out there, people will get curious and they will go try to find you online. If you don’t have a website, or if you have a very quickly thrown together, cheesy looking website, people will not take you seriously, and they won’t perceive you as a legitimate author. Sad but true.
First, you need to decide whether you want to create your own website or whether you want to hire a professional to design and host your website. While creating your own website might save you a few hundred dollars, I highly encourage you to consider hiring a pro, especially if you can find one who specializes in author websites. There are plenty of affordable web designers out there who have lots of experience working with authors and they know what pages an author website should include. In fact, I want to recommend my web designer to you. Her name is Nicole, and she’s with TuxbeeDesigns. She created this lovely website for Write Your Best Book, and she’s currently working on my own personal author website. You can find Nicole and reach out to her by clicking here.
However, if you are adamant about creating your own sit, there are plenty of options out there which are affordable and relatively user-friendly. I used Wix.com for my first author website when money was tight and I couldn’t even afford $300 for a simple, professionally made site. It does take some time to learn the platform, but once you get used to it, you can basically drag and drop elements and customize your own website in about a day. Just be sure you include the following pages or elements on your site:
- About Me (with your headshot and bio)
- My Books (with covers and purchase links)
- Blog Page (yes, you’ll want a blog that you update weekly or monthly)
- Contact Me (social media links, email, and/or contact form)
- Newsletter Signup (typically, a pop-up form you create in your email provider)
Whichever route you go, you want to ensure you first pick your color scheme (2-3 colors that work well together and represent your genre well) because these colors are now going to be your brand colors, and you’ll use them for ALL your branded creations moving forward.
When to Start: (6 mos prior to launch)
Total Cost: Free to $25 per month
The first step is to decide if you want to use a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo generic account, or whether you want to go buy a domain and set up your email with that domain as your extension. For example, I bought the domain christinakayebooks.com (inactive link for now) on Google Domains for $12 per year! Then, through my Google Domain account, I was able to set up a Gmail account using that domain as my extension, so my email is now email@example.com. It costs me $5 extra per month for each mailbox I set up under this domain. But if you don’t get your own domain (yet), and you just want to use a regular Gmail account for email, be sure it sounds professional and like an author’s email (tip: don’t use your cutesy email account you set up in middle school). The goal is for it to be clear you’re an author and to look as professional as possible.
Once you’ve set up your email account, you’ll want to immediately sign up for an email service provider for your newsletter. A newsletter is essential to your branding and marketing efforts because you basically own the right to contact each person who signs up for your list. However, if you rely solely on social media for contacting your readers, you are basically renting those contacts from the owners of each platform. If they decided today to shut down Facebook, Instagram, etc., and you were relying solely on those accounts to communicate with followers, you’d be in a world of hurt. I recommend using one of the following email service providers, as they’re all user-friendly and relatively cheap (or even free up to 2,000 subscribers):
- Constant Contact
Once you’ve set up your account with one of these providers, you’ll want to start inviting your Facebook friends, family, etc. to sign up for your newsletter BEFORE you even begin sending one out. Set up an automation series of emails to go out once people do sign up to welcome them to your newsletter. Then, once you build up to 20 or so subscribers, it’s time to start sending out a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter to all your subscribers.
Not sure what to talk about in your newsletters? Here are some ideas:
- Sample pages from one of your books
- Sneak peek at characters you’re developing
- A list of your favorite books
- The story of how/why you became a writer
- And so on.
There are plenty of articles online that give you inspiration and topics you can write about, especially if you check Pinterest.
Pro Tip: If you want more detailed information from a pro on how to set up, use, and nurture your email list, click here to listen to my podcast interview with Shayla Raquel!
Finally, to build your newsletter to as many subscribers as possible, be sure to set up a lead magnet and add a signup form or pop-up form on your website. Offer site visitors your lead magnet in exchange for signing up for your newsletter. I personally offer the first two chapters of my latest published book, Like Father, Like Daughter. For an idea of what a lead magnet looks like and how it works, visit this link.
Keeping and nurturing your newsletter list by providing them regular, helpful, entertaining updates on you, your writing, and your releases, as well as announcements about contests, giveaways, and sales will ensure you always have a steady group of readers who are waiting each week to hear from you, and you’ll have a built-in audience for each book launch.
When to Start: As soon as you start writing
Cost: Free to $50
Every good author has a logo that represents them and their brand. As with everything else we’ve discussed so far, you have two options. You can either create your logo yourself (if you’re artistically inclined) or you can hire a pro designer to throw one together for you.
If you choose to create it yourself, I recommend using Canva.com for creating your logo. But first, do a Google search or search on Facebook other authors and their logos, especially in your genre. You do this because you want to make sure you’re creating a proper logo that will represent you and your brand properly (as well as your genre). Let’s say you’re writing dark romance. You might want to consider using brand colors like dark red, purple, dark green, navy blue, black, white. Include in your logo your name using a clear, easy to read font, prominently displayed. Then, consider picking an image or element to include above, below, or next to your name, like a quill and ink, a heart, an open book, or any other image that fits your writing style.
If you choose to hire a graphic designer (and you should), they typically will charge you less than $100 to work with you on a logo. Be sure to communicate your vision clearly with the designer, but do allow them to work their magic, as they know what logos should look like for authors, and they know what all the popular authors are using. Tell them your genre, a bit about your books’ themes, and your preferred color choices. I hired a pro (Ashley at Redbird Designs — http://www.redbird-designs.net/ ) to create my logo. It took 2-3 drafts, but we landed on one I am in love with. Here it is below:
Whichever way you choose to go with your logo, you’ll want to include a slogan if your name alone looks too plain or if it’s a short name. I didn’t use my slogan (“Every journey has a few twists in the road”) because it’s long and so is my name. We tried it, but it was too cluttered looking. Come up with a catchy, short phrase that will tell your readers what kind of books they can expect from you. For example, I used the word “twist” in my slogan because all my books include a twist ending. But make sure your slogan properly tells readers what you write. It should be clear from your chosen slogan.
Once you have your logo done, show it off on Facebook, Instagram, etc. then add it to your Facebook page cover art and/or your Facebook group cover art, your Instagram profile, or anywhere else, like your website, where you think your logo can and should be displayed. You’ll also want to include it in your newsletter each week. Here’s an example of an author who perfectly incorporated her branding on her Facebook page:
Those are the biggest parts of branding you absolutely must start working on as soon as possible, regardless of where you are in your writing journey. When it gets closer to your launch date, you can also consider having swag made to give away to readers or to put inside your books (if you send signed copies out). Some ideas for swag include:
- Coffee mugs
- Post-it Notes
- And much more
Whatever swag you choose to have made for your marketing campaign, be sure to keep your author brand in mind, including your logo, slogan, and your color scheme. Everything you create or have created for your brand and marketing should be consistent and should make it clear to the reader that you are the author behind it all.
If you have any questions about author branding, I work with all my coaching clients on their campaigns, so please feel free to reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, happy branding! It should be a fun experience.