By Pavarti K. Tyler/ I read a lot of marketing books and articles and one of the things people say over and over is that you have to brand yourself, but rarely are you given good instructions on what that means. Moreover, most of the examples I find are really for nonfiction authors: make yourself an expert on your topic.
Now if you write historical fiction, making yourself an expert on your period of time is a great idea. You need to do that anyway to write an authentic piece. However, what if your next book is a sci-fi romantic romp through the year 3572? How is being an expert on the fourth Caliphate going to help you? It’s not.
In the short term, being able to bill yourself to historians, book talks, libraries and various publications as an expert in a time period is great and something you absolutely should do, but will the readers you find in those places follow you to your next project? Building a following is about more than drawing on those with a specific interest, it’s about engaging your readers in a broader sense so they will be excited to find out what you’re up to next. The initial draw may be specific, but the branding and long-focus marketing must be about you not about one topic.
For nonfiction authors, such narrowly focused branding works great, and if you are committed to being genre specific than this might work for you, but for me it’s never been the best approach.
I commonly refer to myself as a genre-bender. I have stories out there in Gothic Horror, Erotica, Literary Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, and even a Muslim Superhero Novel! What branding makes sense to apply to all of that?
The answer is right in front of you. Ask yourself: What is it that runs through all of your stories? What is it you want to me known for? What pulls your readers from one book to the next, no matter the subject matter?
I have a client who writes literary fiction and we’ve branded her as someone who writes about the dark side of human experience. Her books are as varied as they come, but her commitment to exposing the raw humanity of her characters keeps readers engaged no matter what the book is about. Me, I’ve worked on branding myself as a genre-bender whose stories will leave you questioning your place in the world. The tag line on my website is “High-quality, award winning fiction for intelligent readers.”
To begin the process of branding, look at your breadth of work and the projects percolating in your mind and think of three to five words you’d want people to say about you when you aren’t listening. Not about one book, not about a series and not about your genre. Make this about you. Are you funny? Do you instill even your darker fiction with humorous insights? Are you consistently drawn to your antagonists? Do your books appeal to one kind of reader across the board? These are the things important to your branding.
It’s difficult to take a step back and look objectively at the through line of your work. This is where a marketing consultant can come in, to help you think through how to approach branding. But spend some time looking at what you have to say to the world at large and you’ll find your answer is clearer than you suspected.
Next up: Four words EVERY author needs to live by for successful social media marketing
Pavarti K. Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She lives in the Washington D.C. area with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not busy working as the director of marketing at Novel Publicity she spends her time penning her next novel.
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