Today I want to discuss a basic concept that seems to confuse most authors: branding. Branding sounds like one of those scary, nebulous marketing terms that threatens to suck out your soul or turn you into The Borg. It’s not.
Branding really comes down to managing expectations for the reader.
The foundation of any author platform (think of a puzzle) is your keywords. The keywords are the base of the puzzle, where you place the pieces. The puzzle pieces represent all that you do that fits together to make the whole puzzle: social media, blog posts, website, advertising, reviews, blog tours, etc.
When I consult with clients, I draw on my many years of sales and marketing in soul-sucking Big Pharma. There’s A LOT wrong with that industry (which is why I left), but one thing they have right is creating a clear message for their product. They know to choose words that incite and inspire a doctor to write. The motivation is different (write my drug), but the message is the same (buy my book).
And make no mistake: we are products as much as our books are.
I break down keywords by major and minor, but you can call them whatever you want. There are a few things to consider when deciding on keywords:
- What am I instinctively drawn to? For example, I’m nuts about Nutella (though I’ve sworn it off — sugar and palm oil, bad). So I’m instinctively drawn to pictures of Nutella-involved food, which I then share with my followers and friends. So, Nutella is a keyword me. Not a MAJOR one, since I don’t write about it often (as I’m writing about it now), but a minor one — one I’ll mention occasionally in a tweet, or share a news story about.
- What topics do I write about? Most of us fall into a pattern of writing about topics that interest us, without even realizing we are doing so. For example, I started my blog back in 2007, writing about love, relationships, family. Seven years and three books later, I still write about those topics! I’ve expanded, of course, but the crux of my books and blog posts (and social media) still have to do with those topics. Which are therefore my…keywords.
- Verb it. I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference last year and one of the workshops focused on creating your bio (anywhere) with a verb. What does your book DO for people?
Most authors identify as authors — and we should. It’s a hard-won title. But most readers already know you’re an author — they want to know why they should purchase your book with their hard-earned money. They want to know WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Right then and there in the class, I updated my Twitter bio:
Green-eyed redhead. What. · bitly.com/BROKENPIECES
As you can see, I ‘verbed’ it by using the word inspires. Again, ask yourself this question: what will your book DO for people?
BRANDING YOUR PLATFORM
Now that you’ve decided on keywords, this will determine what you tweet/share (for the most part — remember, it’s just a guideline) and even write blog posts about. If you write in your bio that you’re a poet, share poetry. If you write in your bio that you groom horses, share horse stories. And so on.
Remember, you don’t need to create all the content you share on social media (or even your blog) — you can invite others to guest and you can curate content from other sources (always give attribution).
WRITE IT ALL DOWN
It’s easy to imagine all this, but if you don’t write it down — if you don’t have a plan — like anything else, you won’t stick to it. I don’t care if it’s a formal document, a note in your iPhone, or a scrap of paper you tack on the wall. WRITE DOWN YOUR KEYWORDS. This serves as a wonderful reminder as to what you need to focus on in your blog posts, your writing, your tweets, and so on.
All this mixes together into creating your puzzle — a way to organize all these separate puzzle pieces — and believe it or not, because you have created and managed the expectations of your readers, you will start to build a following. They like your consistency, that you’re easy to find (your visibility), and they are comfortable with what you present.
All that works to make you shine, so instead of being part of The Collective, you stand out on your own.