An Author isn’t the same thing as a writer.
A writer is someone who focuses on craft, style, and structure. They care about being the “best” writer they can be.
An Author is someone who has a message. They write books so other people can access that message.
Writing may or may not be their profession or even a passion.
In other words, Authors help people solve problems through their writing.
To get that done, Authors have to focus on their brand. They have to clearly tell readers, “Here’s what I have to offer, and here’s how it can help you.”
Author branding isn’t about how good the book is. It’s about what problems the Author can help the reader solve or what else they can offer.
In this post, you’ll learn more about why Author branding matters, how to create a strong brand identity, and what you can learn from other Authors’ approaches to branding.
What Is Author Branding and Why Does It Matter?
Authors write books as solutions to readers’ problems.
If your finances are in shambles, here’s how to fix it.
If your marriage is falling apart, here’s what to do.
Author branding proves that you’re the perfect person to solve your readers’ challenges.
Although they’re closely related, Author branding is different from book positioning. Book positioning tells someone why your book is the right book for them.
Author branding tells someone why they should read your book, as opposed to anyone else’s.
Why should a reader listen to you instead of the hundreds of other financial experts out there? What unique insights or expertise do you have?
Here’s a hard truth: Nobody cares about you or your book. They only care about what you and your book can do for them.
Your book should answer a question that people are already asking, and your Author brand should show the reader why you’re the right person to trust for the answer.
How to Create a Strong Author Brand
Step 1. Define Your Message and Target Audience
The strongest Author brands start by offering a clear solution to a specific audience.
If you’re like most nonfiction Authors, your goal is to use your book to establish your legacy, impact others, increase your authority, raise your visibility, drive new leads, earn revenue, and possibly get you speaking engagements or other opportunities.
A focused book that appeals to a niche audience is more likely to achieve those goals than a broad book that only marginally appeals to many different audiences.
By the time you publish your book, you should have a clear idea about the message you want to convey and who you want to convey it to.
Good Author branding addresses your target audience directly and tells them, “Here is how I can help you, and why I’m the person to help.”
The more specific, the better.
A great example is Lorenzo Gomez. He struggled to write The Cilantro Diaries for over a decade. The book focused on Lorenzo’s journey from teenage grocery-bagger to CEO.
He knew that he had a nontraditional story, but he found it nearly impossible to write the book without support. He didn’t have a community of writers. He didn’t have an editor. And perhaps most importantly, he didn’t have someone to steer him toward a clear message.
Once Lorenzo started working with Scribe, he learned that his message wasn’t really about his personal experiences. It was about how those experiences could help a specific audience: Hispanic teens.
There were virtually no Hispanic CEOs who wrote books and none who wrote them in a way that resonated with kids from working-class families. Lorenzo reoriented his book and focused on how his story could directly solve the problems of those teenagers. Specifically, he explained how to find a mentor, build a network, and move beyond entry-level jobs.
Lorenzo’s audience was Hispanic students who came from impoverished backgrounds and didn’t have the means to pursue a university education.
His message was that those students could find a path to success from where they were.
His Author brand was “Here are the specific ways you can do it, and here’s why you should trust me to help.”
Those three strands are inseparable. You can’t have a brand without a clear sense of who you are speaking to and what will convince them to listen.
Don’t be afraid to target a narrow, niche audience. Ironically, that often leads Authors to a wider readership. Because Lorenzo spoke directly to a niche audience, his book is now taught in college classes. If he had written his book for a broader demographic, it wouldn’t have had the same impact.
This is the difference between being a mile wide and an inch deep, or an inch wide and a mile deep. Wide and shallow is for professional writers hoping to sell a lot of books to many different audiences.
Narrow and deep is for most Authors.
Joey Coleman is another successful Author who understood the power of defining his message and target audience. He saw that businesses were failing their best customers by spending too much effort chasing new ones. He directed that message to managers, executives, and VPs who were having trouble keeping their existing customers.
Joey’s Author brand centered on how his expertise developed over decades helping companies like Google and Comcast could help those executives turn losses into lifelong customers.
To determine their brand, Authors need to think about who they help and the specific ways they help them.
Step 2. Define Your Expertise
Your expertise is the heart of your Author brand.
Authors don’t write about things foreign to them. They write about stuff they know.
For Lorenzo, that was easy. It was clear why Hispanic teenagers could learn from his experience. It was important for them to hear from someone who started out bagging groceries before rising to the top of a company, someone they could relate to.
Lorenzo’s expertise wasn’t just in his success, though. It was also in his approachability. He didn’t write from a place of superiority. He wrote from humility. That helped him connect to his ideal readers.
When people think about expertise, they often think about credentials.
Author branding is different from an Author’s credentials. Just because someone has a Ph.D. doesn’t mean they have the perfect solution for a particular audience.
Readers don’t care about the things you’ve achieved. They care about your ability to help them.
Joey has stellar credentials. But his Author brand was built just as much around the feelings he inspired in his readers. He got them excited again. He gave them hope. That skill didn’t come with a degree attached, but it was crucial to his brand.
The ability to form emotional connections with an audience is its own kind of expertise.
That said, some audiences require more formal expertise before they find an Author credible. For example, Robin Farmanfarmaian had to build her brand as a medical expert before her message was taken seriously.
When Robin was 16, she was misdiagnosed with an autoimmune disease. She followed doctors’ orders without question, and by age 26, her body was a mess. That’s when Robin decided to take her health into her own hands.
She dedicated her life to making a significant impact on medicine. She had a lofty mission to work with medical companies to directly impact more than 100 million patients.
Still, she wasn’t taken seriously. She was often harassed by male speakers, and she was frequently confused for an executive assistant.
Robin mapped out a business plan, slowly built her author platform, all in order to create an Author brand that would earn her respect. The release of Robin’s book The Patient as CEO propelled her brand to the next level.
Different audiences will require different levels of expertise. But it is the Author’s responsibility to figure out what will convince their target audience to trust them.
Step 3. Project that Brand Everywhere
Once you have your brand, make sure it’s aligned across all of your assets.
Unless you’re a household name like Steven King or J.K. Rowling, most people buying your book won’t know who you are or why to care. You have to tell them.
Your Author bio goes on your book, website, and Amazon Author Central Page. It’s usually one of the first things that comes up in a Google search of your name.
Even though very few authors think about it, and even fewer publishing guides talk about it, your bio impacts sales, reputation, book marketing, and social media.
“Author reputation” is consistently cited as one of the main factors that influence a book-buying decision. If you’re seen as an authority on your book topic, readers will buy your book. One of the best ways to be seen as an authority is to have a great Author bio.
Mention your credentials and include achievements that build your credibility as an Author. Mention your author website and any books you’ve written.
Keep it short and interesting. 150 words is about right. Anything longer means you’re rambling.
Write in third person.
Don’t go overboard. Only include things that enhance your Author brand and convince readers to trust you. Put yourself in your their shoes, and ask, “Does this fact really matter to anyone but me?”
Review the rest of the Author bio rules in my post if you need them.
Readers will judge you and your book based on your Author photo.
Is that fair? Doesn’t matter. It’s true…
Humans are visual creatures, and a headshot can reveal a lot about a person’s brand.
Do you look approachable? Authoritative? Confident?
Know what you want to signal to your audience, and then signal it properly.
This is the key to photos. The Author photo for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company should be totally different from the photo for a children’s book writer.
Your Author website should be designed to reflect your brand.
The content should be consistent with the tone of your book. If your Author brand highlights your expertise as a serious financial advisor, your podcast shouldn’t be goofy.
Also, consider the message that your colors and graphics are sending. If your brand is lighthearted, bright colors might be appropriate. If you’re writing about grief management, you wouldn’t want to have doodle-like graphics in bold yellow.
A good Author page should look and function like a high-quality website, so you might need to hire someone to build it. That’s a worthwhile expense. You want visitors to have a great user experience.
They should be able to navigate easily and find the information they need. Link to your book’s page on Amazon, your social media profiles, and a sign-up to your email list if you have one. If you have a media kit, be sure to label it clearly.
You don’t have to be active on every form of social media, but you should be active on at least one.
Pick one that makes the most sense for both you and your audience. If you’re writing for a business community, LinkedIn might make the most sense. If your writing is more politics- and pop culture-oriented, you might favor the immediacy of Twitter.
Whatever social media you choose, be consistent. Don’t tweet about your dog one minute and clients the next.
Also, be sure to keep your social media current. When readers go to your Facebook page, pictures from a talk you gave three years ago shouldn’t be the first thing they see.
Make sure everything you post is an accurate representation of your Author brand.