One thing I’ve worked really hard on over the past year, is developing an author brand.
Developing a clear and highly recognisable brand is essential—especially when you’re trying to make your novels stand out in a crowded marketplace. If you write in popular genres, such as romance, thriller, fantasy or sci-fi, it’s important that when readers find you (either through your Amazon author page, website, blog, or social media) that they:
- recognise your books as being part of the genre they love
- are excited about the fact that your books bring something original and fresh to the genre
Those things seem to contradict themselves, but think about it.
Readers who love genre-fiction, love it because of its tropes. That means that if they are reading romance, they want a HEA (Happy Ever After). If they’re reading Epic Fantasy, they want a quest and extensive world-building. What they don’t want is every stereotype, cliché and stock-character thrown at them.
They love writers who take the tropes and put their own twist on them.
So, package your author brand to assure readers that while your novel(s) plays by the rules of the genre they love—you’re also giving them something new and exciting.
If you were hoping to write something genre-busting and ground-breaking, this news might depress you.
You might feel this is selling-out.
If you’re writing literary fiction and looking for a traditional publishing deal then this advice probably won’t work for you. However, if like me you’re an indie-author who self-publishes in popular genres, this advice is gold.
Taking my own advice
One thing I would say about coming up with an author brand is the earlier you establish your name (or pen name) and genres you’ll be known for the better! I wish I’d thought about this earlier, although my path has been a bit more tortuous…
I started off writing Epic Fantasy under the name Sam J. Charlton. Initially, these books did okay on Amazon, although they’re languishing these days as I have put zero work into promoting them. Instead, I’ve been focusing on the Jayne Castel novels—after discovering that my Historical Romances sell better.
I initially started using a pen name for my Historical Romance, not because I was embarrassed (some authors who write romance prefer their families and friends didn’t know), but because I didn’t want to confuse my Epic Fantasy readers. I chose the name Jayne Castel in 2012 (a mix of my middle name and a family name on my mother’s side), but in retrospect it wasn’t the best choice. There’s a very popular romance author in the US called Jayne Castle (she also uses the name Amanda Quick). For a while, anyone who searched for me on Amazon, found her instead! I contacted Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) about this, and the issue has been fixed (somewhat), but I could have avoided that if I’d done a little research first.
That said, I’m fond of my pen name. It has the right tone for Romance, looks good on covers, and now I’m getting more readers I don’t intend to change it.
Define your author brand
You should be able to sum up your brand in 1-2 sentences at most. Here’s mine for Jayne Castel:
I write Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Britain and Scotland—stories about warriors and strong women in a time when only the tough survived. My stories are well researched, realistic, and can be quite dark at times—although there’s always a HEA.
I could pare that back further, but you get the idea.
Epic Fantasy is my first love though, but I’ve decided to step away from the ‘traditional’ fantasy novels I wrote in the past. Instead, I’ve embarked on a Fantasy Romance series. I’m currently working on the 2nd draft of Ruled by Shadows, which should be out in a couple of months.
I’m aware that I will need to be careful about how I integrate the Fantasy Romances into my existing brand. There will be some cross-over, as a number of my existing readers will enjoy both Historical Romance and Fantasy Romance—however, not all my readers will read both genres.
How to show your author brand
Once you’ve decided on your brand (1-2 sentences about what you write and what makes it unique in its genre), you need to make sure you use it everywhere. It needs to be consistent too. Here are some tips about establishing a clear, easily recognisable author brand.
- Choose an author photo (try to make it as professional as possible) and use it on everything
- Create a banner that you can use on your website, blog, and across social media—your banner should have imagery that reflects your genre and a tagline that reflects your author brand. I use www.canva.com for creating visual material, it’s easy to use and gives a really professional look
- Make sure your author bio makes your author brand clear—hit readers with it in the first paragraph, and use the same bio (or a short-form of it) everywhere
- Don’t try to be something you’re not—I look at some of the other Romance authors on Amazon and see they all present themselves differently. Don’t think you have to emulate other more successful authors in your genre in order to win readers. Your brand should reflect your personality
- Remember to mix familiarity with freshness—that will make your brand stand out!
What’s your author brand—let me know and post a link to your author website in the comments below!