Building a brand

In a conversation sparked by something I posted to Twitter yesterday (we’re @candlemarkgleam, by the way), @ChapterandVoice asked for my five “top tips” for authors who want to build their brand.

Now, some of you are probably thinking, “Wait, author marketing? Brand-building? Isn’t that why we have publishers? So that authors are free to just write, without doing all that icky, hard marketing stuff?”

Well, yeah. It is. Publishers exist not only to be gatekeepers, sorting through slush piles and seeking gems in that inbox, but also to make life easier on authors. You do the writing; we do the editing, the design, the layout, the cover art, the packaging and formatting, and yes, the marketing. But even then, there’s only so much a publisher cna do – in this day and age, even the Big Six are slashing their marketing and promo budgets to the bone, and there’s so many books out there that it’s easy for even a well-marketed one with a huge PR department behind it to become lost in the crowd.

What’s an author to do?

Build their brand, that’s what.

Trust me, this doesn’t just help the publisher. It doesn’t even just help that book of yours. It helps you. The best thing you can possibly do for yourself as an author – other than writing the best damn story you can and then editing the crap out of it – is to build up your own brand. Become someone your readers want to follow, whose new works they eagerly devour.

Think about it. You read a lot of books, right? Of course you do. How do you find those books? Recommendations from friends, book blog reviews, that sort of thing, right? But what books do you always pick up, and always recommend to your friends? The ones by your favourite authors. People you follow. These can be famous folks – I’m thinking J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson – or people who perhaps aren’t quite as “big name,” like Cat Valente or Seanan McGuire or Saundra Mitchell or Jim Hines. You fall in love with their books, then find them online and start following their blog/LJ/tweets/etc and get to the point where you’ll just devour anything these people come up with.

Think on that for a minute, and then tell me that “building your brand” isn’t important and useful.

It doesn’t even have to be painful. Hell, you probably have a blog or a Twitter account already. Put that to use, and just be yourself. That’s all it’s about. Making a connection with your readers by being yourself and being available to them.

It’s that simple.

Anyway, @ChapterandVoice asked me what my top 5 tips were for building an author brand. Here ya go:

  • Have a blog. Write in it regularly. Doesn’t have to be about writing/marketing/etc, but let readers keep up w/ you.
  • Offer goodies and extras for your readers – podcasts, illustrations, exclusive short stories, giveaways, or other fun stuff. Things that they have to follow you in order to find.
  • Find a social networking platform you like, and use it. It doesn’t matter which one. Like LJ? Post there. Love Facebook? Start a fan page for your writing. Adore Twitter? Tweet like there’s no tomorrow. Try out Google Plus. Give Goodreads a whirl. Start an author group for yourself on your favourite platform, or just be there and interact – it’s about being out there and public, and letting your readers find you and interact with you, not about being on every platform ever.
  • Keep writing. The best way to get readers and to build your brand is to keep producing great work
  • Participate in your community. Write SF? Hang out on SF blogs. Ditto fantasy. Works for nonfiction, too.


So there you have it. Five top tips for building a platform. Go to it!

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