Author Branding - An Essential Component
Every author wanting to create a career needs a brand. I don’t mean a cattle prod burning your initials into your flesh. Although, if you want to tattoo the front cover of your first book onto your arm, be my guest. Personally, I have a pathological hatred of needles, so I won’t be doing it anytime soon.
We’re talking about making sure readers see your name and then buy everything you have to sell. If your goal was only ever to write one book, then you can skip to the fun stuff at the end of the blog. If you want to write more and create your own business (yes, being an author is a business), then read on.
A brand is important as it lets readers know they like what you offer. It increases the opportunities to make them buy something. Our goal is always to make some cash. We may write because we love it, but being paid certainly helps. If you ever get to the level of minimum wage, let us know. It’s an amazing achievement in one of the most competitive marketplaces you’ll ever find. Walk into any bookshop and you’ll get a feel for how huge the marketplace is. Most bookshops can only scratch the surface of the numbers of books on offer. It’s why having a brand and building followers is so important. If customers don’t know about you, you’ll be selling a grand total of zip!
There’s an important point here. Do not base your author brand on one genre. Almost every author can write across different topics. It’s what we do. I’ll give you an example. For the first year after the original book came out, all my branding was based on stray dogs and cats. I did this on purpose to set-up a base level of a following. I knew the first two books were going to be about stray animals, so it made sense. As children’s books, plenty of pictures online of the real stray dogs made it relatively simple. My third book was always going to be a step up to a more grown-up audience. Thanks to the base I’d built, I could switch the brand to a more encompassing “Stray Army”. It made titling the book very simple, as I’d now become the stray. Your author brand is about building trust. If people like your writing, they’ll buy your books regardless of genre.
This means your first point of action should be deciding your brand. What do you want people to see when they see your name? Amazingly, you do this every day in real life, anyway. Think how often you’ve decided what clothes to wear and you’ll get my point. You can be anything you want. Jumping around with nothing to link it all together is where it can fall down. So, please, give it some thought.
Once you’ve decided how you want to appear as an author, it’s time to look at the tools you can use to promote your brand and books. I am frequently asked whether an author needs a website.
YES YOU DO!
You have no excuse not to. There are enough companies offering hosting, naming, and design tools for free. It will take you time to design and build it, but that’s your only cost. You can even integrate advertising on your site as an added revenue stream. I haven’t because it would clash with my brand. There’s nothing to stop you from doing it.
If you have a small amount of budget, you can go further. I paid a small amount for a designated web address and personalised emails, for example. It kept the branding consistent and is powerful when you can use templates to brand the actual email you send out. You can even strengthen the power of the brand with a logo. Mine came about by accident when we were designing the first book cover. There is plenty of free software available to help you design a logo.
One of the best tools you can add to your website is a regular blog. It gives you the chance to engage with customers and attract new ones. People are always more likely to make a purchase if they feel a connection with an author. Think of your favourite actor. You’ll always watch a film with them in it. It’s exactly the same process. You trust that what they do is something you’ll probably enjoy. You also feel as though you know them a little. It’s that feeling you’re looking for.
Social media is also your friend. It has an amazing reach and will help build your brand. Remember, though, this is your business brand, so keep your personal accounts personal and your business on message. I’ve seen many who’ve made that mistake and destroyed their brand by thinking it’s their personal account. Please don’t make the same mistake. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage with some of your interests, even with your business account. For example, I still follow and interact with Watford Football Club and fans, and all things rugby. Shared interests are always likely to engage customers. I would strongly advise keeping politics, religion, and complaints to your personal accounts, though.
If you’d like to read more on maximising your social media impact, you need to follow Lee Hall (www.leehallwriter.com). He’s spent many years finding the best, and worst, ways to maximise its impact, normally through personal experience.
It may sound easy setting up a website and growing your brand through social media engagement and email flyers, but it isn’t. There’s a huge amount of hard work required. If you have a budget, finding a marketing specialist to help is a great idea. I’m going to start working with one shortly who I’ve got to know well over the past few months. The trust is already there, so it has a far higher chance of being successful. If you go down this route, make sure you get to know the people you are using. It stops a lot of issues further down the line. They don’t tend to be expensive and the help they give allows you more time to write your books.
You can also spend on advertising. It is powerful in getting your brand out there. However, it is expensive and can swallow any budget you have quickly. If you don’t have any experience, please do some research and work with one of the specialist companies until you get the hang of it.
So far, we’ve looked at building a brand and using social media and other tools to expand your visibility. You could stop there, but you’d be fighting against the tide. There are many other creative ways you can stand out from the crowd. You could, for example, submit short stories to one of the many publications trying to fill their next compilation. It is very competitive but, if it works, a great idea. If your short story isn’t accepted, you can always use it as a download from your website instead.
I’ve also used my experience from my other career. I regularly write articles for local newspapers and websites under my author name. It gives me far wider exposure than social media and allows me to continue my childhood dream of being a journalist. My local newspapers have regularly asked me to write articles on certain subjects. They even allow me to mention the books if I’m subtle about it. It also means I’ve built relationships guaranteeing my new book launches get media coverage. The power of your name in the paper is huge. I recently wrote an article on our local village in Turkiye. It led to a large influx of people descending on our beach to see what all the fuss was about. Even better, they kept coming back. A child approached me and asked me to sign a copy of “It’s A Stray Dog’s Life” as he was reading it. That’s the power of positive journalism.
There are other little tricks. Enter competitions. I’m an award-winning author. You only need to win one award to carry that moniker forever. It’s the same with “best seller”. Also, never turn down the opportunity for an interview. The more you’re seen, the faster your brand will grow. There are plenty of opportunities out there. You just need to track them down. The quickest was is by making friends with fellow writers. You’ll be amazed at how helpful they are. Obviously, you can also do book signings, tours, and link up with your old school to expand your brand further. There really are unlimited opportunities if you think creatively (you should be good at that, as you are a creative person).
Even by building your brand, you are still up against a lot of competition. Your brand shouldn’t just be about yourself and your books. Look at my website and you’ll see my point. There are many ways of expanding your brand. Imagine if someone bought your book, a t-shirt, and a mug. I don’t have to imagine. It’s happened more than once. You can even buy a baby’s branded bib if you’re so inclined. There are many companies who offer a pay on demand service, so it doesn’t even cost you anything. As always, do your research and even buy an item or two to check quality before committing. You can look at my merchandise page (www.maximiliansam.com/merchandise) to get ideas. There are frequent offers, so even the research won’t cost you much. I’m always happy to share details if you contact me.
I’m also fortunate to have teamed up with www.wetransfer.com, so can offer downloads from my website (www.maximiliansam.com/downloads). It’s currently in the beta testing stage, but I have no doubts it is going to be rolled out to everyone sooner rather than later. I put a preview of the item on the download page with a link. The click sends you to my branded WeTransfer page, where you can download the item (and pay for it if it’s a chargeable product). I currently have signed posters and photographs, short stories, and other items available. There are even some crazy ideas coming soon too!
You’ve seen I not only sell books, but merchandising and downloads too. My brand is far bigger than trying to fight my way through a crowded marketplace. I’ve narrowed the competition and can offer far more to my customers. Even those who don’t like my books might buy a baseball cap. If you widen the offering, you have more chance of making a sale or two.
The main things to take away from this blog are:
Think carefully about what you want your brand to say about you.
Make your brand as wide-ranging as possible.
Get a website.
Be creative and engage with your audience whenever possible.
It's hard work. There will be times you walk away. Don't worry. We all do. Sometimes a best seller happens years after your book is first published. Just ask Lee Hall.
A Wonderful Summer
I’d normally say a phone call at 3am will never bring good news. As usual, I’m wrong.
The call asked me to go to the beach as quickly as possible. Something amazing was happening. Indeed, it was. A caretta (Loggerhead Sea Turtle) was laying its eggs on the beach. You can read all about it by downloading The Ege Eye and turning to pages 12 and 13.
It proved to be the first in a series of events that have made this my best summer for many years. There have been a couple of moments that tested the theory, but they failed. A forest fire broke out close to us, but was quickly put out by the excellent work of the emergency service with the help of some willing locals. It’s amazing how much damage it did in a very short time. It proved my huge respect for those who risk their safety to protect us all.
There’s also been two people determined to ruin my summer. Their pathetic attempts failed miserably. It led to me creating a short story to celebrate my neighbour’s daughter’s tenth birthday. You can download it for free by clicking the image below.
The second attempt was even more stupid and proved you should never try to hoodwink the police. They called the police and claimed I was trying to steal turtle eggs at 3am when it was my shift to watch over them. It really was quite unpleasant. Thankfully, the police saw straight through it and had stern words with the real wrongdoers.
Those have been the only downsides. The rest has been amazing.
I mentioned my neighbour. I hadn’t met them before this summer as they hadn’t been to visit for many years. I’m glad they did this year as we struck up an instant friendship. It helped he lives in Saudi Arabia, so we could share stories.
His daughter also fell in love with the stray dogs. The feeling was mutual, as Mumsy still hasn’t left her new home next to their front gate. It was also my birthday whilst they were here. They gave me an amazing present of a fountain pen. All first drafts are now written with it.
Finally, after 64 days of waiting, the turtles started hatching. We have another one due in a few weeks. It’s an amazing feeling seeing them come out the sand, waddle down the trench we’d built, and then paddle out to sea. There’s plenty of photos and videos on our social media accounts if you’d like to see more.
There was one more surprise. I took photos of people receiving certificates for helping with the turtles. They included the General Manager and staff from our local hotel. I printed the photos and took them round. I even went to the tradesman’s entrance. I wasn’t getting off that easily. They took me straight to the General Manager so he could say a personal thank you. I didn’t expect it to include a free lunch and drinks. I still can’t say thank you enough to the Buyuk Anadolu Didim Resort for how well I was treated. It’s where I’m recommending friends come and stay if they come to visit. They won’t be disappointed.
It’s been an amazing summer of friendship. The way life should be.
Time For A Change
I may be packing my bags again soon, but it’s difficult to know when potential job offers and interviews disappear into the black hole we call August, so it’s anyone’s guess. Maybe I’ll be able to tell you more at the end of September.
MaxS and the Stray Army
PS. The cherry on top of the icing on the cake arrived a few days ago. Three children approached me as they are learning English at school. A picture speaks 1,000 words.