This month, we’re focusing on your brand; and no, not your favorite brand of paper towels, we’re talking about your author brand! You may have given this some thought before but felt that only well-known writers with big-time literary agents and publishing houses behind them can have a brand. But actually, you can do a lot of this work on your own and you can start right now!
Identify your intended audience
One of the main points of creating a brand is to grow your target audience. A consistent brand creates name recognition for your readers, so they can easily associate you with your work. So who do you want reading your work? This question will inform the other brand decisions you make, like what your website will look like and where you send your manuscripts.
If you write in a specific genre with dedicated readers, like high fantasy or sci-fi, this question might be easy to answer. But if you’re unsure who your potential audience is, you can always search around online, and odds are you’ll find them. Read through your work and tease out some commonalities. Generate some keywords and use those to find your literary niche. It’s out there!
Editor's note: write in multiple genres? You may want to develop different pseudonyms for each of your target reader types. They'll connect your work with your name, making it easier to sell over time!
Part of having a brand is knowing how to market it, and these days, most of that is done online. Luckily, the tools you need are very accessible and easy to use.
Website builders: There are a ton of free and low-cost options for building navigable, professional looking websites to promote your work. Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, and Weebly are all popular programs. Many of them have templates that make it less overwhelming to design your website. But before picking the first template that pops up, put some thought into what you want your brand to look like visually. If you write horror or thriller, you might go with a darker-toned color palette and some moody or ominous pictures. But if you write YA romance, bright or pastel colors and a swoopy, cursive font makes more sense. Go to your favorite authors’ websites for some inspiration, then see what you can do to make yours unique.
Social media: Readers love talking to each other about their favorite books, and social media makes it incredibly easy to form tight knit, online communities of readers of all genres. There are book communities on most platforms, but especially Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Each platform has its advantages: Twitter is primarily text-based, while Instagram is more photo-based, and YouTube and TikTok are for long form and short form videos, respectively. Knowing which social media to use most also depends on your intended audience. Older readers tend to use Twitter (or might not be on social media at all), while younger readers spend a lot of time on TikTok.
Getting your work out there
Now that you know your audience and are starting to build an online presence, it’s time to get your work out there! There are tons of ways to spread your work around, and not all of them include submitting work to publishers. Here are some ideas:
I’ll start with the obvious one: submitting your work. Do your research and figure out where your piece would fit best: don’t send your whodunit mystery manuscript to an agent that specializes in contemporary romance. You can also submit to lit mags, workshops, and contests!
Post clips of your work online! This can be a great way to get readers interested in what you’re writing. Just remember that you can put pieces on your blog, but most literary magazines and publishers will consider this as published work and will not accept it
Attend readings and open mic nights in your community. This is a great way for people to hear your work and meet other writers in your area!
Remember: having a brand isn’t just about marketing and having a platform or agent to sell your work. It’s about cultivating a cohesive narrative and reader experience that you believe in and want to promote–something that a reader will look at and be able to identify with you. This doesn’t mean you should pigeon-hole yourself into writing one type of character or one specific genre; you just want all your work to gel nicely together. And as your work evolves, so should your brand.
About the author: Lindsey is currently working towards her BA in English and Creative Writing at Brandeis University. She loves writing short stories and has more recently taken an interest in writing poetry. She is also an Editor-in-Chief for her school literary magazine, Laurel Moon. You can usually find her reading, crocheting, watching Marvel movies, or bothering her cat, Sister. She hopes to be a writer and an editor in the future to continue to help others improve their work.