Making Your Inner Writer Stand Out
It’s a well-known fact: most writers—myself included—are introverts. We spend a lot of time with our faces either buried between the pages of books or awash in the glare of our laptop screens. We have an affinity for cats—just ask Neil Gaiman, Ernest Hemingway, or Charles Dickens—and probably drink a startling amount of coffee, tea, or perhaps something stronger (and sometimes we mix them, ahem). We have exceedingly strong opinions on things like literary classics and Oxford commas. We are either early birds or night owls and never both. Sometimes we wear tweed.
And while some of us are pros at things like social media and blogging, many of us—maybe most of us—are not. After all, our passion is developing other people’s stories, not necessarily doing a great job of sharing our own. Point of fact, some of the most incredible writers I know barely maintain a functioning author website. Others aren’t visible online at all.
No matter if you’re a social media recluse or an avid Tweeter; or if you’re a newbie, an aspiring author, or a veteran; if you’re self-published or traditionally represented, it’s important to consider the importance of branding yourself. Besides your stories, it’s the single most valuable asset you have—and unlike your next book, if you don’t write it, it will write itself.
Branding isn’t just for companies. It’s for people, too, and we—as authors—need to think what our brand is, or is not, saying about us. Brand, in case you’re wondering, isn’t limited to things like logos and social media handles, either. It’s connection—the lasting, emotional impact your readership has when they hear your name, see the cover of one of your books, or talk about one of your characters. And in a very loud, very competitive, and very prickly publishing market, it’s an integral part of building customer—or in our case, reader—loyalty. Likewise, and more practical, it could be an important component of your next query, too. Today, beyond showing your writing chomps in your actual writing, publishers are looking for authors who know how to sell themselves in addition to writing their books. Some are even considering asking authors to submit marketing plans alongside their manuscript submissions and quantifying your platform is part of that. It sounds scary, I know, but like going to med school before becoming a doctor, it’s kind of a big deal.
Luckily, there is some low-hanging fruit you can pluck from the tree of opportunity to get started cultivating your brand. Start by thinking about what sets you apart from other authors and makes you a consistent source of literary creativity that readers need to get their nose into. That’s what brands are: distinct, intentional, engaging, and consistent.
First things first, before you begin thinking about yourself, consider your audience. Who are you writing for? Who reads your books? Are these the same people? Put your audience in the role of a character if it helps. Flush out their interests, motivations. Once you know who you’re talking to, then you can start talking to them in a way you’re sure they’ll hear.
Next, develop your voice—your writing style for readers, so to speak. Think about your values, your opinions, your sense of humor…and then be consistent about how you share it with others. Remember, your branding yourself, not your books. Be you, or the best version of you—the you in your author bio. And be authentic.
Now, add some color. Literally. Choose your look, and apply it consistently. Make a logo, if you don’t have one. Build a website. Get on social media. You don’t have to do the same thing everywhere—in fact, you shouldn’t—but you should be consistent in each place and have a cohesive image everywhere you touch your audience. Different platforms reach different audiences—readers, media, agents, and so forth—so just like we want to write books that pique our reader’s interests, we want to build our brand in ways that pique the interest we’re looking for. There’s no one best way, but, for the sake of example, here’s what I do:
• Website: information about my books, characters, events and media updates, bio, and contacts for myself and my agent, publishers, and my publicist. Most importantly, this is where I keep a weekly blog as well as updates on other articles and editorial contributions. Don’t be static. Make sure you’re updating your website regularly to keep visitors coming back.
• A subscriber newsletter: monthly writing updates, giveaways, and sneak peeks. Fan club!
• Instagram: a daily photo journal of my writing life, often with pictures of coffee and my cats, using colors and images that support my brand—dark and mysterious, like me.
• Twitter: where I maintain my own writing and reading community, chatting daily with other authors and readers, bloggers, and other bookish folk. Follow like-minded authors, journals, publishers, editors, agents, and readers who share your interest. Use hashtags to build your brand and find your tribe.
• Facebook: I’m bad at Facebook, but my friend Rue Volley is amazing—check her out.
• Goodreads: when I’m not writing, I’m reading…and talking about it. You should be, too.
Cultivating an author brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, practice, and more than a little adaptation along the way. My best branding advice? Tackle building a brand like writing a new book: outline it, identify the characters, sort out your settings and story plot, and then get busy filling in the lines with the things that make you brilliantly you. Be your introverted self, safely at home with your coffee and cats and tweed (or whatever your writing heart fancies), and make your brand start working for you.
Seven Jane is an author of dark fantasy and speculative fiction. Her debut novel, The Isle of Gold, was published by Black Spot Books in October 2018. She is represented by Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary Management and supported by Smith Publicity.
Seven is a member of The Author’s Guild and Women’s Fiction Writing Association. She writes a weekly column for WFWA’s Industry News newsletter and is a regular contributor to The Nerd Daily.
Social: on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @sevenjanewrites