You may have heard it said: as an author, you’re in charge of your own business. Your books are your products. This means that you—the author—are a brand. If, like many authors we hear from, you’re struggling to market your books, it might be that you haven’t worked enough on your author brand. Marketing professional Ilan Cooley has some tips on how to do that.
Ilan has more than thirty years’ experience in brand strategy, and her passion is helping creative artists, including authors and musicians, to develop their personal brand strategy.
Ilan is founder and president of Loud Mouth Communications, a leading communications and marketing strategy company that works with people, properties, and brands. At Loud Mouth, Ilan and her team create unique, effective, and customized strategies for marketing, communications, branding, promotions, public relations, sponsorship, events, content management, and media. Ilan’s company also presents workshops called Brand Camp, where you can learn all about personal branding.
We spoke with Ilan on The Empowered Author Podcast about your author brand (yes, yours!). You can listen to our conversation right here, or read on for what we said.
But wait. What IS an author brand?
An author brand is no different from any other brand: Ilan says it’s a carefully curated depiction of you as an author. Your author brand should speak for you and tell your personal story so you don’t have to do it. Your author brand applies to every aspect of your public image, representations, and marketing materials and provides an authentic portrait of who you are, what you write, and what you stand for.
Let’s look at the analogy of a company like Apple to understand this concept: as an author, you’re like the Apple brand. Each of your books is like a different Apple product: a phone, a laptop or a tablet, maybe. When people look at an Apple product and see the logo, they associate it with a company that’s known for innovation. In the same way, when people see one of your books with your name on the cover, they associate it with your reputation as an author. This can prompt them to buy your book—or not.
Why You Want an Author Brand
You want an author brand to help you enhance authenticity. Part of what makes many authors comfortable in the book marketing phase is that feeling of disconnect: either they don’t want their whole naked selves hanging out for the world to see, or they’re not sure which part of themselves the world is even interested in. It’s about clarifying the authentically public author YOU.
“We don’t put our colours with our whites in the laundry; it’s about separating out the things that will work best for the author and making them work publicly for the individual. It’s so that all of the different materials and depictions—whether public speaking, the books, the social media elements that we all develop and utilize these days—we’ll have all of them working together in tandem, as opposed to being bits and pieces that really maybe don’t have cohesion.”Ilan Cooley, Loud Mouth Communications
Four-Week Author Brand Camp
This course is designed for authors who have not fully developed their brand—or who want to update and reaffirm their brand.
You’ll learn the fundamental elements of brand development including: identifying brand pillars, establishing core values, targeting your market position, creating a brand identity, the importance of brand standards, and how to ensure brand continuity.
When: Wednesdays, September 29, and October 6, 13, 20 from 10 a.m. to noon mountain standard time (MST).
Creating your author brand
An author brand doesn’t just happen all by itself. It’s a purposeful process. As Ilan says, the built-in part is that you as the author are the artist: you are the hub at the centre of it all. You’ve created something tangible—your books—and while your books represent you, you are still the force where these books came from and that influences the books.
Thinking through the process involves identifying and deciding how best to put your brand forward in all of your public activities so that there’s consistency with approach, message, and any visual elements. In essence, you’re crafting the story of you as an author.
Ilan divides this branding process into four parts: heart, soul, strength and essence.
This is the part that represents the heart of the matter. It is your “why”; it is what drives you forward. To identify the heart, you need to ask questions like:
- How do I want to present myself to the world?
- What is my vision?
- What is it that I’m trying to accomplish?
The soul represents your values. It’s about your guiding principles: the pillars on which your brand rests. For example, if you write self-help books, your values – your soul – might be to motivate, to be trustworthy and to help people heal. If you’ve clearly defined your soul, when someone asks you to do something, you will know whether it goes against your values as a brand.
Strength is likely self-evident. However, Ilan points out that in order to know your strengths, you also need to know your weaknesses. This helps you to be prepared for any challenges, threats and other external factors. By looking at what someone else is doing, you can learn what you do and don’t want to do. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses also helps you to identify the competition and decide how to deal with it.
Your essence represents the visual identity of your author brand. It’s about choosing the right cover design for your book, the font you’re going to use, the photo shoots. It’s about the tangible parts and thinking of how they best represent you as an author. Ilan points out that while essence is usually the most fun part of the process, it wouldn’t be wise to dive into it without being clear on the other three parts. As she says, “Without the other three steps, it’s literally like you go into a paint store, grab a can of paint and keep splashing it on the wall and thinking it doesn’t look very good.” Without the foundation of heart, soul and strength, essence will really just be guesswork.
How do you apply the process to your author brand?
Ilan recommends that you work with a professional to help you create your author brand. As an indie author, you may not have the budget for an entire brand team to manage your brand. However, a professional can help you sift through the many tools available for brand building and brand management and narrow the scope to align with your particular goals.