Monday, January 3, 2011

Creating An Author Brand: Why It's Not Really About the Book

I am so excited to kick off 2011 with some fantastic guest blogs. Today I have a guest post from my friend and author, Roni Loren, and it's really fabulous and touches on a subject Roni and I have long been in agreement about. If you don't know Roni or her blog, you're definitely missing out-- she's one of the most popular bloggers out there in the writersphere, with good reason. And now, Roni!

Creating An Author Brand: Why It's Not Really About the Book

First, I want to thank Sierra for inviting me over to her hacienda. This blog is one of the few that I make sure to never miss a post. So it's an honor to be hanging out over here. :)

Now, Sierra basically gave me carte blanche to talk about whatever I wanted to today. Dangerous thing that. :) But what I decided on is this...

What do you want your brand or public image to be?

I know, I know. Those of you out there who are plugging away at writing your book or maybe just sticking your toe in the writing waters are probably thinking...look, I just need to get this book written, find an agent, get a book deal, etc. etc. and then I'll worry about a public image. I've got time for that. Publishing is a slow business.

You're right. The book should be priority number one and publishing IS slow. I got my book deal a few months ago and my book won't hit the shelves until 2012. But let me tell you, when all the good stuff starts happening, it can happen fast. And you'll be thrust from "writer" to "Author" with a capital A in a moment's time.

That's great news. You won't really feel any different (though you'll be excited) and writing will still be just as difficult (believe me.) But the change means your blog, website, twitter, facebook, etc., you know all those things you've been doing to build your platform/presence, are now your brand.

So if you've spent your time on your blog bashing books you don't like, cursing like a sailor, or only posting pictures of cats in doll outfits (or even *gasp* not blogging/tweeting/pick your poison at all), you may have to do a major overhaul or start from scratch. You don't want this stress when you're going to be facing the new stress of being contracted, editing and writing against a deadline, and figuring out all it means to be a paid author. So why not get your brand in place NOW?

Great. You're all on board. (right?) So the next question is...

What do you want your brand to say about you?

If you write YA, does that mean all your posts should be about MTV and Justin Bieber? If you write political thrillers, should all your tweets be about big world issues? No! I think this is a mistake that's easy to fall into. Yes, you want be relatable to your target audience, but that doesn't mean you have to stuff yourself into some little genre box. And God forbid you do this and then hop genres at some point like I did.

Here's what I think:
Your brand should be YOU. Whoever that may be. Your book/genre is only a piece of that package.

Yes, your branding/websites/etc. should appeal to your target readers and not offend them or scare them away. But I think the only way to create an effective brand it to be genuinely yourself. People want to get to know YOU, the person.

I write erotic romance, and not just erotic romance, but BDSM-themed, dark, suspenseful erotic romance. So it would be a logical jump that I should tweet or post about sexy stuff all the time, right? Well, I could. My friend, erotica author Tiffany Reisz, blogs and tweets openly about sexual topics. She puts it all out there without a filter. And it works for her because that's who she is. She's a person who feels very comfortable being that open and is not afraid to push the envelope. It's genuine. And I and others enjoy following her because of that.

I, on the other hand, keep my posts and tweets PG-13. Why? Is it because I'm uptight and uncomfortable with the topics? Hardly. I couldn't write what I write if I was. No, it's simply because I'm a shy, private person. I can talk about pretty much anything with people I'm close to; but in general company, you're not going to hear me curse or talk about sex. So for me to post only things related to erotic romance wouldn't be a genuine depiction of who I am. It would come across as a persona instead of a person.

So I blog about writing and tweet about all kinds of things: writing, motherhood, cooking, books, Guitar Hero, reality TV, 80s movies...whatever is on my mind. And other people who relate to those things or appreciate my sense of humor follow me.

Do I think that every person who follows me is going to rush out and buy my book? Of course not. But I've already been told by many friends I've met online that even though they've never read an erotic romance, they plan to buy mine.

Why? Because they've gotten to know me and (for some strange reason) like me, so want to be supportive. I also think there's an element of--"Huh, I seem to have a lot in common with this person. So if she likes and writes erotic romance, maybe I'd like it too." It makes a genre that is very intimidating to venture into more approachable because someone like me--a (mostly) normal mom and wife--enjoys it. And that--though it happened totally by accident for me, lol--is marketing and creating an author brand.

So I know Sierra has talked about it on here before, but the best advice I can give is get out there, be genuinely you and not who you think you "should" be. And don't make your online presence about the book. Having your Twitter name or website address be the name of your book or a character is not a good idea. Beyond the fact that if it's published, the title will probably change, you want people to get to know you and not just your book title. Hopefully you won't just write ONE book, so you need to think more long-term. This also goes for using monikers instead of your name/pen name (a mistake I made early on, lol.) Do those things and you'll be way ahead of the game when your book deal is inked. :)

So what are you doing to create an author brand? How do you want to be perceived as an author? Which authors do you think do a great job of creating a "brand"?

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. After earning a master’s degree in social work from LSU, she worked in a mental hospital, counseled birthmothers as an adoption coordinator, and did management recruiting in her PJs. But she always returned to writing. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars concerts. Her debut novel, EXPOSURE THERAPY, will be published by Berkley Heat in early 2012.

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