Conference Speaker: Anna Caig, Explore Your Author Brand, Sat 1:30-3pm
4 August 2023
What is an author brand?
‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ Oscar Wilde may not have been talking about author branding when he wrote this – but he could’ve been.
Many writers, initially at least, don’t like to think of themselves as a brand. But the truth is, when you go through the process of developing an authentic one, not only will you be able to find and connect with people who love your work, the cringe factor is also reduced because you’re able to be yourself in your marketing.
An author brand is how you describe yourself and your work; it’s the foundation for book marketing which finds readers with a genuine reason to be interested in your writing. More than anything, it’s how you make people feel – the impression you give of the world they’ll step into if they open the pages of your book.
I’m thrilled to be running a session at the RNA Conference exploring this area. This is a subject that will reap enormous rewards for you in your book marketing – but it’s also fun, a chance to explore your passions, inspirations and the reasons why you write in the first place.
How to develop your author brand
The key to a successful author brand is embracing your individuality – the unique set of motivations that inform your work, what George Saunders calls a writer’s ‘iconic space’.
A great first step in articulating your brand is to write an author ‘brand story’. Essentially, this is a creatively written author bio which acts as an engaging invitation into the world of your writing.
Start by reflecting on the themes you find yourself returning to again and again in your work; the subjects or questions that inspire you; the ways in which you’re ‘weird’ or different from other authors; your values as a creative person.
Make notes as you explore these questions – often you’ll uncover some lovely fundamental truths about where your writing comes from, a great place to find hooks for enticing readers. In my conference session, we’ll go into more detail on techniques to explore this.
Consider how you’d introduce yourself if you were a character in one of your books – you wouldn’t usually talk about where this person was born or went to school, you’d use an image or anecdote to make them vivid in the mind of the reader. Your storytelling skills are your secret weapon – use them wisely.
Aim for a two to three paragraph brand story in either the first or third person – you’ll edit this and use different versions in different settings: copy for your website homepage, social media bios, anywhere you have limited space to convey who you are to potential readers.
One lovely thing about doing this work is you’re also likely to discover ideas for content themes you can use across your marketing on an ongoing basis.
Using social media as an author
Social media offer exciting opportunities for writers to connect directly with readers in ways that were never possible before, but the options can feel overwhelming.
Always keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve. Social media should form part of your overall marketing strategy focused on a tangible goal, for example to drive book sales or mailing list sign ups. If you have limited time, it’s more effective to concentrate your efforts on one or two platforms and build relationships, than joining every platform and spreading yourself too thinly.
Choose social media platforms based on:
- Where your target audiences congregate
- Where you enjoy spending time.
And remember every social media platform is a collection of communities. Focus on the specific groups who have a real reason to be interested in your book, based on its setting, for example #loveshetland, or its content, for example #gardensofinstagram.
Using your author brand in social media content
When it comes to content, we know the ‘Here’s my book, buy my book’ approach won’t cut it over the long term. Establishing content themes that reflect your author brand is a great way to use social media sustainably and effectively.
Content themes are the topics you’ll talk about in your ongoing book marketing, from emails to your mailing list to social media posts. This is the way you cultivate and maintain relationships with readers. Themes can be anything from a photo on your daily dog walk, to nuggets from your research, tips on writing when facing a particular challenge, musings on the nature of time or happiness, or curating content from other relevant sources.
Use these content themes consistently to engage with your target communities, ask questions and start conversations – spend at least as much time liking, sharing and commenting on other people’s content as you do sharing your own.
Crucially, give yourself time to explore and be social, especially when getting started on a new channel. Have fun – the right content themes will mean your passion shines through.
Links and inspiration – who’s doing this well?
These are author websites where you’ll find links to each author’s social media channels – take a look around!
- Clare Mackintosh https://uk.claremackintosh.com/
- Nadine Matheson https://www.nadinematheson.com/
- Samatha Clark https://www.samanthaclark.net/
About Anna Caig
Anna Caig helps authors connect with people who’ll love – and buy – their work in a way that feels natural.
She works with The Society of Authors, Jericho Writers,The Literary Consultancy, Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre and The Romantic Novelists’ Association, as well as one-to-one with many writers. She’s worked in communications for 20 years, specialising in media relations and strategic marketing campaigns, and is an experienced and engaging public speaker.
Anna also writes historical crime fiction and her debut novel was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger prize. She reviews books for The Sheffield Telegraph and on her blog.
The former Head of Communications at Sheffield City Council and tutor on The University of Sheffield MA Journalism course, Anna began her training business to support writers to build their brand and reach more readers. She now works with traditionally, indie and self-published writers, as well as helping creatives in any discipline find a wider audience.