Succeeding as an independent author, or as a creative of any sort, isn’t just about selling books. It’s about selling yourself.
This doesn’t mean that you’re indulging in some sort of slave contract. It means convincing people to take an interest in you, to follow what you do, and to keep buying the things that you’re selling.
To do that, you need a strong author brand.
Doing Your Research
Before deciding on how to present yourself as an author, do some research.
Start by looking at other authors who write work like yours. How do they present themselves? What do their books look like? How do they talk online? This will give you some idea of what to aim for.
Research your audience as well. What sort of interests do they tend to share? How do they talk about the world? What appeals to them, aside from a certain sort of book?
This will give you ideas from which to start building your brand.
Thinking it Through
Once you’ve done your research, sit down and look at the results. Brainstorm ideas for how you could appeal to that audience or how you could replicate a particular author’s influence without just cloning their style.
Think about what you’re comfortable with. Your brand is something that you will enact wherever you interact with readers, online or off. It will affect what you right and how your books look. If you’re not comfortable with it then that will show and it will undermine your work.
Things to think about include…
An image can grab someone’s attention far faster than words can. At a glance, it sets the tone and affects how they view what follows.
Think about what sort of imagery you want to draw on and what colours you want to use. If you’re selling romance books then soft colours and warm images may be appropriate. For a horror writer they would send entirely the wrong message.
Apply this visual tone to your website, your book covers, your social media profiles, and anywhere else you can catch people’s eye.
Consider the sort of words and phrasing that will resonate with the people you want to attract. Will you go for strong, powerful words that speak of action and adventure, or a softly nurturing tone? If you’re writing specialist non-fiction, will you use jargon from your field to appeal to the core market, or plain language for a wider reach?
Try to use this language in your website, your social media messages, your biography, and other places filled with your distinct voice.
Connected with your choice of words is your online persona – the version of yourself that you present through your website and social media. Will you be funny or serious, outspoken or conciliatory, thoughtful or impulsive?
Different authors work in different ways, from the helpful positivity of Joanna Penn to the snarling dark humour of Matt Wallace. Your online persona is an aspect of you, not your whole personality, so pick part that you’ll enjoy using and that will appeal to your readers.
Your online persona should be reflected in who you interact with online. If you’re showing a serious front then you won’t want to re-tweet funny things from spoof accounts. If you’re apolitical online then you don’t want to get into Facebook arguments with your local MP.
Talk online in a way that fits this persona and share things that fit with it. This will attract people who see something of themselves in you.
Whatever choices you make about your brand, make sure that you’re consistent.
Stick with your visuals.
Stick with your word choices.
Stick with your persona.
Make sure that all three are consistent with each other.
There may be times to change or to adapt, if your brand isn’t working or you’re diversifying your range of books. But readers like to know what they’re getting and if you can present a consistent personality then they will be more comfortable with and interested in you.