PUBLISHED JULY/AUGUST 2018
by Krista Clive-Smith, Author, Get Noticed. Be Remembered. —
The act of branding is about proactively shaping others’ perceptions.
When an author creates a book, they labor over each paragraph, sentence, word, and punctuation mark. The book is their baby. Once the writing is complete, it’s time to put a cover on it. This can involve even more labor than the writing.
Depending on the author and the type of book, the cover sometimes feels like it doesn’t represent the book (or the author, for that matter), especially when you’re lost in the mix of a big publishing house that may dictate the cover design based on current trends or the preferences of the bookstores they will be in. Or you may have just provided a short summary to the art department, which only has that to base the design on.
As an author, most people may only interact with you through reading your book. So, even if you have a perfectly branded website and social media image, your book’s cover is an important chance to make a great impression. The cover is equivalent to your book’s brand.
When you’re self-publishing or working with a small publisher, you will likely have more influence on the direction of your book’s cover and layout. This should be treated as seriously as you treat meeting someone very important for the first time. The cover is your book’s handshake and smile.
If you haven’t stopped to consider your brand as an author, now is the time to start. The definition of a brand varies, but I believe the definition to be the entire set of perceptions, true or untrue, that a person holds about an individual, company, product, or service.
Notice that I did say true or untrue because, let’s face it, we’re human beings. The old adage about not judging a book by its cover may sound good in theory, but, in reality, it’s rarely applied. The goal is to design a cover that accurately depicts the content of the text so readers know what type of book they’re buying. Authentic branding works the same way, by externally reflecting your true inner essence.
Shaping Your Brand
While a brand is the entire set of perceptions that a person holds, the act of branding is about proactively shaping those perceptions. So, when we are building a brand, it’s not just the perceptions that people hold about you or your writing; it’s the art of influencing how others perceive you. Charles Gibbons once said, “Your level of success in life is directly proportional to your level of planning and control.”
Don’t miss a single chance to influence how people perceive you and your writing. With the volume of new books released every month, your chance to stand out might happen just once with some readers. You want to be sending a message that communicates what your book is about, and, ideally, you want people to recognize the author and make positive associations with you, as well.
The Phases of Branding
Doing the work to identify your brand takes a little bit of effort, but the beauty of it is that, generally, your core values that shape your brand won’t change much. Once you’ve gone through the bulk of the work, often it may only require an annual check-in to be sure you’re still in line with the brand you are showing the world.
Building your brand is like building a house. Its phases of development follow a certain order, ensuring that, once built, it will remain standing, even in spite of fierce weather conditions.
The first phase is defining your brand, or laying the foundation of a house. What is your brand’s mission, story, and core values that will hold it up time and again? Next is positioning, or in the case of our house analogy, taking a close look at the lot and neighborhood around you. How do you want your “neighbors” (i.e., readers) to perceive you? Who do you want your “neighbors” to be? Once we have these defining elements, we can now think about packaging—the exterior decorations and landscaping that make your house a welcome spot on the block. Will you follow the latest design trends and take innovative approaches? Take time to research what’s being done in your “neighborhood”—within your genre, among other authors you admire—and adapt it to what resonates with you and your audience. Finally, it’s time to be your own brand champion. With the keys to your new home in hand, you can welcome others in and celebrate. Amplify your brand through social media, traditional marketing, word of mouth, and more. And remember—the championing phase is not just a one-time housewarming party. It’s an open-door policy, where your guests are invited to join you at all times.
The Power of Branding
You can set yourself apart by imprinting your name and abilities into the minds of your industry’s key decision makers by developing a personal brand that influences the perceptions of others and helps attract fantastic new opportunities. Your increased visibility will supercharge your career and put you on the fast track to professional evolution.
Why Create a Personal Brand?
Creating your own personal brand will:
- Set you apart from your competitors.
- Reflect your values, personality, talent, and skill set.
- Increase your credibility.
- Establish your expertise, authority, and value.
- Attract your ideal readers effortlessly.
Krista Clive-Smith is the author of Get Noticed. Be Remembered. It’s the first release from Merack Publishing (merackpublishing.com).
For more advice about branding, check out this IBPA Independent article: The Language of Branding.