In the age of influencers, the word “brand” gets thrown around a lot. And it’s an important word of course — heck, even when I’m making graphics for my blog or retweeting something, I think about my brand image. We’re shaping the way people see us online. It’s kind of weird, kind of artificial. And now the word “brand” is seeping into writing life, into “being an author” life.
If you’re a new writer or a querying author, this one’s for you. I wanna do a quick little dive into what author branding is and to what degree you need to worry about it.
In short, your author brand is a general image that someone gets in their head when they think of your stories. For example, with movies by Pixar, you think “beautiful, heart wrenching, family-friendly, funny films.” With books by Rick Riordan, you think “snarky, fun, deals with mythology in some way.” For movies by M. Night Shyamalan, you expect something kind of creepy with a huge twist at the end.
To figure out your author brand, think of some element all of your books have in common. Are they all lighthearted? Humorous? Dark? Twisty? Romantic? Whatever this element is, whenever you write a new story, keep that element in the back of your mind and try to lean into it. This is your strength! This is what you’re going to be known for! Explore this element and make sure it shines through your work.
But what if I’ve only written one book?
If that’s the case, DO NOT WORRY. When the time is right, you’ll be ready to write another story. And they don’t HAVE to be similar. When you start out, your brand is malleable. And if you’re unagented, you especially don’t have to make this a point of worry in your life. Your agent will be there to help you bring out your strengths and market your work.
What if my books are super different from each other?
That’s totally okay! Here are a few things to think about:
Looking for Agents
If you’re looking for an agent, keep in mind the other genres and age categories you want to write in. If you write romance but also have some picture books you want to share with the world, make sure that the agent you query (or their agency) has some interest or experience with picture books, too. If you’re unsure and you finally hop on the call with that agent, make sure to bring it up. Sometimes they’ll tell you they can’t really help you with books like that. Sometimes they’ll bring in a colleague to help you–and them–navigate that other field of publishing.
Sometimes a pen name can be useful when you’re writing across genres or age categories. It kind of allows you to have a second (or third) author brand altogether! Maybe Catherine Bakewell is known for her lighthearted, kid-friendly books, and her dark, edgy persona Batherine Cakewell writes Adult dystopian robot apocalypse books (don’t get too excited, kids. I’m not gonna write those books).
This is something you can discuss with your agent or decide on your own if you’re publishing on your own or through an indie press. It’s absolutely an option you have. Some folks also use one name for their nonfiction publications and another name for their fiction work! It’s a good way to give yourself some flexibility with your author branding.
A lot of people ask me if they should have a website because I do. While I do recommend authors get a (cheap or free) website at some point, I don’t think this is something that agents will reject you for having (or not having). For me, my website mostly exists to help drum up my freelance editing business (we’re getting meta here… shameless plug!). Eventually, when my books are published and folks are looking for more information on me online, this website will be here to help them find me and support me!
I pick a few colors that I feel matches my brand (floral and light) and try to stick to those few colors and fonts. On Twitter, I try to avoid sharing things with inappropriate content or too much swearing (this is probably a little paranoid on my front, because I don’t think any middle-grade aged kids will be scrolling through my Twitter anytime soon) but it’s a good practice to have. If you’re currently a published kidlit author or about to be, maybe make a separate, private Twitter account for any personal rants or anything that may be a little… saucy 😉
Reflect on what your author brand might be! Lean into that fun element that you want woven through all of your future stories. BUT don’t let it limit you. Allow your brand to grow and expand and be flexible.
Most of all, guys? DON’T WORRY. You don’t have to be a packaged author all ready to be shipped out to Costcos nationwide in order to get an agent. In my opinion, there are two secret ingredients for getting an agent:
- Willingness to grow and revise.
Brand consistency isn’t on there 😉 It’s something to be aware of, but not something that will make or break your career, especially so soon.
Good luck out there, be proud of your work and of your stories, and have an awesome week!