brand your book or yourself

Q: I have a book out and one forthcoming. How do I establish a brand? Should I brand my book or myself personally? Do I link the two books through titles? —Lee

Andrea: Generally speaking you want to establish your brand for you as the author, not only for your book(s). But before you tell your agent or and publisher that, let me explain what I mean.

Your books are tools to build your brand–they are also a integral part of your brand. They are huge, but they are not everything. They are sub-brands of your overall personal brand. Think of it like Johnson & Johnson. We all know that name, but we also know their sub-brands: Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Lubriderm, to name a few.

To bring this analogy closer to home when thinking about whether to brand your book or yourself personally, think about some of your favorite authors. Sure, they are known for the books they’ve written, but they are also known for who they are/their writing style/stories/approach/voice, etc.

The successful authors have established a “name brand” for themselves that transcends their books and retains their readers’ loyalty, even if their subsequent books may be different than their first.

There are a variety of ways to begin establishing your author brand, here are just a few ideas to get your creativity flowing:

  • writing and publishing the books (duh! 😉 
  • a professional-looking website
  • local and online events (and readings)
  • engage in activities with your potential readers: create a profile (or updatee it) on your two favorite (or least hated) social networks
  • write shorter form pieces and pitch/submit for publication online
  • write blog posts
  • do public speaking engagements
  • look for like-minded allies and consider cross-promoting
  • treat your email list like your friends, make sure you stick to a consistent emailing schedule that works with your life and provide valuable information and resources
  • get out there in your community and get to know other writers, readers, etc. you never know what can happen once you put yourself out there more consistently

A few things to consider though, before you jump into any of the above ideas:

  • Take some time to figure out what you want to be known for–what your personal brand is all about. This will help you stay on track and “on brand” when selecting events to participate in, promotional activities to engage in, and content to create and/or share.
  • Your online presence should be YOU. While people might love a book, they friend or follow actual humans. So your profile pic should be you, but your banner or cover images (on social) can be all about your book.

Also, regarding that last part of the question. No, you don’t need to link your two books through their titles, unless there is some other reason to do so, for instance if they are in a series or something like that. Branding-wise, your name is link enough though.


Do you have a burning question about branding your writing or creativity? The business or psychological side to pursuing your dream of supporting yourself with your creative work? Please email it to me. It just might get selected to be featured on this blog.


 

write different genres how to build audience

Q: I, like several of the other writers here, write multiple genres and on multiple topics. Consciousness, mindfulness, dance and somatics in nonfiction largely; also poetry (several books) and fiction. I’ve a Facebook presence, tweet, blog. How do I build audience further? Seems my brand is broad.  —Cheryl

Andrea: This is a question that so many writers have. To be honest some of us not only write on many subjects and in several genres but are also into other things like design, or other creative ventures. This is one of the beauties of being human, we’re not just one thing.

1. Identify the central theme, or through-line. I find that when we seem to have a varied brand like this it’s helpful to pull out the central themes–just like you would a story.

It sounds like your readers are interested in living conscious lives. At first glance, that seems to be your overarching theme–or core brand.

Your varied writings are extensions of this core brand. They are both the content and the different approaches to your central brand of conscious living.

2. What makes your approach different?

The next step is to think about how you approach it uniquely. What makes you different than others doing similar things? Maybe it’s your approach or your knowledge of dance and mindfulness? Your background?

 

Cheryl: Yes and yes. You’ve zeroed in on it. I call my blog InBod. All my work looks at the way we embody ourselves and make ourselves more conscious.

Andrea: See, you’re on the right track!

3. So your next step might be to identify like-minded brands who have bigger audiences than yours and explore ways to collaborate so you can start building a larger following with the right kind of people.

Either that, or you can also learn from the way they do things in order to get ideas on how to build your audience.

 

Cheryl: I’m stumbling on grasping “like-minded brands.” Do you have examples?

 

Andrea: Okay, sure, so I would start with making a list of the kinds of things do you read, watch, and engage with on the subject. That’s where I would go, mindful living magazines, other bloggers, local events, mindfulness organizations. Start taking a more mindful look at how they engage with their audience but also, if possible, the steps they took to get where they are today. You may be surprised what you find. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from similar brands who’ve gone before you.

This is the first post of a new series on my blog. If you’d like to be notified when the next one goes up, sign up for my weekly e-mail list below.


Image: Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Those words “sales” and “marketing” have often felt icky to me. Marketing definitely has a stigma caused by the incessant, bludgeoning advertising and empty promises that assail our modern lives.

And sales? For me it’s often had a sleazy, even traumatic feel; but hey, my ex husband was a salesman, so what can I say?

Among other reasons, that’s why I’ve gravitated to branding, because it’s more about relationships, being authentic, and having clarity. But the thing is, there’s always going to be a time when you have to “sell” or “market” yourself your your work.

I think for a lot of us creative types, there’s a disconnect between the heart and soul we put into our work and being able to package it up in such a way that it sells. But in whatever form it is, we must sell if we want to help people understand why they need our product/book/service/writing/art.

selling without feeling sleazy

Mindset Shift

So if we want to get better at selling our stuff, we’re going to need to make some changes. And like most epic changes, it’s more about mindset than a to do list to check off.

There’s no magic cure, no “just do these 5 things” formula to make you a rich artist. Dangit! With the mountains of information online, there are so many ideas and methods and formulas and systems, how do you know which ones are right for you?

After over fifteen years of making my living creatively—except (full-disclosure) a few years when shit hit the fan and I had to take other jobs—I’m still learning new methods. And I think that’s a good thing.

What I know (and have learned the hard way) is that it takes more than just actions to get results. It’s the quality of those actions, paired with a mindset shift that makes all the difference.

For instance, when I first started submitting my writing for publication I submitted exclusively to literary magazines and contests. My rationale was that if I wanted to build my career the fastest way, it would be through accolades.

Over time, and spending money on submission fees, only to get rejections (mostly), I realized that accolades weren’t as important to me as writing that reached people and discussed the kinds of issues I cared about. I wanted to change the world (still do, and I don’t care if anyone things that’s silly).

That’s why I love writing in the first place! Duh!

One kind comment or email from a reader who felt moved by what I wrote was worth more to me than an award. So I shifted gears and began pitching to more widely read publications, ones that got back to me more quickly, actually paid, and didn’t cost a dime to submit to. I also stopped submitting quite as much and poured more energy into the actual writing itself.

Of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek awards, literary journal publication, or apply for residencies, retreats, fellowships and the like. You totally should if that’s what you want! I applaud and respect that so much. And I’m not saying I never would again.

But regardless of where you decide to pitch your work or display it in the world, it’s of the utmost importance to get your mindset in a productive space. Otherwise you’re working against yourself. 

There’s a saying from the Bible I’m going to drop right here, it’s one that still resonates for me:

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36

To me this means you can drive and muscle your way to success; you can do all of the things to get the awards or the money, but unless that “success” is the kind you really want, what’s the point?

And this is, I think, where most creatives and artists get hung up when it comes to sales and marketing. They feel like “promoting” their work is a greasy business of losing their souls.

I assure you, it doesn’t have to be. It is simply another psychological tool to communicate. Yes, this tool has been abused like a Mofo, but you can still take the higher ground while selling and marketing.

You can both keep your soul and be successful. 😉 Pinky promise.

Being Realistic

As someone who fights depression, I can tell you that some of my business and creative failures have been the fallout of me just plain not being able to get my head in the right space in those moments. It’s taken a while for me to be able to admit that, by the way. If you struggle with a mental illness, or a disability, or a physical illness, or whatever may plague you, be kind to yourself.

And by “be kind to yourself” I mean both in the sense that you should cut yourself some slack because it is legitimately harder for you to just operate at “normal” but also that it’s important to do the things that will help you too. Like the things that help you exist in a healthy headspace.

For instance: get sleep, ask for help, take breaks, set more realistic goals, get more in tune with what’s truly important to you, kick negative people out of your life, etc.

You know, treat yourself like you would someone you love.

Why

Why am I blathering about all of this? I swear, I’m bringing it back around. What I’m going to say next though, isn’t always fun to hear. And it’s definitely easier to say than to do…

You must believe in your work, even if no one else might. 

Crazy, right? But this is the mindset key to being able to sell your work, or market it effectively. If you doubt your value, or the value of your work, it is harder to get others see it.

Now of course, when you’re in the thick of self-doubt, or impostor syndrome, or jealousy, or whatever, it’s going to be fucking hard to keep the faith.

I’m going to go ahead and drop another bit of wisdom on ya, one that comes from a loving woman whose definition of success was not financial but oh so applicable:

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

—Mother Theresa

If I’m struggling with wondering how I’m going to reach my goals, the quickest way back to believing in my work again—even if it’s being rejected, or barely read, or seen—is to go back to the WHY of it.

Am I being faithful to the work I want to do? Even if that just means today? Or this week?

If not, if I’m getting lost in the outward manifestations of success, I’m losing touch with my mission and vision on this planet.

And guess what? Then I’m losing ground everywhere.

My version of success looks very different than Mother Theresa’s, because I want to make a difference and make money too. My eyes are on both.

And that’s okay! It’s okay to want both. Contrary to my formerly limiting beliefs, you can be a good person and rich too. In fact, the world could use more of those GoodRichKids.

Check-In

The next time you’re feeling queasy about pitching your work or selling your thing, I want you to check-in with yourself:

Am I doing the work I believe in?

Why is this important? Isn’t that worth something?

How can I demonstrate that importance to others?

Take some time today to think about why you do what you do. What’s the impetus? What drives you? What makes your work worthwhile?

Entertain ideas that might seem silly or braggadocious. Write them down, read them up, swirl them around in your brainpan and try out how it feels to believe these things about yourself and your work. Click To Tweet

Of course I’ll have more branding, marketing, and sales tools for you down the line, but this is the foundation, friend.

This is how you become unstoppable. Even when the dark times come. Even when you’re on top of the world.

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear.

Have you ever wondered if your personal brand will really fit you years from now, or even days? That was one of my fears when I first started crafting my personal branding to where it is now. I was afraid to commit to something because I felt like I couldn’t be tied-up in a pretty bow like that. I had too many interests, too many things I wanted to do.

“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

—Neil Gaiman

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re building your personal brand. You ask yourself questions like, “is this who I really am?” Or “How can I pretend to be who I want to be perceived as?” Or “Will people like me as this brand?”  These are some of the most common fears that come up for my clients and students too.

It can sometimes kind of feel like you’re a college freshman being asked to pick the career that you want for the rest of your life.

But the thing is…these fears aren’t based in reality, or at least they don’t have to be.

Change is guaranteed.

Just like the world around us, we humans are ever-evolving. And thank goodness because good gawd, I cannot imagine if I was still attracted to the kind of guys I liked in high school. Or imagine I still spent the majority of my income on Fun Dip, Blue Razz Berry pops, and collectible plush bunnies like I did in elementary school, or wore the same overall-shorts and shoulder pads I did in junior high. Okay, maybe my junior high fashion is back, but that’s beside the point.

Your core doesn’t change…


We’re are meant to adapt, mature, and change, but there are also things about us that stay pretty constant. And that’s good too. For instance, while my spending habits may have changed, my innate desire to help people has always been there.

Except when it does?

You can even have phases where you seem to change and then come back to who you are. While I had always been a sensitive caring kid, I went through an awful (now embarrassing) phase of gossiping about classmates during my middle-school years. When I eventually realized it was more about my own insecurity than other people, I was able to return to my original factory setting of being empathetic and compassionate.

The point is, if we’re living with our heads screwed-on most of the way, we’re trying to be the best we can be.  And that drive and evolution to be our best selves is something we can hold onto, something we can build our personal brands on.

Our strengths, values, and core is something that won’t drastically change even if we decide we’d rather be a social worker than a salesman. Okay, maybe there’s some ethical changes necessary for that one, but you get the idea.

Powerfully stepping forward

When we consciously work to be the best humans we can be, we find more powerful ways to step into our purpose and interests. We may even discover along the way that we prefer writing memoirs to novels, or painting in oil, rather than acrylic, or working a low-stress job to fund our artistic interests, rather than working freelance. And that’s okay, it doesn’t mean your personal brand has to be thrown out the window.

In the past, I think these kind of changes might have signaled a sea change in how we think we should have presented our “brand” or “persona.”

The opposite is actually true. Even the corporate bigwigs know that people prefer to connect with other people, not inanimate corporate brands.

As Entrepreneur.com notes:

“When brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.”

Your personal brand still has value, even if you left your job, or changed careers, or retired. Sure it may need some work, but if you’ve used your own personal strengths as the foundation, it’s much easier to rebuild.

personal branding from your core

 

Loyalty to People

“As society changes, as politics change, as people change, certain songs still seem to resonate.” —Beck

Think of some of your favorite personal brands, if these people shifted their focus it’s likely you wouldn’t write them off. For instance, Oprah had a talk show for years, which she shifted from to start new ventures like O magazine and the O network. Sure there was talk of audience loss, maybe growing pains, but look at her now. She’s still a big (a huuuge) name. She’s dug more deeply into spirituality with Super Soul Sundays; she’s invested in other shows and stories she feels aligned with.

And she’s still successful.

Did she lose some fans along the way? Probably. Did she gain even more who are aligned with her personal brand values? You betcha.

Not everyone will like you.

Here’s the other thing, if or when you make some changes in your career, or life, or brand, some people won’t like it. They’ll leave, block you, or fall out of touch. That’s just fine. You don’t need to be everything to everyone. In fact, you can’t. Not really.

Embrace who you really are at your core, embrace what you truly believe in, and build your brand on WHO you are, not just what you do. You are much more than your title, your art, your craft, or your job. You’re an exquisitely faceted PERSON whose personal brand works to help attract the kind of people you want in your life.

Strength in Personal Branding

That’s why I focus on strengths-based and personal values-based personal branding. I believe your character, how you treat people, are still the most important and memorable things about you.

When you can build a personal brand grounded in who you authentically are, the fear of how things may change down the road, melts away.

build your audience for your creative work

You’ve created something amazing—an important book, a stirring song, a cool website, an amazing new service—and now it’s time to build your audience. These days there are more ways to get in front of more eyeballs than ever before. The sky is the limit!

Except of course, that maybe you’ve tried some things and you’re not getting the results you expected.

If I’m honest, there’s always this part of me that wishes against all reality that one of my creations will go viral. I mean, we all do right?

Okay, maybe I’m the only one, but even if you just want to get enough attention to build your business, or change someone’s perspective, or share encouragement, it’s usually going to take some effort. And time.

While there’s no magic approach, I’d like to share three ways that you can get out there and reach your ideal customers, readers, or patrons, more effectively.

Create a Quiz

This is something I’ve been having some fun obsessing over lately: creating online quizzes. We all know how irresistible and addictive online quizzes can be, but did you know they can be a great tool for building your email list? It’s true. And it’s not just Buzzfeed that’s in the game. Smaller brands and larger (like Home Depot and Eventbrite) use quizzes to not only get new subscribers, but better serve them as well. Let me explain.

I confess I haven’t created a ton of quizzes yet, but so far I’m really impressed with not only the options you can provide folks (including an option to NOT have to sign up for your email list). I personally like that you can tailor resource recommendations based on a quiz-taker’s results or answers.  And after all, if someone is nice enough to try out your quiz you want to provide as much value to them as possible. So for instance, you could recommend certain blog posts, downloads, or even products based on what their results were.

The company I use to create quizzes (and totally recommend) is called Interact. Full disclosure, I’m a partner member and an affiliate, but I am because I believe in the fricken product! Not only does their quiz-creation software have a ton of amazing features but they are truly committed to continuing to improve their software and service. They want to be the best quiz creation software out there. And I think they’re doing a helluva job. Check them out.

Here are a few quick ideas of ways you could use a quiz, as an author:

  • Nonfiction: Pick a juicy question based on the subject matter of your book. For instance, “How efficient are you with time?” (for a book like Time Management from the Inside Out), or “Are you a master negotiator?” (for a book like Getting to Yes)
  • Mystery Novel: “How many of these mystery novels can you name?”
  • Novel: “What Kind of Warrior Are You?” or “Which Character are You?”
  • Cookbook: “Which of these ingredients provide the most nutrients?” or “How many of these Food Network stars can you name?”
  • Biography: “How well do you know Jackie Kennedy?”

Of course, it does get a little more challenging with memoir and some other genres, but you just might come up with a great idea based on the subject matter, niche, or genre of your book.

Here are a couple examples of writers who use quizzes: Stephanie Bwabwa and Angela J. Ford.

And here’s an example of one of my new quizzes: 

build your audience with quizzes

Do an Informative Webinar with a Fellow Creative

Toward the end of last year I created a fun and information-packed webinar series with some amazing writers, editors, and entrepreneurs, called The Business of Writing series. It was a great way to build up our mutual email lists, share knowledge, help people, and get to know each other better.

Build your audience

Screenshot of one of the webinars in the series

When you partner up with a colleague to do a webinar (or online workshop) you are both able to cross-promote and build your audiences while also providing high-quality content to your audiences.

I use and recommend Webinarjam, though it can be expensive up front if you’re just starting out. There are many webinar software platforms out there so take a look around before deciding. I know some of my colleagues also like Crowdcast and GoTo Webinar, which bill monthly.

Whatever you choose, keep the presentation, graphics, and process as simple as possible. My biggest mistake when putting together the aforementioned webinar series was spending WAAAAY too much time making beautiful graphics and slides. I mean, I know people liked them, but it ate up too much of my time. Though next time, I’ve now got some pretty great graphics that I may be able to repurpose. So there’s that.

That’s the thing, whatever you try, try it a few times because chances are it won’t be EPIC the first few times. But you’ll learn how to improve things as you go along.

Also note that you can provide free webinars, free webinars where you sell something at the end (no shame in that), or even paid webinar workshops. Every creative or writer is different, so consider what works with your creative work.

Let Them Try Before They Buy

I’m not necessarily saying you should give people your book or paintings or classes for free. In fact, a lot of times it can actually undermine your value.  I’m a big believer in valuing creative work! But, sometimes you can still give them something to offer a taste of what you provide.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • A free worksheet from your online course
  • A free mini coaching session or consultation
  • A free trial size of your product
  • A free weekly quality tips email
  • A free chapter of your book
  • A free reading guide with your book
  • A free bookmark

You get the idea. Give what you can to give them an impression of the value and art that you’re offering, but be sure to follow that up with an offer for them to actually buy your service, product, course, or book. In other words, on your free worksheet you could have a link back to your course with a call-to-action; maybe your free coaching session includes a coupon for 10% off their first twelve weeks; or your trial product has a coupon attached; or the chapter of your book provides a link at the end to buy the whole book; or maybe people have to sign up for your email list in order to get the reading guide for your book; or maybe someone has to leave a Goodreads review (positive or not) to get a free bookmark. These are just spitballs to get your creative ideas flowing.

I hope these three suggestions to promote your oh-so-wonderful creative work have given you some ideas on what you might try next. I realize that you might have questions about some of these ways to build your audience, because honestly each of these could be an entire post unto themselves. If you do, please feel free to leave a question in the comments below, or even email me. I’m happy to help as best I can.

Most of all, I hope your work gets the audience it so richly deserves. Keep on plugging, my friends.

I want to talk about something I’ve been thinking a lot about this week, namely: perceptions of reality. You know, something light and airy. 😉

Seriously though, as writers and creative-types we are often so intimately oriented with our own work that we have trouble articulating why someone else should care about it. Okay, maybe you’ve never felt this way. But I know I have.

Maybe you’ve feel like the inherent virtue of your art should be obviousI mean you love it! Everyone should! Or maybe you can’t even imagine how someone could appreciate our work. You like it, but you can’t help but see the flaws. Or maybe you think that you’re the only one who would like this kind of thing.

Or maybe—and this kind of thinking is even more insidious—you think that it can’t be both True Art and commercially viable.

In any of these scenarios, there’s a problem of perception. Whether we think highly of our work, find it always lacking, or wrestle with making True Art while trying to pay the bills—we’re focused on our own reality. We’re looking down at our own work in our own little bubble-world, trying to find a solution there, meanwhile the real solution doesn’t live there. It’s out there in the world, where we aren’t looking.

Introspection is important; and I would argue that it’s essential to understanding why your work is valuable. But sometimes we need to burst our own bubbles and try to step into another’s perception bubble so we can gain insight.

One of the biggest challenges I see writers and creatives face is how to get people to buy-in to what they are creating.

Where the Answer Isn’t

Much of the time, I think we’re looking for a formula or tip or trick to connect with a larger audience. Like if only our Instagram was better, or we did live videos on Facebook, or whatever, that would be the missing key to stardom.

I don’t think the answer lies in formulas. That’s not to say that you can’t learn how to be a better Instagramer, or utilize effective tools to get out there in front of the right people. It just means maybe we’d gain a whole lot more insight by understanding how our ideal market thinks and sees the world.

How Different We Can Be

My ex-husband was a philosopher and when we were still together a loooong time ago, he studied philosophy at Berkeley. Over many a family dinner, and the subsequent wiping off of our toddlers faces and sweeping up of floors after they ate like adorable human tornadoes, we often discussed existential conundrums and the very nature of reality itself.

To him—and let’s face it, if you take philosophy studies to their logical end points—there is no such thing as an objective reality. This eventually led him to a more nihilistic and hedonistic life-in-practice.

My ex was and likely remains—I’m sure he’d admit—a man of extremes. But I will say this, he lived what he believed, for better or worse (mostly worse—​you’ll understand when my memoir is finished, haha). This was one of the things that initially most attracted me to him, but ultimately one of the things that tore us apart. Without sounding like a complete ex-basher, it seemed to me that he felt his perception of reality (and the lack there of) was Truth, even though that according to him also did not exist.

And of course, I thought that my perception of reality was the more correct one. As a young stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, my reality of stuffed animals, runny noses, dirty diapers, park play-dates, and laundry looked very different than his reality of graduate school classes, commutes listening to audio books, and late night study sessions.

I had no use for reality as a philosophical construct, I was living it in the scrubbing of the bathtub, in the soft cuddles with my babies’s sweet little bodies, in the changing of diapers that smelled like garbage burritos, and in the giant, beautiful eyes of my children that looked at me each day with pure love and expectation to give them the very best of myself. I was living in the world of the visceral, corporeal, and sometimes even somatic.

As much as I don’t  want to drag my ex into anything, I tell you this snippet from my life because I want to acknowledge how different two perspectives can be—even in a relationship between two people who live in the same home.

And when two very disparate perspectives are not bridged, relationships can be torn apart, art doesn’t get appreciated,  and megalomaniacs can get elected to office. 

Okay, okay I’ll get back on track…but you get what I mean.

~

Balancing Perspectives and Who You Want to Be Around

The older I get the more I realize I don’t want to waste my time with people who are at odds with my core values. Maybe that’s an asshole thing to say, but it’s what I feel. And yet, I also see this deeply divided America (and world) and try to figure out ways to reach out and heal our communities, and understand each other better,  without compromising my own values.

When it comes to our art, our work, our business, I think there’s definitely virtue and even a call in trying to connect with new audiences, but I think it’s often more helpful to start with the people you really want to work with, or help.

In other words, I believe our time is better spent working to connect with the kinds of people we want to work with or be around, rather than trying to appeal to everyone.

How to Get People to Care About Your Art

As an artist, if you/we want to get people to care about your art, you must do the hard work of stepping outside of your own perspective bubble and consider what it’s like to live in another body, another life. I think this kind of experimentation isn’t just useful for helping us connect more effectively with our ideal customers and readers, but for our own edification as human beings, as well. It’s not always an easy thing to do, however.

If you’re interested in thinking and learning more about this idea of working to understand other’s perceptions of reality I encourage you to check out these two episodes of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast. As ever, your perception of reality will expand simply by listening, but there are also some valuable ideas on how to step out of your own narrow rut of thinking in order to see what others might see. The more we understand how others think, the easier it will be to communicate the value of our art/work.

If you really believe in the power and/or value of your work, I encourage you to find ways to help others see what you do. But paradoxically of course, being able to do that requires standing in their shoes, and attempting to shed your own perceptions enough to view at least some of how they perceive the world.

And here’s the thing, it’s never like you’ve arrived and now understand everything about how others perceive the world. But the more we make an attempt to understand what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin, the more we become better humans.

We become more compassionate, understanding beings who create better, more insightful, powerful ‘doings.’


If you’re having trouble connecting your work with the right customers or fans, I’m here to help. Of course, there are plenty of free resources here on my blog and site (and weekly email list), but if you feel like you could use some one-on-one time to work through this challenge, I offer both à la carte one-on-one consultations, and longer-term one-on-one coaching where I can help you discover new ways to break through the confusion and start reaching your amazing audience, right where they are.


 

Branding (or personal branding) is a term that gets thrown around a lot lately. It seems that everyone’s talking about it, but only some actually know what it means. If you’re one of those who’s scratching your head at this jargon, don’t worry even big companies sometimes get the definition wrong, or incomplete.

I want to change that for you right now.

I’ve dedicated a large portion of my career to branding and preaching the personal branding gospel so to speak. The reason I do this is because I believe it is the most essential component of a lasting career.

Branding not as complex (or convoluted) as you might think.

Contrary to how many people use this term, I want you to know that it does not constitute becoming a sellout or a fake. You are not a Kardashian. You do not need butt implants, botox, or a boob job to have a brand.

And once you understand exactly what it is (and the power it holds)  it frees you up to be more authentically yourself while actually worrying less about your career and public image. Odd, right? Maybe that goes against everything you’ve seen so far. That’s good.

First, let’s break down the concept of what a personal brand is.

Personal Brand definition: Your professional persona made up of a variety of elements.

[Image Description: A Personal Brand: Your professional persona made up of a variety of elements including: your body of work, your name, your logo, color scheme, social profiles, social media personality, business practices, professional experience, etc. Think: Oprah, Stephen King, Ellen Degeneres, Mary Karr, Laverne Cox, Cheryl Strayed, Amy Poehler, Tyler Perry ]

Now, if that’s a brand, what is brandING?

the definition of branding

[Image Description: Branding: Is simply the self-knowledge, strategy, planning, and actions that go into crafting your personal brand and displaying it to the world.]

Now that you have the basics, let’s clarify one of the areas that is most confused:

How Branding is different than marketing or platform

 

 

I hope that this post helped clarify what a brand and branding is and how it is different than marketing and author platform. If you’d like to learn a bit more about why branding is important, and how to utilize it to build your writer brand, author platform and ultimately the writing or creative career you really want, check out the sister post to this one, called Why Branding is So Important for Writers and Creatives.

 

Being a professional writer is only half about writing that book, or screenplay (or whatever your big project is). The other half is actually getting someone to read your work.

When I first started writing, a friend and I went to a day-long seminar about how to market yourself as a writer. It was a clusterf#$k of information. We were totally intimidated and overwhelmed because all we wanted to do was write well and have said writing get in front of some eyeballs.

We were not ready for the glut of work it actually takes to sell your writing.

Writing and marketing (and branding) are two vastly different skill-sets which require different mindsets.

That’s why I’m going to go ahead and be a jerk here and say the thing that most writer marketing people won’t: if you’re just starting out and you are still just trying to figure out the HOW to write your work effectively, skip this post and go check out some of my other ones like Mind the Gap or Writing Peace. You’ll likely find these much more enjoyable.

I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon here, it’s just a waste of your precious energy to think about marketing stuff until you’re ready. And if you think about marketing too early in the game, your writing may never pass the shitty first drafts phase.

On the other hand, if all you do is think about writing, but not the promotion of it, you’ll likely end up with some beautiful writing that only a handful of people actually read. (Which hey, if that’s what you want, no worries.)

If you’re a writer who’s truly ready to think about marketing–maybe you’ve had a few things published (or are ready to), or maybe you’re even widely published and you just procured an agent, or a book deal, or you’re getting ready to publish a book yourself, or heck if you’ve even published a few books but haven’t built the readership you’re looking for–this post is for you.

Let’s get to the meat of things.

Once upon a time, you could be a nobody and have some good writing, or even just a great idea for a book and get a book deal. This would garner you a suite of promotional support from your publisher. Support in the form of money, paid book tours, marketing, etc.

Those days, for the most part are gone. You’ve likely heard this before.
You’ve probably even heard that you need to publish micro versions of your work as widely as possible and have a platform, in order to get a good book deal and/or appear to build an audience. This is also true.

But let’s talk about the thing that no one seems to be addressing–and that’s the big ol’ WHY.

Why do we think we need 5k followers on Twitter? Why are we plucking segments from our books, or offshoot subject matter and working to get it published? To get a book deal? To build an audience? Will these things actually give us what we want?

Wait, do we even know what we truly want?

Which brings me to this: We’re caring about the WRONG THINGS. That shit really doesn’t matter. I recently saw the badass Nicole Walters speak and here’s a shot of one of her slides. It’s a little blurry (my bad), but it says this:

#TruthMoment: You Care About the Wrong Things

and then under that are three words are crossed out: Traffic, Followers, Subscribers

[to be clear she’s not saying you shouldn’t care about your followers or subscribers–rather you shouldn’t care about the number of them]

I’m going to tell you something you likely already know, deep down. But that hardly anyone is saying.

Just because you got published in the NY Times doesn’t mean you have a real audience. Just because you have a ton of Twitter followers will not guarantee that they’ll buy your book. Think about it. Even if hundreds of thousands of people read your work–which is amazing by the way, I am not knocking it at all and I want this too–when it comes down to it, will they remember you?

What percentage of those readers will actually remember your name in the future? And of those, what percentage will buy your book when it comes out? What percentage of your Twitter or Facebook followers will even see your book announcements in their feed?

Did you know that most Facebook users have about 1,500 news feed items backlogged every time they login?  Chances are your followers will only see about 1-2% of what you post.

Not to mention that you’re also competing with your friends’ cute puppy and kitty pictures, and political posts.

I don’t know about you, but I may read an essay, even an excellent one, then save it and share it around, but unless I already know the writer personally, I usually forget who the hell they are as time passes.

Here’s the thing that even many publishers haven’t fully caught on to yet: building your author/writer brand–and not just marketing for one book, will not only yield you more sales up front, but repeat customers in the long run.

I hear your gears turning and maybe you’re thinking, but Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t have to do that, Stephen King didn’t either.

Statistically, most of us will not have the kind of ginormous success that they have. And besides, they are not coming up right now in this vastly changed landscape. Even so, we can still be successful even if we’re not at JK Rowling status. But while there is much to learn from mega-writers, when it comes to how to market ourselves, chances are we’ll need to work harder and have a different approach.

The publishing industry has changed both a lot and not enough in the past couple decades. It has not caught up with the changes in our society, nor how people buy, nor what contributes to long-term viability.

I see that as an opportunity! It is an opportunity for a savvy writer like YOU to utilize skills from the entrepreneurial world to make bank despite the weird limbo that New York publishers are in.

Two things you can do today to build a bigger, better audience for the long run:

1. Think like an info-preneur and create a good content strategy.

Publishing work that is in line with your brand may sound like a no-brainer, but start thinking about what kind of brand kingdom you’re looking to build and make the dang blueprints to build it.

I know that’s easier said than done, heck I even struggle with this myself. But here’s an example of mismatched blueprints and construction, to illustrate my point:

Imagine you want to be known for your western mystery thrillers. Maybe that article you’re writing about the trend in bra membership sites isn’t a good match for your brand.

Maybe you’re thinking, but Andrea I have to make a living! I get it. As a single mama, more than most.

So let’s get real about what you need to do now to keep moving toward what you want, while also paying the bills. Maybe that means taking a different job, maybe that’s writing about bras for now, but having a plan for moving toward what you really want. You are the only one who can decide.

And then once you have decided, you can still create a content marketing strategy. Make a list of pieces you can write that build the brand you really want to build. Decide which will be posts on your blog, or email newsletter, and which will be pitched to publications. Then gets ta writin’.

The more volume of quality on-brand material you have, the better chance you have of getting in front of those eyeballs.

2. Enlist some easy, tangible ways to bring readers back to you.

Whenever possible on your posts or published pieces, include a link to your writer website (or at least the website spelled out if they won’t link to it). Don’t have a website? Get one! You need it! Even if it’s a one-pager, that’s okay.

But don’t stop there. The entire reason you want them to go to your website is to provide value and make contact. Have at least two ways to connect with you: an email list sign up, and an email address where they can contact you.

The goal here is to collect info. We know that social media is flooded, so while it’s great if they follow you on Instagram, it’s much better if they give you their email address. This allows you to keep in touch down the road, when you publish stories, or articles, or essays, or your book comes out.

And of course, you’re going to be a good steward and only send them good info, right? Don’t just drone on about how cool you and your book are. Provide some dang value!

You’ll also get a lot more people to sign up for your email list if you give them something in exchange for their email address. It could be the first chapter of your new book, a list of your favorite indie bookstores online, a quiz about your genre–you get the idea. Be creative, offer real value, and begin building an audience you can actually speak to.

You can do this.

I know it can be daunting to think about marketing yourself, or building your writer brand. I’ve totally been there. After that seminar I told you about, I wanted to lock myself in my room and never think about marketing myself again.

The good news is that you don’t need to have it all figured out. It’s just like writing the freakin’ book in the first place. Break it down into bite-sized pieces and do what you can do now.

Awareness with action is better than knowing everything and being paralyzed. Click To Tweet

Now, go get your email list sign up set up  if you don’t have one already (it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes), and just jot down ten quick ideas you could write about to build your brand. Then put them into your calendar so you actually pitch, write and post them.

And sign up for my email list below–see what I did there–to get first notice when my new Content Marketing course comes out! I’ll be walking you through each step to make a killer plan.


Want more help? Here are three ways I can help you now:

Enroll in my personal branding course, book a one-on-one branding consultation with me, or sign up for my weekly email newsletter.


Feature image by Zack Sheppard from San Francisco, CA (Waiting for Harry Potter at Borders) via Wikimedia Commons

For personal brands, I usually recommend either of these two email marketing service providers: ConvertKit and MailChimp.

They each have their strengths and only you can choose the right one for your needs. Both email marketing providers have been selected for their ease-of-use, affordability, and flexibility. Below my Pros and Cons for each, are specific instructions on how to set up an email sign up form on your website, based on your type of website.

ConvertKit

I’m a bit newer to this provider, but I LOVE it’s capabilities for advanced marketing methods along with simplicity. I’m also a big fan of their company in general. Good people run this thing.

They say ConvertKit has the “power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than MailChimp.” So far in my experience, that seems valid.
setup Convertkit on your site

Pros:

  • Easier to segment your list based on a subscriber’s actions, preferences, and purchases, so you can give people more of what they want (or need) and less of what they don’t
  • Super easy to sign up and implement
  • Great for automations–i.e. someone signs up for a freebie and then gets a series of useful emails after.
  • Reasonable price
  • Lots of integrations
  • They have a wealth of knowledge on what actually works in email marketing and are proactive about helping you build your list.

Cons:

  • They don’t have as many design options, and there’s no drag-and-drop layout designer
  • There’s no free to start option

Now, if you are going with ConvertKit, here are instructions for how to set it up on your own site:


MailChimp

I switched to MailChimp from Constant Contact a few years ago when I felt like Constant Contact was trying to have too many bells and whistles while also becoming more corporate. Anywho, I really do like MailChimp’s drag-and-drop design, but there are a few things I don’t like so much–which may not matter to you when you’re just starting out. I recently began my migration from MailChimp to ConvertKit because I wanted to have a more complex way of catering to my subscribers needs.

Pros:

  • Design options galore! Easy to do, too.
  • Clean, modern user interface
  • Easily integrated with many types of sites and platforms
  • Good if you’re just starting out. Free to start and begin collecting email addresses
  • I think they’re pretty cool people too–they loyally sponsored BinderCon

Cons:

  • The user interface, while lovely is often counter intuitive. There’s definitely a big learning curve to understanding lists versus segments, versus groups or doing any kind of more advanced list segmenting.
  • You cannot send your email to more than one list at a time.
  • You can end up paying for duplicate subscribers (billing is based on number of subscribers) if you use more than one list, as they count them separately.

Now, if you are going with MailChimp, here are instructions for how to set it up on your own site:

 

 


Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for ConvertKit so I get a tiny commission if you purchase. (Thanks for your support). I currently use both email marketing platforms, but am migrating over to ConvertKit.

In a market of ideas, why do some take off while others don’t? Why do some authors have mega status while others continue plodding on in obscurity, or with only moderate success?

The literary market fascinates me. There’s this vast ocean of books, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.  published each year and just a handful of them hit it BIG. I won’t pretend to guess that I know the reasons, but thinking about this got me wondering if there are some common traits among bestselling authors.

I think if there was a magic formula we’d know. We’d know because only be those who fit that formula would get books published. But as a writer trying to make it–and by that I mean support myself with my art–I do keep my eyes peeled and my ears open to what seems to set wildly successful authors apart.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past few years or so in my work with writers, and participating in writing seminars, networking, workshops, and of course, my own research.

To be sure, this kind of mind-blowing success–I’m talking JK Rowling, John Grisham, Elizabeth Gilbert level–is not likely to just happen to most of us, but it can’t hurt to know what these authors have in common.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

#1 They write a lot. And often they have been for a while. One of the big fallacies that I wish that some successful people would stop perpetuating is the idea that they just tried something and it worked. Sure there are those lucky ducks who get rich quick. I’m not saying luck never has anything to do with it.

But read enough success stories, or listen to enough podcasts like How I Built This or Being Boss and you’ll notice a pattern that successful people worked really hard for it. Whether it was practice, trial and error, or getting a degree, more often than not, it takes time and commitment.

There’s a reason they say “building” a reputation and not “sprouting” a reputation.

Neil Gaiman offers this advice, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”  (Here’s his full commencement address at The University of the Arts: http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012)

But before you go quitting your job, please read on.

#2 They submit/pitch a lot and are in it for the long game. One of the stories that has encouraged me the most is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk where she shares how she submitted her writing to publications for almost SIX YEARS before getting something published. That’s a long fucking time to wait. And that’s real commitment.

#3 They believed in their project(s). We’ve all heard certain authors say that they didn’t think anyone would actually publish their work. This is one of those moments where I wonder if their hindsight is really 20/20.

Who writes for so long and submits proposal after proposal if they think they have absolutely no hope?

It’s likely best not to have expectations, but I have a hunch that they believed someone would say yes, eventually.

When asked about her faith in her first Harry Potter book, before it was published, J K Rowling said, “You know, I can say this now, I was quite diffident about saying it for a long time. But I did have a belief, with Harry, that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to take it, because it didn’t fit. People said children’s books had to be half the length, and what an old-fashioned subject, a boarding school. I did have this feeling that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to publish it – but that if it was, people would like it.

(Read the full interview here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/28/conversation-lauren-laverne-jk-rowling-interview )

#4 They stood for something. Often something different/unique. These famous authors have instant recognition in our minds. We know them for their style, their voice, their subject matter, or persona of writing. I think a big reason many authors don’t get there is because they aren’t deeply rooted in who they are, what they offer, what/who they stand for, or what they seek to understand. Aka they don’t know what their brand is.

This of course, is of utmost importance in the stories we write as well. Depth of plot and character, as well as intimate knowledge of themes and what both you and your writing is about is key.

#5 They are as tenacious as fuck. They made time for their writing, they got agents, they created book proposals, they wrote essays, or stories, or whatever. The point is, they didn’t make excuses for finding the time to finish their work. They did the work. Stephen King wrote every night after his two day jobs, in the laundry room, on a makeshift desk his wife made for him.

#6 They are focused. Maybe this one could be combined with the point just above, but I want to emphasize it. Perhaps because I need to remind myself of this so often. I love ideas, always have. But the problem is, I find myself jumping on too many of them and doing way too many disparate things, which makes me fall behind on finishing the things I’ve already started.

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” –Ray Bradbury

What is clear is that all of these fabulously successful writers carve out time to write, consistently. They make it a priority.

#7 Most of them had day jobs, so there’s no excuse. JK Rowling was a single mom with a low-paying job who was on state assistance while she wrote the first Harry Potter book. I try to remind myself of this when I’d rather be working out a storyline than getting my other/paid work done.

Besides I think writing in a vacuum often produces navel-gazing, academic, philosophic work, whereas having other obligations while writing, however you do it (doesn’t have to be a day job), produces richer writing and more interesting work.

Here’s what Maya Angelou said, in an interview with Harvard Business Review:

Interviewer: “When you were working at those early jobs, did you ever envision what you would become?”

Maya: “No, but I didn’t think I wouldn’t. I somehow got the feeling early on that if human beings did a thing, I could study it and try to do some of it too. And one thing led to another. If I had not studied Latin in school, I wouldn’t have found it as easy to comprehend the structure of language. Had I not danced, I might never have really listened to music and known I could compose something. You see? I understood early that not everything I did wasn’t going to be a masterpiece, but I would try to do it the best I knew how. I’ve listened to an inner voice and had enough courage to try unknown things. And I think everything in its time.”

And that brings us to what I think is one of the most important points of success.

#8 They had really great ideas/stories that were usually well executed. It seems to me that more often than not their stories or ideas were not only great, but were well crafted. How many times have you read a book, seen a movie, or watched a TV show and thought, well it was a good premise, but it lacked [fill in the blank]? These BIG successful books, essays, screenplays, etc. are (with definite exceptions) excellent ideas, well played.

I think we often underestimate the power of great ideas.

#9 They often felt a higher calling to write. One more quote from Maya Angelou, to sum this point up: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

Whether you or I ever get to the top of our mountains, I think Ms. Angelou’s advice is always good.  If you love what you’re doing, even if you’re making your money elsewhere, you’ll enjoy this life more anyway.

Here’s hoping that someday, your name will be in lights. Or at least that you get to do more of what you love.