Q: I want to start a website to gain followers and make money with my writing. I’ve identified a niche, but I’m wondering how to get started branding myself. —Trish

Andrea:

Understand Yourself & Your People

Before you do anything else dig down deep and articulate who you are and what the overarching themes will be.

Next, figure out who your audience and what they are in to on a deeper level. I’m talking micro, like what kind of food they like to eat (i.e. are they granola, or junk food). This will help you identify what they are into, where they like to go and what kinds of things they’ll want to read or see.

Develop deep knowledge and show it off.

I think the most important thing is knowing about your subject matter on a deep level. Demonstrating that you are a “go-to” person for your niche subject matter will help a lot.

I recommend making a list of six months worth of content ideas. Then break up those ideas based on how you want to write about them. For instance, some ideas might be better for blog posts while others might be best to pitch for publication. Blog posts are great for once people get to your website and can also be useful for SEO (search engine optimization), and getting pieces published elsewhere online can help drive traffic to your website as well as give you more credibility.

For the website itself:

If you don’t want to hire someone to create a WordPress site for you, depending on your technical skill, I suggest just setting one up yourself at wordpress.com, or setup a site with Squarespace, though I prefer WP.

Keep it simple, but make sure you have these elements:

  • clean design,
  • quality content (decide on that beforehand),
  • an email list sign up,
  • links to your social media

Make Time for Your Brand

Next, schedule regular time for promoting yourself. Quality and consistency are the most important factors in building up an audience.

Collaborate with Others

When you’re first starting out and don’t have an audience yet, it can be really helpful to partner up with folks who have similar audiences that are already built. Whether it’s a podcast, a webinar, a guest post, or an event, you can build your audience by giving valuable content to sister audiences. Start reaching out to others that relate to your niche–people or brands who have a bigger audience and figure out ways to collaborate. And always make generosity a priority. What will they get from you, if they partner with you?

If you implement these things it will give you a great start on building your writer brand.


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.


 

Q: For writers new to the idea of writing as a business, what are some of the mistakes to avoid when thinking about branding? —Gabrielle

Andrea: Great question.

One of the biggest personal branding mistakes is trying to be everything to everyone. A lot of this is based in fear–that if we have too narrow of a focus, we won’t appeal to enough people. But something important happens when we go deep on the things we truly care about: we gain clarity, and that makes us more appealing to others as well.

We’re often told that branding is all about our audience–not ourselves. In other words, we’re supposed to appeal to what they want in order to be successful. And while that is true to a degree, we also have to be true to ourselves.  I think that’s actually where we should start.

More and more, readers crave authenticity. You can’t have authenticity without deep self-knowledge. But you don’t have to share EVERYTHING either.

in general, writers should have a layer of separation between who they are as a person and who they are as a brand. You can use your voice, style, talent, personality, and knowledge to express the parts of yourself that you are willing to share publicly.

For example, you might be interested in a variety of subjects but most want to write about only one or two, in this case, your focus should be there. That’s only one example though, you can differentiate yourself from other writers in subject matter, approach, voice, and other ways.

Keep the focus on what you want to build your brand around, not being “all the things.” Zero-in on one primary throughline to your work and once you’ve established yourself there, you can always add new priorities/facets, down the line.


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.


 

Q: My profile photo on Facebook and Instagram is my book cover. Should I keep it that way, or have a picture of myself? —Brian

Andrea:

Make it a personal photo for sure! People want to connect with a human being, they like books because books are about people. 😛 So upload a nice author brand photo of yourself as your profile pic.

It’s safe to assume that most people are in a hurry and are distracted. Make it as easy as possible for them to find what you want them to find. BTW, I suggest making your cover photo your book, along with one or two positive review quotes/blurbs, and then your profile should be your personal photo.

Remember, you’re building a career–one that won’t just be based on one singular book.

You can find more tips for building your author brand on social media in my article on The Write Life.

 


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.


 

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.

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Image: Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash