Real Talk: When is the right time to work on your author brand? First of all, I’m an author brand strategist, so that means at least two things: 1) I should know what I’m talking about (lol) and 2) if I’m doing my job right, I am going to give you honest advice–even if that means the time might not be right for you. I’m a firm believer in integrity and there’s no reason to tell you to work on your author brand if it’s just not the best timing.
Ready? Here goes.
Of course, there is more than one “right time” to work on your author brand. Some of these might be obvious, but some may surprise you.
It IS the Right Time to Work on Your Author Brand When:
#1. You get a book deal
You got a book deal! High-five, that’s no easy feat. After you sign that dotted line, you’ll want to start thinking about your author brand. It’s important to figure out how you want to position your personal author brand along with your book’s brand.
If you want to be more than a one-hit wonder, it’s time to decide on and consciously create your author brand in a way that works well with your book. After all, your book is a part of your brand–not the whole brand. When you take the time to do this foundational author branding work you’ll have a better understanding (and plan) for how you want to use this book to set you up for future goals.
Once you have the philosophical and strategic planning done, you’ll also want to start setting up your brand assets (like messaging, website, audience-building support systems, etc.). All of this will help give you more confidence in what you want and need during the publishing process. Plus the earlier you start here, the more influence you’ll likely be able to have over decisions like: book cover design, book description, blurbs, pre-sale incentives, marketing strategies, and even how the book is positioned for PR.
💕 Plus, your agent, and your publisher’s marketing and PR team will love knowing that you’re committed to building your brand.
Think that your publisher will just handle all your marketing and you won’t have to worry about a thing? I don’t want to poke a hole in your boat, but it’s better to know the truth. Watch this IG Live with me & book development expert, and author, Leigh Stein.
#2. You have 6-12 months to publication day
Despite what you may have heard from your publisher’s marketing and PR time, you need to be working on your branding and marketing strategies ASAP. Remember, they are working with multiple authors so on their end, they already know what they’ll do–most publishers kind of follow a formula of what usually works for the types of books they are publishing. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no need for them to reinvent the wheel every time. HOWEVER, it is important that YOU are taking action to make sure that you have your author brand figured out as well as how you want to position your book and where. Regardless of whether you’ve had a meeting with your publisher’s marketing and PR team yet, it’s crucial that you’ve begun working on your brand.
Honestly, the same points as #1 apply here too, except that as you get closer to your book publication day you’ll also have a specific timeline to roll out your branding AND marketing plans.
#3. You have less than 6 mo. to publication day
Of course, the same points in #1 and #2 apply here, but since time is of the essence in this situation, the best way to decipher what you need to focus on most at this phase is to have a conversation with an expert (oh hello 👋) who can tell you what is most important for you now.
Obviously, the more time you have to strategize, plan, and implement the better. But even if you only have 3 months left, we can do a lot to set you up right and set a great author brand foundation not only for your book launch, but for your goals afterward.
#4. You’ve been an author for a while
Okay, maybe this isn’t your first book. Heck, maybe you don’t even have an imminent book launch. Maybe you’re switching gears to a different type of writing, or maybe you just feel like you need to refresh your brand or focus.
Personal brands—like people—can evolve and it’s important to have a brand that you feel proud to share and promote. There’s no shame in getting a brand tune-up or makeover. It can actually be a lot of fun to re-think your author brand especially since you already have an idea of what has worked (or not) in the past. This can be a great opportunity to uncover gems you forgot about, reconnect or better connect with your readers, and create meaningful positive change for your career overall.
#5. You’ve already published before but your launch, career, or income just isn’t where you’d like it to be.
Maybe you launched a book and it didn’t go as well as you would’ve liked. Or maybe you’ve published more than one book, but your career just isn’t where you thought it would be by now.
You may need some fresh eyes and strategy for how to best leverage your work and continue to build your empire. This is why I think it’s so important to infuse every author brand strategy with both strategic business planning tools and mindset shifts. And the good news is you’ve already got a wealth of material for us to draw upon and leverage in a more effective way.
Hey, sometimes, we all just need fresh eyes from an expert to make big shifts. I’ve definitely hired experts when I needed them and every time I did, I was like, “I wish I’d hired them sooner, doh.” Haha.
🤓 It MIGHT ALSO be time to work on your author brand, if:
You have an agent, but no book deal yet
Sometimes part of the problem in not securing the book deal is that you may have a branding and/or positioning issue. It might be time to take a serious look at how you are positioning yourself as an author, especially when it comes to how publishers look at you and how this book fits.
You are querying agents
It can be wise to figure out your author brand so that you’re making the most of your efforts. You might have a great manuscript but it’s not translating well or you haven’t figured out how to position yourself as THE AUTHOR for this book. Agents can help you, but let’s face it they are massively overworked. You’re much more likely to get an agent if you’ve already done the legwork of figuring out how to position yourself and your book.
You’re publishing short form (essays, articles, etc.) AND have a book in the works
If you’re getting your name out there in the bylines and have a book in the works–and I’m talking pretty solid, not just a vague concept–it can be a great time to figure out how you want to brand yourself so that when the opportunity comes to get an agent or pitch publishers you’ve got it nailed.
🚫When it’s probably NOT the right time to work on your author brand:
When I first started writing with an aim of getting published someday (and learning to write better), I was utterly overwhelmed with any talk of marketing strategies, hell, even pitching agents. Looking back, I think that was the right reaction in my case, haha.
I straight up wasn’t ready to start thinking of that stuff. I needed to do the work of finding my voice and what my stories were actually about, etc. There is NOTHING wrong with this phase. In fact, it’s crucial to becoming the writer you truly want to be and publishing work you are proud of.
So if you’re in one of these phases, don’t work actively on your author branding right now:
- If you aren’t sure what you want to write about. Maybe you’re writing about a lot of different things. That’s great…but you’ll need to have some core concepts before you’re really ready to start working on your author brand.
- If you are new to writing for publication and aren’t ready to publish your work yet. No shame in that. We’ve all been there.
- If you aren’t ready to commit to doing what’s necessary to succeed in the industry. Or you’re struggling with deadlines. Again, no shame. I mean, be honest with yourself.
- If you aren’t sure what your book is truly about yet, even if you’ve finished a draft.*
I’ve seen what can happen when a book is rushed to publication. Sometimes you need to figure out your work/art first, then think about your brand when you have a better grasp on what you offer or want to offer the world.
Either way, I’ve got options for ya. 😊
If the time IS RIGHT for you to start working on your brand, book a mini brand consult with me or check out all the ways I can help, on my services page.
If it’s NOT the right time for you, no worries. At least you can take a breath and focus on what’s best for you right now. In the meantime, if you want to stay connected so you can learn or circle back when you’re ready, two options might work for you: join my email list where you’ll get Author Branding Digest 1/mo. and/or simply follow me on Instagram for periodic info.
In any case, I hope this was helpful and I look forward to seeing you do your thing!
*If this seems oddly specific, it’s because I’ve done that. My first full draft of my memoir was still miles away from a coherent story line.