Teen Shiver Tabs

September 16, 2011

Creating an Author Brand

Before my career in writing began, I studied and worked for several years in media and marketing. I received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas A&M University, and later, a master’s degree in marketing from the University of North Texas. I then went on to work in marketing for some of the nation’s largest newspapers and radio stations. These experiences helped me understand the power of branding not only your work, but yourself as a writer. Today, I thought I’d share five tips on how to maximize and clearly define your brand in the marketplace:

TIP #1
Understand your demographic
– Your demographic is the segment of the population you’re trying to reach (ex. Males, ages 18-34). It’s tempting to shoot for everyone, but this is almost never effective. If you decide to write for young adults, do your best to stick with it. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever cross over, but be aware that it will take time, money, and effort to do so. With large brands, alienating your original demographic is a real threat when trying to reach for newdemographics (ex. alienating your YA readers by writing a book on child care for men, ages 25-34). So choose carefully, and stick with your original demographic for the long haul if at all possible.

TIP #2
Don’t clutter your brand – Your brand should be crystal clear. McDonalds is a place to eat hamburgers. Wal-Mart is a place to buy cheap merchandise. If you’re a writer, be a writer. Make sure your profile or bio doesn’t say you’re a “cat groomer, water taffy enthusiast, and writer.” This is an example of a cluttered brand. If you have numerous interests, create multiple accounts with different profile pictures, different web addresses, etc. Otherwise, readers aren’t sure they’ve found who they’re looking for. Here’s an example of a clear Twitter profile: I’m a fiction writer, and author of the book, CATS IN STARLAND. I’m also a member of the Boston Writing League and Girls with Pens. Find me online at: www.JaneDoe.com.Think of your bio and profiles as mini resumes—would you put “cat enthusiast” on a writing resume sent to The New York Times?

TIP #3
YOU are the brand – Readers want to know about two things: you and your books. “You” doesn’t mean news about your husband/wife/child/pet koala. This is another case where writers should be careful to avoid including information about their families in their profiles. Also, don’t include family members in your profile pictures or bio pictures (unless it’s for a family-oriented book). Ask yourself: would you bring news or a photo of a child, spouse, or pet to a writing job interview?

TIP #4
Create a clear message – This goes back to “don’t clutter your brand.” Remember with every message you send, that you are a professional. So for example, on Twitter avoid sending messages that “you just got done washing your dog.” This doesn’t have anything to do with your career, and other authors/editors/agents/readers will stop following you if you do this too often. A little personal information is okay, but I’d try to make 95% of your posts and tweets related to writing and reading.

TIP #5
Integrate your brand – Integrating means creating a uniform message. For example, Southwest Airlines will run the exact same message in radio/print/TV/online. They do this because, statistically, you’re more likely to remember a message if you see it multiple times the exact same way (hence big brands running the same exact commercial enough times to make your scream). What does this mean for you? At the very least, use the same exact images on your website, Facebook account, Twitter account, etc. What you’re going for is uniformity. This is why brands create logos, so they can place it on everything they create.

I hope this helped! I know marketing can be the boring, brutal part of being a writer. But with a little time and creativity, you can build your brand and ultimately gain clear, uniform exposure to agents, editors, and readers. Thanks for reading! Keep writing! :)


  1. great post, Tori!

    It's also SUPER important to know about other authors in your genre as well, and what books they are writing! Everyone should always pay attention to what books are coming out, with what pub house and when! reach out to your fellow writers and get to know their work! They will be vital in keeping you sane during the journey! :)

  2. Love this post, T! I sent it to my peeps in twitterville. I was just chatting about infusing too much personal online. That can not only alienate readers, but also be dangerous for you and your family. Unfortunately, we live in a dangerous world.

    There's also a great website called www.Quantcast.com where you can enter a website to see if they get enough traffic to register there. If it does, they give you demographics of the usual suspects on that location. It can be a great tool for setting up a virtual book tour or check out popular blogs.

    Very cool tips here.

    Sorry for being anonymous here. Having techno-geek problems. My cell phone just won the battle with my 'puter logon. {insert eye roll here]

    Jordan Dane

  3. lol, i was wondering who kept sneaking in and commenting! ;)

    Great website, Jordan, checking it out now!

  4. If I'm going to be anonymous, I should probably spam us.


  5. Fantastic post, Tori! I really needed to read this. Although I have a business degree and took plenty of marketing classes, when it comes to my writing, branding has pretty much gone out the window. I AM going to work on this with your tips, although I am creatively drawn to write the book that's nagging at me, even if it doesn't fit the brand. For me, at least, rules that fit most businesses are hard to follow in a creative field. Hoping to get better at this!

  6. Excellent post, Tori! Like Jenny, I tend to be pulled in many different directions with my stories. But one thing is consistent: they always have a fantastical/paranormal slant with a tinge of gothic. So I guess that will be my brand. :) It seems the hardest part for me was honing in on my demographic audience. But I'm hoping I finally found it with YA. :) Jordan gave us a great link up there, too!

  7. Great post Tori! My background is in PR so I look at marketing with a different slant. While we should strive to be professionals, we also want to be people that others (especially writers) can relate to. For instance, I bought Elana Johnson's POSSESSION because she is a totally awesome person and I wanted to support Elana. Her blog is really, really helpful while still being candid and funny and personal. Kiersten White and Natalie Whipple are two other authors off the top of my head that strike a pretty good balance between professional and personal. I want to be like them!

    And LOL, I guess it's time to find a headshot of ME somewhere. I'm totally not photogenic and just happened to like the pic of me and my son. Nuts. How many shots do you think my husband will take of me before he gets grouchy?