Monday 15 February 2016

Understanding (and Managing) Your Author Brand

What is Brand?

Marketing is about the Four P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). It’s tactical, tangible, and may be specific to one book or series.

In contrast, brand is about what customers expect. Think of some of the world’s best-known brands. Regardless of whether you love or hate their products, you know what to expect. McDonalds might not be your first choice of meal, but when you’re in a foreign country and the local food hygiene standards are making you ill—or you are travelling with small children who need a break in the middle of a long drive— those Golden Arches will be a welcome sight (yes, I speak from personal experience).

Brand marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association as:
“a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers”.

Put simply, your brand is your promise to customers.

It’s how you are seen by others—by industry professionals (such as agents, editors and publishers), how you are seen by fellow writers, and how you are seen by customers (readers). Your brand is the professional writer version of you, the ‘you’ you want other people to see. This makes it an edited version of you, not the warts-and-all version your husband sees in the morning, or the kids hear after a particularly bad day. You want a brand your target readers will engage with.

You have an author brand, whether you know it or not. Your job is to manage that brand, to manage the image you are projecting in public to ensure it is consistent with your brand. Note that what you do in private is separate, so you do need to ensure you have clear boundaries between what you say and do in public versus what you say and do in private.

Your brand is intangible, and your job as an author/marketer is to take that intangible brand and try and make it tangible through your physical marketing: your books and your website.

Your author brand includes:

  • Author name
  • Genre
  • Author Photo
  • Author tagline
  • Author bio
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social Media
  • Reader Communities
  • Retail Sites

I'm not going to go into detail about any of these today, but will be in future posts.

One of the key aspects of branding is consistency. Again, think of McDonalds. You might not like the Big Mac, but you have to acknowledge it looks (and tastes) pretty much the same no matter where you buy it. It will be prepared to the same standards in terms of hygiene, and the restaurant will look familiar. Consistent.

Author Name

Your author name is central to your brand, because readers buy books from authors they “know”. Your aim in marketing yourself and your books is to build a positive connection with the reader that goes beyond one book.

You don’t just want the reader to buy your book—you want them to become a fan who will buy your next book (and the next, and all your previous books if they haven’t already), and who will recommend your books to their friends. It's called brand loyalty.

The importance of author name is why most author websites are built on the author name (, not a book title. It’s long-term strategic thinking (it’s hard enough to attract readers to a website. Don’t make it difficult by having several). Plan for the future, and don’t brand yourself into a rut you don’t want to be in long-term.

Target Reader

One central part of marketing is knowing and understanding your reader. Think of:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Where they live
  • Education level
  • Marital status
  • Children (and age of children)
  • Job
  • Hobbies
  • Income level

You need to understand your target reader in order to target your marketing to that reader. 

If you don’t know who your target reader is, how can you know where to find them? And how can you target your marketing (i.e. get the best bang for your buck).

What is your target reader expecting to see? This will partially be based on the type of marketing popular in your genre, but don’t just follow the crowd. Experiment, and remember the old marketing adage:

We know 50% of marketing works, but we don’t know which 50%.

Your target reader will also influence your passive marketing and social media presence, because the different readers use different forms of social media. Where are your target readers? Twitter or Instagram? Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+? Tumblr or Pinterest? Goodreads, BookLikes, Riffle, Shelfari? WattPad? Somewhere else?

Your branding will depend on your genre, and I'll be back next week to discuss the importance of genre when it comes to website design. Meanwhile, do you have any questions? Can you articulate your author brand?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (, or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (


  1. Good post and series, Iola. Brand … yes, it is important. The point you make about consistency being very important. And the McDonalds comparison is a good one. I'm not a McDonalds eater, however, strangely it is one of my particular "todos" when I go to another country. I actually do it to sample the "home" burger in that country.

    It is one of the challenges with social media. We are individuals with many facets and managing how we communicate those various facets to the world can be challenging. I like how Rel, for example, has separated RelzReviewz as only to do with books, even though most of us know that RR is in fact Rel. I think it's one of the reasons the brand RR has such credibility because it's clear, consistent and full of integrity. We can rely upon it as a brand.

    I'm looking forward to next week's post on genre.

    1. Thanks, Ian.

      Relz Reviews is a good example. It's the approach I've taken with Iola's Christian Reads, which I've kept separate from Christian Editing Services. And they were relatively easy to manage, as they were different.

      But throwing Iola Goulton - Author into the mix is prompting me to recall some of my university marketing theory, to work out how that fits with my existing brands. So this series is me learning as much as anything. Any advice appreciated!

    2. Iola, I thought you were doing that. Running 3 separate brands will be a fun challenge. I'm still grappling with this one, especially if I venture into the non-fiction space which fortunately will have a quite separate market, i.e., Christian blokes. But does one have only the 1 website or 2? I'm thinking one with a specific Angelguard section. I'm not convinced many readers spend a long time on a fiction author's website. There's just not enough content to warrant it in most cases unless you have a very regular blog reading community attached to it.

  2. Thanks Iola, for the interesting overview, and I'm looking forward to the more in depth posts too.

    1. Hi Paula

      You have a different problem to someone like Jess or even me. You're an established author, a brand, but you still need to ensure your branding is consistent with what your reader expects (and will attract new readers). Hopefully you'll find next week's post useful!

  3. Great post! I'd sum up my author brand as 'romantic comedy in a messy world', as it tends to have a touch more drama and reality in it than, say, 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' (though Sophie Kinsella is definitely awesome!)
    The tough part with audience is that as an unpublished author, it's super hard to get good data to use for marketing. But I experiment with trial and error, and mostly just ask myself, 'What would I want if I was my reader?'
    Hopefully that strategy pans out! :)

    1. Romantic Comedy in a Messy World . . . I like that. It says your books are funny but real.

      Getting data is always tricky, as no one has all the data, so everyone is just doing their best with what they have. I agree about the "what would I want?" strategy. It might work, it might not, but at least you've identified your target reader.

    2. And Jess (And I know you know this) check out what someone like Melissa Tagg is doing and where she spends her time. Her readers (I'm one) will read your material.

  4. Love this wonderful info, Iola. My author tag,'everything can change in a heartbeat' fits every story I write. Even when things look impossible, things can change just like that, and especially with prayer. It doesn't always happen immediately as I've experienced in my own life, but when God answers, it's often breathtaking!That's the hope I want to get across. I'm discovering my audience by my book sales and will soon be online with ebooks.

    1. I love your tagline, Rita, and it suits your books. And congratulations on releasing your ebooks! I hope that will help you find a new audience.


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