If you've ever wondered what motivates people to buy a book, consider this: consumers don't buy a book, they buy a brand or, as a friend of mine says, consumers crave a brand. This is true now more than ever. Why? Because people want consistency (think McDonald's), they want value, and they want to be entertained, enlightened, or educated. A brand, when done properly, can really pull in readers to your site, your message, and your book. Here's how to do it.
Brands, in their traditional form, are the things we think of like Coke, Kleenex, and Advil. These are big, robust brands that are recognizable both in messaging and packaging. The two key components in effective brand strategy are both of these things. If your message and package are different, or fragmented and not uniform, you will confuse your audience.
Regardless of whether you are fiction or non-fiction, a brand is a brand. Think Nora Roberts or Dan Brown, both of these authors are brands. Their messaging is consistent and their packaging uniform. The audience is told in word, color and image exactly what they are going to get and the "brand" does not disappoint. When creating a brand for yourself, here are a few things you should consider:
- Understanding the "look" of the market: There is a look and feel to each market. For some markets it will be a consistency in color, messaging, or packaging, and for others, it's just a "feeling." For example, if you're a thriller writer, websites for thrillers tend to be dark and foreboding. There may not be a consistent message but the feel is the same: scary. Getting to know your market is the #1 thing you should do when you're thinking of developing your brand.
- Identity crisis: Who are you? So who are you, really? This isn't meant to be a psychological exam, but rather an in-depth look at your brand, your market, your current focus, and future goals. There's a saying that goes: "If you don't know what road you're on, any path will do." The same is true for your brand and your career. Define where you want to go and then build to that message.
- Brainstorm your brand: If necessary, get some outside help. Branding doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to be thorough. Understanding your brand and your message is important because if you don't control it, your consumer will. I spoke to an author the other day who had been propelled on her journey by her brother's suicide. From that, she learned, grew, and is now working to inspire others to overcome some of the most horrific challenges life can throw at you.
- Platform building: Building a strong brand is also about platform building. Understand that your platform can be a lot of things: the message and consistency of your blog, any book promotion you do, blogs you have a presence on. All of this is important, you want to get known in your market, and you want to lead with a strong and consistent message.
- Consistent marketing materials: By this I mean business cards, letterhead if you have it, bookmarks, folders, etc. Again, don't scatter your efforts by having a hodgepodge of marketing materials that looks cobbled together. Everything is your resume. This is very true with anything you mail out or any "leave behinds," like bookmarks, postcards, and business cards.
- Delivering on a promise: Whatever you promise, you must deliver. In fact, promise less and deliver more. If you have promised the reader a "thrill ride," don't give them a soft-peddled story. If your message doesn't live up to its promise, you'll lose your reader. Probably forever.
- The center of the universe: Your website. An author's website is the single most important piece of your brand. Yes, your book is important, but before a reader gets there they will often find your website first. Make sure it's brand-focused and professional. Don't have someone design it who does not understand your market or your work. Make sure your site is professional and follows whatever "theme" you are trying to create.
Building a strong brand is more important than ever. A brand not only shows consistency but it shows you're serious about what you're doing; and if you show you're serious, your readers will take you seriously, too.