I need to start with a confession: When I get busy I’m not always very good at doing something that I advise authors to do. In an age where over one million books are published every year by large publishers, small presses, and self-published authors, it’s very easy even for authors with large publishers to get lost in the crowd. Thus, more than ever, establishing a brand is important for writers both to attract and to keep readers.
What do I mean by establishing a brand? The best example is for people to look at how they currently purchase books. I’m guessing you don’t walk into a bookstore and say “I’d like the latest book by Divertir Publishing” (if you do I’d love to hear about it). More likely, whether you’re shopping at a local bookstore or online, you start by searching for new books by your favorite authors or one that has been recommended by someone. The recommendation can come from your social network or from a blog that you read, but it’s a well established marketing trend that people tend to stick with what they know or what people they trust recommend. This is the reason major brands use celebrities to endorse products – the hope is, because these people are celebrities, that you will trust what they have to say.
So how do you create a brand for your writing? There are a few steps you can use to start:
- Write great books. This almost sounds like a silly suggestion, but you would be amazed the number of queries we get each week that, while good ideas, are just not quite done baking. Whether you are self-publishing or going with a small/traditional press, the quality of the words you write will follow you for a long time, and people will be less likely to buy your next book if they didn’t enjoy your last one.
- Create a web page. There are a lot of free hosting services that allow people to create web sites, and a lot of free templates available to make your page stand out. Your books should always be on the main page, along with where to purchase them. Other items to have on your website include an author bio, excerpts of your writing, some free content (short stories or samples of your books – we always provide the first 20% of a book in pdf format as a free sample for our authors to distribute), and links to your publishers’ sites and the sites of other authors you like. Make sure that if you link to an author’s site you ask them to do the same. You’ll be surprised how many will say yes. Also make sure your website links to good reviews about your book. One of our authors, Sid Hamer, does a very good job with her website if you need inspiration.
- Blogging. Your blog does not have to always be about your book. It can be tips for writers (how to write a query letter, for example) and comments about the world of writing at large (the fact that Barnes and Noble will be closing 20 stores a year for the next 10 years is certainly something to talk about). You can also do “blog swaps,” where you and another author post guest blogs or interviews on each others blogs. This is a great way to expose both your writing and the other author’s writing to new potential fans. My one piece of advice here is never do anything quid pro quo (I’ll write a good review of your book if you write one of mine) – nothing will kill your reputation faster than recommending a poorly written book.
- Become involved in Social Networking sites. The more places the name of your book appears online, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, the more chance there is someone will discover it.
As the owner/publisher of Divertir Publishing, I’m am always concerned about our brand. Because quality matter to us, to date we have only published twelve books, with eight more under contract. Truth be told, we would be making a lot more money if we became less selective and turned out books faster, but I feel we would be doing our authors a disservice if we became known for a lower quality product. That said, I think we can do more with our website (such as allowing submissions directly from the site), our blog (such as including author interviews and commentary by others), and our social networking presence (to date we are only really active on Facebook). I think a strong brand for Divertir Publishing will help our authors, and it our goal for this year.