Author Identity vs Brand
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
This month's tip is about author branding! It's a topic I've been conversing about with my clients a lot lately, so I figured it would be a good thing to talk about here, too!
#1 Authors can have a hard time separating their name and personal identity from their brand as an author, especially when those two things have the same name!
#2 I think it can also be difficult to switch from writing about whatever strikes you (aka the pre-agented and/or pre-book deal stages) to being more formulaic and writing within a similar setting, plot line, character type, genre, scope, etc. as your previous project.
However (and I came up with the perfect analogy to explain this!), author branding lets your audience know what kind of books to expect from you and veering away from that is jarring.
For instance (here it comes!), think about Eileen Fisher, the clothing store. Presumably started by Eileen Fisher the person—actually definitely started by Eileen Fisher the person because I just Googled it. Anyway, the store's merchandise, marketing, and aesthetic is all targeted towards a very specific crowd—basically the kind of woman who would run away to live under the Tuscan sun or be Diane Keaton's neighbor in the Hamptons.
Eileen Fisher herself wears those kinds of clothes, but I'm willing to bet she occasionally goes off-piste and puts on a super-fitted dress or really loud, colorful, print pants. But if she wanted to make/sell super-fitted dresses and really loud, colorful, printed pants, she would have to start a different brand, otherwise her normal shoppers would freak that the clothes they expect and want are no longer available from Eileen Fisher the store.
The same goes for your author brand. If your debut is a WWII mystery, your audience expects your next book to been a wartime, historical whodunnit as well. The same goes if you write a wacky, middle-grade fantasy—readers will be confused when they go to your website and see your next release is about a young boy who has just learned he has cancer. Nobody would know what to do with a Mary Higgins Clark sci-fi adventure.
So when deciding on projects, be very thoughtful about the kind of books you want to write. Be aware of who your audience is and what they expect. Think about the kind of career you can build for yourself within your specific brand. And try to remind yourself every once in a while that, as an author, there sometimes there can be a difference between writing what you like to read and what your readers like to read.