Hello Writer Friends,
Do you have an author persona? What about an author brand? When I first decided to peruse writing in a more professional manner, I was not familiar with either of these writerly attributes. I simply created my writer/author social media accounts and dived in without much regard to how I would be perceived in a professional, public capacity.
This natural approach is not necessarily wrong, but it may not be wholly effective in the long run, either.
Conscious awareness and control over the way you are identified as an author can make a big difference in your overall success as a writer. What people associate with you as a public figure, if they associate anything at all, plays a much more important role in book sales than one might think.
Yes, it is a bit of a popularity contest, but not quite the same as from your school days. (*shutters at the memory!*) The author persona and brand are important tools for targeted marketing – and you are in complete control of it. Feel the power!
Carving out a recognizable brand and persona can take some time and practice to master. Even if you haven’t thought about it much before, it is not too late to begin making some effective tweaks, now. One author I am familiar with revamped her entire Instagram author image – for the better – in what seemed an overnight transformation. The move has literally skyrocketed her popularity, which translates to more book sales, as well. This can work for you, too!
So, let’s get down to it, shall we?
Distinguishing the difference between author persona and author brand can be tricky. As similar as they sound, they are not the same thing.
Author Brand: The brand is what you are selling. Some may argue that authors sell themselves to gain readers, this is partly true. The brand you are selling is composed of the products you are counted on to produce, in your name. The type of products – look, feel, quality, content, and style – along with your name are part of that intertwining brand relationship. It is your brand packaging.
Think Nike, or Stephen King, as common and easily recognizable examples.
Nike’s brand is quality personal sports gear. They even have an internationally recognized brand logo. People know exactly what that sporty checkmark means when they see it.
Stephen King’s brand is just as strong. We see his name on a book and know what to expect. His brand is going to give you a high quality, scary, creepy and a bit twisted reading experience.
Many authors these days write in multiiple genres. Some use the same name for all of their books, while others prefer to use pen names to differentiate themselves from one genre to the next.
From what I’ve learned, the latter can be a benefit, as far as branding goes, in ensuring you attract the right readers to the right brand and avoiding the confusion and possibly disatisfaction (or horror) of readers coming across work that is off brand. As an extreme example, if you are the author of both erotica and children’s books.
For a less extreme example, I am known for writing poetry under the name Joan Wiley, but for my sci-fantasy books I am considering using an alternative name. This way, when readers look for Joan Wiley on Amazon they find poetry (brand), of they look for J.C. Wiley (for example), they find sci-fantasy novels (brand).
As a side note, as much as we writers really love writing everything under the sun, we should, and are wise to, not spread ourselves thin by writing in too many varying genre. Doing so can affect our ability to grow a significant following in any one specific genre, thus diminishing the brand affect. And potentially confusing readers.
Author Persona: The professional author persona you present to the world – on social media, your website, in interviews, and at in-person events – is who you are publicly – only better.
When I say better, I don’t mean you should pretend to be something, or someone, you’re not. Quite the contrary. But there is a method to presenting an appealing author persona. One that will be remembered, in a positive way.
The public/professional author persona is you through a filtered magnifying glass (like those smooth, perfectly colored selfies, we love). A unique and appealing persona gives readers something to grasp onto when getting know you. When they see your name, specifics about you will immediately comes to mind, because you have influenced them to remember you. It is a combination of the way you dress, speak, the things you talk about, hobbies, or the posts you share.
Here are some ideas for presenting an author persona that readers will love and you can easily maintain.
Creating a Signature Author Persona:
1. Keep your image clean, polished and consistent. Unless it relates to the type of books you are publishing, resist sharing gripes, political activism, religion, crying videos (I’ve seen them), excess vulgarity, drunken binders, etc. You should keep in mind that you probably have a widely diverse following, you don’t want to push away a portion your readership with off-putting antics. Simply put, try to stay neutral with behaviors and personal opinions.
Readers are people who want to see authors as ‘people they admire’ and even look up to. This is not to say you should be inauthentic, or put on a show – quite the opposite. Instead, you should highlight the best of yourself publicly – a professional, creative, friendly, and helpful person. You don’t want to project things that can hurt your book sales, which is the whole point.
2. Be yourself, but more interesting. No matter how introverted you are or how boring believe yourself to be, you can project an compelling image that will stick with your fans. All that is necessary is to decide on a few specific traits and/or interests about you that you can consistently share and highlight.
A few ways to narrow the filter to those charming, specific, and memorable traits:
A. Appearance/Style: Think of this as your professional uniform or a trademark look. Maybe a specific style of clothing, certain colors combinations, or a particular hat, that you stick to for photos, interviews, videos and public appearances. This keeps you visually familiar and therefore comfortable to your followers.
B. Interests/ Hobbies: Select one or two passions you are willing to share publicly. Sharing an interest or hobby gives your followers a glimpse of the human being behind the wizard’s curtain. Readers will feel closer to you when you put up posts about an extracurricular hobby. Maybe you are a sketch artist, play guitar, sing in a band, or collect teacups. Sharing something unique about yourself an effective way to pull your audience into your world, giving just enough familarity.
C. Recognizable Voice: This is not only the way you sound audibly, but in written communications, too. In our personal lives we don’t often think consciously about our “voice”, but as a public figure it is something we should hone and be consistent with. It is after all, a reflection of personality and an effective aid in communicating your image.
You may be funny, a fast talker, charming, sophisticated, down to earth suburbinite, a sweet country bumpkin, a serious intellectual, etc. Think about how you want your followers to hear you. Let your personality shine through. If you have a warm demeanor and easy sense of humor, seek to keep this voice a constant. Bad days be damned – try not to slip into a funk. Remember, these are not your best friends or therapists, but your audience.
4. Do not share too much. Be selective about what portions of your life will be part of your public personality. Your Instagram and Facebook author accounts may not be the place you’ll want to share pictures of your kids, spouse, piles if laundry, frazzled “just out of bed” photos, etc. Save this for personal pages shared with intimate friends and family. It’s really up to you how much you want share, but some things you may want to protect and keep for yourself.
In summary, it takes some time and conscious effort to develop your brand and most especially your author persona, but these are important aspects for writers to develop for their successful career.
Although audiences may have a particular view of you to date, nothing is set in stone. Your brand and persona can be redressed, straightened and polished up to reflect the best “authorly” you, at any time.