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Does Branding Matter for Authors?

December 29, 2011

In a world where corporations have become people, it’s hardly suprising that writers are urged to turn themselves into brands.

But don’t let the idea of branding worry you. It’s a concept that can help your thinking about how to present your work to the world.

Branding is, simply put, establishing a clear, consistent, recognizable look, voice, and value for your products. For authors, branding is embodied in your content (your voice, the value your work offers a reader) and in your book’s presentation (your book cover, the online product pages where your book is sold, your website, your publicity and marketing materials.)

Another way to think about it: Your brand is your identity, what you (and your books) are known for.

Here’s an example of clear branding that offers a model example for authors.

Quirky launches two new products every week—see the example pictured above—and is based on principles of social product development. In a nutshell, as an individual you can submit an idea for a new product, you can buy their products, and you can comment on products in development and therefore earn influence points (which translates into cash if and when the product is brought to market.) Quirky’s product packaging and marketing materials are simple and distinctive, with a consistent use of color palette and fonts. Their pricing: affordable. Their products: ergonomic and attractive. Their publicity and marketing operation: impressive.

I came across Quirky through a TV segment on New York One talking about a holiday pop-up store. Then Quirky popped up again, this time on the Sundance channel in a reality series about successful inventors. The Quirky series explores the creative urge driving these entrepreneurs as well as the collaborative process behind their eventual success. The program is also available on itunes.

Everything Quirky does creates a virtuous circle connecting product, sales, and marketing—that’s good branding. Buy a product from their site, and you’re invited to submit a product idea. Browse their products in the pop-up store, and you’ll come across handy computer terminals inviting you to submit a product idea. Get the product home, open it and find a product brochure that includes a coupon for one free idea submission at the Quirky site. It also shares info about the influencers who get to cash in on the revenue for the product you’ve just bought.

So what can authors learn from Quirky’s branding?

1)      Good, attractive, consistent design is important to catch and hold the reader’s eye. So if you are self-publishing, invest in good quality, professional looking, and consistent design across your books and marketing materials. That means choosing an appropriate and limited number of font styles and a unifying palette.

2)      The story behind the book and what compelled you to write it is an appealing hook to a customer. Tell it on your web site, blog, “about the author” page inside your book, and on the etailer product pages for your book.

3)      Build customer engagement to bring him/her back for more. Invite the reader to sign up for your email newsletter or your blog (and include those links in your book and ebook.) Embed a sample of another of your books at the end of your current book along with a link to purchase.

4)      Crowdsourcing elements of your book’s development and production brings other big brains into your process. You can crowdsource design for your book cover, its interior design, web design, your head shot, copyediting and proofreading, even your content, like this example—a crowdsourced book about facebook marketing.

Crowdsourcing makes elements of the production process accessible to self published authors, but even if you have a book publisher behind you, it can be a helpful tool. Through his publisher, hyper-bestselling author Rick Warren certainly has access to any designers his publisher can commission. Yet he worked with the design community at 99Designs to run a contest for the cover design for his book, The Hope You Need. And here are examples of design briefs for book covers at Design Crowd.

Branding doesn’t have to be complicated—in fact, good branding should be simple in order to get noticed. But like most things that are worthwhile, it takes a little time to think through and get right. Apart from making your book the best it can be, there’s perhaps nothing more important than establishing the clear look and feel for your book in a very crowded marketplace to help you and your work stand out.

I leave you with an inspiring video about what branding means. Will your brand say “read me” to your audience?

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