Hopefully, everybody knows by now that we’re in the age of media; we’re expected to have an online presence—consistently—and to figure out how to toe the line of sharing-but-not-oversharing on any and all media platforms. Sounds easy, right? If you answered “no” to that rhetorical question, you came to the right place.
Personal branding, especially as a writer, is complicated, confusing, and—unfortunately—completely necessary. While your presence and brand online aren’t the only factors that contribute to your publishing dreams or successes, your personal brand does have a huge impact on how both readers and publishing professionals alike will see you. We’ll let you in on a little secret: you’re easy to find on the internet. And yes, we do check.
As the acquisitions department, we’re often the first point of contact for writers. We receive queries and submissions, evaluate them based on the writing, sometimes offer the opportunity for developmental edits, and decide what books to pitch to the whole staff at Ooligan Press. In order to feel confident pitching a manuscript to the press, we need to know more about you. Yes, you. We want to see how you present yourself to others in the publishing community, how you interact with book lovers, who you know, and who you could meet. Everything. All of this information gives us ideas on how best to reach your book’s audience; if we can figure that out based on the personal brand you’ve built as a writer, it’s one more point in your favor. Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn said it best: “Brand not only tells the world who you are and what you stand for, it also encourages target customers to align with your brand.” Simply put, your brand gives your book another leg to stand on and makes it easier for a publisher to take a risk on you.
At this point, you may be picturing your brand—or what you want your brand to be—and how under- or overdeveloped it might be. Is it too late to start branding myself? Is it ingenuine to brand myself? What are the best ways to brand myself without taking too much time away from my writing? These are all questions you may ask yourself when it comes to personal branding, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are the top five ways to enhance (or begin) your personal brand.
- Identify your audience. This may seem like a self-explanatory step, but keep in mind that even if you’re a young adult fantasy author, you have the potential to reach readers who read adult fantasy or young adult of all genres. Know the primary audience for your writing, but never limit yourself.
- Determine who you want to be. This sounds philosophical in nature, but it’s more about finding a balance between your personal and professional life. How much do you want to share about yourself with your audience? Do you want to rely on facts or anecdotal humor? What do you want your audience to think when they first see or hear your name? Figure that out and develop the voice for it.
- Know what you’re branding. This is the thing people neglect the most. Since you want to sell your book (whether it be to readers or a publisher), the most obvious thing to brand is the book itself, right? Wrong. You’re branding yourself as a member of the writing community and hoping that branding yourself turns into sales. Nobody wants to scroll through a Twitter profile and see the same tweets about your historical lit fic over and over again—they want to know about you. If they really connect with you, they’ll find a way to get the book. I promise.
- Set expectations. Do you write in all genres? Only one? What other hobbies do you have? After a time, your audience will form expectations from your online content, and if you set those expectations early on, you will always satisfy them.
- Be consistent. Whether you use one form of media or spread yourself across the whole world that social media has to offer, make sure your brand is consistent across the board. A dedicated audience will try to find you on multiple platforms, and you want to ensure you’re meeting their expectations on each one. As Penn says, “it’s not simply about the look, but also what you say and how you say it. So certainly come up with a branded Twitter header, for example, but ensure your tweets are also ‘on brand.'”
To sum it all up, a personal brand is important because it shows the world who you are and what you stand for, and it shows publishers exactly what they can expect from you, your writing, and your audience. We want to stress that personal brand isn’t everything. In fact, believe it or not, the first step to getting acquired is…writing a good book.
Alas, that’s a blog for another day, so get back to writing and building that beautiful brand of yours.