In this section:
Genre and branding
Author website basics
Author email list
Genre and branding
What is your brand? It is how you present yourself to your audience, and how the audience perceives you and your writing. Which is why it is important to be consistent in your branding. That way your audience knows what it is getting from you with everything that you put out, whether that be a book, a website, or a social media feed. It can also trickle down to your workshops and talks; if you brand yourself well, people know what they are getting before you open your mouth.
Branding is about you, not just your book, however, genre is important, so look at what other authors are doing in your genre. Consider how you already present yourself online. Is there something you can take from it? Which colours do you favour, is there a colour palette that matches what you do? If so apply that across everything you do. Most importantly, your cover(s) should reflect your branding consistently. What you write and how you write it is all included in your branding, whether you write with humour, or sarcasm, this is all included in the package that is you.
An example (from one of our publishers)
- Bill writes military science-fiction. His reader wants action, adventure, and hard science. His typical reader is male, teenager and upward (yes some 90-year-old women read this – typical doesn’t mean ALL). His reader expects details of weapons, betrayals, fights, pain, spectacular battle scenes and future tech. He wants to feel as if he’s watched a high-octane war-buddy movie in space.
- So Bill’s website or Facebook page will have links to science sites, military sites, reviews of thrillers he’s read, box-office hits he’s watched, maybe some talk about various martial arts. What has inspired Bill as a writer? It’s probably the same that’s inspired his readers – so he’ll share his interests in US survivalism or alien worlds or nanotechnology or whatever.
- He’ll look at the book covers of his own, and competing books. He’ll copy that color and style for his page, his website, his blog, his business card (probably greys and blues, metallics, with bursts of orange fire and supernovae). His font will be hard-edged, probably sans-serif. His heroes will be chisel-jawed and bristling with guns.
- His Facebook updates will discuss exploration, science, space, war, action, adventure. He’ll talk about trips he’s taken hunting or a new way he can pile on muscle through protein shakes. Maybe he’ll talk about a development in technology and what that means for his books. He won’t talk endlessly about his books – he WILL talk about the things that interests his readers. If he is writing “true to himself” then these things will interest him, too.
- It’s NOT about being fake. It’s about presenting the very best, most genuine and honest representation of yourself as a writer in a genre. I am sure Bill also loves kittens, grows prize-winning azaleas and is scared of his own toenails but the reader of his military thrillers doesn’t want to know that – maybe mention the toenails things, that’s interesting – but the bulk of his posts will be relevant to the readers of his books.
- This feeds into the author bio Bill will create. He’ll think about the expectations his readers have, and ensure these words are mentioned in the bio. “All-action, rip-roaring emotional rollercoasters of future technology and old-fashioned grit. Bill is a US Army Vet and draws on his extensive military experience and love of space exploration to write adventures that will keep you on the edge of your seat.” Keywords in here are action, technology, military and adventures – these are Amazon sub-categories and the sort of thing that people search for.
- Personally, I am working on a scrap book to jot down these kind of things, and stick in articles and ideas that occur to me. Others use mood boards. Yet others will use Pinterest to gather together images that reflect the themes and feelings of their books, and that is an additional marketing tool – for example if you write gentle, Christian romance, consider a Pinterest account that gathers spiritual pictures, inspirational poems, crafts and arts and homemaking and so on.
- Branding is only difficult or negative when it’s forced. It should flow naturally from the types of books you write. If you struggle too much, perhaps you are not writing the sort of books your heart wants you to write…
Author website basics
A website is a static place to hold information about you and your book. At a minimum it should hold the following;
Home Page: Your biography including all your writing activities, with link where applicable.
Book Page(s): If you have more than one book, keep them on separate pages; they should include the following at a minimum – book cover, title, author description (linked back to biography), metadata, buy links. See advice below on this.
Endorsements and Reviews.
Links to Articles/Interviews/Events associated with your book.
A blog, for communicating continually to your audience, this is not about selling your book, but about an ongoing dialogue.
Links to Social Media if you have them.
Great examples from our authors:
We recommend that you have a look at other authors in your genre and see how they go about using their website.
Industry expert, Jane Friedman, wrote on this subject for Writer’s Digest. In it she gives advice about branding and what author’s should include on their website.
A website can contain a blog, or you can opt for a blog-only site. You can still include all the relevant book details, but have it to communicate regularly with your fans or potential audience. Blogging is a skill and should be treated as seriously as you do your book writing.
It could be said that blogging is more suited to non-fiction authors. You have a clearer idea of what to include in your blog as it is probably connected to your work or interest. If you conduct workshops or talks then the material there is perfect for a blog. Frequently asked questions in your field and news items or things in the media related to your subject can be used.
For fiction though, it needs some creative thinking. You can use your genre as a topic for your blog. You can highlight other authors in your genre, review their books, interview them, or just discuss their topics in relation to your own book. Incidentally, by linking to other authors in your genre, you can potentially cross market and share your fans/audiences, thus being mutually beneficial.
For both Fiction and Non-Fiction authors, you may consider reviewing fellow JHP authors on your website or blog. You can get a PDF of any book from the system. You can check which titles are coming out by searching by month/imprints on the database, or looking at www.johnhuntpublishing/forthcomingtitles for the current month. You can download the PDF of any title by going to their Marketing page, scrolling down to "PDF Review Copy", and downloading the file marked "No Trims".
Be consistent, and stick to your subject matter.
It takes time to build an audience. Hence, we suggest you start this activity early, as soon as you have a publishing contract. The journey to publication can become part of your blog.
Remember this is a tool, not a means to sell your book. In fact, you will quickly lose followers/readers, if you only post ‘buy my book’ blogs.
Link your blog to your social media. Physically add links and post your blogs to your social media feeds.
Again, as with websites, a little research of how other writers in your genre do things would help you get ideas.
If you don't have your own blog, you can write for people that do. Blogging has become very popular, and book bloggers are prolific. See CHAPTER 15: BLOGGERS for how to approach these sites.
- Know what you write: There is genre – and then there is emotion. What does your reader want to feel? Do you provide that emotion – and more?
- Know who reads it: Yes, we are all individuals. Yes, we all hate to be pigeonholed. But yes, demographics are a powerful way of understanding a “typical” reader (top tip: no one would consider themselves typical. In that, we are all the same…).
- Understand what other interests your typical reader has: Many things go hand in hand; politic views, leisure interests and sporting activities will follow certain patterns.
- “Offer what they want but give them what they need”: Ensuring you fit into a recognizable niche is not about selling out to be a faceless interchangeable drone. It is so that the reader can find you easily… but only by actually providing them something slightly different, challenging and beautiful will you make an impression. Tempt them in with the comfort of familiarity, and then blow their mind.
- Respect your reader: Present your book in the accepted convention of that genre, and though you will – and should – push at boundaries, don’t end your romance with an unannounced zombie bloodbath or turn your literary paean to the futility and hopelessness of being 21 years old into a rom-com in chapter 11.
- Build trust. Avoid short cuts, and people who specialize in them. It’s not a zero-sum game, the more you give to your community, the bigger a piece of it you get.
Author email list
Building your own email list which brings potential reader to your platform (author site) is a good way of selling books, particularly if you are planning a series. You can then periodically send out new content to keep them interested and effectively launch your next books, as well as market the backlist. Include at the end of the manuscript a note directing readers to your site. If you are uncertain how to construct a website/platform for yourself, we can do it for you, more in Chapter 7 - Extra Services.
You can build a list in a number of ways;
- Offer something for free in exchange for an email address; This could be in the form of a novella, free chapters, and teasers, articles of interest around the subject of your book. Top tips, How tos, audio clips and video. Different genres offer different opportunities.
Example: Peter Bartram (Cosy Crime Fiction Author - Roundfire): http://www.colincrampton.com/free-novella/
Author Story: When someone suggested to me that the best way to promote my Crampton of the Chronicle series was to offer a free ebook, I must admit I was sceptical. But today Murder from the Newsdesk – the free ebook – had its 20,000th reader download. And downloads are still coming in at the rate of more than 400 a day. For quite a bit of the time during the past five weeks the book has been #1 in both the "crime" and "cozy mystery" categories in Amazon's UK free books. And the last time I looked it was also #3 in the "mystery, thriller & suspense" short reads category in Amazon's US free books.
For other JHP authors who are planning a series, the biggest benefit seems to be the ability to build a database of readers who like the books. There are now more than 400 on the Crampton of the Chronicle Readers' Group e-mail database and it is growing steadily. And there are also clear indications that this is all feeding through to increased sales of Headline Murder, the first novel in the series. I'm hopeful the Readers' Group database will also be a big help in launching Stop Press Murder, which is out in August 2016
Peter's article published in Publisher’s Weekly also contains interesting information: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/70996-the-rise-of-indie-crime-novels.html
- Set up a newsletter; this works for authors with more than just a book to talk about. Your list will soon tire of you if the only communication they get from you is "buy my book". But if you offer other information around your subject, then this approach can work well.
Example: Leora Fulvio (Non-fiction Health writer - Ayni Books): http://reclaimingyourselffrombingeeating.com/. Leora offers tips for solving health issues based on her book Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating. She is also offering an online course, so this newsletter supports her work as a whole not just her book.
- You may need specific services/programs to help you capture and manage your list, you must have an unsubscribe option, and please ensure that it is interesting to keep your audience.
Continual "buy my book" emails will lead to unsubscribers. Spam is a big problem these days and if you get repeatedly reported for email abuses, you can get into trouble with your internet provider and affect your Google ratings.
Also take a look at articles online about author's building an email list, they often give pros and cons. Jane Friedman is a good example, she is a publicity expert. This is an article on her site that discusses the authors use of email.
People act on impulse, so make it really easy for people to buy your book with a clickable buy links. You can add this to your personal email signature. You can include a link to your website and or social media if applicable.
These logos are universally recognised and you can embed the link within them to keep it tidy
The same can be done with a small picture of your cover
Author of (Title) available to purchase at (chosen online retailer)
Again, you can embed the chosen retailer link into the image.
You can use this tactic in social media posts, on your website and on any promotional material you have. If printed, you will have to include the address for links.
It is advisable to shorten the buy link, particularly if you are using Amazon as your online retailer.
Using Amazon as an example, search for the book and choose the version you want to highlight (Kindle or paperback). The URL is the link address in the top bar.
This is known as an Amazon Super URL, as lots of the address has tracking references used solely by Amazon for a variety of reasons, but one that worries authors is that it can be used to track reviews and ultimately lead to the reviews being deleted.
All you need, to use this as a buy link, is the following: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beat-Rain-Nigel-Jay-Cooper/dp/1785353640
For the sake of aesthetics and using less characters, it is a good idea to shorten URLs for use in social media posts for all sites. There are several available. The same principle of using the shortened URL as detailed above applies here too. If you shorten the Amazon Super URL, it still has the information being collected by Amazon, so best to stick with the shorter URL.
https://goo.gl/# Google offers analytics on the click throughs resulting in the posting, which is particularly useful.