Branding gets some flak for being superficial, fake, and overly calculating. That’s legit, and I don’t want to oversell branding as a perfect wonderful thing with only good attributes.
To those critiques, I’d say: remember that you’re hooking readers with an emotional experience. My aim with branding is to give readers a sample of the kind of emotional experience I’m offering in my books. I don't try to present myself as something fake or overinflated, and I keep my brand very closely aligned with my personality and my writing, because people can tell what's genuine and what's not.
My primer below can help you get a grip on your brand and put out content that helps strengthen it. (For tips #1 and #2, see my previous post on social media for writers!) You want to make your professional social media into a strong, cohesive message to agents, publishers, and writers who will be your friends and collaborators.
Social Media Tip #3: Know yourself.
Spend some time thinking about yourself and your writing. Ask critique partners and beta readers to weigh in: how would they describe your work? Whose writing style would they compare it to? What emotions do they associate with your words? What themes repeat in your stories?
Choose three words or short phrases, maybe four max – preferably ones that come up more than once. Don’t stress over this too much; this is just a starting point, not the One True Exercise that will define you for all time. Are you quirky yet heart-wrenching? Clever and compulsively readable? Raunchy but sweet?
When you have figured out your three or four descriptors? These are your brand. You’ll use them to create your persona, which is part of your social media resume (I described this a little in the first post in this series). I recommend you put your branding description directly in your social media bio, or craft a bio that aligns with your brand.
I’ll analyze a bit of my own brand as an example. I’m a nerdy Canadian overthinker, in writing and in life. My current Twitter bio reads: Superpowers: trying too hard; spelling. Kryptonite: plotting all night. Let's break that down.
1. Nerdy: likes superheroes; tries too hard; good at nerdy things like spelling.
2. Canadian: obliquely references Superman, who was created by a Canadian artist.
3. Overthinker: lies awake at night turning my WIP over in my brain.
Every social media post you make on your author accounts should align with your brand. Every single one, no exceptions. Your personal accounts can sprout wildly in every direction, but your author account is like a bonsai: just as defined by what isn’t there as by what is.
This strategy might sound restrictive, but I think you’ll find that you have surprising range within your brand. You can promote yourself and your book with voicey quotations. You can support the causes you care about with a quirky, heart-wrenching observation, or with a raunchy, swear-filled declaration punctuated with heart emoji. When it’s time to make your website, you have a tagline ready to go: Author McAuthorface – Clever, compulsively readable mysteries!
Your brand may change over time. Consider the storied career of Nora Roberts, who started out writing category romance about cowboys (yay!) and now writes paranormal contemporary romance as Nora Roberts (yay!) and futuristic suspense as the separately-branded J.D. Robb (yay!), among other genres. Experiment a little, and see what feels right to you!