What is Branding Anyway? (7 Reasons Why You Care)

Like it or not, you as an author are your brand. As an introvert, I find that fact disconcerting. The trouble with branding, from a privacy perspective, is that it needs to be honest. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hide out in my office than bare my soul in public. Do you share my hesitancy? I suspect I’m in good company. How many of us would bother with branding if marketing realities and/or others in the publishing industry didn’t demand it of us?

Enough said.

And yet, if I approach branding from a reader’s perspective, I become more willing to brand. A reader needs a quick way to identify what I write. Without it, I could lose a sale. From a negative perspective, it’s that simple. But let’s look at the positives.

Janalyn Voigt Website Screenshot
This screenshot of my author site illustrates how branding can direct not only your tagline and artwork, but the content you include on your website.

Seven things branding will do for you:

1. Create dedicated readers through the nifty dynamic called brand loyalty. Every writer needs an audience base, a group of people ready and willing to purchase the next book. Branding helps you draw and interact with your target readers.

2. Keep you from getting lost in the crowd. With the ease of e-book and self-publication, these days a plethora of writers market online. Branding will make you stand out, increasing your discoverability.

3. Control perceptions about you. Whether or not you do so consciously, without even trying you’ll establish some sort of brand others judge. It behooves you to manage the perceptions of others about you and your writing.

4. Establish familiarity. Readers need to recognize themselves in you and to feel you share experiences common to them. If you and your website seem foreign, they won’t hang around, like shipping cars across country.

5. Let readers connect with you. Nowadays readers want authors to be available. Branding lets them feel like they know you personally.

6. Help you find your writing niche. Sad as it may seem, not everyone wants to read what you write. People have preferences. Branding draws your specific audience, thus focusing your marketing efforts.

7. Establish reader trust. Consumers buy from those they know, like, and trust.

Developing a focused author brand will make life easier for you on many levels. Given that reality, it becomes much easier to embrace, and even welcome, branding.

What is Branding?

As something of an abstract, the concept of branding generates confusion, suspicion, and even skepticism among writers. But neglected or (worse) inaccurate branding can have a negative impact on a writer’s career. And that’s a shame because branding isn’t that hard to understand.

Simply put, branding is the personality of a line of products or services drawn from your essence and informed by your passions and unique abilities.

Newport Wall Mural

I’ll illustrate. While in the Oregon town of Newport, I noticed the sides of buildings painted with scenes depicting whales, fishermen, and boats. The fact that Newport is a historic seaport would be true without these murals, but their presence make the air seem a little more salty. Newport brands as a seaport. If it didn’t, would it still be a seaport? Yes, but it probably wouldn’t be the tourist mecca it is. Imagine those same walls covered in the peeling paint found on buildings in other seaports. Where would a visitor with cash in hand feel most welcome?

Newport draws from what it already is to provide its special brand of tourism.

One more illustration: The folks in the obscure town of Icicle, Washington, adopted a Bavarian theme in keeping with its alpine setting. They changed the town’s name, erected chalets, and put weinerschnitzel on the menu. Droves of tourists now come from around the globe to sample Little Bavaria, or Leavenworth as it is now called.

Leavenworth’s brand came not from what the town already was, but from what its unique setting allowed it to become.

Key Point: To discover your own brand, ask yourself what you can willingly offer others based on who you already are or can realistically become.

Understanding your brand identity eases the process of developing social networking strategies. Further reading: 10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

22 Replies to “What is Branding Anyway? (7 Reasons Why You Care)”

  1. Great post. I totally agree–in this day and age, readers want to feel connected with their fave writers. Even if the writers don’t BLOG, they want a “home base” to read about upcoming stuff (I’m thinking of Stephenie Meyer’s webpage here–she doesn’t blog, but gives out important info on her books/movies and some fun facts on her life).

    Definitely tweeting this.

    1. That’s true, Heather. Branding is simply a way of making yourself and what you offer readily understandable and attainable to readers.

      Thanks for tweeting!

  2. This is an excellent post, Janalyn. You’ve really de-mystified branding, which I found to be the scariest concept when I began to develop my market niche. I love your concise comment: “A reader needs a quick way to identify what I write.” That sentence alone will save writers a lot of energy and time as they grapple with branding. This column goes in my publicity file!

    1. Branding can terrify new writers because it taps our fear of the unknown. Once the realization hits that the unknown I fear is actually myself, it shrinks down to size. There’s no reason to jump at my own shadow. 🙂

      Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    1. Branding can be one of those elephants in the room, to be eaten a bite at a time. How’s that for a mixed metaphor? Seriously, anything becomes manageable is when taken in spoonfuls.

      We’ll have to stop in for a braut some time, Melissa.

    1. Leavenworth is beautiful, Sharon, and perfectly married to its setting. The town has a market on Christmas tourism with its tree-lighting celebration, one of the products that fit its brand.

  3. Great thoughts! Good to remember. I’ve decided to go with Alabama Inspired Fiction as my brand, since my bent seems to be toward southern inspirational fiction.(as much as I enjoy fantasy) Go with what works…

    1. That’s a good idea, Jennifer, if you can live with it. Remember that brand is not genre but does inform the genre(s) you select.

  4. Hey Janalyn. Guess my ‘brand’ is horror. That’s the genre I write in, that and just all around freaky, weird fiction.
    Thanks for the words, I can always use info in the writing biz. Fantasy is not my thing, but it is far more popular than horror, to my dismay. But hey, God molded me a horror writer, one I can’t reshape, not that I want to.
    Anyway, good luck with your writing.

    1. Hi, Joe, and thanks for commenting. Remember that your brand is less about a specific genre and more about what you uniquely bring to that genre..

  5. This is a sensible post. So many times I feel so out of touch w/ what I can do as an author w/ a very limited budget to brand myself. But by continuing to write stories about other people, I’m branding myself as a reliable listener and relayer of stories. That’s exciting!

    1. Hi, Kayleen. Branding doesn’t have to be about money. I’ve learned that there’s always a cheaper way to do things, if I look for it.

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