Authors, Do You Resist the Idea of Being a Brand or Having a Brand for Your Books?

Authors, Do You Resist the Idea of Being a Brand or Having a Brand for Your Books?

Here’s a perspective that changed my thinking on branding.

Go figure. It was Coke that helped me get over my distaste of branding.

People as brands. Places as brands. Everyone needing a brand. Ugh. Are you with me in a general opposition to branding for yourself? Or, even if you’re technically open to the concept, do you still struggle with how to make sense of it for you and your books?

I’m a person, not a brand! My books are creative originals! They’re not commercially tidy packages.

Yet, it was one of the most recognized brands in the world that delivered a solid way into the world of branding for me … in the form of this insight from its former CEO:

“A brand is a promise. A good brand is a promise kept.”
— Muhtar Kent, former Coca-Cola Company CEO and Chairman

How did this help me? First, there’s a refreshing, effervescent absence of cognitive demands and convoluted corporate speak. I understand the words.

Second, it helped a few authors I work with. When I began mulling over branding as a promise, I started immediately seeing it in my clients’ existing approaches, in their ways of being and doing.

When I started hearing it in their own words, I echoed their brand promise back to them. They were like, Oh, wow. Yes.

In a nutshell: What do you, as an author, promise your readers and customers? What are you promising a fan every time they pick up one of your books? What can they expect? What do you deliver every time? What can you guarantee?

A business book author may promise thought leadership, cutting-edge insights, chapters filled with real anecdotes, checklists, and bullet-point summaries—all in fewer than 150 pages.

A mystery author may promise exotic locales, a fiery and quirky protagonist, unexpected endings, a deep dive into oddball subjects, stunning covers, an intriguing author persona, and one new book a year with a teaser for the next title at the end.

Bull Garlington is a comedic food and travel author who should be doing more events because he enjoys them, they play to his strengths, people love attending them, and it would bring him more money, exposure, and overall satisfaction faster. When recently listening to Bull consider the elements of his latest author event in the planning, I heard the promise of his brand, and I realized he could deliver on the promise of his author event brand without breaking a sweat.

Could your author brand not only be your promise, and that you deliver on that promise, but also something that’s easy for you to promise and deliver every time? I think it very much helps to think of branding this way and it can change everything for you.

Let’s get back to Bull and what I gathered from knowing him, his books, his events, and his latest round of questions and musings.

A Bull Garlington author event promises:

  • Schadenfreude. (He invites you to commiserate with his travel or other topical failures.)
  • Humor. (You can’t help but laugh. A lot.)
  • A you-are-welcome-here vibe. (Bull’s the consummate host. Charming, likable, interesting, approachable.)
  • A cool setting. (His event locales are often mysteries until a couple days before. They ooze cool and escapism.)
  • Good booze. (Whiskey, wine tastings, craft cocktails … count on it.)
  • A bit of mystery-surprise-intrigue. (See above.)
  • Books included. (Bundled into the ticket price. At least two books. One to read, one to give as a gift.)
  • Cussing. (You’ve been warned.)

Let’s look at a few more:

Liz Simmons is a breakout new writer in the area of contemporary romance. If you read just the first two books in her Billie Mahoney series, you will recognize her brand, what you can expect from her work: Memorable characters, unexpected humor, spicy sex scenes, characters who struggle with and work out and work on their communication and relationship issues, and storylines and dialogue that are a cut above the norm. Simmons also weaves in useful communication, emotional regulation, and other life hacking advice from her experience as a life coach.

Dick Lanyon is the former executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the author of a four-book series on the history of drainage, sewage, and stormwater management in metro Chicago. His brand is all over his books, his website, and his public programs. All reliably deliver dozens of historic photographs from District archives captioned with painstaking detail; historic and contemporary maps; public water works and civil engineering made accessible, even interesting; interwoven political stories; and context/contemporary relevance.

Sandy Doyle is a grandmother of ten from Indiana who compiled 75 stories from her days selling products and services in the death-care industry in the book My Life at the Cemetery: It’s Not as Dead as You Think. With every single story, you can count on Sandy’s brand: Straightforward, elegant storytelling; optimism; and a gentle reminder that death comes for us all, so be prepared. With each tale, you can feel Sandy personally giving you a mischievous wink, a shrug of disbelief, a supportive hug, or a heartfelt prayer—human to human. When she speaks on podcasts or to others in the deathcare industry, she’s the same. Promise kept.

Because I’ve resisted branding for so long and feel newly enlightened, I’ve started working on this for my company, Conspire Creative. We’ve grown a lot in the past year, and I’m now building it into a multifaceted agency. That means I’ve been thinking about who we are. Our points of distinction. What differentiates us from others.

But the promise thing. That has made all the difference because it’s easy for me to know what we promise, what’s easy for us to deliver, and what we do deliver.

Here are a few components of qualities to hit with your own branding, as an example. See how my own branding approach might align with your author brand. What would your answers be to this bullet list?

  • Customized solutions. (There are an infinite number of paths to author success, and we can help you find and forge yours.)
  • Creative approaches. (We have a massive and ever-expanding databank of new and old ideas that we can mix, match, experiment with, and draw from.)
  • Outreach-centric. (Our methods involve heavy doses of reaching out, person-to-person communication, asking for things, and proposing things.)
  • Sincere enthusiasm. (We are champions of all authors and their work and know there’s a role for them in the vibrant ecosystem and economy of the book world.)
  • Belief in promotion and entrepreneurship. (Entrepreneurial skills and attitudes are key, and we think authors can be leaders in a future economy where the creativity, knowledge, inspiration, and meaning-making sector is growing.)
  • Excellence. (Period.)
  • Customer service. (Deep listening and Old School attention.)

Your turn. What do you as an author promise? What does your author business promise? What can your readers reliably expect from you every single time? Jot down 4–8 things and your brand is in the making.

Let me know … did this make branding easier for you as it did for me? What is your new brand promise?

Sharon Woodhouse is the owner of Conspire Creative—coaching, consulting, conflict management, project management, book publishing, and editorial services for authors, solo pros, and small businesses.
More posts by Sharon Woodhouse.
Twitter icon Twitter Facebook icon Facebook Pinterest icon Pinterest Reddit icon Reddit
Click here for our recommended reading list.

An Invitation

To a global community of creatives.

All Pipeline Artists members are eligible for monthly giveaways, exclusive invites to virtual events, and early access to featured articles.

Pipeline Artists
Thanks for Subscribing