Many fiction writers resist the task of building our author brand and platform. It can feel confusing, overwhelming, or even disingenuous. Good writing should speak for itself.
Unfortunately, your amazing story won’t reach the right people — or at least not nearly enough of them — without an effective author platform. When you present a consistent, intentional brand to the world, it helps people understand your work. With a strong enough platform, you’ll have readers eagerly awaiting your next book.
You already know how to craft your author brand
As a writer, you know what makes a good character. They’re unique and multi-dimensional. If they appear to fit a stereotype on the surface, we quickly learn an interesting fact that sets them apart. They’re complex, they’re human, and they have a compelling backstory that comes out at just the right moments.
Your author brand is like a character. It’s the public persona that determines how readers and followers feel about your work. The best author brands, like the best characters, form an emotional connection with readers.
This isn’t to say you should be disingenuous. Quite the contrary. The more genuine and vulnerable you are, the more people will feel drawn to you.
An intentional approach to your personal brand allows you to present the best version of whoever you see when you look in the mirror. Ask yourself:
- Why do I write what I write?
- Who am I writing for?
- Why am I the right person to tell this story?
- How do I want people to feel when they think about me? When they see my photo?
Look at similar author brands and analyze what you like and dislike about their approach. Why do these people resonate with you? What makes you feel drawn to them?
Most of your readers will only ever encounter you from a distance. They’ll follow you online, read your email newsletter, and see your photo and bio on the back cover of your book. A clear, authentic, and consistent personal brand is vital to your long-term success.
Your author platform powers your brand
Your author platform, meanwhile, is the vehicle for your brand. It includes both online and offline components. For example:
- Social media accounts
- Email list
- Goodreads author page
- Relationships with local booksellers
- Appearances at conferences and other events
- Speaking and teaching gigs
- …and much more
The effectiveness of each plank in your platform will determine your overall reach: how many people will receive your message and answer your calls to action.
Quality and relevance outweigh quantity. Your platform should fit not only your brand but your target audience. For example, my non-fiction audience is mostly women over 30 who use Pinterest and Facebook. Creating a platform presence on apps like Snapchat or Tik Tok would likely be a waste of my time.
It could also dilute my brand. Where and how you show up sends a message about the audience you’re trying to attract. The aesthetic and content of each platform component should feel consistent with your brand. So, too, should your choice of communication channels.
How platform and brand work together
If platform powers brand, that makes every choice we make with our platform very important. Even one wrong move will confuse or weaken our brand.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves online or out in public. However, authors should consider public forums a professional space. If you have personal social media accounts where you want to be more casual and uncensored, or where you frequently post photos you’d like to stay private — or at least out of your professional life — restrict their visibility to friends and family only. Everything we post publicly adds to our personal brand.
Likewise, the content on your author platform should represent the person you say you are. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to create a fun, casual vibe, or a professional one?
- Where does my target audience gather online? Does my presence there reinforce the image I’m trying to create for myself?
- Do all visual aspects of my platform, from my business card to my website to my social media header images, look consistent and convey the feeling I want to create?
Carefully evaluate partnerships you form with others and income streams you attach to your platform. As your platform grows, people will approach you with potential collaborations: guest blog posts, joint readings and book signings, podcast appearances, affiliate programs, and the list goes on.
Keep your values foremost in your mind. Never trade your brand or integrity for exposure, influence, or money. Before you say yes, do a gut check. Ask yourself: would I do this even if it failed from a business perspective? Can I take pride in being transparent with my audience about how I benefit here?
Intentionality and authenticity are key
Your author brand doesn’t have to feel cold, businesslike, or restrictive. Think of it as putting your best foot forward. On several occasions throughout my life, I’ve seen or heard myself in a home video and thought, “Am I really like that?” I’d been speaking and acting without thinking. The person on tape didn’t feel like an accurate representation of who I was or who I wanted to be.
Developing our personal brand and platform can be sort of like playing back that tape. We become more aware of how others see us. Rather than develop a character who doesn’t feel like our real selves, we polish the characters we already are. Our fictional characters won’t land right with readers on our first draft. Neither will our real-life ones, unless we take a focused and thoughtful approach.