Guest Post: Get Your Brand On

December 13th, 2011 • Kate

branding2Welcome back to Shelli Johannes-Wells, who’s continuing her series on marketing. Enjoy!

For today, let’s start with your basic branding. Branding begins way before you sell a book.

What is branding? To me, branding is the thing that sets you apart from the rest. It is a personal statement about you.

We, as people, all have our own brand. Think about it. Me, for example, I’m a jeans girl Always will be. I will never be the cute little sundress girl. (Sorry mom!) So what does that say about me as a person? I’m casual, not too feminine (which is true – I am a total tomboy at heart). But what else, go deeper. It says I am dependable and not too serious. Just in that one item, you can tell a lot about me. That’s why it often takes us girls so long to shop! We are trying to figure out – what represents me? How many times have you stood in the mirror and said, “this is cute but it’s just not me”? That is branding.

Branding as a writer is multi-layered. To keep it simple, you have your author brand and your book brand. An author brand is who are you are a writer – what makes you different. What do you write and why? It stays with you. You web site runs around an author brand that promotes book brands.

A book brand is totally different and more short lived – it’s the personality of the book. But it does not sustain your author brand.

For example: I write contemporary thrillers with a conservation theme so my web site would gear towards that. My book comes and goes. I don’t brand myself around my book but around the themes I write about. Make sense?

A book brand and author brand get mixed up regularly. Authors and publishers make the mistake of only focusing on a book brand. But the author brand is critical. Readers want to follow an author – NOT just a book or series. An emotional connection to a person far outweighs the connection to a story.

I believe both are important and should definitely be integrated in some way but should not be treated as the same thing

For example, Meg Cabot. She has books for adults, teen and tweens and her blog is not all Princess Diaries. It spans all of her writing and does not focus on any single book. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter is a good example of book branding! She has branded herself around that. But because of that – it might be harder to break into another market unless she goes with a pen name. Now for her it might not be an issue but for the average writer, you may get pigeonholed. You might be associated with your books and not your writing.

Shadow branding is the brand you are giving off without knowing it. It is the unintended branding vibe you give off. Usually it is a negative vibe.

Here is an example of a shadow brand. A writer is working very hard to get published for her humor stories. But her blog is basically her complaining about the writing process all the time. That complaining is a shadow brand that impacts her view in the public but she may not even be aware of it.

Another example, if you want so bad to be published but never query your book – then your shadow brand is that you 1) are scared of success, 2) do not think you are good enough, or 3) that you don’t deserve it for some reason.

I’ll use myself. For a long time, I think people saw me as the marketing person and not the writer. That was a shadow brand I didn’t intend when I started building a platform. And I think it hurt me at times.

There are many things you can do to get started on defining your brand as an author. You can take branding classes. Jenn Stark has a great one as well as articles on branding. There are also books on branding.

Think about yourself as a writer. What kind of writer do you want to be? Who is your audience? What do you write? What qualities connect your writing? What is holding you back (shadow brand!) and how can you stand out?

The key to branding is to build an emotional connection with you as a brand and for people to see how you are different.

Shelli Johannes-Wells (AKA S.R. Johannes) lives in Atlanta Georgia with her dog, British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world. After earning an MBA and working in corporate America, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. You can find her hanging out online and visit her at srjohannes.com. Her first book, Untraceable, is a teen wilderness thriller that debuted last week on Amazon’s Hot New Releases.

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6 Responses to “Guest Post: Get Your Brand On”

  1. Kristi Helvig Says:

    I'm a jeans girl too–the last dress I wore was at a wedding! Great post, Shelli! This gives me a lot to think about. 🙂

  2. Rebecca Enzor Says:

    Hmm, I've never heard the term Shadow Branding before. Very interesting way of putting it. I'm going to have to take a closer look at what I'm putting out there that will brand me as someone I may not want to be!

  3. Chelsey Says:

    I've definitely seen some shadow branding, particularly of the sort you talk about. I think it happens because it's so easy to run a blog and become part of the writing community, but takes a bit more to actually query a book.

    I've definitely been trying to brand myself not my book, because after all you never know which book will get picked up!

  4. Krista V. Says:

    I think Kiersten White's blog is a wonderful example of author versus book branding. When she first redesigned her site, PARANORMALCY had just come out, and the whole thing was a sparkly pink explosion. It looked like Evie had taken over everything. But then she redesigned her blog again, and the result was something that looked much more Kiersten-centric. I was happy to see her take her blog back:)

    Thanks for this post, Shelli (and Kate, of course). Like several others have mentioned, I'm definitely going to be more mindful about how I shadow-brand myself.

  5. jolawler Says:

    Excellent post. This gave me a lot to think about. I like the term 'shadow branding'. It's certainly something to keep in mind throughout the process of developing one's online presence.

    Is there a secret club for us jeans-wearing author chicks? What will happen if I show up to a big-shot agent/editor meeting in New York in jeans and boots? LOL.

  6. shelli Says:

    good let me know if you have any questions 🙂