The great (and terrible) thing about the internet is that you never know where your tweets and posts are going to end up. If you’re aiming to build an online presence, it’s probably smart to approach social media with a game plan no matter how small your following.
As a former small business owner, I think about this probably too much. It’s not quite the same as building a business brand. It’s actually a lot easier, because you’re not trying to build up anything but yourself.
First off, what is author branding?
It’s simply the impression you give to people who encounter you. Your author branding is made up of your social media presence, the look of your blog or website, what people can find on Google, and how you present yourself.
Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand!
But what about ‘authenticity’?
Authenticity is a feeling people get that you’re being yourself and being genuine online. If you’re sharing things or talking about things you care about, you’re on the right track.
I find it helpful to think of my professional author self, versus my private self. My professional author self is still me, but it’s not all of me. It’s the same as how you might act differently at work, versus the way you act with your friends.
So how do you actually control/shape your author brand?
It’s all in in the way you choose what you share, and how you share it. To paraphrase Jess Keating (who had some of the smartest things to say about branding in her WriteOnCon presentation): you can treat it like steering a ship in a general direction rather than worrying about every small thing.
You should consider what you are comfortable sharing, and what things are important to you. Do you want to call attention to injustice in the world? Do you want to squee over k-drama because it gives you all the feels? Do you want to uplift other writers or offer advice to those just starting out? If you’re unsure, pick three main subjects you can post about regularly.
Things I consistently share: books by diverse writers, writing tips, and baking. I usually err for sincerity over sarcasm (because I don’t think it always translates well on Twitter). So I suppose my brand is carb loving writer Theresa, who values diversity in publishing, and maybe isn’t super silly, but is still (hopefully) friendly.
There is can be a visual component to branding (the look of your website or the tone of your Instagram posts), but it’s not the most important part of this unless you’ve got books coming out soon.
But author brands change over the years, because both people and their circumstances change. So don’t sweat it. You can always try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working for you anymore.
Setting Personal Rules for Social Media
And so, once you’ve decided what parts of yourself you want to share with the world, it also helps to set some rules so that you don’t put a foot in your mouth. You also need to think about what is good for your mental health and the boundaries you need to protect yourself too.
I can’t tell you what rules to set, but are a few of mine:
- I will never tweet if I’m angry, upset, or sad. I give myself a cool down period before responding to something that I feel strongly about. I will give myself at least 4 hours, but the next day is better. By then, usually calmer heads have joined in the conversation, or I have calmed down enough to think things through. (Rule)
- I will not retweet an article or thread unless I’ve read the entire thing and I think that I have understood all it’s contents. If I feel like something is off about it, or some part is confusing, I will not tweet it. (Rule)
- I try to boost marginalized authors and opportunities for marginalized authors. I can’t always keep up, because my social media time is limited, but I will if I spot them. (Boundary = accepting I can’t always keep up with social media)
So really… author branding isn’t some intimidating thing at all. None of this info here is about follower counts or building a platform to sell books, it’s just about who you are and how you are presenting that to the world.
Do all authors of fiction need a web presence? Nope! But, I still believe social media helpful for meeting writer friends, and a website is useful if you expect agents/editors/clients to look you up.
And if you want to burn bridges, make sure that you do it on purpose 😉
- Social Media Playbook for Authors by Jess Keating – More on branding and generally awesome info.
- Impostor/Abuser: Power Dynamics in Publishing – Remember how I mentioned burning bridges? This essay provides some good food for thought about how we all have more power than we think, and how we can have a negative effect on others when we’re careless.
- Also read this great thread on word of mouth. My personal reading pile has tripled from recommendations I’d never have heard if it weren’t for Twitter! So do consider it if you’re not sure.
Are you unsure what your author brand is? Post links to your social media or websites below and I’ll try to give you my first impressions.