In my college years, I saved up my money, put away my pain and went to get my eyebrow pierced. When I returned home to my conservative mother, she had an absolute fit. She wanted to know why and what I was thinking. My only response was, “I liked it.”
I had that eyebrow ring for all of two weeks before I had an interview at a prestigious organization and my mother had my uncle bring his tools over to cut the jewelry that represented my rebellious college years, from my face. Oddly enough, I let them cut it because deep down, I knew my mother had a point. I might not have agreed with her point, you might not even agree with the point but it was one that I subscribed to at that time in my life and to a certain extent, even today.
That event happened almost twenty years ago and how I represented myself mattered then, as it does now. Things may not be the same and depending on the circle you’re in or subscribe to; people will make assumptions about you based on things like the placement of jewelry, body art, hair color or your accent. Now that we live in a digital world, those same assumptions can be made with a click of a button.
As an educator, I do not friend my students, teachers or staff members on social media with my personal account because it’s for me it's personal. On my professional account, I will add almost everybody and on my author accounts, I am very strategic about who I invite into my world. In all of my various worlds because it does matter.
Everything you do online can be tracked, pulled back up and put before you. It can even be used in a court of law. Nowadays, it’s one of the first things official look into, as well as the media when there is something to cover; social media profiles, posts, pictures, etc.
Why am I discussing this topic?
One, because branding is vital to an author’s trajectory in the industry. Two; because branding is often misrepresented with marketing. Three; having the title author comes with a responsibility.
How can an author’s branding advance or hinder their status within the industry? In many different ways including but not limited to logos, website, book covers, signatures, tag lines, books other readers purchased along with your books, collaborations, publishing companies, images, comments and posts.
Most authors know that people do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. I'm not saying they should but the reality is that they do. There is also the fact that certain covers represent different things. A cover with a shirtless man often means that the level of sexual encounters will be present. Versus a fully dressed couple whose foreheads are touching; which can signify a sweet romance. When a reader sees these covers, this also is a part of an author's branding.
An author’s profile picture, posts, retweets, likes comments speak louder than our taglines for our books. Even an email address can also send a message. This may sound a bit snobbish but we are talking about branding. A free email account can say a lot about the seriousness of a business or an author. A professional website could encourage someone to do business with you or not.
I was using a freelancer who was a professional videographer and he resided in Europe. I wanted him to create a video for me and after hiring him, he said, “I looked you up and from the looks of your website, you seem to be a pretty good author but then I saw the prices of your books and then I thought, maybe not.”
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say because it was a compliment, until it wasn’t. He was an outsider giving his personal opinion about my brand. My website impressed him; which was great. My prices, not so much. I forget what I told him, but I do know, I started to change some of my prices. Dare, I say, indie authors, prices can also be a part of your branding.
Social Media: There were two unique opportunities that I applied for; one was for the submission of my book for publication and the other was for a contest. One wanted to friend me on Facebook and the other wanted my twitter handle. I’ve conducted enough interviews to know that they wanted to know more about who I was as a person as well as how I represented myself. I could hire someone to write an excellent synopsis, get the greatest editor money could find but if I conducted my online business, which is my how I post, respond and what I engage in on social media; that could make or break a deal.
As an author, I try to be careful about how I represent myself to my readers, other authors and anyone because you never know what in this industry where you'll be and what you'll need. I always remain who I am, which is also essential to my brand. Branding isn't about being fake or putting on a display; many times it's about time and place.
The overall goal maybe to sell books but in many ways, we are selling ourselves. Readers buy books by great storytellers, people they know or have been highly recommended. As a reader first, if I see messiness coming from an author, I steer clear. As an author, I do not engage because it's a fruitless activity that will benefit me none and sends the wrong type of message I would like my readers and potentials to get from me. Plus, I work in a school and have to deal with drama five days a week.
Branding yourself as a gifted author, that is professional, and a hard worker requires spending money. Logos, covers and anything that comes from your business, enterprise, publisher should not look like it was created by an amateur. Honest feedback is necessary and being open to hearing the truth about something is important. One of my favorite things to purchase is best-selling covers. You know, those covers that just make you stop. Yes, those. If they make you stop, the goal is to make the reader stop. I always run it past my PA to make sure it's not just me. If she gives me the thumbs up, I usually purchase them.
Logos, swag, and promotional items can be purchased with minimal cost, thanks to organizations like freelancer.com, fiverr.com or upwork.com. These are sites that I've used heavily to create promotional images, videos, bookmarks, t-shirt designs and much more. For some, you can set the price or select a service provider. Either way, the cost remain low and affordable for the author trying to professionally brand themselves, even if it's on social media alone.
How you represent yourself matters and it counts.
The last thing we all want is to be discounted because of poor branding or misrepresentations of our work. Create the brand you want, remain consistent and open for feedback. ♥
Xyla Turner was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has always been a writer, even as a teenager, she wrote short stories and essays that won awards and nation-wide competitions. Xyla is an avid reader of romance novels and a sucker for sassy females and dominant males. She is a lifelong learner, High School Vice-Principal and a pretty good Auntie. Outside of reading, Xyla likes to spend time with her family and friends, experiment with dangerous adventures and travel. She writes different genres, but her favorite is romance. Visit her at xylaturner.com.