Recently I’ve been watching with increasing dismay as one of my author friends rushes around, relentlessly trying to push her books in every single social media channel on earth, while hassling book bloggers, reviewers and online media to the point of exhaustion.
As well as turning herself into a social media train wreck, she also continues to ignore the most powerful selling force that’s staring her in the face.
You see, hidden behind the covers of your books are features unique to you that can create a memorable Lighthouse Author Brand, making yours the first books that come to mind when readers decide to look for something to read.
The fact is, an author brand is built by readers, not by you. You cannot push it.
Instead, your brand is built by readers discovering your author identity while reading. If your books have appeal, they’ll remember you forever, tell all their friends, and increasingly want more of you.
So I’m going to highlight seven tactics based on your writing to help establish a Lighthouse Brand in readers’ minds and grow your long-term readership.
7 Ways To Spotlight Your Author Brand And Grow Readership:
1. Create an overarching theme-tagline to wrap around your books
If you write individual one-off novels, you’ll have discovered a downside. Without the addictive power of a series, it can be prove difficult in the early stages of your career to persuade readers to buy another of your books – even though your author name may be prominently displayed.
What to do?
A simple way to keep your novels top of mind is to create a distinctive theme-tagline that draws your books together under a single overarching identity, giving them a memorable point of difference that enhances your Author Brand.
Racy blockbuster author Jackie Collins, for example, has a tagline that I feel is a work of pure genius because of its tongue in cheek simplicity:
Jackie Collins’ winning tagline: “She’ll keep you up all night”…
If your tagline is memorable enough, it will capture a reader’s imagination and be quoted by them, adding fuel to the ‘word-of-mouth recommendation’ wildfire. But it does need to be remarkable, meaning it has to be different, noticeable, and causes people to remark on it.
Examples of places where your tagline and graphic can be featured:
- Emblazoned on your book covers
- On the title page of your books
- In the blurbs about your other books at the end of each book
- In your Amazon descriptions
- As part of your Amazon author profile
- In your blog header
- In your Twitter background
- In your Facebook author page header
- As your email signature
- On paper book-marks that you give away
It can even be used to introduce your books when you speak – as a giant ‘slide image’ projected behind you, along with your latest book cover.
Eventually your author name itself will acquire the same meaning as the ‘tagline’. It’s all part of growing your Lighthouse Author Brand.
2. Anchor yourself in a reader’s mind with a ‘Jacket Flap’ Author Biography inside your eBooks
Publishers have always known that the author is the cornerstone of book marketing.
Across nearly a century of traditional print publishing, the inside back flap of a book jacket has invariably offered an author mini-biography.
But it has to be done the right way. A jacket flap author bio is not a life history, but an extended catch phrase of two or three luminous, fascinating paragraphs that underscore the author’s brand story.
Crucially, this story never changes, because the author becomes known by it. And it’s used across all promotional channels, not just the book.
So include a mini-bio inside your eBooks. Dramatic, touching, even funny in parts with a pivotal anecdote that would be fascinating to the reader. If memorable enough, it will be re-read with every book and make your Author Brand increasingly familiar.
Yes, you are a brand, whether you like it or not, because you provide a consistently enjoyable experience that readers know they can reliably return to for more, which is the essence of every successful brand.
For example, bestselling Romantic Fiction author Nora Roberts always uses her ‘Blizzard’ story.
Most of her readers know and cherish this story.
Quoting from the Nora Roberts website:
After her sons were born she stayed home and tried every craft that came along. A blizzard in February 1979 forced her hand to try another creative outlet. She was snowed in with a three and six year old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.
Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981…”
3. Feature A Memorable ‘Jacket Flap’ Author Photograph
Make no mistake, this is a vital part of your author biography. The Author Brand Image included in your mini-bio is part of building the memorability of your books.
James Bond author, Ian Fleming, had one of the most distinctive author photographs in the history of publishing. It was taken by society photographer Cecil Beaton and became synonymous with the early Bond books. In fact when one of the editions failed to feature it, a roar of protest arose from the millions of reader fans.
The photograph reappeared on later editions.
Despite the studied appearance of Fleming’s photograph, it truly reflected his personality, and is not a mask. We’re all adept at reading a human face, so the photograph needs to communicate genuine personality. Looking straight at the camera and smiling without apparent artifice is the best approach.
In fact it pays to invest in a professional photograph. This is your career image, and worth taking time over, rather than using a holiday snapshot.
Once a photograph is chosen, never change it, for the same reason that Coca Cola would never change its logo. It forms a permanent, increasingly memorable part of your book brand.
4. The ‘Book Store Window’ Inside Your Books That Will Multiply Sales
In this digital age, the most brightly lit book store window is actually inside your current eBooks.
Each book can contain be a wonderfully effective author branded book display. Each book will sell all the others if you set them up the right way.
As I pointed out in a recent post about Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler, readers are most susceptible to buying your books immediately after finishing one. So put a link to your books right there on the finishing line.
Think about it. A reader has just enjoyed a fully immersive story experience for several hours, they love what you write, so there’s no better time to pitch your next book. Put links at the back of each book to all your other books, with cover images displayed, a blurb for each, and maybe a few opening pages that stop at a cliff-hanger moment of your next story.
This is classic marketing known as cross-selling. (One product sells another.)
5. Use The ‘Look Inside’ Feature On Amazon
Your books need the Look Inside function, so readers get to sample your writing, another effective way for your writing to go to bat for you and directly influence sales.
Note: At the moment, Amazon selects approximately 10% of a book as a sample teaser. I’ve queried them about whether they’ll allow specific-length free samples so authors can end them at a cliff-hanger point, making it more likely readers will buy. They replied it’s definitely something they’ll consider.
6. Book Cover Continuity
“Hold the train! I see a new book by Suzanne Collins!”
When considering all of the ways that might encourage readers to read more of your work, covers play a gigantic role.
It’s essential that each of your book covers is of high quality, all with the same unique, instantly recognizable appearance, even at a thumbnail size, so they grow increasingly familiar to readers.
Again, this is Author Brand development.
A book is forever summed up for the reader by its cover. Once seen, the memory of a cover can never be rewound, and remains etched in the mind. It becomes an almost magical icon with the power to recreate the emotion of your story every time a reader sees it.
On catching sight of a new book featuring an author’s recognizable cover styling, an addicted reader’s pulse quickens. Memories of past stories flicker to life, reminding them they have a chance to enjoy another richly immersive voyage from the same trusted source.
7. Viral Word-Of-Mouth Generated By Your Writing
Finally, let me make the most blindingly obvious point about the ultimate selling power within your books:
It should be your central focus, and is your primary Author Brand strategy, far above any other.
Your books are unique to you, and if they’re well written and have appeal, readers will not only fall in love with them, but gossip about them, recommend them to friends, and write great reviews of them.
Successful books through history from the time of Dickens have been driven to bestseller status by the power of peer to peer gossip.
In fact, the six factors I’ve just covered will only work if your books have reader appeal.
The bottom line is to do your utmost to ensure every book has reader appeal, so your writing becomes an increasingly familiar Author Brand, book by book.
Write memorably, cross-sell with links in the back of your books, have a theme-tagline, a bio and photograph, use Amazon’s look inside feature, and have outstanding cover designs that are capable of stopping new readers in their tracks so they take notice of your work and eventually come to know you.
Note: This post is part 2 of a 3 part series on how to sell more books.
Part 1: The Book Launch Strategy Every Author Should Use.
Part 3: 7 Bestseller Marketing Strategies For Fiction Authors
Is there an author mini-bio in your books? Are you thinking about an Author ‘theme tagline’? Excited by the idea? Do leave a comment.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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