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How Important is an Author Brand?

I've always struggled to come up with a catchy phrase that describes my writing. I've seen such creative ones around cyberspace, like: "Seatbelt Suspense" or "Passion With Purpose" or "Touching Hearts. . .Changing Lives."

Authors often use these tag lines at the bottom of emails, on websites, blogs, or business cards. And the saying usually sums up what they write, their style, their voice, or the uniqueness they bring to their genre. This is typically what we refer to as an author brand.

Since I was having trouble figuring out my brand, I decided to get the expert opinion. When I met with Bethany House Marketing, one of the first questions I asked them was this: How did they describe my writing? What did they think was my author brand?

Maybe they'd have a catchy phrase I could start using on all my correspondences, something I could splash across my website to coordinate with my background and theme.

And what was the answer of this talented team of marketing gurus? The summary of our discussion was this: Don't worry about a brand yet.

Here's why. In their many years of working with authors, what they've experienced is that the author's name becomes their brand and that usually doesn't happen until after at least 2 to 3 books are published.

In other words, when readers buy our books and loose themselves within the pages, then they will come back for another book, and hopefully another. Our writing appeals to them and they attach a favorable reading experience with our name. Thus our name begins to sell our books and that becomes our brand.

I'm sure we can all think of authors whose books we buy every time they have a new release. Do we buy the books because of the author's catchy saying? Do any of our favorite authors even have a special little summary sentence that we remember?

Most likely we're drawn to those authors because of our past experience with one or more of their books. We've found someone whose writing appeals to us, someone we trust will tell a great story. They don't have to hook us with the first page anymore or with a stunning cover. We're sold on their name alone.

Some famous authors don't even need a description of the book on the back cover. Instead the publisher plasters a big picture of the author there. Why? Because the author is the brand.

So, should unpublished or fairly new authors worry about coming up with a brand? Should we spend time and energy crafting the perfect summary of who we are?

While I'm still forming my opinion on the whole matter and trying to decide what really works in this modern age of technology and cyber networking, I feel a freedom now to relax about the issue. I don't have to figure it ALL out right now. It's okay to let time and ultimately readers define my writing.

Maybe some writers can truly sum up their writing with a short statement. Maybe their self-made brand will indeed match reader expectations. But we also need to be careful we don't let those catchy phrases put us in a box of our own making. Maybe someday we won't want to define ourselves that way anymore and we'll have trouble breaking out of the box.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to come up with a catchy phrase to describe your writing? In today's competitive market, do you think new authors should try to brand themselves in order to stand out? Or do you think they should wait and let the reader do it?


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