Author Business & Publishing, Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles

Guest Post: Branding Basics for Authors by Dave Chesson

Today, I’m thrilled to host Dave Chesson of If you don’t know Dave and his website, you’re missing out on a wealth of self-publishing knowledge! In this article, he discusses the elements of an author brand and how to design a unique brand that fits you. This is an aspect of publishing I’m still working on, so I’m super excited to read his tips! Over to Dave …

What Is An Author Brand?

At first glance, the concept of an author brand may seem strange or out of place. After all, doesn’t an author’s work speak for itself? Shouldn’t an author be judged by that alone?

The first thing to realize about author branding is that every author has a brand, whether they choose to deliberately develop it or not. The brand an author has is simply the way they are perceived by those who encounter them.

It is natural that readers form an opinion and an impression about writers whose work they come across. The impression formed is influenced by the choice of words the writer uses to describe their life and their work, the type of images they use when promoting their books, and the design and feel of their website, blog or any other platform officially associated with the author.

When you think of author branding as inevitable, it makes sense that an author would wish to take control of their brand and how they are perceived by the public. If readers are going to hold a certain perception, it makes sense for authors to try and influence that perception in their favour.

Read on to discover the benefits that come with taking control of your author brand, the main ways in which authors are able to influence the ways they are perceived, and some easy steps for getting started with your branding efforts.

Why Author Brands Matter

The term ‘brand’ sounds somewhat sterile and corporate and this can be off-putting for creatively minded people, such as authors. It’s better to instead think of the ways in which authors form connections with their readers, as this is the ultimate effect of a brand.

By ensuring that their brand is a reflection of who they are, authors are able to allow their readers to connect with them on a human level. Think about how much nicer it is as a reader to know something about your favorite writer in terms of their life, personality and the things which influence their creative output.

In the world of self-published books, there is more choice than ever before. People are likely to have a range of books to choose from on any given topic. If you are able to present yourself in a way which increases your credibility with readers, your book stands a better chance of being chosen ahead of the competition.

Branding Through Bios And Language

One of the first things that  browser on a major bookstore will do when researching a purchase is to try and find out something about the writer whose book they are considering buying. This is especially true in the era of self-publishing and pen names.

An author bio is one of the best ways for an author to convey who they really are to readers. Amazon Author Central, for example, offers writers the chance to feature not only a bio, but also links to their website and blog posts.

So how exactly does a bio impact branding?

The choice of language an author uses when describing their life and work directly affects how they are perceived.

Consider someone who writes inspirational, motivational self-improvement books. Imagine that their bio contained dry, dense language. Wouldn’t this be off putting and incongruous to readers? A much better impression would be formed if the author bio contained the same type of uplifting and inspirational language as found in the books.

It’s important that the language used in an author bio matches the tone and style of an author’s work. It should feel like a natural extension of their books. Readers should feel at home and familiar when reading bios of their favourite writers.

Visual Branding

A writer’s image in the eyes of readers is more than the sum of their words. The photographs, videos and design choices made by authors also impact their brand.

Writers should approach their choice of photographs and other visual elements of their brand similarly to choosing language for their bio. The visual material used should be appropriate for the style and tone of the author’s work.

Visual branding is an art and science of its own. For many writers, it can be intimidating and hard to know exactly which images are best suited to their work and audience. Two simple solutions exist for this problem.

First, writers should take the time to get a feel for what other similar writers are doing visually. By spending time checking out similar authors, any trends in terms of the type of image or colors used will emerge. This allows authors to work within the visual conventions of their genre.

Second, it’s important to get objective, outside feedback on any images chosen. Ideally, this should be from a group of relevant readers without a personal connection to the writer. This allows for truly impartial feedback from people in a position to offer valuable insight.

Author Branding Final Thoughts

Some of the keys to making author branding work for you are —

  • Seeing it as a valuable opportunity rather than a sterile chore
  • Learning how to match reader expectations to your own ideas
  • Being willing to accept feedback and make changes accordingly

We are fortunate to have a wealth of author branding examples available to us as inspiration.

If you don’t know where to start, spend some time browsing the websites of authors you admire. You’ll soon get a feel for what appeals to you.

Get inspired, find a way to put your own unique twist on the ideas you come across, and start to experiment. Have fun and make something that truly shows the world who you are.

About Dave

In his own words: When I am not fighting dragons or chasing the bogey man out of my kids closet, I like using my previous Online Optimization skills to help other authors with the ‘technical’ stuff and get the right authors to the top of Amazon and any other eBook service out there.

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How Copywriting Has Helped My Fiction

wine corksAs you may know, by day I am a copywriter at a wine marketing company. Essentially, I write product descriptions, tasting notes, and catalog spreads about wine. Oh, and I do get to sample my fair share, too!

Now, a lot of writers say that, if you must have a day job, it shouldn’t be related to writing. I get that. Mentally, there are some days where I feel as if I have no more words to give the world. Physically — now this is where the real toll hits. Some days, I’m so sore from sitting at a desk for hours, and my fingers are so tired that they barely want to move (I’m just counting down the days until carpal tunnel syndrome really hits. I know it’s coming.). On those days, writing fiction after work is literally painful.

But, despite those few negatives, I’ve actually found that copywriting has greatly benefited my fiction. In case you’re thinking about doing double duty in the writing field (I’m looking at you, fellow English majors!), here are some ways that being a professional writer may help you with your creative writing.

Learning how to handle criticism

Nearly every word I write must be reviewed by someone else in my department — at the very least just to check for typos. After receiving daily critiques on my copywriting, it’s been much easier to handle my editor’s feedback on my fiction.

Separating myself from my writing

Along those same lines, being a copywriter has helped me separate myself from my writing. At my day job, everything I write is owned by the company. Since nothing is mine, it’s simple to detach myself from the work emotionally. I’ve been able to apply this skill to my fiction, and it’s helped me view my work more objectively at an earlier stage in the writing process (though, fiction is still my baby!).

copyBasic grammar

Even the most seasoned writer can use the occasional brush up on grammar. As a copywriter, I’m constantly learning (or relearning) the rules of writing and practicing my editing skills on my and my coworkers’ pieces. I’ve also had to learn AP (Associated Press) style, which has broadened my technical knowledge, too.

Better copywriting for my fiction business

I’m still no expert copywriter — not by a long shot! But the basic skills of the trade have helped me write better blog posts, emails, and even book reviews. I’m learning, one step at a time, how to sell wine, and in the process, I’m gaining valuable strategies for how to sell more books. It’s a win-win!


At work, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the mood to write or not. If there’s a deadline, I have to meet it. This self-discipline has carried over to my fiction writing. Now, instead of allowing myself to ignore my self-imposed deadlines, I’m regularly keeping them.

travelExploring new topics and cultures

Right now, I can’t travel around the world. But every day, as I write about new wines, I also get to research their countries of origin, the local cuisine, the climate, etc. Exposing myself to a whole new aspect of my culture and seeing how it translates in other nations has been incredibly inspiring and often generates fun fiction ideas.

Refining my passions and goals

I love my job. I work with wonderful, talented people, am able to sample some of the best wines in the world, and genuinely enjoy going to work everyday. Being a professional writer is a great source of pride for me, and has reaffirmed that writing is my calling in life. That being said, it has also reaffirmed that fiction is my true love and that going independent was the right choice for me and the author side of my career. Sometimes it takes doing something almost perfect to realize what is truly perfect for you.

As you can see, being a professional writer won’t destroy your fiction writing ambitions. In fact, it can often be a huge benefit to them. That being said, I’ll leave you with a few words of advice.

If you are a writer by day and an author by night, I recommend:

A) making time for your health and breaking the sedentary cycle whenever possible

B) keeping the two forms of writing entirely separate in your life

C) making sure that you have other hobbies or opportunities that allow you to take a break from writing and go out and live a little!

How does your “day job” help with your author work? What questions do you have about being a professional writer? What advice do you have for writers with duel careers? Leave it all in the comments!

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

The Fussy Librarian vs. Bargain Booksy

I’ve recently taken my first crack at the world of paid advertisements for The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). And in the indie publishing spirit of transparency and helpfulness, I thought I’d share my results in case any fellow authors were interested in the same or had their own experiences to add.

In short, both The Fussy Librarian and Bargain Booksy are email newsletters that provide subscribers (readers) with a daily list of discounted books, curated based on their reading preferences. The best-known (and apparently best, period) of these services is BookBub, but they’re not interested in tiny fish like me. Therefore, I thought I’d test the waters with what I’ve been told are the next two best options.

As you’ll see below, I tried to keep all factors within my control the same. Obviously, there are dozens (read: thousands) of factors outside my control (whether all the subscribers check their inboxes, the other books featured in my genre that day, perceptions of my cover/description, etc.).

The Fussy Librarian

A screenshot of my Fussy Librarian promotion

Date Promotion Ran: Tuesday, February 16 (between 9 am EST and noon)

Genre and Subscriber Count: Science Fiction, roughly 103,000

Price to advertise (based on genre): $16 USD (via PayPal)

Price of my book: $2.99 USD

Description: A shortened version of my standard sales description.

Retailer Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

Limitations: I had to include that my novel contained adult language and sexual content.

Return on Investment: $4.69 (sold 7 copies on Amazon, 1 on iBooks, 1 paperback)

Other factors: The other Science Fiction book promoted that day was free, which may have taken sales away from my book.

What I liked: Low price, customizable advertising, wide range of retailers included, showed my Amazon ratings

What I didn’t like: Free books included in the newsletter (tougher competition)

Notable perks: When you place your advertisement, there is an option to send yourself a reminder after a specified date range (21 to 90 days). If you do this, they give you a discount on your next promotion. Likewise, when listing in two genres (at any time), the second genre is half price.

You can see full details on how to run your own Fussy Librarian promotion HERE.

Bargain Booksy

2016-03-21 (1)
A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy promotion

Date Promotion Ran: Tuesday, March 15 (between 9 am EST and noon)

Genre and Subscriber Count: Science Fiction, 68,500

Price to advertise (based on genre): $35 USD (via PayPal)

Price of my book: $2.99 USD

Description: They pull your book description straight from Amazon, without your HTML formatting.

Retailer Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks

Limitations: None

Return on Investment: None, loss of $22.44 (sold 6 copies on Amazon)

Other factors: My book also received a feature on the Bargain Booksy website, which did allow me to customize my book description. However, because Bargain Booksy allows several books in each genre to be listed each day (as opposed to the Fussy Librarian, which limits it to two books per genre), there was a lot of competition, some of which was on sale for $0.99.

What I liked: Website feature, no free books advertised

What I didn’t like: Higher price, crowded newsletter, less customization

You can see full details on how to run your own Bargain Booksy promotion HERE.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, I took the post-promotion survey Bargain Booksy offered and reported my results and criticisms. After reviewing my case and confirming that I did receive below-average results, they issued me a full refund (without my asking).

A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy website promotion
A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy website promotion

Would I advertise with these email newsletters again?

Because of the Fussy Librarian’s low cost and proven ability to create a positive return on investment, I have scheduled a second promotion for April, during the Brain to Books Cyber Convention. While I won’t be able to test the newsletter’s effectiveness perfectly (as I will be doing other promotions and have my book on sale), I believe it is a worthwhile investment due to the discounted rate and my larger promotional plans.

As for Bargain Booksy, I wouldn’t try it again at this point in my career. With only one book available (and let’s be honest — a book that I’m still trying to figure out the best way to market), I don’t think it is worth the risk. Perhaps when I have more in the series, a book that is not cross-genre, or a free book (for which I would have to use the partner site, Free Booksy), I will try it again.

Have you used either the Fussy Librarian or Bargain Booksy? I’d love to hear if they worked for you. Also, if you have any questions that I didn’t answer, feel free to ask them in the comments!

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

Building Your Author Platform: The Purpose of Social Media

Don't be this guy.
Don’t be this guy.

Social media has become increasingly more important to all businesses. Consumers (in our case, readers) often look to brands’ (in our case, authors’) Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram accounts before going to their actual websites.

Why do they do this? Numerous reasons.

Partially, it is much more convenient to do research on a site they are already on. At the same time, they are looking for social proof — How many likes does this business have? Do any of my friends like it? What are the ratings? What are people saying? And maybe, they could simply be searching for relevance. After all, if a company isn’t on social media, are they even really trying?

As an author, especially as an independent author, social media is an important part of your author platform. However, it is important to understand why you should be on social media and how you should use it. Contrary to many authors’ beliefs, social media is NOT the place to sell your books.

Now, before I explain, let me add my fail-safe caveat. Might thousands of readers stumble upon your book in their Twitter feeds or hashtag searches and buy, buy, buy? Sure, it could happen. But for most authors, it doesn’t, and spamming followers with their buy link only makes them run for the hills.

So, if social media isn’t a selling platform, what is it and why is it useful?

1. Branding and networking

For authors looking to go the traditional publishing route, social media is a great place to begin crafting your brand and gaining a following. Often, agents and publishers will not even consider taking you on as a client until you have proven that you can market yourself and your writing on your own.

For independent authors, the same is true. Social media is a perfect place to establish your author brand (more on what this means later) as well as start gathering your readership. Likewise, social media is a fantastic place to network with other authors, podcasters, designers, editors, and anyone else who could help you grow your author business.

To begin, start following the “big names” in your field. This could be your favorite authors, publishing houses, literary agents, podcasts, etc. See how they run their social media platforms. What do they share? What do their biographies say? More than likely, they won’t have time to interact with you. But their followers will. Who are their followers? What do they talk about? What hashtags can you use to engage them?

2. Engagement

Social media is a place to have conversations. At first, you will need to join in conversations with others. This can be done by getting active on others’ pages and joining in common hashtags (#amwriting, #amrevising, #writerslife, etc. for writers and #bookworm, #bookwormproblems, and #amreading, etc. for readers).

Once you get a decent following, you are more likely to receive responses for the conversations you start. Make sure to reciprocate engagement with responses, likes, favorites, shares, etc. To make your content even more alluring, you can follow the five “I’s” of social media, which I outline in this post for my previous employer.

No matter how often or with whom you engage, make sure you are genuine. If you sound like a salesperson or magically wiggle your book into every third comment, people are going to get tired of talking to you and delete you. Absolutely make it known that you are an author and have a fantastic book (or books) published (or in the works), but don’t bring it up constantly and don’t start conversations with a link to your sales page.

3. Funneling 

Perhaps the most useful purpose of social media is to funnel prospective readers into the markets that do sell. Think of social media like a net — you cast it wide, put a little bait on the fringes, and wait for the readers to swim deeper down for more. Your social media is your gateway drug, beyond which lies your author website and your email newsletter — the latter of which is your best sales tool of all.

So how can you move readers through this funnel? First and foremost, make sure that your author website and/or email newsletter sign up are clearly displayed on your social media accounts. Second, offer FREE content that will attract readers to visit your author website or sign up for your email list. If you blog, this could be as simple as linking to your blog posts. If you don’t blog, this could be a short story, a giveaway, or an interview or guest post you did. Last, offer your readers something they need. If you are a nonfiction writer, answer their questions about your topic. If you are a fiction writer, be that burst of entertainment and relief from the daily grind. As Tim Grahl says in Your First 1,000 Copies, the best marketing is being relentlessly helpful.

Remember — social media is not the place to sell your books. It is a place to demonstrate your brand, network with industry peers, engage with readers, and funnel readers into more effective parts of your author platform. Be genuine, be helpful, and eventually, your follower count with grow. And if you happen to be one of the dozens of indie authors who I follow on social media and who happens to post about his/her book every hour on the hour, please stop.

In my next “Building Your Author Platform” post, I will discuss ways authors can use the most common social media sites as well as helpful social media management tools.

To read the entire “Building Your Author Platform” series, click here.

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

The Science of Persuasion Applied to Author Marketing

marketingOne of my coworkers posted this video to the Marketing group on our company “chatter” feed. It explains six factors that influence individuals during the decision-making process. Long story short, people are insanely busy and overwhelmed with the fast pace of life. Therefore, instead of considering all available information, they use shortcuts to make decisions. Scientists have identified six of these that are universal.

As I watched the video, I began thinking of the concepts not in terms of our company business, but in terms of my author-entrepreneur business (a habit of which I am often guilty). I highly encourage you to watch the video and see what insights you can glean for yourself. However, if video isn’t your preferred medium, no worries. I’ve broken down the concepts and listed a few marketing ideas for each for you!

1.  Reciprocity

What have you done for me? Why should I do something for you?

If you provide a favor, gift, or valuable resource first, then the other person is likely to reciprocate when you request the same in return.

  • Provide guest posts to fellow authors; receive them on your site.
  • Beta read a fellow author’s novel; she’ll do the same for you.
  • Review a book; get yours reviewed.
  • Give a free book to readers; increase the likelihood of them writing a review or sharing.
  • Give a free book; get a mail list sign up.

2. Scarcity

Can I wait or do I need to buy it now? What will I lose if I do not jump on this opportunity?

People want more of what they can have less of. Simple economics: low supply = high demand.

  • Limited-time sales (ie: Kindle Countdown Deals)
  • Pre-order deals (discounted price or bonuses for buying early)
  • First 100 email list subscribers receive a free gift
  • Limited edition hardbacks, signed copies, variant covers, etc.
  • Giveaways (limited time and quantities)

3. Authority

Who are you? Why should I do what you ask me to do?

People are more likely to trust those who they view as being credible experts in their fields.

  • List your author qualifications on your website, in your author biographies, and on your book as appropriate (ie: degrees, awards, bestseller lists).
  • Provide knowledgeable, valuable content on your website, blog, and/or social media.
  • Explore opportunities to show your expertise by appearing on podcasts, giving interviews, and providing guest posts. Bonus points for hiring an assistant and having him/her contact media sources on your behalf.
  • Seek reviews and testimonials from other authority sources (or even simply readers/clients) and display them on your website and/or book covers
  • Apply for awards to boost your credentials and provide social proof of your book’s quality.

4. Consistency

Have I done this before? Does this line up with who I am?

People are creatures of habit. If they make a small commitment, they are more likely to agree to a larger commitment of the same caliber.

  • Write series and make sure the first book is stellar. A great first book will lead to more sales of a second book.
  • If you write nonfiction, start with a book, then offer a paid course or other service.
  • “Upsell” in the back matter of your book. Readers are more likely to leave reviews, sign up for your email list, or buy subsequent books after they have enjoyed your first book.
  • Request star review ratings. Later ask for written reviews.
  • Offer a free book or service, then move readers up to paid versions.

5. Liking

Are you similar to me? Do you pay me compliments? Do you cooperate with me?

Those questions contain the three factors that influence people to like another person. If you can get a “yes,” to all three questions, chances are, your readers like you.

  • Show your personality on your website and social media.
  • Engage with others online in a genuine way. DON’T spam your Twitter feed with requests to buy your book.
  • Always answer any “fan mail” from readers and express your gratitude to them.
  • If you offer direct book sales or services, follow the best possible customer service practices.
  • Be the type of reader you would want to your fellow authors. Show them your similar interests, express why you like their products, help them when you can.

6. Consensus

Are other people buying this? What do others think of this product or service?

People require social proof, especially when they are uncertain. They want to know that others have enjoyed the product or benefited from the service before they commit to it.

  • Provide reviews and testimonials on the front or back of your physical book and on your website.
  • Send out advance review copies to gather early reviews.
  • Compare your book to similar books or movies in the sales description.
  • Use the Amazon keywords and categories to place your book alongside those similar to ones your readers will like.
  • Ask your readers to share about your book on social media.

Most of these tactics are ones that you indie authors already use in your marketing efforts. However, by knowing the science behind them, you can better understand the purpose of these techniques and discern similar ones that may help you gain favor with your readers.

Remember, though, with great scientific knowledge comes great responsibility. No matter how well you understand these concepts, if you use them for spamming or seedy used car salesman type purposes, you won’t get anywhere with your readers or fellow authors.