Author Brand? How Do I Get One?

Last year I published my own book based on an article I wrote for Publisher’s Weekly many years ago, Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns.  To promote it, I hit the road and spoke to writers at universities conferences, festivals, libraries, etc.  What was the one thing writers looking to promote their books really wanted to understand?  What is an Author Brand? And further, how do they develop their own?  While I can’t present all the information I provide in a 45-minute keynote or afternoon workshop, I’m going to express some of the points that should start you on your way.

  1. What is an Author Brand?  A brand represents a product or person in different ways.  Primarily it’s about how people “feel” and “respond” when they hear the brand’s name; see the product; read about it; etc.  Recognizable brands are ones that the market knows like Coca Cola.  In the book world some recognizable brands are James Patterson, John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, David Brooks, and David McCullough.  Audiences know what these writers represent and have a good idea of what kinds of books they publish, what causes they might represent, their political affiliations, where they come from or live, and what they look like.  These characteristics are parts of their “brands”.
  2. I’m not famous, I’m just a “…”, I don’t have a brand: These are some of the things I’ve heard from writers when faced with the concept of Author Brand.  Part of the answer is that all of those people I mentioned above were once where you are.  James Patterson published his first book in 1976.  He started publishing more than one book every year in the late 1990s.  I’m not saying that you have to wait twenty years before you establish your brand.  The point is everyone has to start somewhere so take any negative thoughts out of your mind and focus on what you have to offer.
  3. How do I get an Author Brand?  Here’s my favorite part of all of my lectures and speeches–you don’t have to “get” a brand because you already have/are one!  I don’t care if you train animals, have a podcast on car repair, and write romances–all of these things together constitute your brand.  What you really need to know is how to become your brand.
  4. Becoming your Author Brand: Take a moment to write down a list of items that describe you.  Think of answering the fundamental questions–who, what, where, why, and how.  Now, write down what you consider to be your best assets or what your are “known” for.  Even in the smallest community, you might be the one who always brings muffins to a book club meeting; or you have an interesting tattoo; you take hiking trips in the summer; you speak a foreign language and like to surf; and/or you are good with numbers.  Finally, note the kinds of books you want to or are writing; what the characters are like; where they are set; are there any common threads in your work?  All of the lists you have just made are the pieces of what can be your brand.  Look at what you have and highlight the ones that you want to project virtually or in person.  The intent is to become familiar to an audience that will respond to your author brand, and ultimately to create a community or people that will become your army of fans who will spread word-of-mouth about your work.  Having completed these exercises, you have the potential to accomplish different goals such as, sell your book(s), grow your business, gain visibility in the publishing world and get noticed by agents and editors, secure speaking engagements, and provide a much easier base to create a marketing strategy.
  5. Image as Author Brand: After you’ve dissected all of the parts of yourself and your life that can be used to promote you, consider some of the more cosmetic aspects of your brand.  Coca Cola has a distinct font, color, and packaging.  Even before you get to the taste of it, this is what we recognize.  What about you?  Look at some of your favorite personalities in entertainment, yes authors are part of the entertainment industry, and see what you like.  For a few years James Patterson always wore a crew neck sweater in public, in his ads, for his author photo.  He chose this look on purpose.  Amy Tan used to carry her dog in a Pucci Bag wherever she went.  What signature item would you like to have?  How do you want to look when you are in front of an audience?

All of what I’ve shared here will help you recognize and develop your Author Brand.  Most important is that you don’t try to twist yourself into what you imagine to be the RIGHT brand.   I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to create a brand that best represents all of you and what you hope to achieve.  But, It’s important that you feel comfortable with what you are selling and projecting.  You need to be able to maintain and protect the brand you create and develop.  So if you feel most powerful and connected to your work in the form of a superhero, don your Spider Man costume and head out on the town.  But if jeans and a T-shirt with a baseball cap is more your style; you are from a suburb of X city; and you write books about a bail bondsman named Al, you might want to tailor your brand.  Just a touch.

Book Review: The Man Who Caught the Storm by Brantley Hargrove

The Man Who Caught the Storm

The Man Who Caught the Storm by Brantley Hargrove, published by Simon & Schuster (April 2018).

Videos of tornadoes ripping through homes is one thing, but translating that power into the written word is a feat in itself–and in THE MAN WHO CAUGHT THE STORM: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras, Brantley Hargrove is unbelievably good at capturing that raw emotion.

I never watched Storm Chasers, where Tim Samaras got his fame. I didn’t know he existed until I picked up Hargrove’s book. But I have always been interested in the weather and grew up watching Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in Twister, so the idea of learning more about the actual career of tornado chasing–not the Hollywood version of it–sounded interesting.

And boy, is THE MAN WHO CAUGHT THE STORM interesting. Even if you aren’t curious about the weather, it’s worth reading a true story about passion and following your dreams. Except this is no ordinary passion, and certainly not an ordinary dream. Samaras was not focused on making money or becoming the next Bill Gates. His greatest desire was to figure out what really goes on inside of the belly of a tornado.

Samaras grew up outside of Denver, Colorado, and was always good with technology. As he got older he loved to park on a hill and watch the storms roll in. Eventually, he decided to start chasing tornadoes. Once he started getting more involved he realized that if meteorologists knew what was going on inside the tornado, maybe lives could be saved.  Somtimes, even with predictive safety measures in place, tornado sirens didn’t go off in a town until the tornado had already hit the ground. Samaras decided to build his own inventions that would measure the wind speed, barometric pressure, and eventually, film the action inside the funnel.

The problem was, Samaras had to get close to a tornado in order to deploy these tools. And as he did it more and more, he began to realize what a dangerous game it was to play. And yet, he was addicted to the thrill of getting so close to a tornado, and wedded to the idea that one day his concepts and documentation of events could save hundreds of lives.

Samaras’s story is elevated by Hargrove’s intelligent and crisp writing. Although he drops numerous scientific and technical terms, he’s never convoluted or makes the reader feel ignorant for not understanding a specific concept. He explains things quickly and easily, and continues his storytelling without a major break in the narrative. The way that Hargrove describes these weather forms is so vivid, it feels like you are watching a movie:

“Wedge tornado on the ground,” Tim says. “Oh, my God. It’s huge.”

“We gonna deploy on that thing?” asks Porter, his voice betraying more than a little trepidation.

“Damn right.”

They approach from the west down Highway 14, the main route between Huron and Manchester. The tornado is half a mile to the south of the road and moving steadily northeast, refracting sunlight like a prism. One moment the mile-wide funnel is the color of sand. The next, it is smoke, ash, sod. Tim slows up, pulling into the oncoming lane. His distance narrows to hundreds of yards, but the approach is all wrong. There is the intuitive trimming along the margins of safety, and then there is the bet whose odds are unknown. From here, Tim can’t discern the tornado’s heading or ground speed with any certainty. This isn’t the weakening Stratford twister. This is unlike anything he’s ever seen. The tornado before him is the giant of plains legend, the breed a chaser may see once in his life.

-From THE MAN WHO CAUGHT THE STORM

Hargrove sadly also has to tell the story we know already–Samaras’s tragic death “at the hands” of these great vortexes. For Hargrove to fill 250 pages of tornado action in a way that is exciting and unique in each chapter–while being aware that the reader knows what ultimately happens–is a challenge that he accomplishes, exceptionally.

THE MAN WHO CAUGHT THE STORM is a fantastic, superbly written biography of a man who literally lived and died by his passion, and in the process was instrumental to advancing meteorology as we know it today.

For more of our book reviews, click here!

Traveling High and Tripping Hard by Joseph Davida

Traveling High and Tripping Hard“Many authors have told meandering tales of looking for drugs, but more personal material, such as memories from an infamous day in American history, gives the book its staying power. In the end, readers will get to know the author not just as someone who traveled the world looking to score, but as a man who experienced fear, loathing, and the loss of a loved one as well. And it is in the unveiling of a relatable person that the memoir is able to transcend…paints a vivid picture of a world traveler bent on illicit explorations.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Readers who would take On the Road to the next level, journeying into mind-bending mental realms changed by drugs and challenging life encounters, will find TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD a vigorous, revealing memoir that closely examines personal change and larger life goals.”
Midwest Book Review

“A memoir like no other, TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD serves up a grand reminder that the truth is always stranger than fiction. Resplendent with laugh-out-loud moments, awe-inspiring travel tales and staggering stories certain to induce slack-jawed disbelief, this is one bold, balls-out, bodacious book.”
Northwest Leaf

TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD
By Joseph Davida

It began with an after-school trip to Mike’s Lotto candy store and a particularly sour piece of Double Bubble. When eight-year-old Joseph Davida unwittingly chewed a piece of PCP-laced bubblegum, he was launched into a world of breathing trees, flaming walls, and apocalyptic visions. These visions, as described in his new memoir TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD (Dark Planet Press; ISBN 9780999397503; $10.99; Original Trade Paperback), were the catalyst that launched his quest to find the elusive “Professor” in the jungles of Central America, the pyramids of Egypt, and the temples of Kathmandu.

“And then…I heard a voice. It was the sweetest voice I had ever heard, and it told me that I’d passed my test. And then it explained that while everything I’d seen was real, it was not too late. There was still time for things to turn out okay, but there was just one catch…I had to save the world.”
—From TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD

In the summer of 1994, 18-year-old Joseph found himself at the end of his lease in a rundown apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side. Instead of searching for a new place to live, he spent his last dime on an impulse ticket to Amsterdam.

“The reason I chose Holland, of course, was for the weed.”
—From TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD

Amsterdam was only the first stop on Joseph’s drug-laced quest of spiritual and personal exploration. In his travels he experienced the 90’s EDM scene of Amsterdam; the spiritual gurus of Nepal; a serious case of blistering sunburn in Belize; and the frenetic bustle of Japan. All the while, he sought out his spiritual guide “The Professor” and the answers to life’s big questions in his hopes to unlock the secret to saving the world from its impending demise.

TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD is a tale for the next “Beat Generation” that would make Jack Kerouac proud. Fans of On the Road, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Catcher in the Rye will enjoy this mind-bending travel memoir of reflection and psychedelic adventure.

About the Author
After a near death experience at age fifteen, Joseph Davida left his parents’ home and moved into Manhattan. Too young to get a “real” job, he started up what became one of the biggest weed delivery services in New York to support himself while he pursued his career as a musician and songwriter. For years he worked with some of the best musicians in the world, until a nervous breakdown brought his time in the music industry to an end. During this time, he traveled the world before finally settling in Nashville, where he had two beautiful daughters and started a successful chain of retail stores. He now concentrates on being a good father, and actively plans for the coming revolution…while also working to get his many stories onto the page.

TRAVELING HIGH & TRIPPING HARD | By Joseph Davida | Published by Dark Planet Press
ISBN: 978-0-9993975-0-3 | Original Trade Paperback | Price: $10.99 | 214 pp.

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Book Expo 2018: What’s Trending for Independent Publishers

Javits Conference Center, where Book Expo 2018 took place!

A few weeks ago, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City.  It was my first visit in two years, having missed the Chicago show of 2017, and I was struck by the size and quiet on the floor.  The Expo may not have the same value as it used to for traditional, mainstream publishing. However, in the continuously emerging indie publishing industry there is a lot to see and learn.  Here are some of the things I brought back to share with the indie world—authors, publishers, and those who serve them.

1.BISC Book Expo 2018 Bar Codes:  I recently heard from some book professionals that it was imperative to have a price in the bar code on the back of a book.  I took the question to the highest authority on the subject at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group).  His answer was that the bar code is the identifier for the book, generated off of the ISBN and nothing else should be displayed in or on it. He mentioned that there is discussion in the industry about not putting prices on books at all.  What other product comes with a price engraved on itself?

2Independent Publishers Group Logo Book Expo 2018Distribution:  POD (Print-on-Demand) is used by many businesses in the indie publishing world, but this method often makes distribution to brick-and-mortar stores difficult to achieve.  I spoke with several different distributors at Book Expo 2018, including IngramSpark (a POD distributor) to find out how an indie publisher might be able to work with them.  In general, distributors are looking for publishers who release at least ten titles per year.  While there are exceptions to every rule, the increase in small publishers has encouraged companies to be more efficient and choosy about which ones they represent.  A few distributors to mention are: NBN; Consortium; Independent Publishers Group; and Baker and Taylor.

3. Fulfillment Options: Many indie publishing companies are selling books through multiple channels.  IngramSpark/POD is one channel, but you can also order copies in quantity and set them up for fulfillment by a third party.  One of these is Amazon Advantage.  The shopping cart on your site can link to your Amazon Advantage account, which allows you to have copies stored at an Amazon warehouse.  Customers will click the “buy” link on your site and Amazon will fulfill the order behind the scenes. You can still sell on Amazon through the POD channel, and also set up an Advantage account to sell direct.  Amazon Advantage also allows you to utilize many advertising opportunities that can help move copies.

Check back in the coming weeks as I go through my notes from Book Expo 2018 and bring you more insight into what’s going on in the indie publishing world!

Social Media 101: Tumblr for Authors

TumblrTumblr is a combination of social media and blogging—users actively post content to their Tumblr blog, but they can also re-blog and like other users’ posts. Tumblr can be a fun platform to use because it is very different from Twitter or Facebook, and it is a perfect platform for authors to use because it is easy and creative. The number one rule for this platform is to make sure to have fun with it!

Here are 5 ways that authors can use Tumblr:

Reblog or post GIFs or screenshots. Tumblr is full of screenshots and GIFs that are at your disposal to use, from TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, or movies like Clueless and Mean Girls. You will give your account exposure this way because GIFs—especially those that are popular or humorous—will more likely be reblogged than other posts.

Use it as a blog with a purpose. Do you have a specific topic you’d like to blog about, but don’t necessarily need all that SEO and headline writing that comes with a WordPress blog? Tumblr can be a great use for “micro-blogging” or just writing a couple sentences on a topic every day or once a week. For example Clients from Hell started as a Tumblr blog, where they posted anonymous comments about bad clients. Other examples include Bookworm of Camelot which specifically blogs about literature, or That Coffee House Tumblr which only posts about coffee.

Use it as a social network. Don’t just focus on your Tumblr but make sure to follow other blogs that you are interested in and might reblog. Comment and share your stories on other users’ posts.

Use it as a news and events page for your website. Did you get a new Amazon review or were featured in a literary blog? Did you have an event last night? Share these links and photos on your Tumblr and make sure to tag the posts with tags that people frequent (books, literature, amblogging). Did you see another Tumblr post a photo of your book? Reblog it! Connect it to your website so that it is easily accessible.

Use it as your writer’s blog. If you are interested in blogging but know you aren’t going to commit to writing hundreds or thousands of words a week, Tumblr is the perfect way to keep people updated with your life by posting short blog posts or GIFs, new music you are listening to, news articles you just read, etc. with little commentary. Did you just read an interesting New York Times article on how sales at independent booksellers are up? Did you finish a book you have mixed feelings about? Post it on Tumblr and ask your readers what they think.

Many artists and creatives are on the platform, from Taylor Swift to Veronica Roth (Divergent) to Rainbow Rowell (Landline; Carry On). It doesn’t take up as much time as a regular blog and it is more interactive for users because it is so simple for another person to reblog your post. Check it out and you’ll see how much you may just enjoy it!

For more insight on social media check out our blog posts here.