#WDC17: The 3 Steps to Successful Author Branding

Yet another session recap from #WDC17. Save money on conferences by reading my recaps! This one is on developing your author brand:

Step One: Develop a Brand Compass

The first step to building an author brand is developing a “brand compass.” A brand compass consists of the following:

  • Brand Belief. Articulate your key values, themes, goals, and what you stand for.
  • Brand Benefit. Articulate how these values relate to and benefit the reader.
  • Brand Structures. Decide on visual and conceptual components you will use consistently. Make sure these are not busy or overwhelming to the eye. Clarity is key!

The Free Writing Events example:

Brand Belief. I value accessible collaboration and networking, and so my goal is to make that easier for an online community of authors. Thus, I’ve created  and utilized a slew of images intended solely for easy view and shareability on my blog and various social media. My editing services, too, are kept affordable to increase accessibility.

Brand Benefit. I take the effort out of looking for free stuff. This therefore shows up in my name, Free Writing Events, which gets repeated often in my newsletter and related feeds.

Brand Structures. On my own social media and website, I consistently use the color scheme of black/white/grey and #008080 teal (see this teal as an overlay on this page’s images), as well as a geometric look involving black-and-white backgrounds and circles for images. I also utilize a specific font family (Gliny, onwhich I spent actual money) across all my media, and though I do alter colors, I don’t alter shapes. The less you alter, the better; otherwise you risk losing cohesion.

Step Two: Applying Your Brand Compass

All your platforming – everything you do professionally – should filter through the brand compass you designed. The “Brand Structures,” or visual elements, come into play in the most obvious ways, since the trick to branding is to create a consistent visual world. The same fonts, styles, heading types, backgrounds, and more should come across in your:

  • Promotions and Activities
  • Book Cover
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Font
  • Logo
  • Business Card
  • Pseudonym (if any)
  • Advertisements

Keep in mind, too, that the easier this is to translate, the better. To that end, try to keep things simple and rigid. Easy-to-read fonts (I’d say three maximum), with each of their roles defined (e.g. which is heading and which is subtext); a chosen set of colors whose hexidecimal codes you can hammer into your brain; and good default images you can save into Stencil or other programs, and modify to fit any need.

Step Three: Evolve Well

I repeat, it’s important to maintain a consistent visual world. However, as time goes on, things change. You may diversify, and suddenly your pink-and-red romance page won’t fit the thriller you just wrote. Or you may stop running a poetry blog, meaning your wispy calligraphy font no longer fits. But when you change or diversify, make sure to evolve well. If you change completely, try to change all of your images over time but then upload them all together, so your site never looks like a mishmash. Or, if you diversify, consider keeping the same font family but reversing the fonts used between heading and subtext, etc; or consider keeping everything the same, but just change the colors on pages that relate to the new thing.

For example, I am a fantasy author. But you can’t tell that by looking at my website. I’ve directed most of my branding toward Free Writing Events and a professional, clean look, as this side of me is what is most useful now (me being unpublished). When and if I am published, I could continue to use the same shapes, styles, and fonts, but change my coloration and use teal-tinted artwork for my backgrounds rather than black and white.

In the end, do what works for you, but remember: clarity and consistency are key!


  1. Willie Handler

    I like how you’ve branded yourself. You’ve put in a lot of thought. I’ve taken a different approach to branding. I’ve focused less on visual and more on visceral. I want my name to evoke a certain response to my target audience. I’ve been trying to develop a persona and name recognition. Only time will tell how successful that will be. I try to present a consistent visual brand but it hasn’t been my emphasis. Partly, because I’m still experimenting with that side of branding.

    1. I experimented for a while, going through several renditions, before I settled on an overall theme. I try to be super organized so the visual branding isn’t too tough for me. I do struggle with the visceral part, since my name and Free Writing Events aren’t exactly synonymous. But FWE wouldn’t get as much of that visceral feel if it was just my name. As you say, both side of branding are crucial.

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