Your Author Brand, Part 1: Nailing Your Focus

I overthink everything. But I knew that Cindy Lynn Sawyer, Wannabe Author of Several Genres, just would not be an appropriate branding title or tagline. As a journalist-turned-marketer-turned-aspiring author, I am diverse in my writing skills. But how do I harness this tangled web of ideas and genres and messaging to create a beautiful, focused brand that represents me?

I know I’m not alone in having experienced a writing identity crisis when it comes to determining my brand. It’s a subject that comes up often at conferences and in writing groups. Here are a few tips that I hope will help guide you through creating the foundation of your own unique brand.

Tip #1: Decide what to brand.

There are two kinds of branding and, chances are, you’ve seen both. Here’s how you decide which works best for you.

Branding Yourself as an Author

Author branding works well if you write in several genres. So, you are branding yourself. This form of branding is an umbrella for all the genres you write. Your writing style is most likely similar throughout all your books. The key is to find that common thread that ties all of your work together to create a tagline that represents you as the author. This isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely possible.

Branding Your Genre

Genre branding is for authors who write only in one genre. So, if you specialize in just picture books or young adult fantasy, genre branding is for you. As a bonus, this type of branding will usually help you establish yourself as an expert in your genre and make marketing your books much easier.

However, if you branch out later, it may become an issue. JK Rowling, for example, is her own brand; the Harry Potter brand. When she switched to writing novels for adults, she had to create the new pen name Robert Galbraith and launched an entire new brand for marketing. This isn’t necessarily a negative. After all, she now has the opportunity to write for an entirely different audience. But it will create more work when it comes to marketing.  

Tip #2: Create Your Tagline

Now that you have a good idea of what type of branding you want to use, you need to come up with a tagline that reflects your work. Keep in mind that your tagline is a promise to readers about what they can expect.

Here are some key questions to help you brainstorm. As I mentioned earlier, if you are author-branding, be sure to pull out the common threads that you find in all your books when you are doing this exercise.

Do all of your books:

  • address a specific emotion or struggle?
  • reveal specific traits in your characters?
  • have a main theme running through them?
  • address a specific audience?
  • Reflect what drives you to write?

Need some inspiration? Here are some tagline examples from other authors:

  • Laura Sassi, the author who recently presented at our Picture Book Master Class, uses the tagline “Celebrating writing, reading and life.”
  • Author and W2I Director Jean Hall uses “Writing encouraging words.”
  • Max Lucado uses “Words of Hope and Help.”
  • Jim Watkins captures his humorous, inspirational voice with “Hope and humor.”

Jeff Bezos stressed the importance of branding when he noted that, “A brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” What three words would you use to describe your favorite author? Now, determine which words you want people to remember you by.

But feel free to delve deeper. For example, one author who writes in two genres featuring women went through this process and created the tagline, “Ordinary women on the edge of extraordinary change.” This type of tagline can give your reader a clearer idea of what to expect, as well as give you a clearer focus for marketing.

Your brand choice and tagline are the foundation for creating your overall brand. Please share your comments, branding choice and/or tagline ideas in the comments. I’d love to see them!

In Your Author Brand, Part 2: Nailing Your Styleguide, I will cover the details of making a custom styleguide for your brand. For more posts about branding, visit these posts.

5 thoughts on “Your Author Brand, Part 1: Nailing Your Focus

  1. Jean Hall — Thanks for the mention, Cindy! It often takes a lot of thought and time to condense what you want to do as a writer into a tag line. Choosing mine was a result of my life’s mission. That took several years to solidify into a few words. Keep at it, everyone!

  2. Oh dear, I don’t have a tagline! I took a branding workshop once and did the homework, and the results were that people who know me think of hats and cats. But I didn’t figure out how to make hats and cats part of my “brand” as an author.

  3. Great thoughts, Cindy. When I first began blogging, my tagline was something about viewing ordinary life under an extraordinary Light. After a year or so, I found my focus and settled down with a new tagline: Tell the Next Generation.

    Deep inside of us there’s a desire to tell the next generation something of true value, something life-changing, something to which they’ll cling to for the rest of their lives.

    My passion is encouraging families to grow in wisdom, faith, and courage. Together, we learn what that looks like and how to implement it using the power of story, history, and His Story.

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