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Personal versus Professional Branding in the Business of Book

In the age of social media, the art of personal branding is a vital aspect of ensuring the books that authors and publishers are putting out into the world are making it to the right audience. Everything from the cover design to the publishing business logo to the author’s Twitter account are all part of the message telling readers that this is a professional publication.
So what is the difference between personal branding and professional branding? Why does it matter, and when is it better to use one over the other? Let’s start by defining what each one is. According to Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System, a nationally recognized company that specializes in building online presences for both businesses and individuals, personal branding is “built around you—your personality, your interests, your lifestyle.” On the other hand, professional branding is “built around an identity that you create for your business.” This is not to say that a personal brand is not professional or that a professional brand cannot have a personal aspect or touch to it. More specifically, a personal brand focuses on an individual and a professional brand focuses on the business.
This is important for bookselling because, as mentioned above, branding fits into almost every aspect of writing and publishing. If you are a publishing company, you will need to have a brand for your business that represents what your goals and missions are. It should represent just what sort of books you will publish. Within your company, it is likely that you will either have inhouse editors and design teams, or perhaps you will work with freelance editors and design teams. In either case, these editors and designers likely have their own personal brand, even if this falls under the umbrella of the publishing company. They have a specific way they represent themselves to the authors and agents with whom they are working. If they are freelancers, they more than likely have websites, portfolios, and business cards with their own logos and individual branding that reflects the way they want to present themselves, both online and off.
Authors, too, have spent time building their images. At one point in time, we looked to the author’s personal history or biography, their book cover designs, and even their work itself as the evidence of how this author was meant to be perceived. I’m sure many of us remember high school or undergraduate Shakespeare classes where we discussed authorship debates. The things that we use to define a play or sonnet to be “Shakespeare’s” are the marks that his work has revealed with consistency: iambic pentameter, sonnets and the syllables and rhyme schemes therein, and the themes of the plays. This, for all intents and purposes, could be considered Shakespeare’s personal brand.
It is still more important today for authors to build their personal brands. So much of life’s interactions are done online these days, from Twitter to Instagram, Facebook to Snapchat, LinkedIn to TikTok, and email or personal web pages. Many well-established authors have, at very least, some form of social media. Many others have websites that are also linked to social media. In all of these aspects, they have learned the importance of building their online personas, or in other words, their personal brands.
A common misconception of personal branding and social media, especially among novice authors, up-and-coming artists, and other such individuals, is that self-promotion is a bit of a narcissistic trend when it is in fact a rather vital aspect of the success of one’s personal brand. It’s important to have that presence and persona in order to network both online and off, as well as aid in the success of your book sales. So yes, it is self-promotion, but for the purpose of self and for the purpose of your audience finding what very well could be their next favorite book. You want your work to make it into the right hands: the right agent, the right publisher, and the right readers. Making sure you are well-represented through a personal brand is the foundation on which you will build your career. Make sure it reflects yourself well.

Building a Social Media Following for Aspiring Authors

You’re an author. You’ve written at least one book, and you possibly have a few more on the way. You’re looking for an agent. You’ve secured an editor. You have a publishing contract. You’re at the very beginning of a beautiful and meteoric rise in the publishing world, but then someone suggests you focus on your personal brand. Your author brand. Because as much as publishers like to think they are the main reason someone picks a book off a shelf, it’s more likely because of the author name (though the title and the cover can help too).

Where do you go first? Out of the plethora of social media options available, which is going to net you the most bang for your buck? Which is going to be the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Where To Go

Instagram and Twitter are essential for establishing and maintaining a following. Instagram should be used primarily for shelfies and aspiring-author content. Once you’ve been published, it’s a great place to showcase covers or fan art or to document the publishing process and talk about what you’re doing now (readings, speaking engagements, etc.). Creating a dedicated Facebook author page will allow you to cross-post content between Instagram and Facebook, so lean heavily into the stories features on both for unpolished fun and behind-the-scenes moments. A presence on Goodreads is good to have, but it’s not essential. Update or create a profile. Be available for author chats. Post blogs and book reviews. Being active there is as easy as cataloguing the contents of your shelf and rating what you read.

What To Do

Be consistent. Post two to three times a week when first starting out on whatever primary platforms you choose. That’s no easy task, especially if you’re using multiple social sites, writing, working a day job, working two jobs, going to school, or raising a family. Before starting your social media presence in earnest, stockpile content. When you’re at a conference, workshop, or other event, take plenty of photos. Social media is a written and visual medium. Facebook especially loves video. When all else fails, shelfies will do the trick every time.

Don’t care about how many followers you have. And don’t buy followers. Instead, find your core audience, no matter how small at first, and engage them. Ask them questions and get to know who they are. Don’t just post a question and walk away. Don’t ignore the comments. You have to be interested as much as interesting.

Pick a platform and tailor your brand. Your brand should be reflected by the platform you choose and the genre you write in. Once you’ve established a brand, don’t be afraid to experiment, especially by leaning into standard social media convention. Eighty percent of the content you post should not be about your book; instead, it should be about writing, publishing, other books, etc. Twenty percent of the content should be about your book, or books, which averages out to about once a week. If your book is newly published, then you can reverse the 80/20 rule for a few weeks before and after publication.

And Finally

Don’t read negative reviews. Don’t respond to negative reviews. And don’t ask people to buy your book. If they buy into you as an author, if they buy into your brand, and if your craft is solid, the social media presence will sell your books for you.

How Personal Branding Can Impact Getting Your Book Acquired

Hopefully, everybody knows by now that we’re in the age of media; we’re expected to have an online presence—consistently—and to figure out how to toe the line of sharing-but-not-oversharing on any and all media platforms. Sounds easy, right? If you answered “no” to that rhetorical question, you came to the right place.

Personal branding, especially as a writer, is complicated, confusing, and—unfortunately—completely necessary. While your presence and brand online aren’t the only factors that contribute to your publishing dreams or successes, your personal brand does have a huge impact on how both readers and publishing professionals alike will see you. We’ll let you in on a little secret: you’re easy to find on the internet. And yes, we do check.

As the acquisitions department, we’re often the first point of contact for writers. We receive queries and submissions, evaluate them based on the writing, sometimes offer the opportunity for developmental edits, and decide what books to pitch to the whole staff at Ooligan Press. In order to feel confident pitching a manuscript to the press, we need to know more about you. Yes, you. We want to see how you present yourself to others in the publishing community, how you interact with book lovers, who you know, and who you could meet. Everything. All of this information gives us ideas on how best to reach your book’s audience; if we can figure that out based on the personal brand you’ve built as a writer, it’s one more point in your favor. Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn said it best: “Brand not only tells the world who you are and what you stand for, it also encourages target customers to align with your brand.” Simply put, your brand gives your book another leg to stand on and makes it easier for a publisher to take a risk on you.

At this point, you may be picturing your brand—or what you want your brand to be—and how under- or overdeveloped it might be. Is it too late to start branding myself? Is it ingenuine to brand myself? What are the best ways to brand myself without taking too much time away from my writing? These are all questions you may ask yourself when it comes to personal branding, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are the top five ways to enhance (or begin) your personal brand.

  1. Identify your audience. This may seem like a self-explanatory step, but keep in mind that even if you’re a young adult fantasy author, you have the potential to reach readers who read adult fantasy or young adult of all genres. Know the primary audience for your writing, but never limit yourself.
  2. Determine who you want to be. This sounds philosophical in nature, but it’s more about finding a balance between your personal and professional life. How much do you want to share about yourself with your audience? Do you want to rely on facts or anecdotal humor? What do you want your audience to think when they first see or hear your name? Figure that out and develop the voice for it.
  3. Know what you’re branding. This is the thing people neglect the most. Since you want to sell your book (whether it be to readers or a publisher), the most obvious thing to brand is the book itself, right? Wrong. You’re branding yourself as a member of the writing community and hoping that branding yourself turns into sales. Nobody wants to scroll through a Twitter profile and see the same tweets about your historical lit fic over and over again—they want to know about you. If they really connect with you, they’ll find a way to get the book. I promise.
  4. Set expectations. Do you write in all genres? Only one? What other hobbies do you have? After a time, your audience will form expectations from your online content, and if you set those expectations early on, you will always satisfy them.
  5. Be consistent. Whether you use one form of media or spread yourself across the whole world that social media has to offer, make sure your brand is consistent across the board. A dedicated audience will try to find you on multiple platforms, and you want to ensure you’re meeting their expectations on each one. As Penn says, “it’s not simply about the look, but also what you say and how you say it. So certainly come up with a branded Twitter header, for example, but ensure your tweets are also ‘on brand.'”

To sum it all up, a personal brand is important because it shows the world who you are and what you stand for, and it shows publishers exactly what they can expect from you, your writing, and your audience. We want to stress that personal brand isn’t everything. In fact, believe it or not, the first step to getting acquired is…writing a good book.

Alas, that’s a blog for another day, so get back to writing and building that beautiful brand of yours.

How Personal Branding Can Impact Getting Your Book Acquired

Hopefully, everybody knows by now that we’re in the age of media; we’re expected to have an online presence—consistently—and to figure out how to toe the line of sharing-but-not-oversharing on any and all media platforms. Sounds easy, right? If you answered “no” to that rhetorical question, you came to the right place.

Personal branding, especially as a writer, is complicated, confusing, and—unfortunately—completely necessary. While your presence and brand online aren’t the only factors that contribute to your publishing dreams or successes, your personal brand does have a huge impact on how both readers and publishing professionals alike will see you. We’ll let you in on a little secret: you’re easy to find on the internet. And yes, we do check.

As the Acquisitions department, we’re often the first point of contact for writers. We receive queries and submissions, evaluate them based on the writing, sometimes offer the opportunity for developmental edits, and decide on what books to pitch to the whole staff at Ooligan Press. In order to feel confident pitching a manuscript to the press, we need to know more about you. Yes, you. We want to see how you present yourself to others in the publishing community, how you interact with book lovers, who you know, who you could meet. Everything. All of this information gives us ideas on how best to reach your book’s audience; if we can figure that out based on the personal brand you’ve built as a writer, it’s one more point in your favor. Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn said it best: “Brand not only tells the world who you are and what you stand for, it also encourages target customers to align with your brand.” Simply put, your brand gives your book another leg to stand on and makes it easier for a publisher to take a risk on you.

At this point, you may be picturing your brand—or what you want your brand to be—and how under- or overdeveloped it might be. Is it too late to start branding myself? Is it ingenuine to brand myself? What are the best ways to brand myself without taking too much time away from my writing? These are all questions you may ask yourself when it comes to personal branding, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are the top five ways to enhance (or begin) your personal brand:

  1. Identify your audience. This may seem like a self-explanatory step, but keep in mind that even if you’re a young adult fantasy author, you have the potential to reach readers who read adult fantasy or young adult of all genres. Know the primary audience for your writing, but never limit yourself.
  2. Determine who you want to be. This sounds philosophical in nature, but it’s more about finding a balance between your personal and professional life. How much do you want to share about yourself with your audience? Do you want to rely on facts or anecdotal humor? What do you want your audience to think when they first see or hear your name? Figure that out and develop the voice for it.
  3. Know what you’re branding. This is the one people neglect the most. Since you want to sell your book (whether it be to readers or a publisher), the most obvious thing to brand would be the book itself, right? Wrong. You’re branding yourself as a member of the writing community and hoping that branding yourself turns into sales. Nobody wants to scroll through a Twitter profile and see the same tweets about your historical lit fic over and over—they want to know about you. If they really connect with you, they’ll find a way to get the book. I promise.
  4. Set expectations. Do you write in all genres? Only one? What other hobbies do you have? After a time, your audience will have expectations from your online content, and if you set the expectations early on, you will always satisfy them.
  5. Be consistent. Whether you use one form of media or spread yourself across the whole world that social media has to offer, make sure your brand is consistent across the board. A dedicated audience will try to find you on multiple platforms, and you want to ensure you’re meeting their expectations on each one. As Penn says, “it’s not simply about the look, but also what you say and how you say it. So certainly come up with a branded Twitter header, for example, but ensure your tweets are also ‘on brand.'”

To sum it all up, a personal brand is important because it shows the world who you are and what you stand for, and it shows publishers exactly what they can expect from you, your writing, and your audience. We want to stress that personal brand isn’t everything. In fact, believe it or not, the first step to getting acquired is…write a good book.

Alas, that’s a blog for another day, so get back to writing and building that beautiful brand of yours.