Publishers Can Reap Big Rewards from Developing Strong Author Brands
When I talk to my friends who are agents and publishers, they tell me that digital marketing is one of the first opportunities they discuss with their authors. They provide advice and documents that walk authors through digital marketing possibilities and timelines. The bigger publishers even have author portals with useful information around sales data, social media metrics, and more. I wonder then, why do so many authors I speak to about branding say, "Why didn't someone tell me that?"
I work to promote authors online and most of them feel that publishers are not supporting their needs. As someone who has worked in-house, I know how hard everyone works and how passionate book publishing professionals are about their titles. So why is there this disconnect?
The fact that so many authors feel that they were not given the right advice and direction, makes me think that there is an opportunity for publishers to create an "author branding department" -- a department where authors (all authors not just the big ones) learn to develop their brands along with writing their book. I know it's a lot of work and I know authors are already busy, but in today's digital culture both are equally important. Yes, authors need to write the best book possible, and yes, they need to have a digital brand that helps sell more copies of their books. It is not an either or option. There is an editorial department that gives authors the individual attention they need, an "author branding department" can do the same for their brands.
With my clients I use the following formula to develop strong online brands: Design + Engagement + Visibility = Success.
- The first step in the process is Design. Studies show that we judge a person in 1/10 of a second. I don't think our visual branding is any different. A good website can make or break an author's career. The design of the website, social media assets, graphics, newsletters, and video (if possible) are crucial today and should be made thoughtfully with a common goal and strategy in mind.
All of these assets require some resources and skills. Some authors have these skills, but most need advice from professionals. Publishers could work with authors right after the contract is signed toward developing these branded assets. I know many authors would benefit from publisher support in this area. And with a strong author brand, publishers would sell more books, so it's a win-win.
- The second step is Engagement, which means creating a relationship with readers through blogs, social media, mailing lists, and comments. Authors require some training in this area, but eventually can handle most of these direct interactions on their own. Many of my clients, who were hesitant in the beginning, have come to really enjoy interacting with their readers. They tell me writing is a lonely endeavor so the engagement with readers is very gratifying. Authors should know it takes a long time to build a following. The sooner they can start the better off they will be. Most of my clients say that their engagement efforts pay off 18 months to 2 years later.
- The third and final step is creating Visibility, which is publicity, marketing, distribution, events, etc. Publishers spend a lot of time and money on visibility, but until step one and two are in place, the visibility quickly fizzles. Visibility plans should be in place six months before the publication of a book. Many authors call me two weeks before the book's publication date, wanting to start an online publicity campaign. While we can still deliver a successful campaign, it will not be in time for the publication date, which is a missed opportunity.
The few authors that have become bestsellers without a digital or social strategy are anomalies. Most of us need to work on digital branding every day, for the success of our businesses, books, and careers. Authors are the biggest assets of our industry, and it is a missed opportunity not to develop their brand using the reach and relative ease of online marketing. Plus, it sells books!
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. A nationally-recognized speaker and digital branding expert, Fauzia writes regularly for Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com and MindBodyGreen. To talk with Fauzia and ask your online publicity questions, please reach her on Twitter and Facebook.
Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, April 2016). Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online branding expert, Fauzia writes for the Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com and MindBodyGreen. For online marketing, book publishing and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on the book, please visit: www.FauziaBurke.com.