It's a situation in which most new authors find themselves. Their book has been released, but it's just not flying off the shelves or climbing the sales ranks at Amazon.
"I thought this book would sell itself!" is something I have heard from several authors.
The truth is, no book sells itself. Authors sell books, with help (sometimes very limited help) from their publishers. We have already discussed how much competition there is in the publishing industry. So how does an author stand out from the crowd? With branding.
Everyone, regardless of what industry they are in, has a personal brand. Their brand is their personal reputation, how other people view them, and what they have come to expect from that person. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has a brand. Coca Cola has a brand. Apple Computers has a brand.
There are plenty of pro football players, soft drinks and computers in the world. Hundreds, in fact, if not thousands. However, not all football players, soft drinks and computers are comparable. Some are better than others. Some have been around longer than others. Some have developed more of a following than others. They have developed this track record of success with branding. For example, when I go see a movie starring Sylvester Stallone, I can pretty much count on the fact it's going to be an action movie. When I read a book by Dean Koontz, I know it's going to be a thriller.
This blog is an effort to brand myself as someone who knows how to sell books. In the nearly four years I have worked at Tate Publishing, I have sold a LOT of books. That success didn't come overnight, and neither does developing a successful brand. So, how does an author go about developing a personal brand?
Identify your key strength. What makes you different from other authors? Do you specialize in a particular genre? What is your expertise? What makes your book different or more interesting than others? Make a short list of these qualities. These are the things that are part of your personal brand.
Develop a clear and concise message to communicate your brand. Burger King lets you "have it your way." Coke is "The Real Thing." Brett Favre is a "Superbowl champion quarterback." I promote "sales, service and success." These tag lines are all part of branding a personality, product or service. Once a person or a product becomes well-known enough, their name itself is a brand. Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue, but now everybody calls facial tissue Kleenex, whether it's actually made by Kleenex or not.
Persistently and consistently communicate your brand. Now that you have figured out your brand (you're a romance novelist who specializes in stories with twist endings, for example) you need a way to constantly communicate that message, and do it persistently. Michael Jackson always referred to himself as "The King of Pop," and after awhile everyone else called him that, too. Use many different communications channels to convey your brand. Your press releases, your news letters, your web site, your email signature line, your blog, your social networking pages...everything should contain your branding message. If your marketing materials contain your brand, then interviewers and book reviewers will start to use it, too.
Branding can be subtle. Not everyone has a tag line as part of their brand. Jeffery Gitomer writes a series of books about selling and positive attitude, and each of his books has a color in the title of the book. His best-known book is perhaps "The Little Red Book of Selling." When he appears at speaking engagements, he wears a red shirt. His own web site depicts him wearing a red shirt. He does have a slogan: "People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy!" In fact, he has trademarked that slogan.
"The Chicken Soup" series of books is perhaps one of the most well-known series of books around. Every book title in the series has "Chicken Soup for the Soul" featured prominently. "Chicken Soup" is part of the branding. You may not remember the names of the authors, but you will remember "Chicken Soup."
If you haven't given any thought to your personal brand, now is the time to start. Is your message in your marketing materials, web site and backmatter of your books clear and consistent? Can you somehow incorporate your branding into the elevator pitch for your book? Remember, your book is a business, and each successful business has a brand. What does your brand say about you?
You can learn more about branding at Brand-Yourself.com.