There are quite a few abbreviations and terms tossed around in the publishing business, including ARC (advanced reader copy), A/W (artwork), and “Comp” (which just means layout).
I’m sure you’ve also heard or read about an author’s “platform” and “brand”–important for both traditionally and independently published writers. At first, the terms might seem as confusing or interchangeable, but they are truly very different. Here’s an easy way to define each:
BRAND: An author’s image and identity.
PLATFORM: How you get the word out about your work to readers.
Make sense? Let’s look at both a little more closely.
Every author has his or her own personal style. Try as you might to mimic a Dan Brown or Kristen Hannah (and you shouldn’t), you can never truly replicate another author’s method of expression. Write authentically. Write what you love. Write about what you believe in, what you are passionate about, or what fascinates you.
Think about your purpose as a writer–how can you best entertain, delight, and communicate to readers? Then, work on perfecting that! Your “brand” as an author will shine through.
Think about Maya Angelou, Anne Lamott, and Truman Capote. Do you have an instant reaction when you read each name? Is their work serious or thoughtful, focused on violence or happiness? That’s part of what helps define their brand.
What about Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, and James Patterson? Does an immediate feeling (a gut reaction) about each author come to mind? As a reader, you know what to expect from that author’s writing. That can be defined as brand.
Now, think about your own books. Would you like to shock readers or keep them on the edge of their seats? Do you want to leave readers with a happy ending or feel like they’ve been part of solving a challenging mystery?
How you choose to tell your stories, the genre you write in, the words that you use–even tone and descriptions–will help define your brand. When readers pick up your book and read the first few pages, how will they react? What kind of emotional response should readers have when they finish a novel or short story? Again, brand is something you can’t and shouldn’t force. Let your brand evolve naturally.
Social media plays a huge part in an author’s platform. How often do you Tweet? How many followers do you have? Do you blog? Do people comment on those blog posts? Are you active on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook? To a publisher, more friends or followers means more potential book buyers.
But platform reaches beyond social media. Do you write articles for magazines or online publications? How many people do those reach? Are you a member of a writing group? A literary community? Do you speak at book clubs or present information at conventions? Do you attend workshops and interact with readers? All of these methods count toward your overall author platform.
Genre and Audience
Are you focusing all of your efforts on the right audience? It may seem a silly question, but if you are writing horror but only reaching romance fans, you are likely wasting your time!
It is well-worth it to define your audience and find out where they hang out. If you write thrillers, find bloggers who love that genre and are willing to share your work. Look for thriller/mystery/suspense groups on Facebook, Google+ and Goodreads–then, join and contribute. Think about membership in Mystery Writers of America or International Thriller Writers. If you write Romance, RWA is a great resource. Children’s author? Consider SCBWI. Each organization offers resources and tips for experienced and novice writers on how to best reach audiences.
Experience & Credibility
Do you write about planes in your novels? If you are a pilot, that will give your work credibility. If you write about TV news, and you’ve been a reporter, again, credibility. If you write medical thrillers, are you a nurse? If you write non-fiction, do you have a Ph.D.? An MFA counts for some publishers. Use your degrees and experience to your advantage when you are crafting your bio and talking with your audience.
When Should You Start?
So, when is the best time to begin working on defining your brand and putting together your platform? Ideally, when you start writing your first novel, collection of poetry, or non-fiction book. The second best time? Right now. It’s never too late to get started.
If you feel overwhelmed, start small. Tackle one social media outlet at a time. Attend one conference. Join one organization. Do those well, and then add more to your platform.
What are your thoughts on brand and platform?