Thursday, November 07, 2019

Building YOUR Indie Author Brand

By Ray Flynt

Part of The Indie Author Series

JH: Once you decide to go indie, the next step is to ensure you have a strong author brand. Ray Flynt is back this month with tips on how to build your indie author brand.

Forty-six years ago I moved to an unfamiliar community to develop a new program for my employer. Eventually, I’d be hiring staff, but to begin with it was just me. I only had two contacts in that new community. One was a minister who had once preached at my home church. He hardly knew me, but when I showed up to say “Hi,” he made me feel welcome.

During a tour of his church, we stopped by the choir room. He asked if I sang, and when I replied that I did, he invited me to come for choir rehearsal the following night. I showed up as the proverbial stranger in a strange land. The following Sunday, I joined with forty-five others to sing in the choir loft. I began to make friends.

Why am I telling this story? Because building your indie brand as an author isn’t much different. One step at a time. A single contact made, followed by others. Eventually, people find you.

What is your brand?

Imagine that you’re sitting at the local coffee house (or favorite bar) and your drinking companion brings up a name in conversation. It could be of an actor, musician, author, etc. You find yourself saying, “I’ve heard of her.” You may not know all the details (able to name all the shows they’ve been in, songs they’ve recorded, etc.), but you’ve just signaled awareness of their BRAND.

As an Indie Author, you’re in competition to get your name out to the point where people will recognize and take a chance on buying/reading your stuff. 

It’s a process that takes an investment in time. (Note: Monetary investment may also be required, but we’ll touch on that later.) In my last Fiction University posting, I noted that being an Indie Published author means spending perhaps 40% of your time on writing and the balance on other issues, including marketing and brand building.

Maybe you’re thinking: Isn’t there an easier way?

Well, you could wait for lightning to strike. For example, Oprah might recommend your latest novel as a must read. Or perhaps your career could take off like Tom Clancy’s did when President Reagan was asked if he’d read any good books and cited Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Either of those type of events would lead to near-immediate success. Most of us aren’t that lucky.

Many authors aren’t comfortable with the salesmanship aspect of being a writer. 

We feel like hucksters if our interactions are of the buy-my-book variety. Instead, think of that Rogers and Hammerstein song: Getting to Know You. By definition, being an author makes you an interesting person. You live a creative life crafting stories for the page. When you meet total strangers, you usually start by introducing yourself, tell where you’re from, marital status, children, where you work, and mention hobbies/interests. Eventually you’ll reveal that you’re a writer, thus opening up a world of further discussion. They’ll decide if they want to read your book.

Building brand awareness can’t be done effectively with a buy-my-book pitch. 

Once you’ve established that you’re an interesting person, leave a trail where people can find more information—starting with a business card. Be creative: Include a book cover on your business card or information to stir their curiosity.

(Here's more on Do You Know Who You Are? Building and Sharing Your Author Brand)

Okay, I see a hand in the back. Do you have a question?

Yes. Can’t I just advertise my book?

Sure. You can do that. I find most Indie Authors are looking for cost-effective alternatives to getting the word out. The focus of this blog post is on strategies you can use to enhance your brand. Later, you may choose to advertise. Even companies that spend millions of dollars on advertising, first worked to establish that they had something worthy to sell.

(Here's more on The Basics of Advertising for Indie Authors)

Where will people find you?

You’ve undoubtedly heard of an elevator speech. The idea is to make an introduction in the time it takes for an elevator to traverse a few floors—usually a matter of seconds. I often find myself in conversation with friends where a name or topic comes up. Thanks to smartphones, if I have a question I can google the name. 

What happens when your name is googled? 

Thanks to the Internet, you can create multiple “homes” to get the word out about yourself, for example:
  • Website
  • Facebook page
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Author page on Amazon
  • Goodreads presence
  • BookBub partners program

A website might require an investment of money (although there are no/low cost alternatives), but all of those others are no charge.

Consider contacting affinity groups

You haven’t just written a book, you’ve explored a topic/an interesting locale/intriguing human interaction. Surely you’ve touched on a nugget that will be of interest to quite a few people. 

Another feature in this Internet era is that virtual groups exist on a variety of subjects. It won’t take long to find a Facebook group (or other forum) devoted to the topic you’ve explored in your book. You may not consider yourself an expert, but I bet you’ve done research. Join in the discussion. Caution: Not for the purpose of saying “read my book,” but rather to make known your interest and knowledge

Like-minded folks will WANT to check out your book.

In addition to online groups, there may be support groups in your community that meet on a regular basis. You would be a welcome resource for them.

Pitch to book clubs

Here’s an instance where a “read my book” pitch makes sense. Book clubs exist to, duh... read and discuss books. Reach out with an offer to sit in on a book discussion and share the author’s perspective, should the club choose to select your offering. Wouldn’t you enjoy spending time with a passionate group of readers that have just finished your latest SF, romance, or mystery?

Your local library may host book discussions, readings, etc., providing another great opportunity to put yourself in front of eager readers.

Giveaways, contests, fun

There are a variety of forums where you can offer giveaways of your latest novel. You may be thinking, Wait, I worked hard to write that book. Why would I want to give it away? Just as supermarkets set up sample tasting tables to encourage customers to buy the product, giving a few books away may encourage those readers to invest in your other books. More importantly, if they like what they read, they’ll help spread the word.

If you choose not to giveaway books, perhaps you’ve written a short story that demonstrates your writing style. You can share that story widely, with links to how readers can find more.

You could also post a quiz about your last novel. Those who correctly answer the questions earn a chance to be the first to see your next book. This builds excitement. More readers will want to jump on the bandwagon to experience your great stories.

(Here's more on Book Giveaway Promos Compared: Goodreads, Rafflecopter, and the New Amazon Giveaway)

Chime in on this topic

The above is far from an inclusive list of ways in which you can build your author brand. It’s food for thought. As always, feel free to offer your own best practices in the comments section below.

Ray Flynt authors two series: Brad Frame mysteries, and one featuring journalist Ryan Caldwell. He’s also written a political suspense, Kisses of an Enemy. A native of Pennsylvania, Ray wrote and performs a one-man play based on the life of Ben Franklin. Ray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and active with their Florida Chapter. He is a life member of the Florida Writers Association. Ray retired from a diverse career in criminal justice, education, the arts, and human services.

Website | Goodreads |

About Unforgiving Shadows

Brad Frame lived a serene but aimless existence on Philadelphia’s Main Line until his mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered.

The tragedy transformed his life.

After helping the police catch their killers, and with the aid of his mentor, Philadelphia Detective Nick Argostino, Brad opened his own private detective agency vowing to help bring justice to others whose lives had been turned upside down.

Eleven years later, Brad is invited to the execution by lethal injection of Frank Wilkie, one of two men responsible for the death of his mother and sister.

Thinking that Wilkie might have something to say, Brad reluctantly attends. Wilkie remains silent, but as Brad exits the prison the chaplain races after him, thrusting the condemned man’s Bible into his hands.

Within hours another man is anxious to get his hands on Wilkie’s Bible, and Brad suspects the motivation could involve the still-missing ransom money.

But as the reason becomes clear, Brad’s world is once again turned upside down. Aided by his associate, Sharon Porter, Brad unravels an eleven-year-old mystery that casts new suspicion on family, neighbors and business associates alike.

UNFORGIVING SHADOWS is the first book in the successful Brad Frame Mystery Series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie Bound |

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