Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your Author Brand - Choosing and Maintaining It

That’s me at the Nebula Weekend mass autographing with science fiction author Lawrence Schoen. His top hat was most snazzy—and the little stuffed elephant is a nod to his elephantine aliens in his novel BARSK. I picked up a copy from SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) book depot at the conference and look forward to reading it.

Of course, someone suggested we pose together because of the hats. And, as always, people at Nebula Weekend—though this was my first time attending—commented on how easy it is to find and recognize me because of my big hats.

Also, as inevitably, that evening when I didn’t wear my hat, most people didn’t recognize me. I was honored to present the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and I know that, under stage lights at night, wearing a hat would only cast my face in shadow. I really need to find a sheer hat with net, perhaps, to wear on such occasions. Small hats that might be appropriate, like a cloche, don’t have the same effect—people still literally do not recognize me.

I have this theory that people see the hat and don’t really pay attention to remembering my face. They don’t need to. But it is kind of a problem—albeit solidly first world—that my hats are so recognizable that I nearly vanish without them.

That’s an interesting aspect of having a very recognizable author brand, which is our topic this week.
I’m very lucky to have stumble into this relatively inexpensive, simple and stand-out brand. It came about because I began wearing big-brimmed hats to protect my very fair skin. The very first RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention I attended, I stayed at the overflow hotel a few blocks away in San Francisco. When I walked over to the convention hotel, I wore my hat, naturally, and then kept it on, for lack of any place to stow it. I received so many positive comments and compliments—and people recognizing me again, even after one quick meeting, that I began wearing my hats indoors all the time, at all author events.

Now, as you all likely know, the hat is on my website header, my logo, my business cards, and so on. It is solidly my brand and I’m happy to have it, regardless of minor inconveniences like really needing to find (or make?) a hat I can wear at night.

An author brand is what makes YOU stand out and be remembered. It can be related to your books or genre, but since those things can change over time, it’s better if what distinguishes you as a person and makes you memorable is related to you as a person. It might be hair color, or a style of dress. Maybe certain kinds of shoes. Some authors are memorable for a certain style of wit or social media presence. Perhaps a giant beard or very long hair.

The most important aspect of author branding, however, is to choose wisely. Because, really, as witnessed by my hats, once people latch onto it, they don’t forget. This is a good thing! But it also means you don’t get to be fickle and change it up. Keep that image consistent—and plan to do it for the rest of your career. Which, hopefully, means the rest of your life.

This is one reason I don’t advocate changing your social media avatar—not to a book cover or other logo. Pick something and plan to keep it forever. Don’t think people get bored. It’s how they recognize you.

Make it easy for them to do that!

Also, any and all suggestions on evening hats are most welcome!