More than publicity services, some authors need our help with branding first. And then, when their brand is tightened up and pretty-fied, they’re truly ready for us to take them public.

If you are in this position, wondering whether or not your brand needs some tweaking, here are five questions you can ask your brand:

1. Do you exist? Some clients are new to this whole “brand” concept. I don’t blame them: It’s just become a big buzzword in the past five years or so. But if you’re an author, trust me, you’ve got a brand — you may just not know it yet. Acquaint yourself with the meaning of a brand
2. What is your promise? Every brand has a promise. What is yours? Do you tell suspense stories? Offer money-saving advice? This may feel reductive to a creative spirit, but if you’re looking for publicity, your chances of media will increase if your specialty is clear and definable. So ask your brand to describe itself in three words

3. Who buys you, brand? Who are your readers? What age are they? What gender? Have they gone to college? Do they have a lot of money, or are they thrifty? It may help you to literally sketch out (if even just mentally) a person who would buy your book or service, by imagining the day-to-day activities of his or her day, as well as his or her personal history and aspirations.

4. What do you look like? I cannot stress this enough. It is important (so! Important!) to invest in good design for your brand. And I’m primarily referring to your website here. Think about question number three: The type of person that would dig your brand. If they are masculine manly men, reflect that on the website. That means no pink. No cursive-y, scripty fonts. I know I know, I sound terribly stereotypical — and I don’t mean to suggest that you need to rely on overgeneralizations. But, do consider the types of material (online or print) your audience is reading on an everyday basis, and make your site resonant with them.

5. Who are your competitors? Think about other brands that are similar to yours. This will help in two ways: To give you some design cues, and also help you differentiate your brand from the pack.
But there may also be opportunities for collaboration with your competitors. Say you’re a foodie, and you’ve just written an Italian cookbook. You use money-saving ingredients and can cook an Italian feast for under $25. If you want to speak at a food festival, what if you reached out to another cookbook author — also Italian, but one who focused on top quality, expensive ingredients? This way, you can each leverage your individual exposure for even better group exposure.

BOTTOM LINE: Your brand is your friend, but first, you two have to get to know each other better. The process may seem daunting at first, but as the American thought leader Lady Gaga once said: “don’t hide yourself in regret / just love yourself and you’re set.”

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