We’re back for lesson 3 in our Author Branding Bootcamp series! I hope you guys are enjoying yourselves.

I know I am.

Remember, what you get out of this class is entirely up to you.

So make the best out of it!

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done so far:

Lesson 1: you don’t know jack about branding
-We discussed the basics of branding and brand equity. Positive or negative brand equity is your brand’s “street cred.” It can lead to sales and a successful career, if positive.
-We discussed the three basic elements important to branding. what you believe (about yourself), what you portray (to your audience)  and what your audience believes (about you).

Lesson 2: “target your brand. p.s. don’t use a shotgun.”
-We discussed brand identity and walked through the steps to develop your author brand identity.
-Some of you submitted some pretty cool identity statements. Thanks for participating.

Today, we’ll be talking specifically about some vehicles to use to brand yourself.

It’s important to remember that not every branding vehicle, or any certain element within each branding vehicle, is for everyone.

What you choose NOT to use is just as important as what you choose.

I think it’s important to seriously consider, research or try any appropriate vehicles before you write them off.

Don’t be like that kid who says he doesn’t like potato salad, when he’s never tried it before. Wow, potato salad references? *fanning myself with a folding lace fan* My southern belle is showing.

So here we go. Some good basic branding vehicles:

1. Product

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention product first.

Branding 101, kiddos, don’t brand yourself as something your products can’t back up.

I could never brand myself as an “author of regency historical fiction” because I have no f’ing idea when the regency period happened. I couldn’t tell you. That probably makes me pretty lowbrow, but maybe my brand is “lowbrow business advice for creative brands.” Actually, that kinda works…but I digress.

Remember that little brand identity statement we talked about in yesterday’s class?

Do your works REALLY fit with that statement? Be honest with yourself.

Are you blinded by that “creative product=child” syndrome where you think everything you create is wonderful? It’s possible.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers or an unwilling, but honest, spouse who will read your work and give you an honest opinion of whether or not it matches up with your brand identity statement?

Warning: Lowbrow business advice for creative brands ahead.

Get someone else to read your shit.

Not just anyone. Someone(s) you trust to give you an honest, but not hurtful, opinion.

Your product is the #1 branding vehicle there is. Period. So get it right.

2. Keywords & Imagery

I grouped keywords and imagery together because they can play off each other.

What I mean by keywords and imagery is:

Semantics, verbal cues, visual aesthetics, colors and imagery- and the connotations that go with these different things.

Basically, visual and verbal representations of your brand.

This can be anything from the colors you associate with your brand, the fonts you associate with your brand, your tag-line, the words you use to describe your works, etc.

Similar to how SEO connects your site with certain keywords. Properly picked keywords and imagery optimize your brand by associating it with these keywords and connotations.

This concept may seem a little too “business-y” for some authors, but by consistently using the same visual and verbal cues or representations of your brand, people will begin to recognize your brand when given those cues- which means you’ll have good *gasp* brand awareness.

I’ll give you an example to show you how to use keywords and imagery as a branding vehicle.

April G. Author writes humorous, metropolitan-based chick lit.  She’s taking this Author Branding Bootcamp and is determined to make herself a full-time author, so she’s going at this with her business hat on. She sits down and drafts an “Keywords and Imagery Statement” to help.

Because April’s books are light and humorous she decides she wants to use light colors on all her “April G. Author” materials.

She also decides on a few buzzwords she will consistently use to describe her books and brand.

She may also pick the fonts she wants to use on her branded materials (business cards, email signature, website, etc.), because she wants to have consistency.

If you are re-evaluating your brand or re-branding yourself with this bootcamp, I suggest working on this element once you finish your brand identity statement, because the keywords and imagery you choose will influence the other vehicles.

Branding is as much about telling people what to think as it is letting them come up with their own conclusions. Give people hints as to what your brand is using keywords and imagery.

Does this make sense?

3. Website

Published authors, if you don’t have a website, please, for the love of all things Shemar Moore, get one! Like yesterday.

An author’s website is a representation of them online.  It should accurately and most effectively represent your brand.

Look at your current site. Does it accurately and most effectively represent your brand?

Are you using your keywords and imagery on your site?

Here are some best practices for using a website as a branding vehicle:

*Include a booklist WITH links to where people can purchase your books. ALL of your books, if they are available.
—Place links to this page in an obvious position.
—I was on an author’s site the other day and couldn’t find any links to where I could purchase her books. Do you know how frustrating that is? Do you know you LOSE sales because of that?

*Include some type of “about you” or “bio” section. Readers what to know a little about the author they love. Try to cater this section to your author branding statement. I don’t mean lie. Lying isn’t good. I mean, no one wants to hear that the author of the humorous chick lit they love is really an old, balding dude who watches Spike TV in his free time and, deep-down inside, hates all women because his wife left him.

Although, the idea of a woman-hating, male chick lit writer sounds like a cool sitcom idea. Dibs.

*Your home or landing page should include your most recent release in a prominent position. Visitors shouldn’t have to search for it.

*If you have a blog on your website, update it at consistent intervals and make those intervals clear to your audience. This isn’t to say you need to update it every day. You just need to be consistent about your updates, whether it’s once a week, every day, whenever. If you only have time to update your blog once a week, pick a day of the week to post and stick to it. Build the expectation with your audience that you post on that particular day. Maybe even have a special name for that blogging day, something that will stick in people’s minds so they can remember to come back that day.

Another helpful tip is to use a blogging platform that allows you to schedule your posts- that way you can write your posts ahead of time and schedule them to post when the day comes.

I HIGHLY suggest scheduling posts for authors.

Why/how scheduling helps: Have a new release coming out in 2 months? Schedule a few posts for the days leading up to the release and the day of the release, before you forget. Who knows, you may be in “deadline hell” around that time and forget. It’s been known to happen!

*When designing your site, or getting your site designed, don’t worship the idea of a leading or header image. Is it really necessary? Could proper color choices, verbal cues and use of your book covers or an author photo do the trick? Are you putting too much emphasis on something outside of your brand.

4. Social Media

The dreaded social media beast.

Everyone has an opinion of this, but you’re on my site right now, so I’ll beat you over the head with mine:

Reserve your name, if you haven’t already, on the big two (Facebook and Twitter), at the very least, and TRY it.

Just try it.

There are so many ways to use social media. There’s probably no one RIGHT way to do it. You just have to figure out what works for you.

Here are some ideas and best practices for using social media as a branding vehicle:

*Be a stalker before you dive in head first. See what it’s really about. Yes, a million people take pictures of their lunches and caption it with “Yum,” but that’s not all social media is. Find a couple authors or brands you like or admire (or are in healthy competition with) on Facebook or Twitter. See how they do it. Study success. How often do they update? What kinds of updates do they make? What’s the approximate personal-to-business update ratio?

*Be yourself on social media- to a certain extent. No one wants to hear about your embarrassing rash, at least not the kind of people you want following you, but followers may be interested in hearing how their favorite author is celebrating his birthday.

*Make it easy on yourself. Who wants to be jumping back and forth between Facebook and Twitter all day to make updates? Try an all-in-one social media system like HootSuite. This neat little website lets me update all my social media streams in one place. For authors with new releases coming out, you can also schedule social media updates to coincide with your releases.

LEARN TO SCHEDULE THINGS. Work smarter. Not harder.

*Interact with others. That’s kinda what the “social” in “social media” means.

*Push people to your different online presences. Drive your Twitter followers to your Facebook page and your website. Use your Facebook page to push people to discover more about your books. Interconnect your different online identities.

*Start a conversation. Ask questions. Take polls. Run contests. These aren’t difficult things to do using social media.

5. YOU!

You are a branding vehicle.

You are.

Know that what you say, whether it be verbally at a networking event, on your website, in email or via social media reflects on your brand.

Bitching about your publisher on a writer’s forum won’t help your brand. So don’t do it. Publishers tend to not like that kind of stuff.

I talked about regency romance author, Sabrina Jeffries during lesson 1. Well, Sabrina represents her brand very well publically. I don’t mean she goes around speaking regency-era slang and dressing in regency garb in public, but wouldn’t that be cool?

Sabrina is personable, funny and knowledgeable about her industry. Her personality is a credit to her brand.

Some authors aren’t like that.

Here’s a tip: being a crabby, bitchy, whiny author won’t make people want to buy your books.

Does this mean you have to be Susie Sunshine all the time. Hell no. Just take a step back and think “The way I’m acting, is it helpful or hurtful to my brand?”

This is just a start. The tip of the iceberg.

And remember, every vehicle you use, should be used in a way that syncs up with your BRAND IDENTITY!

Each of these vehicles can be used in so many different ways to help you build your brand.

Get use to the idea of using a couple vehicles to help your brand immediately and then start thinking about your long-term branding.

Long-term branding? Huh?

Yes, branding is a never-ending process.

Thursday’s lesson can help you maintain your brand:

“don’t let your brand get stale. it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.”

This post will teach authors how to keep their brands current, but consistent. Branding is a never-ending process and you have to both keep up with the times and be ahead of the curve in some respects. Don’t miss it. We’re excited about this one!

Sign up for my blogfeed to get the lesson delivered to your mailbox. At the end of the week, subscribers will get access to a handy, dandy eBook of all the materials from the Author Branding Bootcamp, so sign up today.

Have a specific question about branding you want answered this week? Feel free to leave a comment or you can ping the content minions at henchmen (*at*) creativityloft.com. We’ll do our best to respond.

DON’T FORGET: At the end of the week we’ll pick one lucky author from our visitor/subscriber pool to do a case study on. What does this mean exactly? We’ll evaluate your brand and give you branding tips, insights and a stockpile full of ideas on how to develop your brand over the next year.

Subscribe to the blogfeed or comment (be sure to leave your author website information) by the end of the day (11:59 p.m.) tomorrow to be considered!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 1 is a special day for me! So I’ll be doing something special on the blog tomorrow. Be sure to come back and check it out!

I’m such an anticipation whore.