The job of an author goes beyond finding people to read the books; the job of the author is to create fans.
Connecting with that potential fan base has so many facets it can be overwhelming. As a writer you often forget it is your job to network and market your skills. This can be done well before you are published. Using social media to engage in authentic interactions, establish communities, build a brand, and present yourself as an expert can create fantastic opportunities. Though social media isn’t the only way to create fans, you will want to think about what will work best for you and how to utilize it before you are too busy with publishing deadlines and life emergencies.
It is my job as a business owner and your job as an author to establish ourselves as experts. There are many things for which you can and should be known for. In 2012 I bought a full service bookstore in my community. It was my job to prove to the loyal customers that I was an authority on the books held within the walls and get each and every one of them to believe and invest in my ability to find and recommend quality titles for them. It is up to every person and every author to establish what it is that they can do to build a brand and create a feeling of expertise. I needed these loyal customers to become my fans and talk about me beyond the bookstore and let others in the community know the books had been left in good hands.
Over the years my expertise has shifted. When I was first blogging, before The Hunger Games came out, people on Twitter turned to me to define dystopian fiction and give recommendations. Next I worked in a school, my expertise was focused on connecting students with books that would interest them and fell within their reading level.
Now I connect my customers with titles they are looking for and ones they didn’t know they wanted on a daily basis. As I reconnect with my academic pursuits, I see new avenues to connect with unique aspects of myself and opportunities to become an expert in new topics.
Building a brand is about identifying the knowledge you already have and combining it with the things you already do and then sharing those experiences with the world. Does your brand have to do with your writing life, your day job, your previous life, or your academic pursuits? For many writers, being an author isn’t the first iteration of their life . Before I was a bookstore owner I was a book blogger, mother, homemaker, and an avid reader, each of these aspects of my life provide a rich resource from which I can draw my expertise.
Take some time and think about what makes you uniquely you. Is there a way that can be cultivated into your personal brand. How can you use this aspect to establish yourself as an expert? Being authentic is about showing all sides of yourself, maybe even some of your flaws. It can be difficult to talk about yourself when you really want to talk about your book or events you are attending, but that can end up just feeling like a sales pitch. How do you relay your authentic self in person and online?
Every time you use the internet you are building your brand, whether you intend to or not, now it is time for you to cultivate that image rather than hide behind it. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself, your flaws, your emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to put every aspect of yourself online, but be aware of what you are sharing and why you are sharing it. How does how you are using social media, or a blog, or even just talking to colleague help build a brand and establish you as an expert? Do you know how to grow the perfect tomato? Prune roses to perfection? Bake flawless banana bread? It doesn’t have to be something big, but how can you authentically own it? I am really good at untangling things (especially necklaces) and though it takes time, I am usually successful. Maybe there is a way to cultivate that skill into my brand. I am not sure I want people mailing me their necklaces to untangle for them, but it is good to be known for something.
Identify what you are good at, talk about it online and in person. Show all aspects of yourself, not just the best aspects. Build your brand. Be an expert. Ready. Set. Go.
Megan O’Sullivan has owned Main Street Books in Cedar City, UT since May 2012. This year marks the 24th year the bookstore has been in business. She considers herself a bibliophile of the most extreme case. She has been obsessed with dystopian literature, Chris Pratt, and noodles, but is currently pursuing an interest in culinary history and the social conception of food.