Five signs you’re not ready for a brand design

We are thrilled to welcome Allison Martin as our newest contributor! 

Branding design is a complicated topic that most like to pass off as something simple and inspirational → Just be yourself and your authentic brand will shine through!

While I personally believe that, I have spent ten years educating myself in design and marketing both formally and through the school of experiential learning, so I truly understand what it means.

The even tougher part of it all is that for authors you are not just branding a company, you are branding your soul, your life experience, your view of the world.

That would be a daunting task for a narcissistic sociopath, never mind an author riddled with impostor syndrome and self doubt.

There is a big piece of the branding puzzle missing in publishing and it’s the piece that has become my mission — what to do Before the Brand.

As a freelance Art Director I coach authors through understanding their branding needs, defining their career goals, and translating that into meaningful design to grow their confidence as well as their readership.

If you’ve been playing around with the idea of developing an author brand here are five signs that you’re not quite ready.

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When someone asks you why you write or what you write about and you can’t confidently state it in three sentences or less—like you would pitch your book to an agent—you are not ready for a branding design. There are two sides to this fence, those who say ‘I just love to read and want to share my love of stories with others’, and those who ramble off ten thousand disjointed things over a 20 minute time frame.

The problem with the first is it is vague and says zero about who you are and what you are promising your readers. What that tells me as a coach is that you lack self confidence and therefore direction.

The second tells me that you lack focus and probably self confidence too—although arrogance is a thing with some new authors, the majority struggle with feeling inadequate so they try to cram in all the things to compensate.

If you can speak clearly and concisely about what you hope to achieve with your work you might be ready to hire a designer.


There are two reasons why logo design is more expensive:

  1. Copyright — When you hire a designer to make a cover you are licensing that design from the designer, they own it and you cannot alter it or duplicate it without permission from the designer. When you hire for a logo design, you own it. The designer creates it and then relinquishes rights to you to use however and wherever you choose.
  2. The purpose — To a designer, a cover is an advertisement for a single product. A logo is a visual representation of a company’s mission statement. A design that will be used to sell products and generate profit indefinitely. So because your logo will generate you more revenue in theory it costs more to create.

Logos also require a lot more pre-design work and back and forth with a client so time is a big factor in cost.


A logo is only a single piece of an author brand and not even the most important one, I would argue. You would be just fine to build a visual identity by simply choosing a font for your name and sticking with it across your entire platform.

Your brand design is about understanding your mission, working toward a consistent goal, and making sure everything you do is ‘on brand’. Your brand includes your interests, the images you take/choose, the colors you use, the clothes you wear, how you talk, what you talk about…

And if after reading all that you’re sweating and saying ‘great, now I have to change everything about myself to have a brand’ then you are definitely not ready for a branding design.

It’s not about forcing yourself into something you’re not, it’s about paying attention to what you already are and amplifying it.


We are hit with thousands of messages every day wanting our money and a majority of those messages are shameless and gross. But the only marketing that should make you feel gross is if you have to lie or manipulate your way to a sale.

If you understand there are many different ways to share your stories and get the word out that don’t include tricking people into buying your stuff then you might be ready to get a brand design to help with that.


A lot of us authors get into writing because we can hide behind our books and remain relatively faceless to our readers. But the industry is changing rapidly, we are more and more connected in a visual way, and readers are wanting to see more of our personal space.

I want to clarify that the advice of ‘write more books’ is 100% valid. The best way to get relevant and stay relevant is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep the books coming.

But it’s no longer enough to just write more books.

Our careers are becoming more intertwined with our lives and processes, but with a little bit of forethought and strategy and a whole lot of honest introspection, an authentic author brand should be an exciting journey, not a daunting task.

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Allison Martin is the author of nine independently published YA & NA novels, and a Graphic Designer, with over ten years experience in television and newspaper advertising, and freelance publishing design.  

Makeready Designs began five years ago as an accidental hobby and grew to a full service publishing design business that works with NYT and USA Today Bestselling authors, as well as Penguin Random House. She has currently shifted her focus to her real passion—helping authors set realistic career goals and implement effective branding strategies to grow their confidence as well as their business.

Allison lives and breathes the North Canadian wilderness, adventuring with her husband and daughter and plotting her next novel on some mountain top—but not until she’s had at least two cups of coffee.

She is represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret Literary Management.