The author as a brand
Together your body of work and your author’s persona constitute a brand. That brand implies certain qualities present in all your work. It’s the idea of your brand that moves a reader who has happily read your first book to pick up your second. In that act they are counting on the quality and tone of your brand.
There might be a few sites that praise your brand but your site is the only one dedicated solely to it. Your author’s website is the authority on you and your About page is the part of that site specifically focused on telling readers what you’re about.
If the site that speaks about you with the most authority does so sparsely, clumsily or in an unprofessional fashion then that perception will also be applied to your brand. Likewise the days of being able to just ignore your online presence have passed: if you choose not to spend some time crafting an About section it sends the message that you’re not worth talking about.
Writing your About page
Happily it’s not difficult to create the kind of About page that gets readers exploring the rest of your site. In fact since it’s a page about you it’s unlikely you’ll even have to do any research.
Crafting a page that does your brand proud is easy and satisfying, especially if you follow our five tips for a better About page.
1. Write for new arrivals
Because your About page carries such authority it’s the first stop for readers just discovering you. The content of your website might be amazing but new readers will never see it if they find your About page impenetrable.
Introduce yourself and mention your catalogue of work, including your genre. Assume interest but not knowledge: write as if the reader knows nothing about you but is intensely interested in finding out as much as possible.
However when I say ‘you’, I actually mean…
2. Write as an author
The reason it’s so important to understand that every author is a brand is that we’re used to being people. People have all kinds of aspects to their personalities, all kinds of interests, quirks and stories. The About page of a single person could fill a book on its own. You are not, however, writing as a person.
Everything on your About page needs to be relevant to you as an author. Every fact you share needs to presented through the lens of your brand. The implicit question you are answering with your About page is not ‘who are you?’ it’s ‘who are you as an author?’
Allow that addendum to echo in your head for everything you include. Writing about your education? Talk about how it established your genre, tone, love of writing, writing style or inspirations. Talking about your holiday? Talk about how it provided the setting for a story.
As we’ve mentioned before, Ian Rankin is excellent at this. In his background section he details his life history and education while linking everything back to the crime genre and roguish tone that characterizes his brand.
Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.
It may seem harsh at first but your About page is more about your collected works than you as a person. Readers are really asking ‘where do these marvelous books come from?’ and you’re just the person most qualified to answer the question.
What kind of education leads to books like these? What kind of life experiences? What kind of inspirations? How did they come to be?
3. Be generous
With the understanding that these are the kinds of questions you’re answering, you should be as generous as possible with your answers.
If someone has sought out your About page then they’re interested in your brand. There’s no excuse for short-changing someone who’s sought out your promotional materials. Chuck Palahniuk’s About page is a nearly two-thousand word essay on his history, philosophy and childhood. It’s well written, insightful and genuinely engaging for fans of the author.
To avoid letting down your fans make sure you provide these essential aspects:
Introduction / Greeting
Relevant hobbies & interests
List of works
Social media links (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Be reassured that anyone on your About page is a) a willing and curious reader and b) capable of skipping the information they’re not interested in. Everyone struggles to talk about themselves but this isn’t a job interview, it’s the world authority on you as an author.
If you need help understanding what to include and what to leave out try thinking of an author you love. What would you ask them in conversation? This is the way someone feels, or will feel, about your work. Make their day by providing the answers to those questions.
4. Be accessible
Though generous your content needs to be accessible. This is a matter of organizing your page to suit different types of visitor.
Why have one piece of information after another? Don’t feel the need to treat digital space as you would a piece of paper: your body of work, profile picture, social media links and at least the beginning of your biography can all be visible at the same time.
Ayad Akhtar’s website manages to simultaneously present everything it has to offer without feeling cluttered or overwhelming.
Likewise your biography’s first paragraph should be a condensed version of the whole, for the readers who want a little information but won’t read further. The idea is to consider, and present, everything on your About page as an individual piece of content. Make each as accessible as possible so readers know what’s on offer.
5. Use visuals
Content is important but the look of your About page is as important as what’s on it. The visual style of the page communicates a great deal about your brand. M.T Anderson’s About page is incredibly simple, with a commanding visual aesthetic that invites visitors to spend some time exploring.
5. Website / Email list
One of the easiest ways to form a relationship with your reader is to involve them in your online presence. The back of your book should make it easy for readers to find you online, whether that be through your official site, Facebook, Twitter or any other kind of social media.
Once a reader engages with you online they’re choosing to follow your progress, which means the next time you have a product to sell they’ll know about it. Managing your online content will also ensure you remain at the front of their mind, increasing word of mouth and brand awareness.
Getting a reader to join your email list is a big deal, and you can read here about incentives that will persuade them to sign up. There’s simply no other way to appeal to all of your readers, so don’t pass up the unique opportunity.
Not including ways to sign up to your email list or find you online in the back of your book ignores perhaps the best way of attracting the kind of constant audience most authors would kill for. The ideal time to invite a reader to engage with you online is when they’ve just finished your book and are at the peak of their awareness of you as an author.
It’s also the best time to suggest what they might want to read next.
4. Other works
Presenting a catalogue of your work right when a reader is experiencing maximum engagement with your brand is brilliant marketing. Everything they enjoyed about your writing is still fresh in their mind and a lot of readers feel a little sad when they reach the end of a good story.
It’s a simple case of advertising to an audience who are at their most receptive, and are already holding your marketing tool.
The more information you can give the better. A list of titles might interest your reader, but a few brief synopses turns the back of your book into a luxury item. Readers can sit back and flick through your range, deciding which they want to try next.
One of the side benefits of an ‘other works’ catalogue is that it subtly changes the reader’s perception of your brand, inviting them to connect with you as an author rather than with your book as a single work. A reader who likes a single book has a good relationship with that book, but a reader who likes your authorial brand has a good relationship with every book you’ll ever write. Author Markus Zusak is known primarily as the author of The Book Thief, while someone like Eoin Colfer is more of a brand with many books to his name. Even if the catalogue doesn’t tempt them to buy straight away, it does present you as a professional author.
Of course there are other methods you can employ to get readers interested in you.
3. Afterword / Thanks
An afterword can be tricky, but if done right it takes the reader’s enjoyment of your story and converts it to enthusiasm for your overall brand.
Your afterword is a chance for you to present yourself as an author. To draw back the curtain and attach an identity to the experience your reader just concluded. Taking the opportunity to thank loved ones or colleagues is more than a nice gesture; it draws the reader’s attention to your brand.
The existence of an author is ignored during the story as part of the reader’s necessary suspension of disbelief, but there’s nothing wrong with reminding them of your existence afterwards. The afterword serves as a gentle reminder that as unique as the story felt, their enjoyment of your work doesn’t have to stop with one book.
That isn’t to say the afterword is entirely divorced from the story: finishing a grisly murder story with a heartfelt thank you to your cat creates a conflicting mood. The perfect afterword should be short, with a simple message in-keeping with the mood of the book.
The afterword is a subtle reminder, but there’s nothing wrong with being more direct.
2. Request for reviews
Word of mouth is incredibly important for books, even if it’s just the number of results that pop up when someone Googles your title.
A short note asking for reviews is an easy way to stir people into action and increase your visibility. Reviewers are people too, and many will enjoy being invited to review a book by the author. It’s also the case that reviews breed reviews: if you target a popular website or publication asking for reviews they’ll most likely check how many there are from other sources as a way of gauging your popularity.
There’s no need to commit an entire page to review requests, as anyone considering a review is already on the lookout. A simple sentence such as ‘I’m always glad for reviews and interviews, and can be reached at…’ will do.
Useful though they are, review requests aren’t the only way you can use the back of your book to attract new readers.
1. Book club discussion points
If people want to discuss your book then you should do everything in your power to help them. In fact book club discussion points make it more likely that groups will choose to read your work, as some book clubs prefer reading books with an existing framework. Even if this isn’t the case it’ll certainly never hurt your chances. Not only do book clubs increase your readership, they encourage people to really engage with you as an author.
Include questions that will help readers get more from the story. Some copies of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin contain reading group discussion points which ask the readers to explain their perception of characters’ thoughts and motives, as well as asking if things would have worked out differently had key details been changed.
Don’t be afraid to take on a non-authorial persona and ask about your own writing style and influences. If you were inspired by a particular genre or work then ask the readers if they saw those connections, and what they thought of them.
The great thing about book clubs is that discussion only stops when time runs out. Get members really thinking about your work and they’ll take their opinions home, advertising you to their children, spouses and household pets.
Of course discussion points aren’t just for book clubs, and many readers will take advantage of this resource to engage more deeply with your work on their own.
The Kitchen Sink
The back of your book is a brief window outside of the story where you have a captive audience interested in what you have to say. As long as you stick to the spirit of what’s come before it’s difficult to go wrong.
Whether it’s items from the above list, a preview of your upcoming work or an interview you think shows what you’re about, take the opportunity to give your audience as much bonus content as you can. Anything you can offer your readers will help in creating an author/reader relationship and establishing your brand, as well as making your readers feel valued.
Of course people are more likely to see what’s in the back of your book if they like the look of the front, so check out Get your book cover right… or lose sales for advice on what attracts readers to books on the shelf. Or if you’re wondering how best to present yourself as an author try 5 Crucial Tips To a Better ‘About the Author’ Page.
Is there a book that wowed you with its end content, or one that really let you down? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
5. Draw up a list of everyone you know
That’s right, everyone. You want to get your family and friends involved to start building momentum at the earliest stage so compile a list of who you can ask and how best to ask them.
Social media and email make this easy to do. Make sure that you use a personal approach and don’t just send a mass email. You could send all of these people free copies of your ebook.
6. Plan to get reviews, testimonials or quotes
List all of the people who might be willing to give you a review, testimonial or quote.
One good quote from a person of authority in your field can make a big difference to the success of your marketing campaign. Write down who these people are and how you are going to get your work to them.
This will probably be as simple as sending out preview copies of your ebook.
7. Get your email list ready
I’m assuming you already have an email list from your website? If not then you need to get started on building one.
You will want to start sending out nuggets of information to your email list in advance. Because they are already interested in what you have to say, they will be the people most likely to buy your book.
8. Are you going to have a book trailer?
A well-designed book trailer can really make a difference and increases the likelihood of your book marketing campaign going viral.
Write down how much you have to spend on this and who you are going to hire to make the video.
You should also consider what sort of format you are going to use. You could opt for any of the following:
Still images with text overlays (with or without music)
Interview format interwoven with still images
Movie trailer format shot with actors
9. Interviews can make a huge difference
Compile a list of potential interviews you can arrange and interviewers you can reach out to.
Do you have people in your network who do relevant podcasts? Do you listen to podcasts that would be a good fit? What about the blogs that you defined in the guest post section? Maybe consider local radio, or newspapers. If you can reach out to these people then you need to time that correctly.
Your book marketing plan needs to know who they are and how you can get hold of them.
10. Conferences / Speaking opportunities
Make a list of any conferences or events you could speak at.
They can be especially useful around the time you launch your book. Do some research and write a list of conferences you can target. This is especially powerful if you are seen as being an expert in your field.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to actually speak at a conference then you could still consider going as a delegate and trying to network.
11. Set your market price
What do similar books sell for? Is there a need for deep discounting? Is there a level where you might be underselling yourself where people will think your book is too cheap? Don’t be surprised, this problem really exists. Especially in the world of high value non-fiction books.
You want to have a coherent price plan in place so you can react quickly and adjust your prices without under- or overpricing yourself.
12. How are you going to fulfill orders?
Are you going to direct everyone to your Amazon page? Are you going to set up payments through your own website (and keep all of the royalties)? Do you have all of the necessary options in place? (We can help you if you’d like to sell your book through your own site.)
13. Plan your timings
Write down all of the timings that are relevant to the book.
How long will you need for editing, formatting, book cover design, etc? Do any of the blogs you want to guest post on have lead times?
You don’t want to start getting people excited too far ahead of launch but you do want all of your promotional activity to be peaking at about the same time. This will maximize the impact it has.
Give yourself some realistic goals. At what point are you going to pat yourself on the back and open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate? Focus on the word realistic here. You don’t want anything unrealistic in your book marketing plan.
That’s it, you’ve written your entire book marketing plan. Now you have a clear road map to take you through your book launch. I’d love to hear your book launch success stories in the comments. Do you think a book marketing plan is important for authors?