This is the second post I’ve written about what I learned from the Atlanta Writers Club December 2019 meeting that featured literary agent Caroline George as a guest speaker. The first article covered her talk about pitching to literary agents. This time, I’m covering her second topic of that day, entitled You, the Protagonist: Developing Your Character (Author) Brand.
The conversation began by Ms. George asking the audience to recall their favorite protagonist. Looking around the room, I saw eyes flicker and smiles appear as she encouraged us to share aloud some positive attributes of that character.
We shouted adjectives such as brave, empathetic, quirky, and relatable. Next, Ms. George postulated that we all embody those endearing qualities ourselves. And just as we appreciate the idiosyncrasies of our favorite character, so too will our audience appreciate our own unique characteristics. My takeaway from this activity: an author should be intentional about creating a brand which authentically shares who they are with their readers.
Aspects of a brand
Ms. George went on to explain that an author’s personal brand includes more than a unique voice and style in writing; it’s also our sense of fashion and clothing. A writer’s brand “projects who you are to your target audience (readers).” This is because a brand “sets expectations, builds community, and fosters growth; it also pinpoints your place in the market.”
The following is her list of considerations for brand building: target audience, personality, voice, color scheme, message/takeaway, consistency, unity, and call to action. And, of course, our brand is most easily conveyed through our online presence, such as on social media.
Social media engagement is key
Engaging with readers on social media is key to growing a writer’s audience platform. However, Ms. George cautioned quality posts over quantity. Too much low-quality content risks hurting the brand. She emphasized that writers should be sharing their unique personality and quirks with followers, and perhaps most importantly, whatever is posted, should always be a takeaway for consumers. This could be as simple as asking questions, especially ones that are easy to answer (Coffee or tea? What’s your favorite genre?)
When deciding on which social media platform to engage, writers should go wherever their audience spends the most time. However, the social media platform she recommends most for regular engagement is Instagram, even though she claims that “Twitter is great for quick followers.” Additionally, if writers choose to use Facebook, they should work to get at least 15,000 followers for a page related to their book or brand. Ms. George also shared that for writers whose work falls in the genre of non-fiction, agents want to see at least 50,000 followers on a platform.
She was also kind enough to recommend specific hashtags to follow on Instagram or Twitter: #bookstagram, #amwriting, and #authorsofinstagram or #authorsoftwitter. She also suggested taking nice pictures of books in our genre (think alongside a cup of coffee and some flowers) and then writing a review. We can post this to our social media accounts.
One of the most important things to remember is that all social media accounts should bring people back to the author’s website.
Finally, two comments that stood out to me during her talk were when she said “engagement and community sell books,” and your “brand should have the potential to keep growing.” I took these comments to mean that on a local level, engaging with readers and building a sense of community are important for book sales, but authors should also think globally and build their personal brand in a way that is more expansive rather than limiting it to one book. As Ms. George stated, “books are an accessory to your message.”