It’s one thing to take yourself seriously as a writer. You may already devote yourself to your craft: enrolled in a writing class, sought guidance from coaches or editors, or attended conferences or writer’s retreats. Building an author career, however, is different. Call to mind some of today’s bestselling authors. They don’t just write—they helm their careers with an entrepreneurial pizzazz, prioritizing marketing and reader-engagement right alongside their writing craft.
No matter what publishing route you choose, it’s vital to build your author brand. In today’s competitive market, being proactive about promoting yourself isn’t just smart, it’s expected. My three steps will steer you toward making your own success and elevating your thinking from “writer” to “author.”
3 tips for forming your identity to build your author career:
1. Build your author career: Hinge onto big ideas.
It’s important to ground your book—fiction or nonfiction—to a big, bold vision. I’m not talking about plot, genre, character or message. It’s about something deeper: the larger themes you want to sink your teeth into. Go beyond your genre or what your books are about. Look at the big ideas that motivate your writing and pinpoint specifically what makes your viewpoint unique. Answering this is pivotal in speaking to readers in a more profound way. It’s also helpful in establishing your author presence.
Ask yourself: What universal themes inform your writing? What concepts or “What if?” questions inspired you to write in the first place? How do your big ideas add to conversations your target readers might be part of already? For example, if you’re writing a novel centering on sociocultural issues such as racism or sexism, question how you’re tapping into a larger movement. You can also consider how your expertise or personal story may lend a unique angle to your author identity. For instance, one of my author-clients is a retired federal agent with a degree in criminology. This helped her chances at making her mark in a crowded market.
2. Engage, engage, engage.
You’ve gotten to the heart of the big ideas behind your purpose as an author. The next step is to communicate it. Your readers are everything. Creating an author identity doesn’t have to be a colossal feat—small-scale efforts can be just as effective. If you have a local writer’s group, you can spread word about your book there. Or, you can attend conferences to connect with fellow writers. The most powerful tools, however, are online. Through a social media web presence, you reach and interact with a giant audience of potential readers and assert yourself repeatedly as a true author.
Ask yourself: What topics that you already explore can help you connect with potential readers? What impact can you have on people? How you describe yourself in your web presence shouldn’t hinge on what your book is about, but rather what your readers will gain from it. Online, you can also generate new content, based on your book and your writing, that grows your community.
3. Polish your presentation—don’t expect others to do it for you.
I can’t stress enough how critical it is to have a clean, professional presentation as an author. This goes beyond your book proposal or even your book itself. The more effort you put into creating quality promotional items—press releases, one-sheets, a blog or website, and social media presence, to name a few—the better your chances at standing out in today’s competitive market.
Unlike in eras past, even traditional publishing houses expect today’s authors to take this seriously. When I wrote my first book, Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths, I saw the importance of being a proactive, committed author first hand. Even though our publisher’s publicity department did assist us, it was my co-author and my work crafting a polished proposal and getting it into the right hands that earned us a coveted spot on 20/20. That was a wakeup call to me as an author. I learned that an author is usually the best advocate for his or her work.
Ask yourself: Are you ready to put the work into building your career as an author? If you can accept that the ball is in your cart, you will reap many more rewards from your writing.
BONUS: Don’t sit around and wait.
Think you have to have to twiddle your thumbs until your book’s ink dries before you can promote it? Think again. Authors today shouldn’t stall their career-building until they have a published book. In fact, the best time to start asserting yourself as an author is now—even while you’re still writing.
Plenty of my clients made wise choices in launching author websites early on. Not only does this strengthen your web presence for SEO reasons, but also builds buzz. By the time your book launches, people already see you as an author. A professional website and author blog, such as the ones my clients DM Sterrett and Joyce Simons created, can be a powerful global platform.
Do you have questions about building your author career? Reach out to me below.