Publish & Prosper

Author Branding 101: Building a Brand Beyond Your Books

May 15, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 25
Author Branding 101: Building a Brand Beyond Your Books
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Author Branding 101: Building a Brand Beyond Your Books
May 15, 2024 Season 1 Episode 25
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Matt & Lauren explore author brands. Listen now to discover the power of your author identity, why it is so important, and how to create and maintain a brand for your long-term marketing and sales success.


Dive Deeper

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch Lulu University’s Author Branding Playlist

💡 Learn more about Why Authors Shouldn’t be Hiding Behind Their Books: What it Means to Build an Author Brand from Written Word Media

💡 Check out Armen Adamjan and Creative Explained


Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [2:46] “I think a lot of the time a lot of the issues that authors run up against when it comes to long-term marketing can be boiled down to they haven't done the groundwork with their author branding and developing their brand.”

🎙️ [16:19] “What you really need to remember is that whatever you do, whatever branding you apply, whatever name you choose, you need to be consistent across all channels, including when we talk about things like pay and organic search and stuff like that, so that you continue to build brand recognition, which is what fuels the machine for you to sustain that business long-term, regardless of what that business might be.”

🎙️ [36:05] “I think the key is to just - you have to recognize that and you have to understand that if, if this is something you want to do long-term as a career, whether you've already started down that path or not, you have to have this component. You have to have some branding in order to sustain a long-term trajectory.”


Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at podcast@lulu.com
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.


Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Matt & Lauren explore author brands. Listen now to discover the power of your author identity, why it is so important, and how to create and maintain a brand for your long-term marketing and sales success.


Dive Deeper

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch Lulu University’s Author Branding Playlist

💡 Learn more about Why Authors Shouldn’t be Hiding Behind Their Books: What it Means to Build an Author Brand from Written Word Media

💡 Check out Armen Adamjan and Creative Explained


Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [2:46] “I think a lot of the time a lot of the issues that authors run up against when it comes to long-term marketing can be boiled down to they haven't done the groundwork with their author branding and developing their brand.”

🎙️ [16:19] “What you really need to remember is that whatever you do, whatever branding you apply, whatever name you choose, you need to be consistent across all channels, including when we talk about things like pay and organic search and stuff like that, so that you continue to build brand recognition, which is what fuels the machine for you to sustain that business long-term, regardless of what that business might be.”

🎙️ [36:05] “I think the key is to just - you have to recognize that and you have to understand that if, if this is something you want to do long-term as a career, whether you've already started down that path or not, you have to have this component. You have to have some branding in order to sustain a long-term trajectory.”


Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at podcast@lulu.com
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.


Matt: Welcome everybody to episode 25 of Publish & Prosper. The big two five. Today we are going to be discussing a widespread problem in the author community. It is rampant. It's really, really, really bad, like super bad. So we're going to talk about it today, and that is branding. Author branding, creating your brand, creating your, your who you are as an author. I'm sure there's a lot of strong feelings about this. And like I said, it's just gotten to such heightened levels of terribleness that we have to talk about it. 

Lauren: It absolutely is. I know it feels like we're kidding, but I don't think we are, actually. 

Matt: No, it's not that bad. 

Lauren: No, it's not that bad, but it is. I think it's one of the most commonly recurring problems that we see. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Also, I do just want to note, because I was just working on editing this episode, neither one of us is doing the Church Lady thing right now.

Matt: Yep, I'm trying to in the back of my mind stay cognizant of that and aware of, like, what I'm doing with my hands at all times. 

Lauren: We haven't even started video recording yet. 

Matt: I know. 

Lauren: We're practicing for when we do start video recording. 

Matt: Yep. Yeah, a little Easter egg to keep your eye on when we do start doing video. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure. 

Matt: Because none of this probably makes sense to anybody right now. 

Lauren: Nope. 

Matt: The minute they actually see it, they'll be like, oh, yeah, I get it now. Okay. 

Lauren: Oh yeah. 

Matt: Yeah, that's ridiculous. 

Lauren: And we thought you guys were weird when you were just talking voices in our ears. As soon as as soon as y'all can see us, it's going to be so much worse. 

Matt: Yeah. Well, spoiler alert, we were hitchhiking ghosts.

Lauren: It's my dream. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: That's what I aspire when people are like, heaven, hell, afterlife, whatever. I'm like, now I'm going to go live in the haunted mansion as a hitchhiker. 

Matt: Yes, please. 

Lauren: That’s the way to do it. 

Matt: Or I want to be the organ player in the party room. 

Lauren: Ooh, that's a good one. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: I've always liked the… the guy swinging from the chandelier. And I actually am 95% positive that I know his name, so. That's fine. 

Matt: Yeah. 


[2:29]

Lauren: But anyway, more importantly, branding. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: This is something that actually, like, we're being tongue in cheek about it. But it's something that we've noticed a lot when we speak to authors publicly at events, in social comments, when we get questions from people. I think a lot of the time a lot of the issues that authors run up against when it comes to long-term marketing can be boiled down to they haven't done the groundwork with their author branding and developing their brand. 

Matt: Yeah, they haven't laid that foundation. Some of that is also, I think, tied to this idea that, you know, again, you have to treat what you're doing, your writing, or whatever it is you're actually creating content-wise, that you have to treat it as a business. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: And as such, your business has a brand, right? For writers, though. I think where the disconnect comes in is that they don't realize that they are the brand. 

Lauren: Yes.

Matt: So - especially for fiction authors, nonfiction content creators, sometimes they are actually physically creating a business or a brand where they want to be detached from it, because their goal is to exit at some point and you can't have a successful exit as a brand or business if everything about that brand or business is tied to a single person. That's really hard. So, you know, in the world of nonfiction, there's a little bit of runway there for not necessarily positioning yourself as the brand, but really making sure whatever you're creating content wise is still fully branded appropriately. So there's a little distinction there, but otherwise - and that's not to say that some authors don't have it down cold. 

Lauren: Hey, there we go. Um, yes, I absolutely would agree with that. There are some - this is not to say it's a universal problem. We see some authors do a really, really fantastic job with author branding. Nine times out of ten when it's fiction authors, it's serial fiction authors and people that are making a real career out of serial fiction publishing. That's a huge part of that, and finding success in that, is your branding as an author and those people are nailing it. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So if you ever, if you want an example at the end of this, when you're like, I don't, I still don't really understand what you're talking about. Go look up some serial fiction authors, romance authors, people that are just absolutely crushing it in the indie publishing market. You'll see some really great examples. 

Matt: Yeah. But I do wanna just underline what Matt just said in case you missed it, in case you're listening to this and you're like, mmm, I don't have 45 minutes to listen to these guys talk about author branding or whatever.  This is absolutely relevant to every genre of author that could possibly be listening to this right now. This is relevant to fiction authors. This is relevant to content creators. It's relevant to small business owners. It's relevant to people that are publishing books as an indie press, like whatever it is, like whatever you're doing, this is relevant to you. 

Matt: That's right.

Lauren: It's going to be maybe slightly different ways, you know, like for a fiction author, we're going to make the argument that you as the author are the brand that, you know, your name as like, my name as author Lauren Vassallo, like Lauren Vassallo is the brand. That's what we're going for here. But content creators or business owners, your business is your brand. You might even say your brand is your brand. 

Matt: Yeah, your content is your brand for sure, but yeah. 

Lauren: Yeah, so there's gonna be a little bit of a different approach to it, but at the end of the day, the point is relevant still, the point is essential to all of us to understand that your book or your books, plural, is not your brand. Your books are not your brand. You, your content, your business is your brand. 

Matt: Yeah, that's right. I mean, you even have some, you know, serial fiction writers that they're really good at writing cross-genre. So you can't have your books necessarily be your brand. You as the author are the brand and people come to know and respect that you're a good writer. And so that when you do try to cross over into another genre, let's say from… science fiction to, to romance. They're going to trust checking out your first romance book because they knew or know that you write great science fiction books. You as an author, your brand as an author, what you do, they've come to know and trust that. So. 

Lauren: Yeah, I will be living proof of this all the time and always, you know, I've, I know some of the like responses that we get from people when we talk about an author brand is saying like, well, I don't want to silo myself in this one genre. I don't want to make a name for myself as a romance author, specifically in that, and I'm known for that. And then like I'm stuck there forever. I can never deviate from that because that is my brand. And I'm going to absolutely make the argument that that's that it's actually the opposite is true, because if you make a name for yourself as a romance writer and then you say one day to your loyal fan base that you've built out, hey I want to try something different. I want to try something new. I've got a book coming out in a couple of months that is my first foray into the horror genre. Your real loyal fans, your super fans, are going to give it a go. Because they trust you and they love you and they are invested in your writing and they're going to give it a shot. And even if you've got some fans that are like, girl, I can't do that. Like I love you and appreciate you and respect you. But I - horror is not for me. They might have some friends that they can turn around to and say, hey, I've got this author that I really love who who writes a bunch of romance. I know you're not into romance, but you might be into her new horror novel that's coming out. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So maybe you should check this out. I absolutely think that instead of siloing you in a very narrow path, having that brand reliability and having that known brand for yourself actually gives you more flexibility to experiment and have fun with different genres and different styles of writing and whatever else you might want to play around with. 


[8:13

Matt: Yeah. Along those lines, I think even the authors that are starting to do a better job of branding or embracing this idea that they are the brand, for a lot of them, it's still a struggle for them to understand or really sort of navigate social media and how you should show up on social media as an author or again, representing your books instead of yourself, or things like that. What are potentially one or two best practices that you would say, as somebody who not only managed social media for Lulu, but in general has a pretty good grasp of how one should navigate the social media ecosystem? What's something you would tell authors and creators? 

Lauren: Well, first and foremost, this is something I see all the time and it always used to just I'd always want to like DM the people and be like, what are you doing here? Your social media accounts should never be named for your books. They should never be the product name as your social media handle. Because what happens when you're no longer promoting that book?

You know, let's say you've got the first book in your series. You are promoting that. You're promoting it really heavily. You've got all your social channels named after that. People are starting to follow you. People recognize it. And then in a year, you put out a new book. What are you going to do? Are you going to change your social handle? Are your followers that recognize you from that first name going to recognize you by this new name? 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Are they going to know who you are? Are they going to stay interested in you? What if the second handle isn't available? What if the first one that you claim is available and the second one isn't? 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: You know, you've got to think that one through all the way. You should never name your social channels after one individual product. Which to be clear, like that's what we're talking about here when we're saying that you as the author are the brand, you are your brand, your book or your books or your products. 

Matt: What if my name is already taken on, let's say Instagram, what if Matt Briel is already taken?

Lauren: I mean, get creative. 

Matt: And what if I've only written, like this is my first book. 

Lauren: Well, first of all, so, get creative with your handle if you want to be. There are plenty of ways that you can. 

Matt: So if I just did Matt Briel, it's boring? 

Lauren: Well, no, not at all. Actually, my professional Instagram handle is literally just Lauren Vassallo, so it's fine. 

Matt: I mean, you practice in what you preach, but. 

Lauren: Maybe, yes. But it's more important - I don't think that it really is essential to have your handle be something creative and fun and interesting, as much as it is important that your handles are consistent across all your social channels. And it should be something that is easily - 

Matt: So. 

Lauren: - identifiable to people that might be looking for you. 

Matt: Yeah, what about something like Matt Briel Author? 

Lauren: Sure. 

Matt: Or Matt Briel Writes. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. I've seen plenty of my favorite authors that have very similar handles to that. And it's actually a great way to identify like, okay, there might be a lot of people that have a name similar to this one - 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But the little qualifier that they're an author or a writer or whatever, definitely helps with that.


[11:09]

Matt: So, you know, aside from your actual handle on whatever social media platform of choice, the point I think you're really making here is that the account itself should focus as an author that's your brand and that way you're able to talk about all of your books -

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: - or all of your projects or whatever you want to talk about and it won't feel like it's out of scope versus if I created a whole Instagram account for my first book. I mean, what am I going to talk about besides that first book? Because my Instagram account is based on my first book title and my first book, so.

Lauren: Right.

Matt: That makes sense. I get it. What about somebody who considers themselves not necessarily an author per se, or they don't self-identify as an author full-time, but maybe they fall into more of that realm of like just a content creator, a content entrepreneur, somebody who is actively creating content and working towards building a brand based on the content, whether in the hopes to sell and exit or not. But would you recommend somebody still have the account, like their social media accounts under their name, or in that instance would they try to do it in the brand name?

Lauren: I think that depends on what your content and brand is. If you've already started building… what I would really say more than anything else is don't put yourself in a position where you are - where you have to change your social handles at any point during, like,  your growth as a content creator. So not to put pressure on yourself at the beginning to be like, I have to pick something really good to start with because if I don't, I'm stuck with this forever. But like, you know, you want to make sure that as you're building a name for yourself, it's a recognizable name. And… I’m trying to think of any examples off the top of my head and drawing a complete blank. Let's say with Lulu, you know, we've we've built this whole brand identity as Lulu.com on all of our social channels. And if we were going to decide tomorrow that we were changing the name of the company and we're going to do something completely different, we're kind of losing the credibility that we've built on the name that we have already. 

Matt: Right. 

Lauren: So I don't necessarily think it's important for you to say like, I have to name my social channels after my existing brand or vice versa, that you have to name your brand after whatever you've originally named your social channels. But just make sure that they are clearly connected in a way that your fans will recognize you no matter where you are. And that gives you that leeway, like you were saying earlier, to have -

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: - different kinds of content. If you are a content creator who is primarily making videos on how to live more sustainably in your everyday life in your home, and you eventually wanna publish a book full of tips and ideas that you've talked about on your social channel. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And now you wanna put them all into a book, you wanna make sure that your social channel is cultivated in a way that you can talk about your book on that channel while still also consistently sharing new videos about your content.

Matt: Yeah, I think a good example of that one just for anybody who wants to see it is, um, there's a, there's an author that uses our services. His name is Armen, but his brand is called Creative Explained. And you know, he got his start on TikTok by making these really great videos, most of which were centered around things to do with plants. How to bring plants back from the dead or other uses for plants or little tips and tricks and hacks. And he did the right thing by naming his social media channels Creative Explained, not Armen, even though he was like part of the reason why his channels blew up and why he got so many millions of followers just because of him himself and his energy and the way that he does things. 

But when he did decide to put his content into a book, it was an easy thing for him to do and it was easy for him to introduce that into his social media channels. And then his second book and now his third book and, you know, anything else he's doing, he's been able to now also parlay what he's been doing into some sustainability efforts. So all of that fits nice and neat into his social media channels under the Creative Explained brand. And if, if Armen was to want to sell, let's say his brand or his business and exit, he probably would not have as hard of a time doing that as if he had named all of his social media channels Armen, right? 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Or Plant Videos by Armen or something like that. Conversely, or, you know, on the other side of that point, for somebody who's writing serial fiction or just a lot of books and that's your identity is you are an author and that's what you're doing and that's what you'll always do and you're not necessarily building a content business to sell, you are writing books to sell those books so that you can write more books and just sustain life as a writer. Having that channel, that handle that - yes it's great if it has your name so there's recognition to your name always if you have to alter that to say something else a little more crafty because maybe your name's unavailable, that's okay, but what you're saying here is consistency is the real key so that as you're building that brand, you're building recognition with that brand, not just on social media, but across all avenues. And so I think that's an important thing to point out here is that yes, as an author, you are the brand. As a content entrepreneur or a business owner, that is the brand, not you. So don't get too caught up in that. What you really need to remember is that whatever you do, whatever branding you apply, whatever name you choose, you need to be consistent across all channels, including when we talk about things like pay and organic search and stuff like that, so that you continue to build brand recognition, which is what fuels the machine for you to sustain that business long-term, regardless of what that business might be. 


[16:42]

Lauren: Yeah, and how you do that can vary, and there's a lot of different little ways that you can build that brand recognition. It comes in everything from the type of content that you're sharing, the tone that you're sharing it with, even the visual elements that you use to share it. I was just looking at Armen’s Instagram - and I could have bet money on this without even looking at it - and he absolutely does it. All of his posts, all of his Reels, the cover photo on them, he uses the same font to say what the video is. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So, and it's something that I bet if you thought about it, like if you thought about most of your favorite content creators, you probably couldn't tell me anything about what their actual, specific, like what font they use or what colors you associate with their channel or anything like that. But subconsciously, your brain does recognize and remember that kind of stuff. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So if you are consistently using the same font, the same color palette, for every cover photo for the Reels or TikToks that you're creating, for example. Your fans, as they're mindlessly doom scrolling Instagram, they're gonna start to recognize that subconsciously and you need that. You need them to start to recognize your content as a way to be like, oh, this is something that I wanna stop and watch. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: As opposed to just keep scrolling. And it is, like that is actually genuinely something that happens, like that's not - I went to a whole session about this Content Marketing World a few years ago, and I can't remember any of the details about the guy who gave the session off top of my head, but. He talked about the psychology behind stopping the scroll basically, and it was a very interesting session. And that is something that genuinely happens to people. And that, that brand recognition goes a long way - like the actual visual brand recognition, literally - goes a long way in your brand content, whether we're talking about social media or we're talking about book covers. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It's helpful. It's a helpful tool to rely on. 

Matt: Yeah, and so part of that, what you're talking about is you're inadvertently or purposely creating almost a branding guide or a set of guidelines for yourself, for your brand, for your content, for you as an author, whatever that might be. And so again, you get the recognition there, but there's also the aspect of once you have those assets created, like once you know, like you said, that I'm gonna use this specific font on every thumbnail, right? 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: On YouTube, or I'm gonna use these specific colors for every frame that I create or anything like that. It just makes it easier going forward because now you have those assets, you can store them in a central place and every time you need to create a new thumbnail for a new YouTube video or whatever it is you're doing. Or let's say you're gonna try out a new designer for your next book cover. You already have this folder of assets, you know, in this branding guide that you've created, the colors you like to use, the fonts you like to use. You know, maybe there's a bunch of stock imagery you've already purchased for your book covers. All that's there already. And it makes it that much easier for designers to say, okay, and hop in and start creating some book cover mockups for you. So having all those assets really sort of simplifies in the long run, the ancillary content you need to create to support your brand or your products.So that's also a good byproduct of having a brand and creating those guidelines and assets. 

Lauren: Yeah, you know, it's funny, right before we started recording this episode, I was working on editing the last episode. 

Matt: No, you weren't. We were eating burritos. 

Lauren: Okay, well, right before. 

Matt: Well, you had a quesadilla. 

Lauren: Right before we were eating Moe's - is that we had for lunch, Moe’s? 

Matt: I didn't want to plug Moe's, but, yeah.

Lauren: You know, I think the last spicy episode we did, we also had Mo's for lunch right before we recorded it.

Matt: Oh, that’s true.

Lauren: But, so anyway, before I was eating lunch, I was working on editing last week's episode. And right towards the end of it - it was the one on turning fans into super fans. And, towards the end of it, we start talking about, you know, a lot of the things that we did here take work. Like a lot of the things here it's not set it and forget it kind of stuff where you can let it run itself, you actually have to put effort into it. This is the opposite kind of tip. We're coming in here and saying that if you do the work now to actually set up a brand guide. And Matt said something like, you know, you almost want to set up - I'm gonna say you absolutely should set up like a brand guide. You should have a resource for yourself that you can also share with any creatives that you outsource at any point that has specific color palettes, fonts, a logo. Take the time to have a logo, all of that kind of stuff, have that all as a resource together in a place and make it easier for yourself, then any time that you have to create social content, you've already got all of that picked out. You can even go, like if you have a… I know you can do this with a pro account on Canva, I don't know if you can do this with a not paid basic account on Canva, but if you have a pro account on Canva, you can upload your brand guide details to your account and you can have everything set up. You can have the colors that you've picked out as your brand color palette, just saved all together in a folder. And then anytime you go to design something, those are immediately accessible in your sidebar. You can do that with your logos. You can choose fonts specifically that are your default fonts. You can do all that. It makes it that much easier for you when it comes down to creating content. You've already got that step done. All you have to do is plug in the relevant details and that's one less thing that you have to worry about. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: I will also link in the show notes a blog post on a little bit more details about what an author brand is and that will include some tips about how to put together a brand guide. So if that's something that you're like, oh, I wanna do that, that sounds helpful. You can always check the show notes for that blog post. I don't wanna talk too much more about the visual branding elements, but I do think it's important because that is a big, I would say solid half of branding, author branding. I just forgot all words that existed for a second there.

Matt:  I wasn't sure where you were going so I wasn’t going to jump in because I thought, oh, she'll get it. 

Lauren: She'll get there eventually. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It's fine. This is what happens when we record after lunch. 

Matt: Well, so, you know, that's a good point. Branding is not just visual identity necessarily. It's not just colors and shapes and imagery and fonts and things like that. There's more to branding, right?

Lauren: There is, but before we get there, I do want to talk a little bit more about the visuals. 

Matt: Of course you do. 

Lauren: But because I'm not going to say that's the fun part again, because I've said it so many times recently. 

Matt: You should tattoo the word fun on your arms somewhere.

Lauren: But then people are going to think I'm a fan of the band Fun. 

Matt: Is there a band called Fun? 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Oh my goodness.

Lauren: It's Nate, Nate Ruess, I think?

Matt: I don't know who that is. 

Lauren: I don’t know. 

Matt: You say it like we went to school together. 

Lauren: Oh, it's also - ha ha, sorry. This is another Taylor Swift reference. 

Matt: Oh God. 

Lauren: I was trying so hard not to bring her up in this episode. 

Matt: No you weren't. 

Lauren: No, I wasn't. It's fine. But anyway, when it comes to visual design elements for your branding, I do think again, to reiterate, absolutely consider putting together a brand guide. Consider hiring somebody to design a logo for you. You can do a lot of fun things with a logo, even if you're just publishing a couple of books and that's really all you're trying to do. You're not trying to create a whole business for yourself or anything like that. If you look at traditionally published books, if you look at their spines, the spines always have the logo of the imprint that published the book on them. And that's always a nice little touch that I see when I see self-published authors that do a really good job with their books. They have their brand logo on their spine. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And I always - I've never seen a book that had the brand logo on the spine and then looked bad anywhere else. That is always an indicator to me that I'm like, oh, I'm going to open this book up and it's going to be beautifully formatted on the inside. And it always is.

Matt: That's a good point. For all the things that traditional publishers get wrong, which there's a lot. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: One of the things they get right is the design of their covers. Not so much interior formatting. It's usually pretty boring and just cranked out. Unless you're getting like a special edition or something like that. But I will say, when it comes to the book covers, traditional publishing companies, they work with some great designers and it's little things like that. Like you said, just knowing almost out of the corner of your eye when you've walked past a book that was published by Tor, for example, because you see the little tiny logo on the spine, you just know that book was done by Tor. The point is I think, yeah, like we talked about before, those little things just become more fodder for brand recognition, and that's what you're after.

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. And that's relevant for, again, whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction. There's a Lulu author, Melanie van de Velde, that has published two books with us. And both of them, she used a very similar cover design for both of them in a different color palette. But the design elements are the same. The title is written in the same font. Everything looks similar on it. And I was aware of her first book for a while. And as soon as I saw that second book, I didn't even have to get close enough to it to see the author's name on it. As soon as I saw the cover design on it, I was like, oh, Melanie published another book with us. Like I knew right away. And she only had one previous book. It wasn't like she had a whole bunch of books that all looked like this. She had one previous book and I instantly, I was like, oh, look at that, another book. And it looks great. And that's the kind of recognition that you want. 

And you can do that, obviously you can do that with fiction too. If you're writing serial fiction, again, serial fiction authors know how to do this. They get it right nine out of ten times. If you are writing series fiction of any kind: consistent branding across all the book covers. But you can also do that if you're writing disconnected fiction. There are plenty of authors that I can think of that all of their book cover designs are very similar. I've talked about this in other episodes. Emily Henry books, if you go look hers up, they are all the exact same cover design, but they're all standalone books. T.J. Klune is another one of my favorite authors. All of his book covers are designed - or all of his traditionally published books anyway - are designed by the same artist. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And they are beautiful next to each other on a shelf. Some of them are series, some of them are not. And standalone ones match with the series ones, and they all look so good. And they are all instantly recognizable. If you've read any single one of his books, you would recognize any of the other ones, because you'd be like, oh, I know that one. I know that art, I know that style. And that's something that you want as an author.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. I think those are important, especially if you're trying to get on shelves somewhere or something like that, that visual brand recognition is extremely important. 

Lauren: That brand recognition, or even just - not even getting on shelves. Last night I was bored, I haven't decided what I wanna read next, so I was scrolling through… I'm getting ready to, we're flying to Cleveland this weekend, so I'm getting ready for what do I wanna read on the plane, and I was scrolling through a reading app that shall not be named because Matt will get mad. And all you do is scroll through cover thumbnails. There's no information unless you click on the covers.

Matt: Wait, why are you doing that? You have a TBR pile at home that I know has got to be reaching proportionate heights. 

Lauren: Oh, you have no idea. 

Matt: Exactly. Why are you on an unnamed app, an app that shall remain unnamed, looking for something to read when you've got probably hundreds of titles at home that have not been read yet?

Lauren: Because none of them are speaking to me right now. 

Matt: Oh my goodness. 

Lauren: That's why I'm bored. I haven’t - that's why I don't know what I want to read next because none of them are jumping out at me. 

Matt: What do you like to read on planes, fiction or nonfiction? 

Lauren: Fiction. 

Matt: Yeah? 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: All right. 

Lauren: Yeah. But I also do try not to bring more than one book with me when I'm traveling, especially for something like CEX. 

Matt: Because we buy more. 

Lauren: Because we'll buy more. I want to make sure I have room to bring some home with me.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So, but I also, I can read a book in a flight. So it's a lot easier for me sometimes to just bring in ereader. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And I know you hate that, but it is easier. But the point is I was scrolling through cover art yesterday and I was browsing purely based on cover design. And almost every single cover that I clicked on to learn more about the book was one that I recognized because I recognized previous titles by, or previous cover art from that author. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And it's like, oh, this is somebody that I know I've read their content before because they have that similar cover design. They have a recognizable style. They have a logo on there, whatever it is. And that helps.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: That is something that you as an author should absolutely want fans to do. You should want them to recognize your work and say, oh, this is another book by this author that I've read previously and liked their stuff. 

Matt: Yeah. 


[29:35]

Lauren: But as I was saying earlier, it’s not all about  visual design and it's not all about like visual branding. So what's the other half of an author brand? 

Matt: Whatever do you mean by that? That was a rough transition on that one. 

Lauren: Okay, you do it better then. 

Matt: No, it's okay. You did it fine. I mean, you know, all jokes aside, there is more to branding and recognition than just the aesthetic components, right? I mean. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: Your branding can tell a story just like you as an author tell a story. There are elements of your branding that should tell a story or a narrative. I'm actually going to read a line straight off of the outline here that Lauren created, because I really liked the way you worded it. Even if you're writing nonfiction, it's still true that you're a storyteller. And whether you're publishing a cookbook, a self-help workbook, a weekly planner, a marketing how-to guide, whatever it is you're creating, you're crafting a narrative experience for your readers. 

Lauren: Wow, thanks. 

Matt: So, understanding that even if you're creating a cookbook, you are creating a narrative experience, in one way or another, and your branding really kind of does the same thing. And so, you know, I'm sure some people are listening - if anybody's still listening at this point, but I'm sure some people are like, I don't understand, like, what do you mean? How do you do that? How do I apply this to my branding? You know, what are some things that I can do to make sure that I've incorporated this element into my branding? 

And I think that, you know, some of the things you can do or ask yourself are questions like what was your motivation to start your brand? So, most of us, when we start a project or a book or a brand or… It's because we had an idea or we had a calling or a purpose or something drove us to say, I'm going to do this or I'm going to write a book about this or I'm going to create a business that does this. What was that for you? What's your brand's mission? What is your ethos as a creator, as an author? Some of the other things you can ask yourself: what's a unique quality that you might have as an author, creator, a brand that fills a niche or a gap that nobody else really does or most other people don't? Motivation as to why you might have written your first book or your first three books or whatever those things are. There's questions you can ask yourself internally to really try to extract out what it is that is going to define your brand, right? And your branding identity and how you're going to build that recognition. And again, the easiest ones are things like motivation or goals. What were your goals when you decided you were going to start this business or start writing this in this genre or things like that. 

For some people, it's something simple. Like I talk about the fact that I like to read horror and my favorite horror authors are a lot of the old school guys, you know, Stephen King or people like that. And so if I was going to start writing horror, which I'm not. But if I was, you know, my goal might be, to become one of the great horror writers, like the old school guys, Clive Barker and them. I might want to have that help inform my branding as an author, my branding identity, and some of the things that I do. I might look to those old school guys and the way that they did it for inspiration on my branding.

But somebody else might say no, you know, I'm really getting into writing this because it just calls to me. It just speaks to me and I feel like I have to write these things and I'm a person that feels like if something's calling to me, I need to do it. And that feeling, that ethos, that spirit of like, I ascribe to this idea that I you know, I do things because I feel compelled internally, that might inform the way that you brand yourself, so. 

Lauren: Yeah, and I think that's, again, gonna keep reiterating this, it's something that is so applicable to both fiction and nonfiction authors in different ways. Matt's talked about reading a lot of horror, primarily horror, I read a lot of romance, primarily romance. A lot of the types of romance that I read, a lot of the romance authors that I read, when people ask them how they got started or why they started writing or why they write in the genres that they do, their answers were very often along the lines of: I didn't see a lot of myself in the romance novels that I was reading or that I grew up reading or that I had been reading or that were popular. So I said, well, you know, if no one else is gonna write this, I will. And started writing what I wanted to see more of in the world. 

And the same, not the same, but you know, nonfiction, it can be something very similar. Nonfiction, it can be, I… I'm a chef, I really wanted to publish a cookbook, but a lot of the cookbooks I see when I get to these meals, they are all serving four to eight people, and I am a single person living alone, and I don't want to cook meals that are gonna serve four people, so I put together a cookbook that was all one to two serving recipes. And that's something, that is - you saw a need in the market, you had a mission, you had a passion for something and you solved the problem by providing this content. And that's your story, that's your brand story. 

Matt: Yeah. 


[34:35]

Lauren: I think this is also, it might sound like something that if you're listening to this, you're like, oh, you're talking to people that have a lot of books. You're talking to people that have a whole backlist, a whole catalog of books or whatever. And I don't think that's true. I think this is something that you can start from the beginning. I think it's something that, you know, if you have one or two books already and you're sitting here going, oh no, I didn't do this from the beginning and now it's too late. I'm already a step behind. That's not true either. You can always adjust. You can always pivot and start adding branding. You can go back and make - especially if you're self publishing, you can go back and make revisions to your content whenever you want. But you can always upload new versions of your books with new covers, whatever the case is. It's something that you can start pretty much at any point. So if this is something that you're like, yes, I wanna do this, I think this makes sense, I do need to put more focus on my author branding. You can do that at any time. It's never too late and it's never too soon. 

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, that's a great point to make. I think we do talk to a lot of authors and creators on a regular basis and they're at various stages of their journey or their career path or whatever phrasing you wanna use. But the point is, you know, there are some that they're ten years into this game and they've still not really spent time hammering out what their brand is. And that's still too late. I mean, you could have written eight books published, you know, fifteen white papers and a bunch of other things and still not really paid any attention to your branding and start at that point, and it's still okay. 

I think the key is to just - you have to recognize that and you have to understand that if, if this is something you want to do long-term as a career, whether you've already started down that path or not, you have to have this component. You have to have some branding in order to sustain a long-term trajectory. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. And just in case, you know, I'm realizing, I'm skimming through our outline right now and, and trying to recall what we've already talked about because as always, once it comes out of my mouth in this podcast, it ceases to exist in my memory or brain. I just want to make sure that we've actually made the point somewhere in here that like. Having all of this understanding of what your mission is and what your story is and what your brand presentation is… you have to actually then share that with people. I don't think we've actually said that part at any point. It's great for you to have this understanding of your brand and your mission and all of that. But now this is your story that you're going out and sharing with social channels or people that you meet at events or public speaking engagements or earned media where you get to talk to people on a podcast or have a guest blog post author bio for the guest blog post that you're writing or whatever it is. Like this is what you lead with. This is your selling point that you go ahead instead of saying like, hey, you should buy my book because it's about how to help people find a fulfilling career. Like, okay, great. So are 100 other books that on the self-help shelf or wherever in Barnes & Noble.

Instead, if you can go out and lead with, I'm a career coach with ten years of experience helping people. I help people find their dream careers. And I was doing it one at a time with different clients. And I finally sat down and wrote a book that can help even more people. That is much more of a selling point. And that's much more inspiring and attention grabbing than I wrote a book about how to find a fulfilling career.

Matt: Well, when you put it that way for sure. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: But I do agree with you, yeah. 

Lauren: Yeah. And, you know, we see this all the time with fiction authors, too. I see this all the time. I definitely have referenced these on the podcast before, where fiction novels, the best marketing that I see for novels these days is when they don't even give you the cover copy, like they don't try to describe the plot of the book and instead they just market it as like, this is a grumpy sunshine romance where there's this trope, this trope, and this trope, and it has a guaranteed happily ever after. Like, okay, I'm in. I'm in. You got me. Give me all the fake dating plots. Let's go. I want it. I know exactly what's going to happen in it, but that's okay. I don't need to read the cover copy. I know what I'm signing up for, and I want more of it. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So that's how you get people to read your stuff. 

Matt: It works. I mean, we're obviously living proof of it. 

Lauren: Yeah. Yeah, we absolutely are, as the weird superfans that we are of things. You know, I was talking to one of my friends about this. We were having a conversation about a new book that's coming out and it was basically like the summary of it sounds exactly like every single other book that this author has ever written. And it's like, how many times can you write the same book over and over again and keep getting paid for it? I was playing devil's advocate a little bit and I was saying, you know, sometimes that's exactly what I want. Sometimes I like that it's reliable to be able to be like. I really want to find a book right now. I want to read a book right now that is going to deliver these three things that are going to make me feel better after having a rough week. And I can always rely on this author to deliver these things to me. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: That's, that's valuable. 

Matt: I definitely have those, those authors as well. I - there's some comfort in that, knowing what you're going to get. And knowing what you're going to get, knowing is going to be different, but it's going to be the same. And that's what you're after, right? 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: I mean, that's why we're attracted to different authors and movie directors and things like that. You know what I mean? Like as a huge Tim Burton fan, I know what every one of his movies is gonna have in it and yes, please give it to me and no, I'm not tired of seeing it in just fifteen different ways. You know, that's the genius of Tim Burton or, whoever your favorite musician or band or author or whatever it is, it's… You know, when you break it down, it's they've created a formula for themselves of how they create something or what they use and it works. And so they just keep doing it. It's just next time it's different characters, different names, different location, different time period, whatever that might be. But the story is almost basically the same. It's just the way that they write it that makes you feel good. And so that's why they're successful with that. 

Lauren: Yeah. You're creating a sense of reliability for your fans. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: You're making a promise to your fans and saying that I'm gonna deliver these certain expectations that you have every time. I'm going to fulfill them, hopefully, if I'm doing my job correctly. And they are going to say, yes, please. Thank you. I want more of this. I like that I can rely on you to fulfill these expectations when I need them fulfilled. And that is a great, that's how you turn fans into super fans. 

Matt: That's true. 

Lauren: That is. This is actually just a part two of the last episode.

Matt: I don't know about that. It's definitely a parallel track. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure. 

Matt: Yeah. 


[41:15]

Lauren: So, I don't know. I think we've said a lot about author branding. This was weird. We actually stuck very closely to the outline on this one. How unusual for us.

Matt: So yeah, no, absolutely. I think the last thing I would say, and we talked a little bit about where this branding might actually show up, right? Besides the books themselves. Of course, that's where they're gonna show up, but it's gonna show up in social media, but it's also gonna show up on your website.

Lauren: Yes.

Matt: And that's probably one of the most important places where it should show up for a lot of reasons, but again, if you've listened to at least one episode of this podcast - we're going to talk about selling direct. You should have a website, a home base where you can direct all of your readers and potential new readers and your branding should be conveyed there just as well. It should all make sense to them the entire journey from start to finish. And having that website branded, you know, with those same types of assets and colors and fonts and narrative that you've built into your social media channels as well as your books themselves is extremely important. Owning that journey for your readers and customers and buyers from start to finish is really important. So make sure you're applying these same things over to your website. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think that's a really good point, actually is that idea of… the whole point of this brand recognition is that your customers will recognize you no matter where they are in the journey. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And they should, they should recognize - if I found you at a conference, if I met you at a conference and later after the fact, I'm looking for you on social media. I would like to recognize something about you on social media, and I'm not always great at recognizing faces. So sometimes it's helpful if I saw a speaker at a session at a conference and their slide presentation had a specific color palette to it. And then when I go search them on LinkedIn later, their profile banner on LinkedIn has that same color palette. And then when I go to click on their website, that website has the same color palette. And then I'm like, oh yes, this is definitely the right person. I've definitely found the correct person here because this branding is all connected. 

Matt: Yeah. Hence the notorious orange we referenced in another episode, Mr. Joe Pulizzi likes to permeate, but has done a great job of building into his brand. 

Lauren: That’s true. 

Matt: As a creator, as an entrepreneur, as an author. The color orange has now become synonymous with him. And as such, you referenced it to Content Marketing World, which was an event that he created years and years and years ago and sold. And to this day, the event still, I think, uses a lot of orange. 

Lauren: But it is, it's absolutely -

Matt: It is, I hate to admit it, but he absolutely incorporated that into his thing, his brand, and that's what he's become known for. To the point where I've actually heard somebody ask him before, when he wasn't wearing anything orange, like why are you not wearing something orange? 

Lauren: Yeah. I've spent a lot of time today just getting prepped for CEX. And I always like to, you know, like I'll make notes for myself and highlight them or I added a bunch of events to my calendar so that I would remember. 

Matt: Did you use an orange highlighter?

Lauren: I did! Yes, everything, everything that I've done for CEX, all the prep that I've done for CEX, I've used orange as my highlight color, whether it's on my calendar or in my actual planner or whatever it is. I didn't even think twice about it because when I think about CEX, I think about the color orange. So thanks, Joe. 

Matt: Well, it's a good thing that Lulu bought CEX and we're turning a lot of it blue. 

Lauren: Well, I can't do blue and orange together because I'm a Yankees fan, so I cannot ever put blue and orange together because it just looks like the Mets.

Matt: Gotcha. See, I'm from Florida. So blue and orange represents the Florida Gators, but I'm a Seminoles fan, Tallahassee, so I can't do blue and orange because I'm not a Gators fan. 

Lauren: Isn't that - aren't the Dolphins? Oh, that's like a turquoise and orange. 

Matt: So I just referenced college football. You're referencing NFL.

Lauren: I didn't even know the Dolphins were a football team, okay? I was just guessing.

Matt: I believe they're a mammal that lives in the ocean in Florida, but they're also a football team. Yes.

Lauren: I only read sports romance. I don't know anything about actual sports.

Matt: Oh here we go, sports - baseball romance. 

Lauren: Oh, and I deep dive through Savannah Bananas TikTok on a weekly basis. 

Matt: Well, yeah, that's that's a must for anybody. 

Lauren: Obviously.

Matt: Again, the color yellow, obviously. Branding. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Right?

Lauren: Very good branding. I always recognize -

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It stops the scroll every time when I see a Savannah Bananas video pop up on my F.Y.P. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Because it's something bright yellow in it always.

Matt: Who also Jesse Cole was the speaker last year at CEX. 

Lauren: I'm so upset that I wasn't there to meet him. 

Matt: So we had a yellow suit running around and an orange suit running around. 

Lauren: And I bet everyone recognized them. 

Matt: They did. Yep.

Lauren: Well, good for them. And hopefully you'll find something awesome that you can use for your author branding. And we've inspired a little bit of something in that, except hopefully not orange suits. That's already taken.

Matt: Or unsubscribe, please don't unsubscribe to us. I hope we didn't influence that or inspire that. 

Lauren: Yeah, please come back and listen again. I'm sorry. In the meantime, thanks for listening. And You can always get in touch with us at podcast@lulu.com. Let us know if there's something you'd like to hear more about, less about. We will take the less about with a grain of salt, but more about we're happy to share more episodes or hear more episode ideas so that we can share more fun content with you. And until then, we'll be back next week. So thanks for listening.