Emily Craven describes author branding as an experience of Being Judged by Your Cover, and claims that “branding yourself as an author” is the key to success. She points out that readers do consider cover design as a factor when purchasing books, and book cover can influence your sales at different stage. Craven further introduces the concept of branding and how to take advantage of some “branding parameters”. Another article posted on The Huffington Post goes with the title “Why Every Writer Needs An Author Brand“, and it is written by a staff from Writer’s Relief. The article emphazises on the importance of having a clear idea of how to market yourself and your work, essentially through “maintaining continuity in your voice as a writer”. Other factors including book cover design (once again…), author website, and social media, but whichever platform you use, it is consistency that helps set your professionalism off an amature. In addition, Nancy Blanton has published a series on author branding, including Part 1: A royal undertaking, Part 2: A royal legacy, Part 3: Author branding and Henry VIII: Royal persona, Author branding: Like Good Queen Bess, Author brandin fog à la française: The Sun King, Author branding: 3 lessons from Napoleon. She takes historical figures as examplars of author branding, and offers many insights on what we can take home from these stories.
A blog named Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is dedicated to introducing tips and advice on writing, publishing, and book promotion. I would like to briefly showcase three of their pieces on author branding: writing partnership, developing websites, and writing reviews.
Guidelines to Making a Writing Partnership Work: Some issues to note when you are co-authoring a publication, including picking the right partner, drafting a contract, assigning work, and sorting out arguments. An example contract is provided at the end of this article.
Developing Effective Websites: For author websites, it is important to define your site/blog clearly, and keep it consistent. Pay attention to not only the details of content but also the visual design, with a particular focus on readability and accessibility.
Writing Reviews: Tips on writing reviews which can work “in your favor as an author”, including commitment to honesty, structure of the review, development of a clear rating system, and frequency of review posts on your author website.
Image Credit: The Creative Penn
David Vinjamuri presents his view in the article How Hybrid Publishers Innovate To Succeed on Forbes. He introduces the rise of hybrid publishing, who is considered to be a combination of both traditional publishers and independent authors who are digitally skilled. It is a new and controversial model of publishing in the industry, but Vinjamuri outlines three characteristics of successful hybrid publishers, including offering small advances, operating on voluntary contributors, and speeding up on product development cycle. He concludes that “agility” is the biggest advantage of hybrid publishers in their competition with traditional publishing houses and self publishers.
I agree with Vinjamuri that a fast response to the market — sometimes achieved through the use of social media platforms — can often get you in the upper hand of sales, which is one of the biggest challenges for traditional publishers, who may get stuck in the slow motion of product development cycle and are considered ot be losing “coherent brand positioning with consumers”. While the traditional publishers enjoy prestige and the self-publishers enjoy freedom, hybrid publishers seem to face lots of obstacles in terms of long-term success, despite their increasing impact on the industry.
Among the discussions that my last post about hybrid publishing (Partnership Publishing: A ‘Third Way’？) has triggered in my LinkedIn connections, Jeremy Soldevilla, a hybrid publishing practitioner, argues that they do take up “all the other functions of a traditional publisher”, but unlike traditional publishers, hybrid publishers “are willing to take a chance on new authors whose books might not sell thousands of copies, but deserve to be published”. However, George Williams insightfully points out that we should look more closely at “the assertion that this company under spotlight is “modeled on a traditional press……. I came across the following gem on the company’s website: ‘only two things differentiate us from a traditional small press: the author pays, and we don’t have in-house publicists.’ Saying the only thing that makes this different from a traditional press is that the author pays is like me saying the only thing that makes me different from an MD is the fact that I never went to medical school.” Is hybrid/partnership publishing really a successful innovation, or has this “model” which makes its money not by selling books to readers but by charging fees to authors actually been around for years? And is it necessarily a bad thing for the entire publishing ecosystem?
Image Creidt: The Rabbit Books
Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, advocates his ideas in the article Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership, as a reaction to M.J. Rose’s editorial Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid from the previous week.
Miller applauds Rose’s stance in involving authors in the marketing of books, but disagrees with her proposed solution of having authors “paid a higher royalty in exchange for their marketing efforts”. This is because he believes that the author is equally responsible for making full effort in marketing as the publisher, but it is difficult (if possible at all) to translate the “effort” into corresponding share of profit (if there is any). Consequently, the authors and publishers will not find this solution very plausible. With the vision to establish a “sustainable publisher/author relationships”, Miller takes a step further and suggests that publishers and authors be “equal partners” and share profits equally. This possibly tackles the aforementioned issue of calculating effort, and builds up responsibility on both sides.
While Miller’s suggestion of a fifty-fifty share has received some positive feedbacks, I do not see how it can work out so ideally, at least in the short term. One paradox in this proposal of adjusting publisher/author relationship is that most authors have a limited understanding of the publishing business, and it is the publishers who will suffer most financially if the books fail. I do sympathise with the authors who work whole-heartedly on their books, and I agree that they should receive the share that they truly deserve. While the industry certainly needs to rebalance the publisher/author partnership in order to motivate all practitioners, we will probably need to modify the contract case by case when it comes down to doing business.
Image Credit: Shmuel/Flickr