As an author, building a personal brand requires that you share some information about yourself with your potential readers. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the types of personal brands that can be built and the motivations for building a personal brand. But whatever your motivations and goals are, the fact of the matter is that you need to actually get out there and tell people information about yourself if you’re going to establish a clear image of yourself as an author. Different authors, of course, have different types of information that they are willing to share about themselves, and different facets of their lives that they want to keep private. After interviewing a number of authors, we found over twenty-five different categories of things that they could share about their lives with customers. Using statistics,* however, we found that this personal information could be categorized into five different dimensions of how authors and other creative entrepreneurs tended to share information. Authors could share any or none of the information detailed below, but the people who tended to share one specific thing in a dimension also were more likely to share the other type of information in that dimension.
So what are those dimensions? Let’s take a look.
Dimension 1: Basic profile and customer targeting.
Most people built their personal brand on being friendly and emphasizing ways in which they are similar to their customer base. This could be general similarity (e.g. lovers of fantasy, mothers) or more specific similarity (e.g. religion, profession, hobby). These individuals also tend to act, look, and talk in a specific way that represents their goods and services, talk to customers about their values and principles that are non-controversial, and tell their readers about inspirations for their books.
This is all pretty basic. Some people just stop here. Some people, however, add other information about themselves in the following ways:
Dimension 2: Non-work related information.
This smaller subset of individuals views their personal brand as a platform for sharing themselves and their beliefs, even if it drives some people away. These people like to raise readers’ awareness about important issues, tell people about the causes they support or donate to, mention the struggles or hard things going on in their own lives, reveal beliefs that may be controversial, and talk about their hobbies, family, and personal interests that don’t relate to the books they sell.
Dimension 3: Craftsmanship.
Many authors reveal to their audiences the process behind their writing. In this dimension, authors choose to share the amount of time it takes to write their books, the skillset it takes to be a writer, the training they have had (apart from actually being a writer) that makes them good at what they do, and the actual process by which they write books. Authors who choose to share this dimension of information pull the curtain back on the writing process, so to speak, and give their readers a detailed look into the mechanics of how they create worlds and bring them to life.
Dimension 4: Author’s Added Value.
Authors who share this dimension of information talk about how their unique quirks, beliefs, and feelings make them and their books different. Their brand may focus on emphasizing their unusual interests or personal characteristics that make them different from other writers, showing how their personal beliefs, opinions, and emotions are seen in their books, and explaining how their books stem from who they are and their background. For instance, while you don’t need to know anything about sociology to understand or enjoy my novel The Quest of the Unaligned, the fact that I was a sociology major in college and wrote it to examine how different sociological theories would work in practice sets the book apart from other fantasy quest stories you might find in a bookstore.
Dimension 5: Qualifications.
Interestingly, choosing to emphasize your experience as a writer and how well-trained you are in your field is its own dimension, and not part of the basic demographic dimension above. This may be because some writers don’t have any official training that they can talk about, whereas everyone can talk about how they relate to their customers. Writers who do have experience and training, however, tend to mention this as part of their brand. It is worth noting, however, that having qualifications doesn’t give you a strong brand on its own. People want to know both that you’re good at what you do, AND that you’re the kind of person that they want to buy a book from.
In addition to these five dimensions, there were three other things that people tended to share that didn’t fit with any other pieces of personal information. We’ll talk about those next week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, however, reflect on the type of personal information you choose to share with your customers. Which dimensions most reflect your personal brand? Why have you chosen to share those dimensions in particular and not others? Comment below!
*Exploratory factor analysis (principal components analysis) of 26 items resulted in eight factors, three of which had only one factor loading at the .5 level or greater. The remaining five are discussed above.