Last week, we started discussing the four motivations for authors to build a personal brand – sharing information about themselves and their lives with their readers to create a specific professional image that attracts readers to them and their work. We already discussed how some authors share personal information to build up perceptions of their competence. The second motivation for sharing personal information is to establish trust and liking.
Establishing Trust and Liking Through Sharing Personal Information
This is the most common reason for authors to share information with readers, and it is thought to have two outcomes. First, it is expected to help authors sell more books in the short term. As we’ve mentioned before, books are a form of “experience goods.” You don’t know whether or not you’ll like a given book until you’ve invested time and effort (and likely money) into acquiring and reading it. Before you make that commitment, then, you want to have some indication that you’re going to like the book. One indication that you’ll like a book is that you like the character or personality of the author. Sharing the worldview of the author, sharing a hobby, knowing that you like the author’s sense of humor, knowing that the author has specific principles, or just having an all-around positive impression of what the author is like will make you more likely to pick up a book you haven’t read before. If you like a person, you figure that the things they like will be things you like as well. If the author talks about him or herself, and it is clear that he or she wrote his/her book to be something he/she likes (which is a pretty good guess for most authors), then if you like the person, you should probably like their books too – or at least you might take the time and effort to start reading and give their books a chance.
Second, authors hope that by building up trust and liking, they can establish relationships that will result in future sales and positive word-of-mouth for their future products. If you like a book but don’t get attached to the author, you’re more likely to forget about the author and not pay attention if he/she comes out with a new book – especially if it’s in a different world or a different genre. Even farther afield, some authors both sell books and also run other businesses. While normally these would sell to completely different markets, an author-entrepreneur can share personal information about him- or herself to build relationships with customers that encourage them to find out more about what the author-entrepreneur does, and give the author a chance to sell his/her other products to them. A good relationship with an author will also keep that author in the front, rather than the back, of customers’ minds, which means that they will be more likely to talk about the author with other potential customers and also be more likely to purchase the author’s next book, even if it’s in a genre they wouldn’t normally read. As a fantasy author, I have had many non-fantasy readers tell me that they bought my book – and loved it! –because they knew me personally and trusted that since they liked me, they would like the stories I would choose to tell.
In addition to these two main outcomes, many authors want to build trust and liking by customers for its own sake. Some authors write to make money, but many do it because they want to share their work with other people who love their genre and in so doing, to make friends and participate in community. Community and friendship, of course, is built upon trust, liking, and shared interests. Authors put out information about themselves, then, to give readers and other authors a chance to see if there is potential to bond over shared experiences and develop relationships for their own sake.
What has been your experience with personal branding? Does the above resonate with you? Do you have other reasons for sharing personal information? Share your thoughts in a comment below!