Our series on personal branding for authors continues with a shift in topics. The past two weeks looked at whether you might want to build a person-focused brand or a product-focused brand. This week, we’ll start looking at individuals’ motivations for sharing personal information about themselves with their customers. Different people might share the same information for completely different reasons, but more likely, people who have different purposes for sharing personal information will tend to share different information with their customers. Two authors might share the same amount of information with customers, then, but the type of information they share might be completely different. The first motivation we’ll talk about is that of wanting to show one’s readers that one is competent.
Establishing Competence Through Sharing Personal Information
One of the first things we learn as published authors is that there are many, many people who have written and published books who just can’t write. One of the other first things we learn is that people don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on books that are of poor quality. Unfortunately, books are what we call an “experience good” rather than a physical, tangible product. You can buy a book to just be pretty and sit on your bookshelf, but that isn’t the real product you’re buying. What you’re buying when you purchase a book is the experience of going on the adventure that lies within its page. As such, you can’t fully judge the quality of that experience before you actually shell out money for the book – in other words, you’re flying blind.
Some authors try to relieve the “flying blind” notion by sharing information with customers that “proves” the quality of their work. Sharing samples of one’s work is always a good way to give tangible evidence that one can write, but even that forces individuals to invest a certain amount of time and effort that they may not be willing to give to just any published author. A less effortful way to reassure readers of the high quality of one’s work is to tell them about yourself.
For authors, readers want to know that you have two types of competence. First, readers want to know that you can write in general. Is your book going to be filled with typos? Is it inconsistent in its voice? Do you have a serious case of “tell don’t show?” Readers want to be reassured that these things aren’t the case – without having to read your work first to find out. Second, readers want to know that you can write on the topic you’re writing about. If you’re writing about kids, the kids should act at their age level. If you’re writing a war novel, you should know something about strategy and tactics.
Some things that authors tend to share with readers that highlight these types of competence are:
- Awards or other external validations (e.g. “Semi-finalist in the Best Books About Vampire Werewolves in a Science Fiction Setting in 2014”)
- Professional qualifications (e.g. college or graduate degrees in English, college or graduate degrees in a field related to your books, certifications in writing or teaching)
- Professional experience (e.g. the amount of time you’ve been writing, the number of books you’ve written, conferences or workshops you’ve attended or taught, vignettes about experiences that relate to the books you’ve written)
For instance, if an author wrote that she has just published her first book, but that she has been writing short stories from the time she was five years old, winning competitions in her school, taking private writing lessons, and then serving as an editor for her college newspaper, readers would probably trust the quality of her writing more than if the same author had not shared this information.
How might you use your background to give readers more confidence in your quality as a writer?