Personal Branding for Authors: Part VI

To continue with our series in personal branding for authors, this week’s post covers the third of four motivations that different authors have for sharing personal information with customers. While the first two – establishing perceptions of competence, and establishing trust and liking – seem pretty straightforward, the third is both fascinating and worth spending time thinking about. What is this motivation? Simply put, adding value to one’s products.

Wait, you say. Aren’t we just talking about sharing personal information with customers? How can knowing about an author actually add value to their books? It isn’t like knowing about an author’s personal life makes a story better written or characters more realistic. While this is true, it’s not as true as you might think.

When people buy a product, they aren’t just purchasing the materials that went into the product. They’re also buying the story about the product. They’re buying feelings, experiences, dreams, and hopes. Here’s an example. If you were to find a necklace made of beautiful glass beads at Target, you might buy it because of its product attributes. But if you found that same necklace at an antique shop, and the owner told you that it had once been owned by someone famous, that would actually make the necklace more desirable to many people. The necklace is no longer just a collection of beads on a string; it has a history. Similarly, if you found the same necklace for sale on Etsy.com, where its creator talked about how she loves beading and how the different colors of beads in the necklace actually have a deeper meaning and tell a story if you put them together the right way, that would also make the necklace suddenly have greater value.

This is also why Hollywood actors go on TV to promote their movies, not by talking about what happens in the movie itself, but by talking about their favorite parts of shooting, or what working with so-and-so was really like as a person, or what their favorite scene was and why. None of these things makes the movie better or worse, but it does increase the interest level that audiences have in a movie and makes them more likely to pay money to see it. As authors, similarly, we want to add value to our books – we want to not just satisfy our readers, we want to delight them by giving them information that matters. So how, as authors can we add value to our products through sharing personal information?

Adding Value to Products Through Sharing Personal Information

There are five main ways in which authors attempt to enhance product value by sharing personal information. First, they emphasize the time or skill that they spend on writing the book. If people know that it has taken a long time to write, or how many hours it takes, it makes the book seem more valuable. (This is based on a flawed, but natural, heuristic that we use called the effort heuristic – that it seems natural to us that things that take longer and more effort to make are more valuable than things that take less time or effort to make.)

Second, and similarly, authors often discuss the process of product creation. How did you get your ideas for the book? How many drafts did you have to go through? Do you outline before you write, or do you just go with the flow, then go back and revise from the beginning? Are any of the characters based on real people you know or real experiences you had?

Third, authors may discuss the reasons for which a book was written. Was it a cathartic experience of the author? Was it written for a particular audience? Why did the author choose to write this book instead of any other book? How does this book stem from the author’s background, culture, values, or personal narrative?

Fourth, authors may specifically discuss how a book they have written exemplifies their beliefs or emotions. While they may not have specifically written the book in order to discuss issues that are near and dear to them (as per point three), it still adds value to the story about the book for them to tell readers what parts of the book match up with their own emotions or belief system, and which are things that they hated writing. For instance, one well-known tidbit about C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters is that it was his least favorite book to write – he hated writing it, because he had to get into the mindset of pure evil as he wrote, and that was a dark and ugly thing for him to do. Sharing this piece of information with readers actually adds value to the book itself and makes people more interested in reading it and talking about it with others.

Finally, authors may enhance product value simply by reminding their readers that they’re real people, and that buying their books helps them achieve their personal goals and dreams. We like helping people that we can see, who we know. We are more likely to donate to Jimmy Smith, who was hurt in a car accident, than to a foundation that helps “hundreds of victims of car accidents” every year. Similarly, we like to “buy local” and know that the money we are spending is helping out people in our community. Readers thus like knowing that the money they are spending on entertainment is helping real people, who have real lives, families, hobbies, and so forth, rather than giving money to faceless corporations and their shareholders.

As an author, how can you use your unique background, processes, inspirations, and story to add value to your books? Leave a comment below!

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