As an author, your visual brand can be as important as your writing - after all, you need to make an impression if you want to make sales!
So, here's my entire Author Visual Brand blog series, in one huge blog post :)
1. Visual Branding #1: Unifying your Visual Brand
This month we're talking about design and aesthetics, so let's discuss unity! If you want fans to find your work easily, know who you are, and recognise your brand anywhere, you need to unify your visuals across every platform. This includes your website, social media platforms, book covers, logo, and everywhere else that may include visuals. Here are three ways to unify your visual brand!
Colours The colours you choose for your brand can depend on many factors. Some people choose their favourite colours. Some people choose colours that match their genre or niche. You may even choose colours to elicit a certain emotion or draw the eye. Making sure you have specific colours to use across all platforms is very important in allowing your audience to recognise you anywhere. For example, All Write uses shades of purple as the main colours, representing both creativity and calm. Secondarily, the business utilises pinks and oranges in photography, to complement the purple tones and brighten up the brand. Do some research and experimenting - which colours will suit your needs best? Fonts While the most important aspect of choosing fonts is ensuring their readability, you can also use them to your advantage in branding. Which font style does your audience expect to see? A high fantasy author may use antique-looking, pretty fonts, whereas a sci-fi author will go for a futuristic look. Ensure that you use the same fonts across platforms (where possible). Pick a couple of fonts to use for headings, and a couple to use for paragraphs, at most. Make sure they represent your genre and brand, are readable, and draw the eye.
Photography Whether you use your own images or stock photos, you should aim to have a similar aesthetic and theme in every photo you use. If one image is a dark, greyscale photo of a rainy day, and the next is a bright, colourful image of playing at the park, your audience is going to become confused. You can, of course, use pictures of rainy days AND parks - it's all about the way you present the image. Using the same filters and editing methods across your photos is key. (Check out the Lightroom filters available on my Etsy Store.) Also, you might include specific props in each photo, to show it is yours. This could be as simple as a watermark, but try to get creative. Maybe most of your photos feature the same backdrop, or include the same stationery. Have questions? Head to my Instagram page and leave a comment!
2. Visual Branding #2: Working with your Audience
Creating content that matches your audience's expectations while being unique, identifiable and engaging is a difficult but important balance to maintain. Last week we talked about unifying your brand, but now let's talk about the brand itself. The first step to branding is to research your audience and find out what they want to see. So, how do you work with your audience to create visual branding?
Focus on the genre and age-range Although it may seem boring, sticking to what works is a great way to guarantee understanding. This is especially important if you're self-publishing, and/or aren't a big name who has a significant marketing budget. Let's use book covers as an example. When there are millions of books to choose from, a vague or unique cover - however pretty or eye-catching - is far less likely to pique the interest of a reader who knows what they're looking for. A cover that represents the book perfectly is far better. Your ads, website, and social media all have to follow the same rules. Yes, you should aim to be unique and provide some kind of value that your competition doesn't, but if you don't follow the basic rules of what's expected, no one is going to know who you are or what you're selling.
Poll your target audience Although creating a poll is a pretty obvious way to get information from your audience, many people struggle to get good or accurate results. The trick here is to ask the right questions. Instead of vague, broad questions like 'what would make you buy this?', keep things specific. Give the poll takers context about your book and your intended audience, and try to find a range of people to ask - not just the audience you have in mind (because this might change after feedback).
Which colours would instantly show them your genre?
What kinds of images would catch their eye?
What kinds of images would make them instantly know your genre?
What elements do their favourite book covers (in your genre) have?
(And as many more specific questions you can add.)
An alternative to polling is using a/b testing on Facebook, to see which types of posts get clicks and sales.
Discuss branding with your beta readers Talking to your beta readers about the way they see you will give great insight into the look you should be aiming for, especially if you're a debut author just starting to create a brand. These readers know your story/stories well, and are also likely to be 'expert' readers in your genre. This means they'll have a unique perspective on you, and may surprise you if they have a very different idea of your brand than you do. Ask them similar questions as above, but be even more specific. For example, 'What visual imagery does my writing style create in your mind?', or 'What do you consider to be my personality as an author?'. So, what's your author brand? Head to my socials and leave a comment!
3. Visual Branding #3: 5 ways to make your cover designer’s life easier (Guest Post by Haylee Buswell)
We're hearing from Haylee Buswell, graphic designer and illustrator at HB Pencil. She'll be using her behind-the-scenes experience to tell us how to work with designers to get the best book cover. Your cover sells your book, despite the age-old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover'.
This is exactly what we do when we purchase books; we’re drawn to them like a moth to a flame. You need to make people pick up your book. It needs to elicit intrigue, then your writing will do the rest. Although it can be a big cost to an indie author, most writers know that professional cover design isn't just a luxury in the publishing world - it's a must. Hiring a graphic designer who understands your audience and genre is a big step towards making sure your book will sell. So, how do you get the most out of your cover designer?
1. Think like a reader And NOT like a writer. Who is your audience? You need to be very clear to your designer who you're targeting, so they can design a cover that will sell to this specific market. 2. Have some ideas While you may not be the most artistically talented person, have some fun creating some designs based on what you like and what you think you want the cover to include. While it’s the designer’s job to come in and actually make the cover, it makes their job a lot easier if you give them some direction. Whether it's in the composition, the images on the cover, or even just the colours you like, it’s much easier for designers to draft up ideas if they have something to work with.
3. Consider trends While you don’t want your book to look like every other book on the market right now, consider what kind of design is selling. What are the books you are drawn to based on cover design alone? Are they simple and minimalistic? Are they bright and colourful? Who is on the cover? These things have an impact on your target audience.
4. Trust your designer No doubt you have hired your chosen designer for a reason, so trust their designs and their creative process. They’re the ones who understand specific design principles, therefore they understand visually what is most pleasing. 5. Get input from fans Not just fans, but friends and family. What do they think are your story’s most defining qualities? What comes to their minds when they think of your characters, worldbuilding, and plot? Their opinion is important, as these people will be the first to pick up your book.
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