How Do I Create an Author Brand?
Your book is written, it’s in production, and you are waiting for its release with bated breath. So, what do you do in the meantime? The short answer is . . . a lot. Writing your story is just the first of many steps in getting your book on the market and into the hands of readers. One important element to work on during this time is creating and building your author brand. Let’s touch on the main points of building your brand.
What is an author brand?
Your brand is how you represent yourself and how readers and industry professionals perceive you. It’s a mix of your personal and professional values, interests, and skills. Ultimately, your author brand is what people think of when they hear your name or see your book out in the wild.
How do I define my brand?
Step 1: Define Your Target Audience
Knowing who you are writing for will make it easier to know how to talk to your ideal readers. You want to present yourself in a way that connects to your readers, whether that is through the way your website is designed or how you talk to them. You want your readers to find you relatable, that way they want to follow you throughout your writing career.
Step 2: Define Your Style Guide
The main goal in having a style guide is to remain consistent. You want your reader to know that it is you when they visit your website or see a post on social media. Your style guide can be kept to a simple document, with a few key elements:
• Your color choices
• The fonts you use as headers and text
• How your logo (if you have one) can be used in different settings
I recommend looking up other style guides for examples as you create your own. Be sure to share your guide with anyone who will be helping you with marketing your brand and your books.
Step 3: Define Your Content
Again, consistency is key. Your content should be consistent with your brand. When a reader visits your website/blog/social media, you want them to know what to expect. People find comfort in the expected. If your posts are all over the place, your following will not stay for very long. Think about how many times you have followed a content creator for a specific reason and once they derail from the expectations you have of them, you click that unfollow button. No one wants that. Decide on what your voice is and stick to it. Post what you are passionate about, people can see right through you when you are just posting something simply because it is trendy. And when you do make a post that aligns with a current trend, make sure that it is clear that the post still aligns with your voice and brand.
Now that you have your author brand defined, it is time to project your brand across all platforms that you are using; this includes your social media, website, and emails. Are you doing anything with local or national press? Follow your branding guidelines. Are you going on a blog, vlog, or other media tour? Follow your branding guidelines. Just get out there and represent yourself the way you want people to perceive you. You got this! You know who you are and what you want to accomplish, so let’s make it happen!
Finally, there is one major note I want to share with you. You are going to evolve, as a person, as an author, and as a social media presence. During this time, your author brand will evolve, too. So don’t feel like what you pick now as your style and content is what you have to be for the rest of your writing career. Don’t stress while you are figuring out your brand, and if you need help developing your author brand, ask for it. If you are working with a publisher, chances are they will be more than happy to assist you through this process. A sound author brand can lead to a successful author, and that’s what we all want in the end.
by Michael Hardison
Why Are Black-Owned Bookstores Important? with Krystle Dandridge of The Book Bar
Wildling Press chats with The Book Bar’s owner, Krystle Dandridge, about why indie bookstores matter and why Black and brown books, bookstores, and book communities are so important (and how she manages to run a great bookstore in Richmond, VA!).
Mary-Peyton Crook 00:25
Today we have with us a very special guest, Krystal Dandridge, owner of The Book Bar in Richmond, Virginia, which is a Black-owned, woman-owned bookstore that centers BIPOC authors and brands in an effort to uplift and support a culture that is often silenced. Welcome, Krystle, and thank you for being with us!
Krystle Dandridge 01:01
Thank you! Thanks for having me.
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:03
Of course! I know you have a very busy schedule; you had a big event yesterday, which is awesome. Krystle, what are your pronouns?
Krystle Dandridge 01:10
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:11
So just give us a little intro to The Book Bar and tell us what it's all about.
Krystle Dandridge 01:15
The Book Bar is a bookstore and wine shop. It's really a boutique bookstore. We center Black and brown voices, Black and brown creatives, Black and brown authors, Black and brown wines, art . . . everything in there is very much to promote and uplift Black and brown people. And the events that we do also reflect that. And so it's just kind of a space for community, a safe space for people just to come in and take a load off, you know? A little self care.
Christina Kann 01:43
Mary-Peyton Crook 01:46
You can definitely tell when you go into that space, that it's set up for relaxation, and for community to be together. There's lots of space for seating and for groups to sit together. It's really awesome.
Christina Kann 01:58
Yeah, take away the books, and it even could be like a wellness spa, you know what I mean?
Mary-Peyton Crook 02:04
Absolutely. And I love the story on your website of how The Book Bar came to be, how you came to open a bookshop. Can you tell us a little about about that?
Krystle Dandridge 02:14
Sure! It's always a funny question, because I never remember what I say to people. But it really comes down to, I mean, I've been a reader my entire life, and growing up, the difficult thing was finding books by people who look like me with stories about people who look like me and had similar experiences. I've walked into bookstores, and they would have an urban book section, which is fine, that's great, except Black people are not a monolith. So what are some other stories that are not urban fiction stories?
Krystle Dandridge 02:44
And that's if I found somebody who looked like me in the store. If they were in the store, it was like, in a section in the corner somewhere in the back with very few books, and I just, I got tired of that. And that was growing up. And so to, you know, now be in my 30s, to still walk into some bookstores, and that's the same exact experience . . . to me, it was problematic. And so I figured why not create a space? Especially given Richmond didn't at the time currently have one, and hadn't had one for some years--well over, I think, two decades going on three decades, Richmond had not had a Black-owned bookstore. And so for me, it was just kind of like, well, this is what I want. Let's create it.
Christina Kann 03:21
That's so wild and so important, because there's so many wonderful Black writers and readers here, you know? It's such an important part of the readership community here.
Krystle Dandridge 03:32
Mary-Peyton Crook 03:32
Absolutely. Yeah, it's wild to me because Richmond . . . you know, I love living in Richmond, I've lived here for a long time, but I feel like it thinks of itself as a cool place to be, as really a more modern place to be, but it took until 2022 to get a Black-owned bookstore in Richmond, [a place] that considers itself a really literary town.
Krystle Dandridge 03:52
Richmond is full of bookstores. Which is a great thing! Richmond is full of independent bookstores, but you just can't find Black or brown bookstores. And I just, I never understood why.
Mary-Peyton Crook 04:03
And you talked a little about it, but maybe flesh out a little bit about why it's important that that kind of space is in our community. Why is it important to the community of Richmond or to any community to have that Black-owned, woman-owned, but specifically Black-owned bookstore?
Krystle Dandridge 04:17
Representation. Representation matters. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be able to see themselves in any role there is, any role possible, and when you have so many forces kind of working against you, like the media, whatever you have, everything that you're seeing is very much mainstream, very much white. It's like, "All right, so where do I fit in?"
Krystle Dandridge 04:39
And so to have representation right in your own backyard is extremely important because it's, you know, yes, times are changing, yes, things are reflected on the TV, but again, I'm in my thirties. That's not how this looked when I was growing up. And so while things are shifting, it's still important because there's going to be a little girl or a little boy who wants to own a bookstore or who loves reading books or who wants to see stories about people like them.
Krystle Dandridge 05:04
And so walking into a space where you know it's no question: there is acceptance (because we know that that's not everywhere you go), walking into a space where you know, without a doubt, you're going to be accepted, you're going to find people who look like you, and you're going to have something that you can aspire to--that's important. Representation just . . . it matters.
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:21
Absolutely. That importance has been so clear through the outpouring of support and community engagement that you've had for your year that you've been open. You just celebrated your first anniversary on February 5! Congratulations!
Krystle Dandridge 05:35
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:35
Christina Kann 05:36
Mary-Peyton Crook 05:37
And I know it's just gonna blossom even more as you're running it. What does it mean to you to know that you've successfully provided that space for the community for a whole year now?
Krystle Dandridge 05:47
You know, I don't know how to answer that, because I think I'm kind of still processing it. Like, I still am trying to process everything, the fact that I've been around for a year, the fact that it's not the easiest thing to do. And it's interesting, because everyone's like, "Oh, you just, you know, I'd love to own a bookstore, you just kind of read books all day." And I'm like, "I wish! I wish that's all I did!" You guys walk in, and you might see me reading a book; however, that's probably in the midst of everything else I have going on, because I still love reading books, but I also have to read books! So sometimes you walk in to see me reading a book, and I'm actually working, it's not just me lounging around reading.
Krystle Dandridge 06:23
So trying to process everything and still stay grounded, still keep the mission forefront, because it's not always the easiest thing to do. It's hard to really understand what it truly means, you know, that it's been a year. And so for me, I'm like, a year's not that long. But on the flip side, I'm also like, but it's been a year, it's been a year.
Christina Kann 06:43
So long, yeah.
Mary-Peyton Crook 06:45
Especially for a business!
Christina Kann 06:47
Especially for a business with a storefront. At Wildling, we don't have a location. So it's like, all you have to do is have an email account, you know?
Krystle Dandridge 06:55
The storefront, that's the other piece of it. The storefront has been around for a year, but the business opened Juneteenth of 2021 virtually. So, the storefront has been a year, the business has been around a little bit longer, not much, but a little bit longer. And like you said, that storefront makes the difference, because you don't pay rent on an email! Trust me, I remember those first six months or seven months, and I was like, "Okay, I got this," and then that storefront hit, and I was like, "Okay, what's this?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 07:25
Yeah, Wildling, you know, being remote, we still have plenty to fill our days and plenty of work to do all the time. Tell us a little bit about what a day in the life of a bookstore owner is like, because I know you're juggling a million things all the time. Do you get any breaks for yourself? Do you make sure to take breaks for yourself? And what's your sort of day-to-day look like?
Krystle Dandridge 07:47
I do my best to take breaks. Just because self care is important to me. So I do my best to take breaks. However, I am still a therapist. I'm still a licensed therapist, and so I am still doing therapy on the days the store's closed.
Christina Kann 07:58
Oh my gosh.
Krystle Dandridge 07:58
Mary-Peyton Crook 07:58
Krystle Dandridge 07:59
Yes, so I try to schedule--and I do have someone who works very part time for me, just to kind of give myself a day off. And that took a long time to get to, because for the longest . . . I went almost a year without a day off.
Christina Kann 08:11
Oh my god.
Krystle Dandridge 08:11
And so there's that. Chaos is probably how I would describe my days. There are some days where it's not, but for the most part, it's chaos, because I've been placing orders, following up on orders, trying to figure out what the next order is going to be, just trying to plan an event, getting events together that are already planned and making sure I have everything in order. . . . Or like if we speak of like yesterday's event, trying to figure out how I'm going to seat everybody, because those tickets sold out and people are still showing up! And you know, now I gotta figure out what to do.
Christina Kann 08:43
What a good problem!
Krystle Dandridge 08:43
Right! And it's funny, because everyone's like, "That's a great problem to have!" And I'm like, "Yes, after the fact!" In the moment, it's not a great problem to have.
Christina Kann 08:43
Krystle Dandridge 08:43
In the moment, I'm like, "I don't want to turn you away, but I don't know where you're gonna sit, and I don't want you to have to stand for two hours," which, you know, doesn't seem like a long time. But I'm like, you know, these people coming in, we're not talking about teenagers who don't have thirty-plus-year-old knees and backs.
Mary-Peyton Crook 08:56
That's so important.
Krystle Dandridge 08:58
We're talking about adults who can't stand that long. So you know, great problem to have, but like, this is where the day-to-day is like, "Okay, do I have all the inventory I need? Oh, shipping is delayed? Okay, how long is shipping delayed? Okay, so I won't have any books for the holidays, I have none, like none of my books are coming, none of the hundreds of books I ordered. Nothing's showing up? Oh, okay. No, that's, that's fine. I can be a bookstore without books. Why not? Who needs books in a bookstore?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 09:35
You have to really learn to pivot.
Krystle Dandridge 09:37
You adapt. But I'll also say the community has been super supportive. Because I'm very transparent. I will tell you, "Hey, I ordered books; I don't know where my books are. I can order some more for you." And they're like, "Oh, it's okay, we'll wait! Let's go ahead and place an order. It's okay." And you know, that to me is the support that I need and the support that is helpful because that's what kind of keeps me going. I feel bad when I don't have books, but I'm like, "I promise I ordered them. I just don't know where they are!"
Krystle Dandridge 10:06
I just had a shipment of over a hundred books come in on Friday, and I placed that order like three, three and a half weeks ago. And I placed it knowing I had this event. I was like, "Let's over-order, let's get some books." And I'm like, "Okay, well, you know, I placed the order. I don't know where my books are, but I placed the order, and I'm about to have over 100 people in the store, and I don't have a book for them! I don't have anything!" It showed up, thankfully, but . . .
Christina Kann 10:33
We can definitely relate to that, trying to get authors their books in time for their events as well. There's so many elements of buying books that are just out of your hands.
Mary-Peyton Crook 10:42
Krystle Dandridge 10:43
Most of it is out of our hands.
Mary-Peyton Crook 10:44
You try to really prepare well in advance, but it still can show up late even then. It's crazy.
Krystle Dandridge 10:50
It's, you know, it's part of the business. But again, it's that year, that year is learning. I learned over that year a lot.
Mary-Peyton Crook 11:00
Yeah, and it's great that you still have that support. I remember, on your grand opening day, obviously, you know, it's grand opening day, day one of the first year, so anything could happen. And I remember you coming out and right before we were able to go in you were talking about the fact that you didn't have the books that you had ordered yet, you were still waiting on so many books. And I walked in, and I know that it's much more full now, but it still was so beautifully set up and the books looked great. You had them facing out, which I love because that lets you see the cool covers. And people were still just flooding in and having the greatest time.
Krystle Dandridge 11:37
It was great.
Mary-Peyton Crook 11:38
You know, I think that's because you've created that sense of community and the sense of space over just a place to buy books. Ordering that book is important, but I don't think you'll ever run out of people that still support you and love that space.
Krystle Dandridge 11:52
That's the great part about it. The grand opening was a shocker for me. I don't know what I expected to happen, but when I walked out and saw the number of people . . . in my mind, I was like, "Oh, it'll probably be like twenty, maybe fifty people, it won't be a whole lot. Very naive of me, because I walked out and like . . . My family was there. If you came to the grand opening, you saw my family because they were everywhere helping everyone--
Mary-Peyton Crook 12:15
Krystle Dandridge 12:15
--behind the register, mostly, but they were definitely everywhere, them and my friends. And prior to the grand opening, as we were standing inside, I was like, "No, I'll cut the ribbon. A few people are coming, but you guys can probably just go back to my house and just, you know, relax. I won't need any help." And then we opened the doors, and everyone came in, and I was like, "So y'all can't leave. You have to stay, I just need all hands on deck. Don't ask me what I need you to do, because at this point, I don't know, I wasn't expecting everybody to be here, so thanks for staying. Sorry you're hungry, but we're here now. We're in this together, we're gonna make it through, and I appreciate the patience."
Krystle Dandridge 12:16
That line . . . if you were there, that line was wrapped around the store. And there were just all these people, and the store was packed. I'm in panic mode because I was like, "Oh, the city said my capacity is this, and we're like, way over that. Should I put people out? Like what do I do?" Again, I was brand new to retail. I was like, "What do I do? Do I not let them in? It's cold outside. It's February. It's freezing outside. Do I take a chance? Because I don't want anyone catching pneumonia trying to get into a bookstore! That's ridiculous.
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:32
Maybe those rules are a little bit soft for a grand opening.
Krystle Dandridge 13:35
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:36
It was great. It was so much fun.
Mary-Peyton Crook 13:37
What's your favorite part of running a bookstore?
Krystle Dandridge 13:40
Christina Kann 13:41
Yeah. That's a good answer.
Krystle Dandridge 13:44
Getting the books early, because if you're a book addict like me, then your TBR is ridiculous, but you still want the next book. I think it's a tie. I'll say there's a tie between the books and the authors. I have posted about it. I absolutely love meeting authors. Authors are my rockstars. You guys can have all the music artists you want. I love them too, but there is nothing like meeting authors, especially because they're down to earth! They're down-to-earth rockstars, or at least the authors that I've met. They are down-to-earth rock stars! They're like "Yeah, sure, let's chat!" And I'm like, "Really? You wanna talk to me?" So I think that's amazing. And the books! I have arcs sitting right in front of me right now. I get so many arcs (way too many sometimes, but I'm okay with that. I give a lot away, actually.) But getting those arcs, being front and center trying to see, like, what's coming out? Can I read it? When I read it, I'm like, "Oh, let me make a video about it. Let me post on social media but try not to spoil it. Let's talk about this book and not tell you all why it's so amazing when I just want to be like, "Oo, and then they did this and then they did that."
Mary-Peyton Crook 14:54
That's so hard, because the ending can really make or break (obviously) a book, and and it would be so hard if you're genuinely giving your reviews to not include that part of it.
Mary-Peyton Crook 15:06
And that brings me to talk about your social media presence @rvabookbar on Instagram and Tiktok. Those are my favorite places to find you, because your presence on social media on those channels is so authentic. I was thinking about it, and I think it's obviously because so many of the posts are just you talking to your followers, talking to this community of readers, and giving genuine book reviews. And you seem to post a lot, which I can't imagine with your schedule.
Mary-Peyton Crook 15:35
What kind of advice would you give to--I know you're in a particular position as a bookseller--but what advice would you give to someone looking to create sort of an authentic, compelling Bookstagram, BookTok, whatever channel they want to use?
Krystle Dandridge 15:49
Ignore what's already out there. And I say that because when I first opened my IG account, I was going with, you know . . . Well, when you're on Bookstagram, all you see is the mainstream, white faces, that is what you see. You have to literally search for people who look like me. What you see are aesthetic pics, that's what you see. And there is nothing wrong with the aesthetic pic; I actually think they're pretty, I just don't get anything from them, personally. But when I started, that's what I was doing. I was like, "Okay, well, people want to see aesthetics, because of course, these people's aesthetics got thousands and thousands of likes. So that's what people want." But then I realized I wasn't using my voice.
Christina Kann 16:27
Krystle Dandridge 16:28
And then again, going back to the [book] reviews, you would see the aesthetic, and then you would see the synopsis of the book. I don't like that, because I can read the back of the book myself. So because I can read the back of the book myself, you're not really helping me want to buy the book, because you just told me what the book was telling me anyway. How was that helpful? And what I learned was I was actually getting better traction when it was my voice versus the voice that matched what you saw on Bookstagram, which was, "Here's a picture of a book. Here's what the back of the book says."
Christina Kann 17:01
Krystle Dandridge 17:01
Cool. But I see that on the hundreds of profiles I see every day. So that's not helping me, versus people who are like, "Okay, but why should I buy this book?" which is what people want to know. They're looking for book recommendations.
Krystle Dandridge 17:12
There are a lot of people that are cover buyers; I'm a cover buyer. So yes, the pretty book catches my eye because I'm like, "Ooh, what's that?"
Mary-Peyton Crook 17:19
For sure, for sure.
Krystle Dandridge 17:20
But now what? Why should I buy it? So the advice that I have is for BookTok and Bookstagram, because BookTok is very much videos, Bookstagram is both pictures and reels. But I say use your voice. Like for me, my personality comes through in my videos; it's kind of like talking to me. I love books, and I love talking books. So I'm just kind of like, "Hey!" I'm animated. I like to be very animated. And so I'm like, you know, "What would make somebody really understand why you should get this book?"
Krystle Dandridge 17:54
And I'm recommending what I like, I'm not just kind of like, "I'm a bookseller, here's a book that's in my shop and I have to sell it." No. Some books are just not for me. And that's okay. So when people come into the shop, and they're like, "Well, what about this book?" I'm like, "Well, if you like XYZ, then you'll like it. It's just not my cup of tea, because I'm not an XYZ reader." But on my Bookstagram or my BookTok, I'm like, "Oh, did y'all read this? Let me tell you why you should read this. Because you're not going to regret it!" I like the books that I'm recommending. So I'm not just going to be like, "Oh, I have to sell this. Let me just shove this down your throat and hope that you believe me and come by. No, I thought this was amazing."
Mary-Peyton Crook 18:32
Yeah, I love watching your book recommendations, because you are so passionate about them. And for lack of a better term, you give more of the vibe of the book; you talk about what it's really like versus just, "Okay, this is a mystery. This is fantasy." You really give us the elements of the book that are a reason to read that book over others. Which is what what we're looking for as book readers.
Mary-Peyton Crook 18:56
And that's such a strong case for why it's so important to buy from local bookstores over things like Amazon over even looking on Instagram or Booktok. Because the bookseller should be a book reader like you are. And that's where you're really going to have a conversation with someone about what kind of books are coming up, what book recommendations they can make for you, and it just makes the process so much better than, say, just scanning on Amazon for a book. That's why bookstores are so important.
Krystle Dandridge 19:29
Bookstores will forever be important. Bookstores . . . first of all, they're in your community. So we're talking about tax dollars, all of that, that goes back into your community. So why would you not want to support a bookstore that's in your community? I understand the ease of shopping online and just having it delivered to you in a day or two. I get that. But there are so many reasons to choose an independent bookstore over choosing shopping online and supporting something that isn't in your community. It's not in your community, it's not benefiting your community in any way, shape, or form. And then the interesting thing is people wonder when they're like, "Oh, well, bookstores are obsolete" or "They don't stick around, they don't stick around," because instead of walking in and talking to a person, you decided to click on it.
Krystle Dandridge 20:13
And I'm not against online shopping, but there are also ways to shop online to purchase books that are not through Amazon so you can still support what's in your community: Bookshop.org! Independent bookstores through Bookshop.org. You can go through Bookshop.org, choose the bookstore you want to select (The Book Bar) and your purchase benefits that store. It still supports the store in your community, and you can get it shipped directly to you, easy.
Mary-Peyton Crook 20:40
That is so nice. We love Bookshop.org. I literally just used it the other day, and my purchase . . . I bought one book, one paperback book, and it said it gave $5.99 to a local bookstore, which is crazy considering that the book was like $18, you know, so that's a huge amount for online, which is awesome.
Krystle Dandridge 20:59
It's great. We get a huge portion of that percentage. And then you also have Libro.fm for those who are like, "I only do audiobooks." Libro.fm, same concept.
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:09
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:11
To sort of wrap up, what are ways that people can support RVA Book Bar if they don't live nearby?
Krystle Dandridge 21:18
Online! You can always support me online, RVABookBar.com, www.rvabookbar.com. Events are posted there, and there is a link to my Bookshop page. You go under "Shop," it'll say "Shop Books," and you can search all of the books you want. You can always come inside! You can't lose with that either. But there are so many ways you can follow me, on IG, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube @rvabookbar. Or come down to the store: 1311 East Main Street in Richmond, Virginia.
Mary-Peyton Crook 21:47
Well, thank you so much, Krystle, for being with us today, for taking time out of your busy schedule. I love The Book Bar, we all do at Wildling, and however we can support you, we are here to do that.
Krystle Dandridge 22:00
I appreciate that.
transcribed and edited by Mary-Peyton Crook
Giving Generously with Becky Robinson
Join Christina in conversation with Becky Robinson, founder of Weaving Influence, host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast, and author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause.
Christina Kann 00:06
Welcome to How Do I Book? by Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and, of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while. I'm Christina Kann, and I'm extremely excited to be joined today by Becky Robinson from over at Weaving Influence! Becky, say hello to the listeners.
Becky Robinson 00:33
Hi, everybody, I'm so happy to be here with you.
Christina Kann 00:36
I'm really happy to have you here. Tell everyone a little bit about what you do over at Weaving Influence and your podcast.
Becky Robinson 00:45
I would love to. Weaving Influence is a full-service comprehensive digital marketing agency, and we specialize in serving authors and thought leaders. I founded Weaving Influence in 2012, and we have primarily served nonfiction business book authors. However, in recent years, we've had the opportunity to support some fiction authors. What we've found is that many of the approaches we use in nonfiction translate well to fiction. In the meantime, we've been learning about the differences in how to market fiction as well. My podcast is the Book Marketing Action Podcast. We are just wrapping up our third season, and we primarily focus on actions authors can take immediately to expand the reach of their books in the world. I'm also an author myself. My first book, Reach: Create the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause launched in April of 2022. I was so glad to be able to bring together the thinking and framework I use in helping authors figure out how to reach more readers with their books. I was really happy to be able to put that all into writing, into something people could access easily.
Christina Kann 01:55
I'm also incredibly happy you were able to put that into writing, because it's such a valuable resource. You were kind enough to send me a copy of your book, Reach. It really has so much excellent information for people who are engaging in the digital marketing arena, so definitely check it out. I'll put a link in our episode notes. If you are trying to build an online audience and engage in an authentic way, this is a great, great, great place to start getting in the right mindset.
Becky Robinson 02:27
And if you don't mind me mentioning, Christina, we also have started the Reach More Readers Workshop, which is a live and interactive workshop that authors can join. It's 10 hours of training across two days. While the content is similar to what's in the book, there's the chance to interact with other authors. One of the things I'm most proud of is the way the groups who participate in our workshop are really an inclusive community where anyone is welcome. People can really meet and connect with others who might want to support their work. In those workshops, we have had fiction, nonfiction, memoir, self-help, business -- all different genres of people, but they all share this common goal of making a difference in the world. When we get together for the workshops virtually, it's the most beautiful chance to connect. And I love doing it.
Christina Kann 03:18
That is so amazing. We're here to talk today about one really specific facet of your book. Your book addresses your four commitments, the four components you break digital marketing into. I love that. Do you mind telling the listeners briefly -- because, obviously, they need to buy your book -- what those components are?
Becky Robinson 03:42
As I was crafting the book, what I started to notice as I interviewed different authors and thought leaders about what reach meant to them or how they achieved reach for their work, hat kind of surfaced were these. At first, I called them "four factors." They were things that every author or thought leader I talked to seem to have in common. The amazing thing is, when we got to the point of editing the book, my editor said, "Well, 'factors' is super boring." So he threw out a whole bunch of different words that I could use instead. "Commitments" is really special and powerful to me, because if you want to do something big in the world, it's not something you can take lightly. It does require a commitment; it requires focus. I love that we ended up calling them the four commitments in the book, and I'm happy to share them briefly.
The first commitment is value. If you want to build an online presence, the only way you can attract an audience is if you have something they perceive to be a value. If you're a fiction author, maybe you're telling a particular kind of story; the value you're providing is entertainment, art, craft. If you're nonfiction, you're providing value around a topic, and your audience has a felt need in that area. Every author who wants to build reach really has to start with getting clear about the value they have to offer and who the audience is who's going to find that valuable. Value is determined by the person receiving the value. So that's the first commitment:" value.
The second commitment is consistency. It's not enough to just create a thing of value. What you want to do is consistently show up with value. In the book I talk about how this doesn't mean you have to blog daily; it doesn't mean you have to release a podcast weekly; it doesn't even mean you need to tweet X times per day. The idea is that you need to consistently show up with value. I always coach authors to figure out what sustainable. Some of us can really turn out content every day. Others have a busy day job, and that might not be possible. But what you want is to be able to create an expectation that you will keep showing up so your audience knows they can count on you and trust you. So consistency is the second one.
The third commitment is generosity. This one is sometimes unexpected. When I talk about generosity with your online presence, it really has to do with being willing to share value freely with others. Sometimes that value is just your authentic self. You can be generous by showing up as your authentic self, sharing vulnerably about your experiences or perceptions, sharing what you know about the craft of writing. Fiction authors especially seem to be able to gather an online community by talking about how they do what they do as a fiction writer. Readers are interested in that. They want to hear how you do what you do. They want the behind the scenes; they want to know what's in the head of that fiction author as they're crafting their characters are telling their story. So whatever that value is that you have to offer, having kind of open hands, if you want to think about generosity that way. It doesn't necessarily mean you're giving away products and services for free. But it does mean you're giving energy, encouragement, and inspiration, as you show up consistently in online spaces.
The final one is longevity. Honestly, I think this is the one that has the biggest potential upside, because people get excited to start things. People are not necessarily always as excited to finish things.
Christina Kann 07:47
So true. My husband loves to start a video game and never ever, ever finish it.
Becky Robinson 07:53
That' s funny. I want to reference Dorie Clark, who's a thought leader in this space. She wrote a book called The Long Game, and in it, she talks about the fact that growing an online presence that's worthwhile does take an extreme amount of time. She notes that you have to consistently show up with value in online spaces sometimes for an entire year before you see any results. If you think about that, from the perspective of someone who writes a book, and then just gets online for the first time, a lot of times, if it's going to take a whole year to get results, you're gonna give up before you even see the results. Dorie Clark also says that to be recognized as an expert online, you have to consistently share value online for five years. So that long-term view, that long-game view, is critically important. Just to quote Dory one more time -- I'm a super fan, obviously -- the reason why some people become successful and others do not is because some people keep going and other people just give up. If you think about Wildling Press -- you're new on the scene -- when you're still here, Christina, in 10 years, you're likely to be successful, because other people who started publishing companies when you did will have quit by then.
Christina Kann 09:11
I love all of that. Thank you so much for sharing. For more detailed explanations and investigations into these four commitments, definitely check out Reach. I'm not gonna stop plugging it because it's an awesome book. Today we're here to talk about one specific commitment that really struck me, and I guess it struck you as well, because you said it was the most unexpected commitment: generosity. I think this is one that authors and other people who are marketing themselves online tend to skip over because it's not exactly intuitive. If you're trying to earn money writing, it's not exactly intuitive to give out a lot of stuff for free. Can you expand a little bit about the role of generosity in digital marketing?
Becky Robinson 09:55
Well, it's a great way to say it. I love that. So before getting ready to get generous, before creating their generosity plan for how to freely give value online, does an author need to shift their mentality at all? Is there anything that an author can do to get ready for that? If they have gotten online being like, "I'm here to sell," but now they're realizing they need to make a little bit of a change, how can they prepare for that?
Becky Robinson 09:55
I think that one of the reasons why generosity is so important is because it really helps us rise above the noise. There is so much noise. Especially if you show up and you have something to sell... We get sold to constantly. I get pitches in my email multiple times per day by people who want to sell me something. But I think it's so much more rare to have someone show up with an offer of something for free. So whether it's a free event where you're sharing something that you know, or a free resource that you're making available, by offering something of value to someone who needs it, you can make that more immediate relational connection. And that relational connection over time is what sets up the possibility of that person becoming someone who might share your work with others, of that person becoming someone who might continue to be in relationship with you. Generosity is the key that unlocks that relational connection door. And I've never said it this way before!
Becky Robinson 11:24
That's a good question, and it can be challenging. I'm going to roll back way too many years, more than a decade, to when I first began this journey. One of the first things I did is I wrote these ebooks. They were on different topics related to digital marketing. I'll admit, Christina, when I created them, I thought it was going to sell them. I thought I was going to actually sell them for hundreds of dollars, because they were so valuable. We set up a landing page to sell these playbooks, and very quickly, what I realized is I didn't have anyone to sell them to. One of the phrases I like to repeat to myself is before you want to extract value, you have to add value. And so the shift that that required for me is this mindset shift of "I'm gonna focus on serving instead of selling." When you focus on serving, which is an act of generosity, again, it's the key that unlocks that relational door. It also helps to cement who you are as a brand, so people can begin to know you for the value you want to bring.
Becky Robinson 12:32
I want to pause for just a minute though, Christina, because I know there might be some people listening for whom selling is not optional. If you are in a situation in which to survive, you need to sell, this advice might seem like I'm tone deaf. I want to just recognize that the ability to be generous, or the ability to serve before you sell, does in some ways require that you have a certain level of financial freedom, or that you have some other means of making money that isn't through your online presence. I'm definitely speaking from a place of privilege. I do have a business that's financially viable that frees me up to be generous. For those of you out there who may be just getting started as an author or really trying to navigate how you're going to make a living from this, it's hard to make a living from writing. I've heard people from marginalized identities talking about, "Well, it's all well and good to talk about giving things away, but I just don't have that margin." I just didn't want to go too far before I acknowledged that this content could be received in a lot of different ways.
Christina Kann 13:46
Of course. I think it's important what you said. You can give generously without that being your main thing. You and I both run businesses, but we also host podcasts that are free information for whoever needs that information. It's about balancing the things you need to do to make money to survive with the ways you can engage with your audience. It's okay if sometimes you have more spoons to give that generosity than other times.
Becky Robinson 14:15
Certainly so. It's generosity of spirit as well. Now, again, that takes time. It takes time to pause to encourage someone else or amplify someone else. But we all have something we can give.
Christina Kann 14:30
Absolutely. What kind of spaces online are good for being generous and sharing value? How are the different online spaces good to share different kinds of value?
Becky Robinson 14:44
You need to know your audience and where they're showing up to figure out what type of content would be most valuable to generously share with them. I think any online space is a place where you can be generous. I don't know necessarily that there's one particular channel that's easier than another. But because your audience is primarily people who are authors, one of the things I want to highlight is that a way to grow your network through generosity before you have a book come out is to find ways to be helpful to other authors. For example, if you're writing fiction in a particular genre, you could choose to participate in a book launch, or to help an author with their release, who's in a similar genre. That helps to build a relational connection. Not only that, but it also opens up an opportunity for you to learn from someone who's ahead of you on the journey.
Becky Robinson 15:37
I have an author who launched a book earlier this week, and I was digging into some of our older correspondence. And what I discovered is that before he was my client, he was promoting other authors by being on the launch team. For those of you who might not know, a launch team is also sometimes called the street team, and a lot of authors will gather a group of people who will read a book in advance of their publication date so they can share Amazon reviews and do social sharing. What I'm recommending is if you're an author who's listening, or an aspiring author who's listening, one of the ways you could practice generosity is through other authors who are in your same genre or niche so you can build those relationships -- not only because you want something in return when your book comes out, but also for just the joy of supporting someone else and to learn from what they're doing.
Christina Kann 16:28
I think this next question ties back a little bit into what you were saying earlier about knowing your audience. What kind of materials are good for sharing generously? We mentioned that time and energy are also things you can share generously. But if someone is interested in getting a little bit more concrete, what kinds of things are good for sharing?
Becky Robinson 16:51
I'm happy to give a few ideas here. You mentioned the whole idea of a podcast. Podcasts are typically free. Obviously, there are models like Patreon, where creators will create content beyond the free content. That's a subscription model. That is that is an approach that works for some people.
Becky Robinson 17:10
I referenced that playbooks that I wrote that I thought it was going to sell for hundreds of dollars. The shift that I had to make was, "Instead of making those playbooks for money, what if I gave them away for free?" which I actually ended up doing. The value of that was it drew an audience. Anyone who downloaded those playbooks for free could see my areas of expertise, etc. Any kind of content that you might create, you have that choice between, am I going to make this free, or will there be a cost associated with it?
Becky Robinson 17:44
If you think about all the possibilities with content... You could do free videos. You could do free audio. You could do free written articles and ebooks. You could do free assessments. You could do free interactive events, if you wanted to. I have an author I'm working with right now who created this series called "Where Fact Meets Fiction." She is interviewing other historical fiction authors about their craft and about how they researched to write their fiction. It's very cool. It's free conversations; people can join them live. There are two benefits to that, and I'll tell you what they are. One of the benefits is all the readers who get that kind of inside view of how the authors are thinking about their writing are also getting kind of that chance to get to meet their favorite authors. So that's one value to the readers. There's also the value of the relational network that my client who's an author is forming with each of those authors. So if you're an author who's really been solo in your craft, and you decide you're going to do a series of interactive webinars, every single guest you have is another person that you're building that connection with. Not only will you have the opportunity to support their journey as an author, but they also may pour into yours.
Christina Kann 19:00
Mutual support is such an important tenant of this like generosity mindset. In that same vein, how can authors engage with others and support others who are trying to share their value?
Becky Robinson 19:17
There's always the idea of amplifying other people's work. I'll give you an example. I have a friend who's also in the digital marketing space; she runs a company that produces audiobooks, and I consistently refer business to her. In fact, her company helped me with the production of my audiobook. Well, she was out there generously today sharing a little audio clip from my book and talking about me and the idea of generosity, which was beautiful to see. Anytime you can take someone else's content and amplify it, that fuels that mutual supportiveness. That's probably one of the best ways to be generous, especially when a fellow author is publishing their book on their launch day, in their launch week. That's the very perfect time to be able to amplify someone else. The other thing is buying the books of those people you admire. As often as I can, when I have a client who has a book launching or another author friend who's having a book launch -- even if I don't even expect to read it, I'm gonna buy it. If they were in my hometown and I had the chance to take them out for lunch, you better believe I'm gonna try to fight them for the check and treat them to lunch. If I would fight them for the check and treat them for lunch, I'm gonna go buy their book.
Christina Kann 20:37
Absolutely. Last question for you, Becky. What's one thing authors can do today to start being more generous in online spaces?
Becky Robinson 20:47
I love that question. I'm going to go back to some of the tips I had before. One thing I'd like to encourage everyone who's listening today is just think for a minute about the authors you admire, and whoever the first one is who pops into your head, if you've read their book, go leave them an Amazon review. If you haven't read their book, find some other way to reach out and amplify something they're doing: share a post of theirs on Instagram to your own story and shout them out. If you're a more of a LinkedIn person, find a post they've made on LinkedIn and share it to your audience. Be generous with your praise by giving a very specific reason why you admire what they're doing in the world.
Christina Kann 21:28
If you're already on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, doing your authorly social media upkeep, it is really so easy to share something to your Instagram story or to retweet something. It's small for you, but for the person you're doing it to uplift, it can feel so big.
Becky Robinson 21:50
Certainly. We all want to be seen and valued for the contribution we're making.
Christina Kann 21:55
Yeah. Well, Becky, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for being generous with your time and energy to come on How Do I Book?
Becky Robinson 22:03
Thank you for having me. For those who are listening today, be sure to come over to the Book Marketing Action Podcast, because I will be interviewing Christina very soon. I'm not sure how these episodes will be launched, but if you're listening to this episode, definitely go look for Christina's interview on the Book Marketing Action Podcast.
Christina Kann 22:22
I recommend listening to the whole backlog of episodes because y'all's podcast was actually the podcast that got me into marketing podcasts. When I first started listening to podcasts, I did a lot of comedy and fiction, because that's just more my vibe. But once I started listening to your podcast, I was like, "Oh, there's a lot of value out here in podcast land." That's another part of it: all of us producers and marketers are sharing information with each other in these ways as well. I just think that's so awesome and special.
Becky Robinson 22:57
Very cool. I'm so glad. Hopefully people will listen to episode 100, where I share my top 10 lessons of 10 years of marketing books and 100 podcast episodes.
Christina Kann 23:06
Oh my god, I'm so excited for that.
Becky Robinson 23:08
I had fun recording it. It was really a lot of fun. It was just me in a room recording, but one of the things it cemented for me is how far I've come. If I'm honest, when I started the podcast, the early episodes I was recording solo -- we didn't have any guests at the beginning, Christina -- and I hated it. I thought I would want to quit. And now, 100 episodes in, it's so much fun. I can start recording and I don't blink.
Christina Kann 23:37
Yes, I love that for you. I love that so much. Besides your podcast, where can people find you on the internet?
Becky Robinson 23:44
There are two main places to find me. If you're interested in finding out about my company, Weaving Influence, you can go to weavinginfluence.com. If you're interested in me personally and my book and my journey as an entrepreneur, you can go to beckyrobinson.com. And then on all the social media platforms except Tik Tok, @beckyrbnsn.
Christina Kann 24:13
That's linked below, as well as a link to purchase Reach, which I do recommend for everyone who's getting started on their book marketing plan. This is a great place to start sourcing ideas.
Becky Robinson 24:27
One generous offer for your listeners, Christina. If there's anyone listening and you'd like to read my book, and you can't afford to buy it for some reason, maybe you're facing some hard times -- go ahead and email me. I'm firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to get a copy of my book in the mail to you.
Christina Kann 24:43
Wow, that's so generous! That's so on-theme of you. Love that so much. I so appreciate all that you do in the community. You really are an example of generosity. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise about generosity and digital marketing.
Becky Robinson 25:01
Thanks, Christina can't wait to talk again.
Christina Kann 25:05
And that's how you book.
Follow Becky Robinson on socials:
Until late 2007, hashtags were just one of the buttons you never used on your phone. Then people started to use them to categorize social media posts, and a new way of reaching your target audience was born.
Social media is completely saturated with influencers and people vying for attention. It can be hard to stand out! That’s where hashtags come into play. Hashtags help people organize how they browse through social media apps and indicate to viewers what kind of post they’re looking at.
So, what makes for a great hashtag? Here are some tips that can help you reach your audience and hopefully up for interaction and followers . . . if the dreaded algorithm doesn’t play against you.
Keep it simple
Pick hashtags that are short and straightforward. If you’re a Tumblr user, you might be familiar with their rambling hashtags that one should read as part of the post (like #justkidding #whywouldtheywriteitlikethis #helpimtrappedinmybroomcloset, etc.). Other social platforms like Twitter and Instagram do not use hashtags like this. Instead, you’ll want to keep the hashtags simple.
Keep it relevant
Your hashtags should be true to the post you are making. For example, don’t use #PrideMonth just because you’re making a post in June, which is Pride Month. That post will need to be related to queer culture or a Pride Month event for that hashtag to be relevant.
Do your research
Look up hashtags before you use them. If the hashtag has been used a lot, your post may get lost in the mix of everyone else who is using it. An example of an overused hashtag is #outfitoftheday, often abbreviated as #ootd. Fashion influencers may still use this hashtag, but they don’t expect a huge impact from this hashtag alone.
Use trending hashtags
A hashtag’s popularity will come and go. But how do you know which ones are currently hot? Thankfully, there are sites out there that will do the work for you, like hashtags.org or best-hashtags.com. At hashtags.org, you can enter a hashtag and see how it has been trending. At best-hashtags.com, you can look up a hashtag’s popularity, and you can even cut and paste hashtags from that site into your post. Just remember to edit and add to this list and use only the ones that are relevant to you.
Limit your hashtags
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. If you exceed 30 hashtags, Instagram will post your photo without any text or hashtags. You’ll have to retype your whole caption, which sucks! (Trust us, we’ve been there.) On Twitter, you only want to use one or two hashtags that can be worked organically into the post, so make sure they are relevant. On TikTok, you’ll want to use only 4-5 hashtags.
We’ll go into deep dives later about how to use hashtags uniquely on each of these platforms, but this is a great starting point!
With these tips you will be on the right path to reaching your target audience. So, get out there and engage, and before you know it, you will be reaching your audience, and your following will grow!
Why FB? And why a FB page?
A lot of new authors, when asked for their Facebook link, send us a link to their personal Facebook profile. What we’re looking for, and what we encourage all of our authors to develop, is a professional Facebook page. Pay careful attention to the language here -- for the purposes of this blog post, we will refer to personal Facebook profiles as “profiles” and professional Facebook pages (also known as “business pages”) as “pages.”
Sure, you already have a personal Facebook profile, so why add something else onto your plate? The answer to this question is that profiles and pages are not the same. They do not serve the same purpose, and you cannot simply trade out one for another. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.
A personal Facebook profile is a great place to let your own personal audience, your friends and family, know that you have a book coming out. If you’re on Facebook personally, we certainly recommend making use of this audience. But profiles are not appropriate for professional, public author use.
For starters, unless your personal profile is “public,” your fans won’t be able to find you! The purpose of developing a Facebook presence as an author is so you can connect with fans and keep them updated about news and events. Even if your profile is “public” and fans can find you, you don’t want this kind of connection with strangers. When you accept a friend request on your personal profile, you become friends with that person in return. That means you’ll see their photos and updates in your feed, even if you have no idea who they are. They’ll also be able to see personal information that you have listed on your profile, like where you went to high school and who you’re dating -- details you may not want all your fans to know!
If you have a professional Facebook page, fans can “follow” you -- meaning, they will see the updates you post on your page, but nothing you post on your profile. You will also not see any of their updates unless they directly interact with one of your posts. This is a much more appropriate creator-fan relationship. Fans aren’t your friends, lovely though they may be, and having this boundary will benefit your personal life and your professional life at the same time.
You also cannot use your personal profile when collaborating with event venues, reviewers, or your publisher. For example, if we were to post on Facebook about one of our books, we couldn’t tag that author’s personal profile in our public post, because we are running a business page. If you were doing a book signing at Barnes and Noble, they could not tag you in their social media marketing efforts for that event. If a reviewer reviewed your book, they could not tag you in that review. It could lead to you missing some updates or even missing out on fans who would have followed you, if only they could!
Worse, someone might choose not to collaborate with you if you’re not on social media. If a reviewer posts their reviews primarily on Facebook, and you are not on Facebook, what good does that do either of you? Even if they read the book and publish the review, they’re not getting anything out of that exchange, because they aren’t getting exposed to your audience; you’re only getting exposed to their audience. That’s not a fair trade, and lots of reviewers would pass on that sort of one-sided transaction.
Furthermore, if people are searching on Facebook for “fantasy authors” or authors of your genre, you will not show up in their search if you’re only using a personal Facebook profile. In order for Facebook to categorize you in this way, you need to create a professional page and select the correct category for yourself -- in this instance, “author.”
Another benefit to having a professional Facebook page you use publicly for author purposes is that you’ll look like you know what you’re doing. If someone asks for your Facebook page in a professional setting and you send them your personal profile link, it will look like you don’t understand how Facebook works, and that would affect that person’s perception of you and your capabilities as an author. Every creator these days needs to be dedicated to learning about social media -- always learning, no matter how much you know now, because social media is always changing.
The bottom line is, your fans will expect to be able to find you in certain places. Just like they’ll expect your book to be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, they’ll expect you to have a website. They’ll expect you to be on Facebook, and possibly even Twitter or Instagram. If they can’t find you in these places, you will likely lose out on that connection, which could mean losing out on future sales or collaborations. Do yourself and your book a favor, and set up your professional Facebook page now.
by Christina Kann
How Do I Book?
We'll try to find the answer to that question in our blog.