Strategically Establishing an Author Brand Through Social Media and Other Platforms

Let’s say you have written and published a book, or are in the middle of writing a manuscript for a book, or maybe just starting to think about writing a book and one day becoming a published author, or maybe the first book is on the cusp, about to be released upon the world. What must be considered in terms of author branding? How do you sell yourself to potential readers? Do you sell yourself?

According to Mark Coker writing for Publisher’s Weekly, author brand is “a bundle of perceptions and expectations that form in readers’ minds over time. A brand is a promise; it’s what readers expect from an author.” (1)

Think of your favorite authors and the books you buy and read based on their names alone. A few of my favorites include David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeffrey Eugenides, Victor LaValle, Stephen Graham Jones, Barbara Kingsolver, Zoje Stage, Josh Malerman, Cormac McCarthy, and more. I would blindly buy books from any of those writers. The list is different for everyone, but all avid readers have a list.

It doesn’t matter what any of those writers mentioned above write. As soon as their books come out, I snag a copy, full price. There’s no hesitation. I simply buy the book the moment it’s out and it goes to the top of my reading list.

More often than not, personal bookshelves (mine at least, and many of my friends’) are organized in groups by author name, more so than listed alphabetically by author, or by genre, or by publisher, or even (for some chaotic yet artistically-pleasing reason) by color. And more often than not, these books are collected and stored on shelves. They help define who we are as readers to those who may happen upon the collection.

No matter the book, as soon as a new title is released by our favorite authors, we devour them. We instantly add them to our ever-growing TBR (to-be-read) pile, or move them to the top. There’s no need to go into a store and flip through pages to determine if the story or author warrants our time, and there’s no need to use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to check writing quality; we simply discover (or anticipate) a new book by our favorite authors and read them.

But why do we do this?

Perceptions, Promises, and Expectations

Let’s say Stephen King is on your list. There is a perception that any new book will be a doorstopper, a hefty book with lots of character development, mystery, magic, and maybe a little (or extremely) terrifying. And you, his Constant Reader (as he likes to address his following) expect his name to be emblazoned on the cover in that large, familiar font. And there is a promise that as soon as you start reading, his voice will pull you in like that of an old familiar friend.

  • Perception
  • Promise
  • Expectation

Consider those three things as the base of your brand, and in terms of your author name alone. How will your name be perceived? What does your name promise to a potentially constant fanbase? What can readers expect from each John Doe book before ever knowing the particulars? It should be good, and it will be good.

The author’s brand begins (or should) with the first book. It is highly important that a debut makes an impression because once it is out in the world, there is no going back. It will always be the author’s first book. Now think about all the writers on your list of go-to’s. Do you remember their first book? Most likely you do, or you at least remember the first book you read by that author, because they instantly hooked you into their world and became a favorite.

If your book is published, was your manuscript highly polished prior to publication? Did it go through tireless rounds of revisions, maybe some rewrites? Was the manuscript professionally edited, line edited, copy edited, and proofread? Is the cover eye-catching and represents not only the book but you as its author? And if you haven’t yet published your debut book, is that the plan?

Those are a lot of questions to consider, but important to ask when considering author brand. Another big question: Is the book a solid start to your legacy? Always keep in mind (unless a one-hit-wonder) that the goal is to be a name writer others will someday include on their favorites list.

Branding Builds Career

Author branding is how an undiscovered writer becomes discovered. When a potential reader sees your name on a book cover or spine, consider what you want that name to represent, beyond genre categorization. This is difficult with only one published book (or if not yet published), but imagine having an entire row of books one day.

When a second book is released, or a third or a fourth, what are the reader’s perceptions of you as a writer, and as a person (as you represent yourself to the public)? What can you promise readers with each of your books, and with your name alone? What are the readers expectations each time a new book is announced? What legacy will you leave behind?

Book #1 needs to be so good that by the time Book #2 is announced, readers are already eager for it and will buy it sight unseen. Successful branding means readers are not buying the book, they are buying the author.

If you have aspirations to continue writing, whether as a career or an extended hobby, consider the long-haul. Be the best version of yourself online (no matter where) because what you post is a representation of you, and your brand.

Just like with family and friends, discussions on race, religion, politics, money, sex . . . they can all be dangerous topics online, and others behind keyboards are often quick to react. A wrong or even accidental turn-of-phrase from a blind spot can be damaging, even career-cancelling.

And keep in mind that once something goes online, it’s pretty much permanent.

Sell the Writer, Not the Book

One thing all successful writers have in common is they rarely solicit their work. A new book comes out, they post about it a few times on social media or on their website, and that’s about it. Author brand takes care of the rest. A book signing here, a book review there, but for the most part, they mostly share personal things about themselves: family, friends, pets, favorite films or shows or music, and often other author’s books . . .

One thing most novice writers have in common, on the other hand (those with aspirations to become bestsellers), is they tend to oversaturate. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and so on, are all bombarded with advertisements for books from newer writers, which is understandable. New authors need the attention; otherwise, how can they ever become a household name?

The key with a social presence is to sell the writer, not the book. The last thing any potential reader wants is to be overwhelmed by advertisements. Readers want an understanding of their favorite authors, some kind of personal connection. The books, if an author has made one’s favorites list, are basically pre-sold already because of a solid author brand, so there’s no need for the author to do anything other than be their real selves online.

Follow the footsteps of successful writers: post a few times about the book, but focus on the self. Share a cover. Share a book unboxing video. Share a reading. Share information about the process of writing and how the book came about. Share something amusing or even funny. Share anything but the price of the book and the link where to buy it. Most importantly, share anecdotes about your life that are not book-related. Let both potential and constant readers connect with you.

Readers know where to find books. They go into bookstores (unfortunately not as often as in the past). They have their places online where they purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Wal-Mart, Target, wherever. Unless offering a means of purchasing an autographed or personalized copy, readers do not need to be shown a link where to buy books. Ever. Social media algorithms tend to filter out such things and limit viewership anyway.

Is a book on sale for 25% or 50% off from a certain distributor? It makes sense to share to help readers save money. Is an eBook on sale for a limited time at $1.99, $0.99, or free? It makes sense to help out readers who are money conscious, and because readers are more likely to try a new author if not paying full price for a book. But, for the most part, readers never need to be told where to buy books. All avid readers need is the author’s name if the branding is strong enough.

Social Media and Other Platform Consideration

Part of one’s branding requires a healthy social presence and consistency, which leads to my first piece of advice for successful author branding.

  • Secure a unique author name or pseudonym.

Whether using a real name or a pseudonym, do a little research beforehand. See if there are similar author names in the world. Is your name unique? If not, can it be made unique? Where might your books fit on store shelves, alphabetically by last name? The author name is the most important part of one’s branding.

Almost twenty years ago, I was in the process of writing and then publishing my first novel, Palindrome Hannah. Social media wasn’t around then, so a big part of author branding was having a website. Excited about the book, I secured (no longer active) and setup a website. Good idea, right? Not entirely . . .

While the Internet wasn’t then what it is today, one lesson I quickly learned about author branding was with website domains. I ran the site for a handful of years, and it didn’t occur to me that I had run into a problem. I was about halfway through editing my second novel, Phoenix Rose, and thought, like I had before, I better grab that domain too, But someone else already had it, and for the next ten years (and they still have it today).

My next thought was to secure a domain for my author name instead, which is my second piece of advice:

  • Secure a website domain using your author name (if at all possible), even if only buying the domain and parking it for a while, or forever. It’s not expensive. And if the plan is to publish multiple books under an imprint, secure a website domain for that name.

A website can be the hub for all writerly things: a short biography, a bibliography of published works, links to social media platforms, to the books themselves, or maybe a blog, and, importantly, a Contact page. If you have no use for a website, consider getting one anyway; that way, at least no one else can use it, thus protecting your author brand.

With a common first and last name, I unfortunately learned that was already taken (and still is today, despite not hosting a website, and despite my constant efforts to obtain it). I can secure a domain with my middle initial, but I don’t use my middle initial as part of my brand.

Years later, after I decided I didn’t want to be a one-hit-wonder, I created a small press called Written Backwards. As part of my branding (for my press), and part of my re-branding (for myself as an author), I obtained, as well as, which is now my hub for everything book-related. And since, by then, social media has basically taken over the internet, this leads to my third piece of advice:

  • Secure all social media handles that match your author or imprint name, even if you never plan to use them.

Consistency is again key. If you have a website like, keep your social media handles as uniform as possible, such as @johndoe for Twitter, for Facebook, as well as using the “johndoe” name for any new social media handles. It will take research on your part to see if names are already taken, but it’s nice having them match.

If you are set on your author name, and perhaps fortunate enough to secure your own name-matching website, yet matching social media handles are unavailable, consider using something close, such as johndoe_author. It is not always possible, but try to be consistent with naming conventions across all platforms.

This will make it easy for potential readers to find you across the expanse of social media, and looks good in terms of author branding. Some social media platforms even allow cross-platform posting. In Instagram, for example, one has the ability to cross-post to both Facebook and Twitter.

With a domain as unique as, I was able to secure for Twitter, and for Facebook, and likewise use “nettirw” for Instragram and LinkedIn and even TikTok (which I don’t use). I even have an Ello account. Basically, I grab every handle that consistently matches my branding the moment any new social media platforms surfaces. One name to rule them all.

I don’t plan to use most social media platforms, but securing the handles protects my author branding and keeps others from stepping on them or holding them for ransom.

Represent the Best Version of You

Maybe you will publish a single book and become a one-hit-wonder, or maybe a New York Times bestselling writer and author to many books, but no matter the scenario, represent the best version of yourself to the public.

Protect your author brand.

1. Coker, Mark. “Seven Author Branding Tips.”, November 16, 2018.

Michael Bailey is a Senior Editor and the Head of Developmental Editing at Manuscripts, LLC. He is a recipient and nine-time nominee of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time Shirley Jackson Award nominee, and a multiple recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award, along with over thirty independent publishing accolades. He has written, edited, and published many books. His latest is Righting Writing, a nonfiction narrative about dedication to the craft. He is also the screenwriter for Madness and Writers: The Untold Truth, a creative documentary series about writers. Find him online at, or on social media @nettirw.

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