Author as Brand: Now That You’re an Author, Who Do You Think You Are? by Bob Baker

The St. Louis Small Business Monthly recently ran a great cover story on how a growing number of entrepreneurs are publishing books to boost their credibility and build their businesses. This excellent exposure for authors and publishing got me thinking …

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of focused content, editing, design, packaging, printing options, distribution and more. Those are all crucial factors in getting a book published. But this might be a good time to examine another aspect of publishing books …

Your Identity as an Author

How the public perceives a book’s topic, as well as the author’s reputation and familiarity, can play a huge role in getting exposure and generating sales. So, if you’re a published or soon-to-be-published author, let me ask you …

Who do you think you are?

That’s not a derogatory question with a hidden message of “What makes you think you’re worthy of being an author?” Absolutely not. You’re worthy of publishing your own book simply because you’ve decided to do so. Sales figures are another animal, and those will be determined by a combination of content, promotion and connecting with the marketplace. But please know that your decision to simply publish a book (any book) is a legitimate one.

My “Who do you think you are?” question also has nothing to do with credentials and qualifications such as degrees, licenses, awards and the like. While those things can certainly help, they’re not necessary to publishing a successful and profitable book.

Instead, my question has everything to do with your public identity as an author ? and more specifically, your personal brand identity.

The Brand Called YOU

That’s right, people can become brand names in the same way that companies and products can. Consider these names: Oprah Winfrey, Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Martha Stewart. Regardless of what you think of these celebrities, you can’t deny that when you hear their names, you know exactly who they are, what they do and what they stand for. The thing is, you don’t have to be a household name or international celebrity to have an effective author brand identity. Your goal should be to get to the point where a well-defined sliver of the population comes to view you as a reliable (or enjoyable) source of specific information (or literature).

Sure, simply being the author of a book gives you an instant credibility boost. But to make the most of it, authors need to take a few extra steps to create an identity among the people most likely to buy their books.

Anatomy of a Personal Brand Name

To demonstrate how this works, let’s use a hypothetical author named Bill Smithton who’s trying to expand his notoriety as a hot air balloon expert. Here’s the evolution that might take place in the mind of a hot air balloon enthusiast (and potential book buyer) over several months:

  1. “Bill Smithton? Never heard of him.”
  2. “Bill Smithton? Sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe I saw an article by him once in Hot Air Balloon Quarterly.”
  3. “My friend just sent me a link to an online article by Bill Smithton. There’s that name again. I really enjoyed reading the article. This guy seems like he knows his stuff.”
  4. “I caught a great radio interview with Bill Smithton on the local NPR station. The radio host mentioned that Smithton wrote a book on hot air ballooning for beginners.”
  5. “While doing an Internet search, I found Bill Smithton’s hot air balloon web site. He has an incredible collection of articles and resources. I just bookmarked his site and subscribed to his e-mail newsletter.”
  6. “Hey, I read in the paper that Bill Smithton will be speaking in town during the big hot air balloon event next month. This guy seems to be everywhere these days. I need to make plans to go see him.”
  7. “How cool. I bought Bill Smithton’s book the day he spoke. I even got his autograph. Can’t wait to show all my hot air ballooning friends.”

See how this public identity thing works? It starts with a hazy awareness of who you are and what you do. And over time, with consistent effort and activity on your part, it turns into more and more people having a clear impression of what you stand for and how they benefit from your specialty ? whether that’s hot air ballooning, relationship advice, murder mysteries or poetry.

So, if you’re a serious author who wants to make an impact with your book, get busy crafting your own unique identity and making sure that people hear about you from a variety of sources over time.

About Bob Baker

Bob Baker is the author of “Unleash the Artist Within,” “Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook” and “Branding Yourself Online.” Get FREE access to Bob’s collection of inspiring articles for writers, authors and book publishers at and visit for more info on his books.

(This column first appeared in the St. Louis Publisher’s Association newsletter.)