Nuts and Bolts of Fiction Writing 6

Building Your Author Brand
By Liz Lindsay (aka one-half of Jamie Tremain)

You’ve written a book? Wonderful and now you’re set to send out your query letters to find a publisher or agent who will work with you. Here’s a question. If an agent or publisher googled your name what would be the result of their search?

I’m going to relate the steps my writing partner, Pam Blance and I took on this writing journey of ours and how invaluable it’s been to have established our brand well in advance of sending out the first query letter.

We kind of fell into the world of writing very unplanned and honestly really didn’t have much of a clue about what we were doing – clueless mystery writers – great. The first thing we did was decide on a name under which to write and so Jamie Tremain was born.

Once Pam and I realized we were serious about pursuing our writing goals, we began to pay attention to how other writers worked. Right away we recognized the value of a blog and that was our first step in getting the name Jamie Tremain out there.

Initially the blog, Jamie Tremain Remember the Name, centered around the steps (baby steps) we were taking in our writing journey, sharing our progress, setbacks and frustrations. As our confidence grew, the posts began to mature and attract followers.

We also began to network. This I believe is a key foundation to building your brand. You need to gain recognition within the writing community as a serious writer.

Pam and I attended several workshops given by Brian Henry – he offers writing workshops from Toronto to London to Collingwood and beyond. I’d highly recommend them. The Quick Brown Fox is his blog and always lists his schedule and topics available.

Not long after the blog was up and running, we created our first business card. They were handed out everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes we splurged and ordered pens, or book bags with our name, but always to give away and get that name in circulation!

For marketing merchandise we’ve used VistaPrint and Zazzle. Create an account and you’ll see almost limitless ways to market yourself. And by limitless I mean whatever your bank account allows.

Facebook was the next step and a page for Jamie Tremain was created. Then came Goodreads and LinkedIn.

We often discussed how we could make “Jamie Tremain” stand out. At this stage we were still writing our first book and were nowhere near ready to begin sending out query letters

So while we continued writing and polishing our manuscript, we interviewed authors on our blog. This was Pam’s idea and probably did the most to help establish the name and brand of Jamie Tremain. Our fellow authors were glad to share their answers to all our questions about writing. Hits on the blog began to take off and interviews became a regular feature of Jamie Tremain’s blog. It became our brand and we capitalized on it as much as we could.

Blog interviews were interspersed with posts about events in our lives, travel, etc., and helped build a connection with our readers. If you build a connection, you grow a fan base. Future sales are driven by fans who want to read your work.

Whenever our schedules and finances permitted we travelled to conferences and workshops. More networking which is, and continues to be, priceless. Listening and learning from others, not to copy, but to adapt into something Jamie Tremain could incorporate. What worked, what was too much work, and what we knew was just not us.

We showed our support for other authors whenever possible at their book launches and promoting their newest releases or events through social media.

I remember the day I was shopping for a new computer in Staples and just for fun googled Jamie Tremain, and was stunned when it was the first item returned in the search, along with the next half dozen beneath it! And we still didn’t have a book published! That’s when we began to realize the name Jamie Tremain was becoming familiar. Time to develop our own web site. There are many providers which make it truly easy to set up and maintain your own site. We used GoDaddy to provide the domain name, and Weebly to host the site. Not always free, but reasonably priced and, hey, it’s a tax write off too.

So we ventured into Twitter; 3 accounts in all, one for Jamie Tremain, one for Pam and one for myself. A little time consuming, but brilliant for cross posting. (just don’t ask about remembering passwords!) We started by searching and following other authors, writers, advice sites, but once you get the ball rolling it will soon take on a life of its own.

Check out membership sites you can join, depending on the genre you identify with. For us it’s Crime Writers of Canada. Often you don’t have to be a published author to join some of these organizations.

Pinterest has recently become another venue for promotion as well as You Tube. And if you like statistics, both Pinterest and You Tube, as well as Google, know how to present stats and data in multiple ways. Very helpful if you want to target a certain demographic or geographical area.

The downside is that all of these areas of promotion take time and you need to determine where you can best put your precious resource of time for the greatest return. For instance I’ve dabbled in Reddit, and Instagram for JT, but at this point, I’m not pursuing either as another source of exposure. Never say never though.

So when we were finally ready to send out query letters, we were able to show that we were serious, and established, writers with a moderate online following. I feel that helped ensure we weren’t discarded so quickly.

At our launch for our debut novel The Silk Shroud we had standing room only and sold out of all books on hand. We credit this to all the foregoing steps we took, from writing the opening lines of the book to the signed contract with our publisher.

The publishing world is very competitive and if you can find something unique to promote about yourself, or build a following well before you send your first query letter, you will have a fantastic head start.

Cheers and Happy Writing!

Liz Lindsay co-authors with Pam Blance as “Jamie Tremain”. She lives in Guelph, loves the craft of writing and can’t wait to retire from the 9-5 in order to focus on what she truly enjoys. She and Pam are busy crafting the sequel to their debut novel, The Silk Shroud.

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