You are not just an author, you are a business.
Authors are natural recluses. Writing isn't a team effort. (Even if you are co-writing, with rare exception, you are not in the same room creating at the same time.) And because we don't like being in the limelight, MANY authors, especially with the advent of insanely easy self-publishing, sometimes forget that we are more than a writer of amazing stories.
You. Are. A. Business. And that means you have a brand to build and protect. I know, by now you're going, please speak English, Julie.
When you decide what website to use, what email, your pen name vs. real name, your author page on Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, D2D, CreateSpace, bookmarks, business cards... those decisions will affect (and effect) your brand. Are the images of yourself consistent everywhere? Are your colors, fonts, and word choices consistent? Can people recognize it's you--amongst thousands--by your images, words, logo?
That is all part of setting up your brand--how your readers will recognize you anywhere they may find you. But here is the part of branding that few are told, up front, and even fewer understand from day one...once you choose all that, your brand is completely out of your hands. Why? Because you have put your words and images out there, you have absolutely no control over how people are going to react to them. None. Zero. Nada.
You. Are. A. Business. Make sure you are acting like one.
Then why am I bothering to create a brand in the first place? Because EVERYTHING you do adds to or takes away from who people see you as, and who they see you as will either intrigue them to want to know more (your cover is amazing so they click, read your top notch blurb, and buy) or they will walk away (your cover is amazing, but your blurb is junk and there's no pics of any kind on your author page). The more, or less, you choose to show is what readers will judge you on.
Now here is where it gets sticky. The public is what decides your brand, not you. Once you have done all you can, the reactions of others builds up or tears down what you have done. Every word is looked at, every link, every image...all lumped together, creating a version of you...as a business.
SO many Indies fail to separate their business from their real lives. And not doing that can absolutely devastate what you have worked so hard to create. Several months back, LOOOOONG before the stupidity of the Internet showed up by vicious political rants from all sides, I saw a public Facebook post that started with, "I probably shouldn't do this..."
I wanted to scream, "THEN DON'T! Oh my GOSH, what are you DOING!"
The post was a rant about religion, but honestly, it could have been a rant about politics, gun control, puppies, children... the topic is irrelevant. What is relevant is that this was an AUTHOR who used her BUSINESS PROFILE to launch a fairly brutal attack on something. Did you catch that? Her BUSINESS PROFILE. Not her personal one to just friends and family, but her any-reader-can-see-this public post.
Why is this important? Because You Are A Business. If the President and CEO of McDonald's went on a social media rant about how much he hates kids, can you imagine the backlash? So why are we Indie authors doing it? Aren't we trying to build a career, a business? Yes, we are. So then why aren't you behaving like a business?
About the same time as this post, I saw other authors gleefully, cheerfully, and rather disgustingly flaunt how many people they had just blocked for daring to have differing opinions, and post them. Wording such as "If you don't agree, that's fine, but you're blocked! hahahaha" showed up in my feed.
You. Are. A. Business!! Your readers, future readers, fellow authors, cover designers... they are ALL seeing this! If you are left wing, by all means, show your colors--if you are right wing, have at it... on your PRIVATE social media... flaming, deleting, blocking, and then Gloating about it... on your BUSINESS platform?! You want to attract readers to who you are, not offend them and chase them away.
But, Julie, if they don't like me for me, then F*** them, they aren't my readers. Yeah, well, readers like you for your stories, not for your personality... readers like seeing glimpses of your life, things that interest you, where they can meet you in person... readers really aren't going to be too terribly impressed by your political, religious, whatever-rights, rants. Case in point? How much do we all hate Kanye West's rants? Doesn't matter if what he is saying is true or valid, he says it in such a vile, out of control way, no one is listening to the words themselves.
Do you want your words to be remembered? Or the fact that you hate... whatever. Are they going to be impressed that you blocked people on social media? Or are they going to see that you don't get involved in mud slinging?
Are there brands out there based on mud slinging and out of control rants? Absolutely. Hello, the late Steve Jobs and the current TMobile CEO, John Legere immediately come to mind. But... Steve Jobs and CEO of TMobile... not one Indie author on the planet comes close to them as a business brand. And unless you are JK Rowling, neither do traditional authors.
Oh, Wait. EL James. Her brand is a very divisive one. Would I like to have my books become best sellers and movies? Absolutely. By being like her? Not a snowball's chance in hell. Do I know her personally? Nope. Then what am I basing my opinion on? What she has put out into the public eye. She is not nice to people, she is arrogant, can be really rude if you question her writing ability... I don't like her, and I don't want to be like her, nor put money in her pocket by reading/watching anything she's involved with--and this is all simply based on her own words. Have I read her books? No. I was curious for a little bit, I mean, as an Indie, how in the hell did a BDSM book do all that?! But once she started behaving...well, poorly...I no longer am at all curious. My money will go elsewhere, to people to know how to behave decently.
That is a brand. My opinion of her and others... the public's opinion of you, is based on what you say, how you say it, what you show, the pictures you put up. Readers makes judgments, even if they are unaware of it. People makes judgments, and then talk to their friends about those judgments. Even what you do, in person, can make or break your brand...people talk.
Still don't believe how important a positive brand is to your business? I have two words for you to chew on...