How to Create a Bestselling Brand in Fiction

With a clear and defined brand in your genre, readers know that your book has been written to their expectations and preferences. It becomes a one-click purchase for them, and you’ll be able to grow your fan base faster and easier than ever before.

For example, as a romance author, I have learned that my readers expect:

  • A story written with conflict that gets resolved by the end.
  • A story filled with emotional and sexual tension.
  • A strong hero and a likeable heroine.
  • Readers don’t want cheaters in my books.
  • A story that ends with a happily ever after (HEA).

If I miss the mark on any of these points, I’ll lose readers.  It’s the basic premise of a romance story, and so fans of that genre anticipate that those expectations will be met.  Failing to follow through is often a deal-breaker.

Start by thinking about one main genre or niche you plan to write in.  Even if you wish to expand into different markets later, it begins by choosing just one and then crafting an author brand that matches reader expectations.

Think about what readers anticipate from books published in your genre. This applies to both nonfiction and fiction

If you’ve already written a book, then think about the promises you’ve made in all aspects of your marketing package, including: your title, sub-title, Amazon category placement, as well as the book description featured in your marketplace listing.

Does your book fulfill the promises made to readers?  Does your marketing message match up with the content of your book? Is your author brand easy to understand? Can you satisfy the most common genre expectations?

And most importantly, does your author brand answer the readers question of why they should choose you when they are given hundreds of possible choices?

I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding genre expectations because failing to do will make your self-publishing life so much harder.  You’ll struggle to position your book in front of the right audience, and it will be next to impossible to build a tribe of loyal readers because they won’t be able to rely on you.

If you aren’t sure of the expectations within your genre, please take some time to study your market.  Read through Facebook groups and forums. Buy 5-10 books from successful authors in your genre. Study bestseller lists! Get to know your audience and what they want most from the books they purchase.

The more you read, the better you’ll write and the more purposeful your brand message will be.

Let me show you an example of how someone interested in publishing romance might approach researching genre expectations so they can determine the best way to create an author brand that will resonate with readers.

I’d begin by scouring the bestseller lists on Amazon.  In my example, since I’m interested in writing romance, I would visit the top 100 bestsellers list here: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Romance/zgbs/books/23

What I’d pay most attention to are:

Titles: What keywords are used frequently in the top 100 romance books? This indicates commonly used terms and how authors are optimizing their books so they are found by on-site search queries.

Covers:  What cover elements are commonly used?  Are there covers with couples embracing, or do most books feature a single man or a woman? What are they wearing? Be on the lookout for common themes. Trust me, you’ll find them.

Tropes:  Scan through the first few pages of books and read the descriptions on the book listings (blurbs). What tropes are most commonly featured?  Are there a lot of books on secret baby relationships? Friends into lovers? Enemies into lovers? Brother’s best friend? Billionaire bad boys? Look for popular trends.

Those 3 steps alone will give you a good idea as to what is currently selling in the romance market, and what readers want most. And again, the same applies to every genre whether nonfiction or fiction.  You always want to write to market.

Now it’s time to drill down into a sub-category so that we can create a more defined author brand.

Continuing with my example using the romance genre, you’ll quickly see that there are over a dozen sub-categories, including New Adult, Science Fiction romance, paranormal romance, fantasy romance and erotic romance.

My next step would be to spend time browsing through all the categories that interest me and where there seem to be a lot of available books (which means there are a lot of readers).

Again, this is just an example of how I approach market research when creating a new pen name. It’s all about closely evaluating sub-genres and categories so you can create a stand-out author brand that will sell books. Because while your author brand will be uniquely you, it will also be based on what has proven to sell.

I’ve published books in nonfiction markets as well as fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, erotic romance and contemporary romance over the years – all under different pen names – and I go about my research in the exact same way.

I base my author brand on existing successful authors who have proven what works and what readers want most.  And I’ve found no better place to conduct all my research other than Amazon because it’s the biggest marketplace for books.  Why go anywhere else?

And remember, while nearly every story has been written, every author brand should stand out – and apart from others.

You do this by:

  • Defining your storytelling tone and voice.
  • Connecting your books with a theme.
  • Creating an author brand that promises readers what they can expect and then always following through.
  • Allowing your brand to evolve as you do.

Defining your storytelling’s tone and voice begins with the overall feel of your stories. This is what will tell your audience what to expect when they buy your books and essentially sets the stage for what you become known for.

Examples:

If you write non-fiction, are your books going to be written in a conversational voice as though readers are sitting across from a friend at a coffee shop? Are you going to inject humor in your books and keep things light and fun? Or are you planning to write in an instructional, authoritative voice?

Your writing style and voice become part of your unique author brand.

So, what do you want to be known for?

If you write fiction, what is the mood and undertone of your writing?  Will your characters and dialogue be funny, serious, dark, quirky or whimsical?

In fiction, many authors further define their brand based on character types, such as military, single parents, cowboys, detectives, or bad boys.

Others define their brand by a common personality-theme throughout their books, such as: sweet or sassy heroines, or cocky or brooding heroes.

The overall tone of your books should be appropriate to its audience. Therefore, it’s important to spend some time reading books in your genre, and as I’ve mentioned before; studying what successful authors are doing.

What if you plan to write books in different genres?

My suggestion is to create a pen name for every main genre you plan to write in. The only time I break this rule is if my books cross multiple genres, such as paranormal romance + urban fantasy romance, for example.

The reason for this is because you don’t want to confuse readers, or create an author brand that isn’t consistent.

If a reader buys a few of your paranormal romance books, they’ll likely assume that you’re a paranormal romance author. So, what happens if you start penning non-fiction business related books under the same pen name?

You confuse your audience!

Here’s where non-fiction markets differ.  With non-fiction markets, it’s often easier to get away with publishing books in multiple genres under one pen name, if there’s a strong theme in place.

For example, if you plan to publish a series of How-To books, even if each book covers a completely different subject matter, you could easily theme them as a Beginners Guide to…  or Newbies Guide to …

(Think of the “Dummies” book franchise and how they’ve written books on every topic imaginable while remaining in a series. They can do this because they carry a theme that tie the books together.)


The rule of thumb in non-fiction is that if the genres don’t collide, confuse or contradict, there’s no reason you can’t cover multiple genres with a single pen name.

The bottom line is, the more specific, unique and direct your brand is, the easier it will be to connect with your target audience, build a relationship with your readers based on trust and reliability, and ultimately, sell more books.

When a reader picks up your book you want them to know what to expect without having to think twice.  If you’re clear with your brand message, you’ll find that readers don’t even read your book descriptions – they just one-click because they’ve come to know you as an author of “your writing angle/genre/tone and/or series”.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – this is a lot more work! After all, you must build multiple websites, create different mailing lists and develop different social media accounts for every pen name you launch.

The upside is that by doing this, you’ll be able to create a strong author brand that clearly aligns with what your books are about and demonstrate to readers why they can depend on you to deliver what they’re expecting.

And you know what means, right?

You’ll sell a lot more books!

Another great way to create a unique and memorable author brand is by coming up with a unique tagline for your niche or genre.

Examples:
Author of Fearless Fantasy
Author of Curvy Girls & Alpha Guys
Queen of Happily Ever After’s

A tagline is important because it helps to create an immediate connection between you and your reader. You’re essentially acknowledging your genre and reinforcing your commitment to writing what your reader expects.

As authors in highly competitive markets, it’s important to always go the extra mile in becoming memorable. A tagline can give you instant recognition in crowded markets.

Not sure how to create a unforgettable tagline that helps to establish your brand?

Start by thinking from a readers’ perspective. While this is a business to you, your books provide an escape for your readers from the daily grind, or if you write non-fiction, they offer solutions to problems. So, try to create a tagline that will trigger an emotional response from your readers.

  • What impression do you want to make?
  • What image do you want to convey?
  • What feelings do you want to invoke?
  • What connection do you want to establish?
  • What word would you want them to use to describe your author brand?

Think about keywords that describe your books and overall genre and consider incorporating them into your tagline.

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