by Lisa Norman
One of the most common mistakes I see writers make with branding is to pull their punches. They have power. They have a unique take on life and story. But they also want everyone to like them.
15“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.Revelation 3:14–16
That’s a pretty strong quote. Just by using it in this article, I’ve elicited strong feelings either toward or against me. My spirituality is a part of my brand. If you don’t like it, you won’t like my books.
Think back to the marketing wheel I shared in a previous post. As a refresher, I refer to your website as a way that people decide if they like you and like your writing. If the website does its job and attracts people, they buy the book, join your email list, and then go on to recommend your book to others, getting the wheel spinning.
That’s what happens when you attract the right people, your superfans. But what happens if you attract the wrong people?
Let’s say you write steamy romance. Now, let’s say your website appeals to people who love all kinds of romance: sweet, steamy, everything. You’re out in the world, using social media, and you draw all kinds of romance lovers to your site.
What is going to happen when you attract a reader who loves sweet romance?
Let’s say your website and your online presence work so perfectly, this sweet-romance-loving reader picks up your book and … oh my!
You’ll get a less than stellar review.
That fan isn’t likely to do much to make that wheel turn.
You want to attract avid fans, people who will love you and turn that wheel.
Trying to please everyone results in a bland website that probably won’t attract anyone.
True fans want to know your quirks. They love you because of them. To quote Margie Lawson, “Quirky Sells!”
Let’s look at what happens when you attract the wrong people:
Specifically, your list can cost more to send and manage. A huge email list is great if it is full of your true fans. You’ll send out an email and you’ll sell books. That list will support itself.
If you have the wrong people on your list, you’ll pay more to send and maintain your newsletter while not getting a strong return on the investment. If your list is generating less than 10% engagement, you may be attracting the wrong people.
In addition, while modern web hosting gives us a generous allowance for traffic, if you have too much traffic your site will slow down and you may have to pay more for hosting. Again: fine if that traffic generates income. Not fun if people who think you are barely tolerable waste your traffic.
If you are ranking for topics that you aren’t a good fit for, people will come to your site and then hit the back button. This is called a “bounce.” When people bounce, search engines downgrade your website for that topic. You want your branding to be so on point, so clear, that search engines never rank you for terms that you are not appropriate for. You also want people to be able to see from the search engine results whether they want to click through to your site or not. Stop them before they come and they won’t bounce.
Trying to please everyone and offend no one creates a bland brand that is hard to define. Writers who are tied into their superfans sell more books. They know who they are as a writer and they devote their energies to pleasing those superfans. The fans reward them. Once your brand is muddled, you’re likely going to have fewer fans, and those that you have will be less dedicated, less passionate.
Remember: the goal of the website is to encourage people to buy, read, and review the book. If you attract the wrong people, people who aren’t your ideal readers, then you’ll pay for it in lower-star reviews. Don’t be afraid to turn off some people. Your true fans will love you for it!
Think about the authors you love. What draws you to their brand?
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Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.
Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.
Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.
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This is brilliant, Lisa, and I've never seen it discussed before. So very true. You're not trying to attract ALL the readers - just the ones who would love your writing!
Exactly, Laura! Thanks!
Really great post, Lisa. It gives us permission to be authentic, which I love!
If we think about what readers love most about writers, it is often that authenticity that makes the difference. Enjoy it!
Wow! I really really really needed this post today. Thank you!!! Solid logic. Your reasons for being more of who we really are despite the rejection we’ll get from some quarters is brilliant, timely, and much needed.
We can't please everyone. Hugs. You are amazing and brilliant and talented. Those who are your true fans will respect that for the awesomeness that is you!
Some excellent discussion points here, Lisa. One of the best pieces of writing advice I was given was, write for yourself. I have been down the route of writing to please others and you end up losing your authenticity. In terms of reviews, the whole thing is very muddled. With a widespread market of people being able to buy reviews and the 'I will swap you a five star review for a five star review,' the whole thing becomes complicated. Any advice?
My advice may not be popular, but I'll share it. Step away from all of the swapping of reviews and buying them and all of that. Yes, write for you. But also: connect with your true fans. Even if you only start with a handful of them. Connect with them and write for them. They will reward you with that handful of genuine reviews and they will tell others. It is much more attractive to throw money at the problem and hope that it will get us up in the rankings. But... the slower route of connecting with fans is more authentic and ultimately tends to be more rewarding. BUT: it is also the harder path. It can take years of consistent hard work before you see the benefits of all you've been doing. I see far too many writers give up a year or even less down that road, never realizing that they'd already laid the foundation that WOULD eventually have paid off.
Thank you, Lisa. Direct advice is often the best. It is good to hear that slow is good. I appreciate you taking time out to respond and happy to know I am headed in the right direction.
I'm happy to answer questions! Everyone starts small. We don't always realize that when we see where others are. Compare to where you've been, not where others are, and you'll do great.
Lisa, this is a really important topic to bring up.
Early on I had an opportunity to join a marketing event with group of YA writers. At the time I wasn't writing YA, but I didn't think the exposure would be a bad idea.
As part of this, people won free books, which was good, and a free eReader, which was not so good.
I ended up with close to 2000 people who signed up for my email list with MailChimp. They bounced off in a hurry causing a "What the heck?!" notice from MailChimp. I sent a reply email explaining what happened and was given time to straighten it all out.
Of the big jump in temporary subscribers, 25 people stuck with me. I have around 600 now, but they have come in on their own and for the most part have stuck with me.
I've learned to be more careful.
YES, Ellen! That! So many people only see that they want a big list, not realizing the cost (financial and reputation) that go with it! I've learned by looking at MANY authors' lists that quality is more important than quantity. Now - I won't lie: a big, high quality list is an amazing thing. (Ala Brandon Sanderson) But even he will say - he didn't get that overnight. He worked hard for it. A small list of 100 committed fans can move more books than a weak large list. I'm hoping to encourage more authors through the early phases because there is power in genuinely connecting with readers. And yep, it ain't over a free ereader!
I love this. And I love that you practice what you "preach." I'm slowly getting more and more focused on my website and my social media posts. And I have a handful of dedicated readers. It's a VERY slow process, but based on the payoff I get now, it'll only get better.
That's it, Lynette. It is slow at the start, but once things get going... it starts to get very interesting!
Great post! Intellectually this makes total sense and I know this from taking your awesome classes. It's. Just. So. Hard. Choosing. 😫
Ami - You are an amazing author. Your true fans are going to love you!
Yes, great point well made. You can't be everything to everyone and if you try you'll end up being invisible.
That's it, exactly, Sandy!
This make a lot of sense on so many levels.
Thanks, Denise. I'm glad. It is very hard to do, though! It is like high school... trying to fit in!
I needed to see this! I have a series of books that are set in a clinic that caters to the adult industry (aka porn). They're not about porn and they're not actually that full of sex, but they are full of humor. I will lose readers because of the porn thing, whether it makes sense or not.
So I THINK I need a website that focuses on the humor, the sister stories, the fish out of water characters but I probably also need to mention the setting without focusing on it. What is your opinion?
I think your website needs to cover all of that. I think the clinic needs to be front and center, but playfully, complete with nuns. You want everyone who will be scared away to BE scared away, preferably just from the excerpt that shows up on search engine results. I think it would be fun to commission some custom art for it, and have FUN. Everything from the colors to the fonts, tagline... everything needs to pull together and be on brand. Your ideal readers will love it.
So very true, and it's valuable information to point out.
This is so wise. Thank you!