How to Develop a Brand Strategy in Five Simple Steps

Shining person in the center of a dark forest

Authors often ask me what is meant by the terms “platform” and “brand.” Simply put, your platform is all about you—the specific and unique experience, background, and expertise you bring to the table, in addition to the wonderful book you’ve written. And your brand is whatever images, words, and other media you use to make that platform clear to your readers.

The concept of platform is important when selling a book because it’s what the media, especially radio and TV folks, are most interested in when it comes time to set up promotional appearances. I once had a radio producer in New York tell me, “Paula, I don’t give a damn about this author’s book; I want to know about his background and experience. If he doesn’t interest me, his book never will.” This may sound a bit harsh, but it’s all too true in the world of publicity. If you want premium exposure for your book through traditional radio and TV, you are going to be the story.

And it should be a good one. Media producers expect authors to be knowledgeable or experienced in their subject matter, whether the book is nonfiction or fiction. If you have a compelling personal history, expertise in the industry you’ve written about, or an interesting angle to bring to the interview, then you’re more likely to get a yes nod from a producer trying to fill a radio or TV time slot.

Reporters and producers look for individuals who are unique, compelling, and entertaining as interview subjects. If you’re a celebrity or have notoriety in your field, the path will be easier. But if not, you’ve got to develop a platform and branding that will intrigue members of the media in order to maximize exposure for your work.

So, how do you go about building your platform? One way is to create a compelling brand that conveys to readers exactly what your platform is when they read, see, or hear it. I suggest that authors follow these five simple steps to determine their brand identity:

  1. First, pretend you are a reader of the kind of books you write. What kind of person reads books like yours? What does that reader look for when s/he buys a book similar to yours? How will s/he find it? Where will s/he go to buy it?
  2. Next, think about what makes your books unique or different from other authors who write books like yours. Do you have an unusual perspective on a topic? Do you specialize in a certain region for your settings, a certain type of character for your fictional hero, a certain kind of specialty or emphasis that appears as either the main content or theme in your writing? Tie this in with the reader you envisioned in step 1. What will s/he find compelling about what you’ve written? How does it satisfy his/her expectations and/or needs?
  3. Now (and this is the fun part), close your eyes and concentrate on at least four (there may be more) words that signify your particular brand. Think about what your reader is looking for, as well as what is unique about you as an author.

If you find you’re having trouble doing this, try instead to come up with at least four words that a reader might put into a search engine when he goes online to find books like yours.

For example, if you are a cookbook author who specializes in easy-to-make vegan crockpot recipes, your keywords might be “cooking,” “recipes,” “easy,” “vegan,” “crockpot.” You may add more words to expand your list: “delicious,” “healthy,” “vegetarian,” “food,” etc. You may have a particular part of your background that you want to highlight (“restauranteur” or “trained chef,” for example), so include those words too. Anything that is specific to you and your books can be considered an element of your brand.

  1. Once you have your keywords, write them down. Now use those words in every statement you write when describing yourself as an author. Include them in your bio, your website “About” page, your author description on Amazon, etc. You’ll also want to include them in any writing you do about your book, so be sure and use them in press releases Q&As, guest posts on author websites, etc. The more you use these words that define your brand, the more they will become part of your author identity, which will help shape your platform and make you stand out.
  1. Finally, do the same exercise for images that reflect your brand. What items come to mind when you think about visually representing your writing? What colors go best with the content and themes of the words you’ve chosen? If you have trouble doing this, take a look at books from other authors that are similar or in the same genre/category as yours. Once you’ve honed in on the right imagery, work those colors, images, and themes into your book covers, your website, your business cards and handouts, etc.

Follow these simple steps, and you will be on your way to defining the words, images, and colors that will send a clear message about your brand, and your platform, to your readers.

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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at, or visit her at, on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.