Branding is something that I’ve been discussing with friends, family and other authors a lot lately. It’s always tricky to know how to start your brand and then follow through; after that, keeping your brand is even harder, especially if the one you started with is one you don’t like anymore. It means a total re-do, which, trust me, I’ve done before. I’ve had a “brand” for a book series / novel advertising and then a year or two later, I realised that I had grown so much since then, in my ability to choose, recognise and develop a brand, that I had to start over. Which meant choosing a new brand for a half dozen books and redoing nearly 50 teaser posters, to make sure that they all fitted the new branding I’d decided on.
But, how did I get there? With a lot of help. A LOT. Some branding geniuses in my publishing company helped guide me in the right direction and now I can recognise what my brand for a book/series should be and implement it, until all of the posters fit that brand.
In part 2 I’ll be focusing on:
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, as an author, besides writing the actual books! I’ve spent years watching, reading and learning from other authors, both about how they market, how they brand and the tips they had for how I could find my own way through both.
I’ve found that simple is best. It took a lot of trial and error, like anything worth doing, but in the end, I found what I wanted my branding for each book/series to be. I’m going to share a few examples from my own books, then offer some tips on how I did it.
Part 1 – Before and After
My examples include an old “bad” idea on the left (before) and the new, branded material on the right (after). Because, for me, branding is all about learning who you are through trial and error and gained experience.
Decadent ☞ My branding for this series is simple. I use a “storytelling” image, that relates to the quote, the characters or the book, while being eye catching and attractive. Then I match the image to a quote, or vice versa, and use a simple Times New Roman font for the text. The book title is a vector image that I created in Picmonkey (more on how to do that later) that can be added as a layer. I use a circle overlay, fading it until the picture can be seen behind it without blocking out the writing. This not only emphasises the quote, but it also focuses the eye.
The Cellist ☞ For this book, I chose an art deco theme, because of the old-fashioned character and the gentleman’s club that I created for the story. The idea is simple – choose an art deco background, usually dark with a gold emphasis, and then add the text in a nice sharp font that is all caps. This makes it easier to make out the words on a dark background and saves the trouble of not being able to read a cursive or linked font, which can be saved for the title. The bonus is that the art deco backgrounds also usually have a box or square where I can insert the title.
The Royal Series ☞ For this series, I had to choose carefully and wisely. I began with some awful ideas, as you can see, until I realised that my tagline gave me the answer I wanted – I mentioned pawns, so I began to play with the idea of using a chessboard and chess pieces in the branding. I chose to split my font between something simple and something cursive, the latter of which I made a book/series logo with, that can be inserted as an overlay on every poster with one click.
An Unpredicable Life ☞ I found the branding for this one hard, because there’s really no way to advertise a book about cancer that isn’t either depressing or overly cheerful. I decided to turn to ‘cartoon’ and ‘illustration’ pictures, that had double meanings and were pretty and inspiring to look at. Again, I used a simple, plain font and a title overlay in a cursive text. Once again, these both allow for clear reading and understanding of the text.
I won’t go through all of my books, because you can see a pattern here, right? Simple, clean text that is easy to read and understand, with a pretty picture and an overlay pre-prepared for the book title. I use effects on Picmonkey to add the right “feel” to the images I use, and often combine two images together, such as I did in these posters:
For these, I made the gentleman and the girls vectors, by removing the backgrounds and then layering them over the existing image (the chess board and the forest). The purple background is actually a Picmonkey background of clouds that I adjusted the colour on. The girl with the umbrella actually needed a lot of blending, but as you can see, it makes the poster “pop” a little more.
Part 2 – Logo’s and Themes
The key to finding a brand for your book/series is to choose a theme. The theme should relate to your series/book (e.g. my chess theme, my “storytelling” and my cartoon themes). Once you have a “theme”, start collecting images, even if you’re not ready to make new posters. This will save you time later and give you choices for the next time you sit down to make a few dozen new posters.
I don’t just create teasers, with quotes from the book, but I also make “logo” images for each of the books that can be added to comments/posts that are mostly text. Having very little on them makes a bigger impact than adding long paragraphs of text, but they’re also a visual draw for those long texts that are in your post/comment.
Part 3 – Hints and Tips
Keep it consistent. Pick one to two fonts for each book/series. What you use for book one, use for books two, three and four etc. Example:
Keep it clean and simple. Don’t clog your poster with a million images. 1-2 are ideal, especially if you need to layer them like my examples above. Don’t add too much that will distract the eye, especially if you’re going to add a lot of text.
Choose a punchy teaser quote that will have readers curious to read the book. My key way of choosing a quote is to read the entire book after final edits and highlight all of the suitable quotes. Anything from one line to ten, but try not to go over that, as it’s harder to fit long text in your posters. If there’s a long scene you want to show off, use a logo image and put the text in your post directly. Once you’ve read the whole book, copy/paste all of your chosen quotes into a document with the book name, in a folder called “Book Quotes”. That way, when you need to make a new teaser, you can open your book quotes document, copy/paste the text into your poster and then highlight it within your document so that you know you’ve used it. This way, when you come back, months or years later, you’re not accidentally using the same quote on another poster. Example:
Don’t be afraid of layers. Do trial runs, if you want to, and save them as images without text. You can always come back to add text later, if you choose to. Create 3-4 versions, if you want to see how they differ or which one is best. To play around with how they view on the likes of Picmonkey, use the drop down menu on the Overlay box. Once you’re happy, or if you’re not, you can merge your layers (the little 3 arrow symbol beside your 100% view box) to add/try the effects, highlights or background features until you’re happy. Play about with it until you find something you like.
Keep notes! If you know that you’re going to come back to make new posters for your book/series later, then make a note of how you created your “brand”. This is especially important if you have a specific font or effect that you want to use. The simplest, easiest way to do this is to keep your Picmonkey image open, edit the text to add the font and size, any effects or layers that you’ve added and how you combined them, especially if you’ve merged your layers before adding an effect. This way, when you come back months/years later to make new posters, you don’t have to faff about searching for the right effect/font, because you’ve forgotten.
Don’t add your book cover, unless it’s important. You don’t *need* your book cover on a teaser poster. Yes, sometimes it works, especially if you have a frame or Kindle/phone already in your picture, but don’t add it specifically unless it’s important. You’ll find that the posters that make the most impact have very little on them; they’re focused, simple and draw your eye to where it needs to be, sometimes even making the background image (as pretty as it might be) obsolete.
Don’t skirt the edges! Keep your text within the main focus of the picture you use. If your image doesn’t leave you a lot of space for text, make it a logo image instead of trying to fit your text into the edges. Overlay your text or choose a text/font that lets you show it off clearly – example below.
Don’t be afraid to place your text/title over the image. Don’t think that you’re ruining the picture because you’re covering parts of it. The point is to bring your focus to your words. To see how this can be done, while still maintaining the image, see my Decadent series posters above, that are consistent but also cover the images to fit the text, without losing the impact.
Part 4 – How to Create a Vector Logo
This is actually much easier than it sounds.
Step 1 – Open PicMonkey
Step 2 – Open an old square teaser or use the Design, Blank Canvas and Instagram Post options to get a decent sized plain box.
Step 3 – You’ll see that “Canvas Colour” is already open on the left. Leave it on “white”, so that you can see what you’re doing clearly. If you want to use white font, change it to “black”.
Step 4 – Choose your font from your list, add your text and insert your book title/author name that you want to make as a vector logo. I’m going to make a random vector, as an example, using this image.
You can add images, if you want to, but they either have to be vectors already (they’ll only show the image and not the white background) or you can turn them into vectors with the alternative step.
Alternative Step 4 – Open LunaPic and click “browse” to find the image you want. Hover over “Edit”, choose the very bottom option “transparent background” and click the background colour of your picture, in this case the grey. Click “apply threshold”. If it’s not all gone, click “make another colour transparent” and keep doing that until you have your isolated image (the rose). The rose picture took three changes. Then click “save” and it will automatically go into your “downloads” folder. Then, you just open that in the “overlays” tab on Picmonkey, under “add your own”.
Step 5 – To get rid of the text on the above image, you can choose the “erase” function on your overlay pop-up box and use the eraser to remove the text.
Step 6 – Add your text.
Step 7 – Go back to “basic edits” in your menu, click “canvas colour” and tick the box for “transparent canvas” then “apply”.
Step 8 – crop to size.
Step 9 – Save.
Step 10 – If you want to add an effect, do it on your finished product, after you’ve added your logo to your poster, because merging the layers on a transparent background will only revert it back to a “white” background.
Here’s the final vector I made on three backgrounds where you can see that there is no “white” or grey, such as in the original picture. The text and rose were made in the same vector, so that I can add this to any background, with the click of a button. And, as you can see, you can change how much space it takes up and what you want to focus on. You can even duplicate it, if you want to separate the font from the image. Simply use the erase function to take out whatever you don’t want, while leaving the part you do want.
For an example of where I duplicated my vector, here’s the original vector:
And here’s how I used it in my posters, utilising only the parts that I wanted, while separating them into different areas. In the first (left) I inserted the vector, duplicated it and, in the first copy, used the “erase” function to delete all of the books listed, leaving only the title. Meanwhile, on the copy I removed the title and left the book list in tact. This meant that I could make the series title bigger than the book list, while in the next image (right) I simply replaced the background image and deleted the duplicate with the book list. Two posters for just a few clicks!
Test things and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
Over time, you’ll see a response. I put my name/book title on (nearly) every poster, because I know that if someone else shares it, they don’t automatically know who I am or what I’m about, yet. I’m still relatively new. But, eventually, you’ll be able to have images that tell the story of your books and, like the wand, the word ‘always’ instantly make you think of JK and Harry Potter, or a wolf’s head and ‘winter is coming’ automatically make you think of Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire, for the book-lovers, like me), your brand will be recognised and synonymous with you, the author. It just takes time and practice.