Authors should use design to extend and safeguard their brand beyond the cover of the book they wrote to build their visibility, attract new business, and establish a personal brand.
The book cover is the starting point; it’s the most immediately obvious visible symbol of an author’s personal brand.
And, in many cases, a book cover is enough; many successful careers and highly-profitable businesses have been built on the branding power of a single book cover.
Yet, authors have to think ahead to protect themselves and their personal brand.
Reasons not to build your personal brand on a book cover
- Lack of ownership. Except when books are self-published, copyright ownership is usually shared by authors and publishers. This means the publisher has a say in how the book title and cover can be used in the future. You may not be able to leverage the title and front cover of your book into back-end profits because your publisher doesn’t want your audios, e-books, or seminars to compete with what they sell–or may sell.
- Wasting time, waiting for answers. Even if your publisher doesn’t come out and say “no!”, you may waste valuable time and expensive resources trying to pin down a definite answer from the publisher’s legal department. Indeed, in this day of takeovers and transfers, your publisher may be purchased by another firm, forcing you back to square one.
- Out-of-print. Another problem occurs if your first book doesn’t do as well as anticipated. In this case, the publisher may not go back for a second printing, even if it is a consistently selling “back list” title. (There’s always more glamor and incentive to invest in a new book that might be tomorrow’s big hit.) Having your brand based on the cover of an out-of-print book will seriously undermine your career.
- New books. Let’s look at the problem from a different perspective; suppose your first book does so well that you’re approached by other publishers to do a follow-up book. (And, let’s face it, one of the reasons you wanted to learn how to write a book was so that you could continue to write!) If your entire visual brand is based on your first book cover, which you don’t have total control, you’ll have to start your visual brand-building from scratch with your next book. This undermines your personal brand, sacrificing the personal branding equity you gained from from your first book.
Bad things can happen to good books.
Protecting your visual brand
- Build on the colors and typefaces used on your book cover. Ask your graphic designer, or a design-aware friend, to identify the specific color values and typefaces used on your book cover. Use these colors on your blog and website, as well as the marketing materials for your back-end products and services.
- Don’t include your book cover in your website banner. Don’t create your banner around your book cover, unless it’s a website for just that book. Instead, place the book cover in the sidebar of your blog or in the text area of your home page.
- Create a graphic that tells your story but won’t go out of date. Your graphic can be very simple, indeed, it should be very simple. It has to communicate at a glance. Your graphic should reflect your core ideas, reduced to their essence. Yet, it has to be based on “evergreen” ideas that are common to all of your activities.
Idea: Look for the underlying process
In many cases, your image can be based on the step-by-step process you’ve identified to help your market and your readers achieve their goals or solve their problems.
Not only is the process an excellent way to organize the information in your book, the basic process can become your visual brand, one that will continue to live beyond the life of any book, product, or service.
Best of all, when you create a graphic tells a story you tell, your story!, it becomes far more powerful than a logo.
For example, I could take my initials, RCP, and have a graphic designer fiddle with them for several months, and–hopefully–create a memorable image out of them. Given enough exposure, people might begin to associate the letters with my name. But, the letters will never tell a story!
In my case, for example, I reverse-engineered everything I’ve learned about writing and publishing to 4 words: Plan, Write, Promote, and Profit. These, when placed in a cycle, became the unifying element for website, downloadable PDF’s, presentation visuals, and marketing materials.
I encourage you to do the same. Look to the future. Invest in your future.
You must control the visual representation of your personal brand and it must tell a timeless story!
Use design as a tool to extend and safeguard your brand by creating a visual identify based on a graphic related to the cover of your first book, but independent enough to have a life of its own. And, you must own all rights associated with the image. Look “beyond the cover” of your first book to your core values and messages, so your personal brand will outlive today’s strategies and tactics. A little extra effort now will save you lots of effort and costs later.
Best-selling author and book coach Roger C. Parker helps business professionals plan, write, promote, & profit from a brand-building book at his daily writing tips blog. He’s currently waiting for copies of his next book, #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, & Event Titles.