If you haven’t yet done so, one of the first steps you’ll want to take on your journey toward becoming a successful self-published author is to decide if you will create a presence, build an author brand and publish under your own name, or if you will use a pen name.

Many authors choose to publish their work under a pen name and here are a few of the reasons you might choose to do so:

  1. You may wish to write within two different genres. Nora Roberts, for instance, publishes her romance novels under the name Nora Roberts and publishes her In Death series under the pen name, J.D. Robb. Perhaps you will want to write romance as well as children’s stories. If this is the case, you might want to have two identities, under which you can market two different genres of books to two different audiences.

  2. You may wish to use a pen name if your friends/family/employer/co-workers, etc. may not approve of the type of books you write (erotic romance, for instance).

  3. You may have previously published books under your real name, and you wish to establish a new following under a different name.

  4. You may wish to use a pen name if your real name is unattractive, difficult to pronounce, etc.

These are all good, sound reasons to choose a pen name under which to publish your work.

Once you’ve decided what name you’ll use, you’ll want to decide on a brand.

Author branding is building your image – your online identity. Even if you’re using your real name, you’ll want to build a brand around that name.

Your author brand is your promise to your readers – what they can expect each and every time they purchase a book with your name on it. This is serious business… a covenant with your readers… and you’ll want to take the time to get this right.

To start creating your author brand, examine the type of stories you write. Do most of your stories contain paranormal elements? Are they westerns? Contemporary suspense? GLBT? Even if you write within many sub-genres, you can still find a common denominator.

Something unique only you can bring to the party. Are your stories funny, regardless of setting or sub-genre? Are all your heroines strong? Do you tend to write only bad boy heroes?

Sometimes, you may have to dig a little deeper to find that common trait. For instance, although all my stories have different settings and fall within different sub-genres, (from historical to fantasy to paranormal), and all of them have different tones (some are serious, some are funny, etc.), when I looked a little closer, I discovered all my heroines, while physically and emotionally strong, were sexually submissive.

Once you discover what makes your stories original, you’ll want to create a tagline. A tagline is one sentence that describes you and your stories. Think of some of the big companies with which we’re all familiar.

Nike uses the tagline, Just Do It!

7-Up says it’s “The Un-Cola.”

These taglines all state, in just a few words, the companies’ promises to their customers. They tell the customers exactly what original quality they can expect from the companies’ products, and they are easy to remember.

When considering your author brand’s tagline, keep these things in mind.

  1. Be specific. Don’t use vague or overused words like unique or amazing or exciting. Everyone thinks his or her stories are unique, amazing and exciting. Instead, choose words that will make your tagline stand out. Try including unusual words, playing on words, etc. Take your time and try to come up with something others haven’t already used… or that you couldn’t use to describe all your competitors’ books, too.

  2. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and try something really far out and maybe even a little crazy. Dual meaning, irony, sarcasm – including any of these may draw a reader’s attention, peak their curiosity, and get them investigating and talking about you and your books.

  3. Be original. Don’t copy other authors’ taglines, no matter how tempted you might be to do so. If you do, I promise you’ll attract the wrong kind of attention.

  4. Keep it honest. You may be tempted to create a tagline that indicates you write the sexiest, most erotic stories out there, but if your stories are more like sweet fairytales, you’ll lose your readers’ trust. Once a reader spends money on your book expecting one thing and you deliver another, you’ll have lost that reader for life.

  5. Remember, your tagline is not about you as an individual or as an author. Your brand is about your books. You may be silly, out-going and fun, but if your books are dark and moody, you best create a tagline that reflects your books – not yourself.

  6. Don’t use too many words. Keep it brief; keep it succinct. I recommend not using more than six or seven words. Be precise. It’s not enough to say “Erotic Romance with a Difference,” for example. That’s too vague. What makes your stories different?

Once you’ve come up with your tagline – or better yet, two or three taglines from which you can choose – share them with a few trusted friends and/or family members and ask for their opinion.

Try “blind testing”, by just having a friend read the taglines, but don’t tell them what they are. Ask that friend for their overall impression. What does your tagline bring to mind? What do they like or dislike about the tagline?

Do they find it memorable/easily memorized? If necessary, take their feedback and rework your tagline until you have something you love. Again, you want to give this task the effort it deserves. Don’t settle. Your tagline will be with you for a long time to come.

When you’re finished creating your tagline, you’re ready to begin building your brand. This is the easy part. All you need to do is use the tagline. Everywhere.

Create a signature line in your email program (most email programs have directions on how to do this), and include your book title, your website or blog URL and your tagline. Keep your signature to no more than four lines.

Any more than that and people might become annoyed, especially when you’re sending messages to groups. Put your tagline on your website, your blog and on any social media pages you customize. If you create author swag, don’t forget to include your tagline.

Before long, readers will come to associate the tagline with your books, and we hope they’ll be interested enough to visit your website and learn more about you.