Finding Your Author Voice

Today we examine a mission-critical, but often overlooked, facet of author “marketing.”

I use quotes with “marketing” here because, for authors, many aspects of marketing have more to do with who you are than what you do. This makes knowing yourself, and your voice, critically important.

Authors are not products, or “brands,” though marketing your books involves aspects of each. Authors are people (like Soylent Green!) and being a person–instead of just a “brand”–is an advantage. It can also be an enormous pitfall, if you handle yourself improperly.

Knowing who you are – your author voice – can help you decide which marketing avenues are best for you and your books.

As an author, you need to find unique and effective ways to communicate, beyond the written page. The days when authors could “just write books” and expect someone else to do all of the publishing, marketing, distribution, & sales are over. The good news, however, is that marketing doesn’t have to be miserable – done properly, a lot of it can even be fun.

Effective “marketing” involves a multi-faceted approach–but authors, like diamonds, sparkle more when the facets are properly cut. Knowing your author voice will help you realize which marketing efforts to focus on, and which ones to avoid.

Step 1 to finding your author voice is “Know Thy Writing.” If you write Victorian romance novels, realize that your voice will appeal to readers who like … Victorian romance. Is your voice historical? Sardonic? Reflective? Genre + tone + style  = “the kind of books you write.” Know this equation, and know it well. For authors who write in multiple genres, know each voice individually, and whether or not there’s crossover between them.

Some novels do cross audiences, and genres, but as a general rule the people who will love your books are the ones who respond to the genre and the voice in which you write. Do not assume that your space marine sci-fi will convert every women’s fiction reader to speculative fiction. Occasionally, readers do jump the fence, but pursuing the wrong readers is like trying to milk a bull. Neither one ends very well.

Know your writing voice, and your audience – and know them  WELL.

Step 2: Identify the Things That Make You Special.

You are a special snowflake…just like every other snowflake in the world. Every person is unique, with interesting hobbies, characteristics, and strengths. In order to find your author voice, you need to identify what makes you special.

Many people write novels. The key is standing out from the crowd–and the way you stand out is by focusing on your individual strengths (which may or may not include your skills with the written word).

Last week, I gave homework: to identify three unique or unusual characteristics about yourself, preferably three that define you in some way.

Look at that list. Now look at your fiction. Are there any crossovers? Sometimes there will be, sometimes not – and it doesn’t really matter. If there are connections, however, take note of them now. Even if not, keep this list handy, because it will help you identify unique ways to interact with readers (& the world at large).

Step 3: Determine how much you like interacting with people, and in what ways you like to interact.

Many writers are introverts (I am, though many people seem surprised when I say it). Some are extroverts. Knowing your personality type, which social situations you favor, and which ones scare you pantsless will help you a ton as you learn to market yourself. Be warned, however: author marketing is a learning process, and this series will challenge you to grow.

Once you have these three initial steps in place, you can begin to evaluate different marketing options. You’ll be looking for a convergence of audience, skills, and personal preferences. 

Next week, my blog and Twitter feed will look at the topic of how to become a “content provider” – because providing valuable content is a great way to market yourself … without “really” marketing.