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How to build a literary brand

By James Aitchison

An author is not an author.  An author is a brand.

        Just like cars, computers, and packaged goods, an author is a brand with unique brand values.

        Lee Child is a brand.  Every Jack Reacher book delivers the brand values, excitement, and entertainment which Child’s readers expect.

        Agatha Christie is a brand.  And, like packaged goods manufacturers, she offers a choice of unique brand extensions: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.  Nora Roberts likewise: she offers books under her flagship brand, and also as J D Robb.

        So how do authors become brands? 

        Marketing wisdom tell us that brands are owned by their users, not by the company that owns the brand.  Brands exist in the minds of consumers.  Each brand comprises a set of values, associations, and beliefs that reside only in the mind of the consumer.  The beholder owns the brand.  They find the brand comforting, consistent in quality, and even a reflection of their own character.

        Think of a brand as a community of users.  Each community has its own social codes and sharply etched loyalties.  And once you join a community, you identify with other members.  If you use an Apple, chances are you’ll never buy a PC.  If you buy a BMW, and believe in BMW’s core values, and identify with other BMW drivers, you probably wouldn’t want a Merc or an Audi.

        The challenge for an author is to emulate the best brand-building principles.  Understand the market (your specific literary genre), know your competitors’ products (books), respect your community of users (readers), exceed their expectations, and above all, strive for consistency in terms of tonality, characterization, and story.

        Be aware that your name is a brand on bookshelves.  Readers will choose your work, knowing that what you write guarantees a good read.


James Aitchison, better known by his pen name of James Lee, has been gaining popularity with his book series titled Mr. Midnight. First published in Singapore during the mid to late 1990s and with over one hundred different volumes released since then, the best-selling children’s horror novels have been translated into other languages like traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, and Burmese. James has also penned Cutting Edge Advertising.


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