Branding Your Book

“Branding” is a term from marketing. It’s what big corporations did in the 1950s when they created trademark symbols, logos, and slogans for the new invention called television. Branding is now what almost anyone can do on the Internet. As an author, in order to make your book stand out from millions of others, you need to brand both yourself and your book.

The way to make things you desire happen in this world is to really want them to happen.

Here is the key to writing a book that sells. It starts with feeling something deeply. What moves you to get out of bed in the morning? What do you love? Is it horses? Romance? Films? Old cars? Quilt-making? Business? Astronomy? Current events? Helping other people?

Your passion and your curiosity (i.e., “What happens next”?) will lead you to the topic of your book and fuel your motivation to keep writing. It will also help you determine the genre your book falls into.

Finding your genre and the audience that likes that genre is your first step in branding your book and yourself as an author.

The genre of a book is defined by its broad subject, its language, the age level of its readers, whether it is fiction or non-fiction and/or its subject.

A few examples of genres are:  romances, mysteries, science fiction, vampire tales, how-to guides, textbooks, biographies, autobiographies, children’s books, young adult books, manga, poetry chapbooks, and scholarly books.

Why is the genre of your book important to know?

Knowing the genre of your book will help you identify the target audiences(s) for your book—and enable your audience to find your book when its done. Genre is important part of creating and marketing books.

For example, genre often indicates the age range of readers. This means you would create and market a children’s book for pre-schoolers quite differently than a college textbook for undergraduates.

Note that the following divisions of the book publishing industry will require you to use particular publishers who specialize in these kinds of books. If self-publishing, you should look for freelance book professionals who work with the genre and marketing channel(s) that your book fits into.

Here are are the basic marketing channels for the book industry and for librarians:

  • trade – books intended for general audiences of all ages – these books are bought by public libraries
  • academic – scholarly books and textbooks intended for college and university libraries
  • specialty – books that serve niche audiences, purchased for special collections, and special libraries
  • children’s and young adult – these audiences are served by both public libraries + school libraries

Also there are two more marketing channels for types of books that almost all libraries carry:

  • fiction – this includes literary fiction,  genre fiction such as romance, mystery, science fiction, manga, etc.
  • reference – nonfiction that is primarily aimed at helping librarians answer patrons’ questions

Why look for publishers and professionals within one of these categories? Experience counts!

A book-publishing designer who is experienced with scholarly books may have difficulty formatting a children’s book. Likewise, editors who work with fiction will not have worked with indexes, but they may have considerable experience with illustrations in books.

This is why it’s important to research what kinds of books publishers publish. Here are the type of services traditional publishers may provide to authors.

If you are an indie author or new publisher, be sure to ask self-employed book professionals what kinds of books they have worked with. Here are the types of independent book professionals you might consider hiring.

Likewise, if you plan on marketing your book to libraries, the genre of your book will also help you decide what kind(s) of libraries and librarians are the most likely to buy your book.

Here are four very different broad categories of librarians – each of these uses different kinds of book review magazines and journals when ordering new books:

  • school librarians
  • public librarians
  • academic (college and university) librarians
  • special librarians or librarians in charge of special collections within libraries

In addition, there are many small, departmental libraries within government, non-profit organizations and trade associations that you might want to sell your book to.

Once you’ve found the kind of library or libraries that you want to market to, you can use your genre to help you target exactly which libraries and librarians to sell your book to. You may even be able to sell your books to more than one category of librarians.

Genre is really important to know if you are self-publishing. Most bookstores sell published books only, and perhaps a few local or regional self-published authors’books.

Librarians favor published authors too, but most will buy self-published books they feel their patrons would be likely to use. So if you’re an indie writer, don’t focus on just the bookstore market.

There are far, far more libraries in this country than there are bookstores. And librarians select books to bring knowledge and enjoyment to their patrons—rather than only choose the newest books likely to be the most profitable.

How to determine your book’s genre

One good reason for obtaining a library “pre-publication” catalog record is to get a clearer understanding of what genre your book belongs to. A library catalog record will show you the main subject(s) of your book and its Dewey and Library of Congress call numbers.

These call numbers indicate the “metatopic of your book,” i.e., what it’s all about. Ask the librarian who prepares your book’s record what its call number means and what broad category (i.e., genre) your book falls into. Use that information for creating and marketing your book.

For example, use your book’s call number to browse similar books  at your local library or on its website. Public library books will have the a Dewey call number (it has all numbers). Or use your LC (Library of Congress) call number (the one with letter(s) at the beginning) to do a call number search in a college, university library book catalog.

Or you can go direct to the Library of Congress (LC) online catalog itself. Click on the Browse link at the upper right part of LC’s site. Choose CALL NUMBERS (LC class No.) from the drop down box, and type in your book’s Library of Congress number below that. (include the period and any spaces in your LC call number).

As you browse real or virtual library shelves, You can study your competitor’s books to see how your book is different. Or perhaps you’ll find a well-known author’s book in your genre to compare and contrast your book with in your marketing materials.

Two ways to get a library-book-catalog-record

There are two ways to get a library catalog record before your book comes out – both ways require that a certified librarian (called a cataloger) prepares your record.

If you have a publisher they may be able to obtain a pre-publication catalog record (called a CIP record) from the Library of Congress for free.

If your publisher can’t get a CIP record or you are a self-publisher, the other way to get an official library catalog record is to pay a private cataloging company for one.

If not sure whether your book (whether its fiction or nonfiction) needs private pre-publication cataloging, please see my post, Does My Book Need PCIP?

Use your genre to market your book

Another good reason for getting a library catalog record is to use a facsimile of your book’s official catalog record in your marketing materials.

A pre-publication catalog record is very helpful to librarians who buy your book because it saves them time and money. They won’t need to create their own library catalog record from scratch.

As a result, librarians can get your book out to the public services area of the library and into the hands of readers much faster. This matters because studies show that recommendations from library patrons to friends and family are one of the very best ways to sell a book.

Also, other librarians who might be interested in buying your book will be better able to judge how your book would fit in at their library if they are aware of its genre, title, keywords, and other kinds of “metadata” (or as librarians call it, the “bibliographic description”) that’s found in a library catalog record.

If you have a pre-publication catalog record you can get a short version of of that record included inside your book on the “verso “i.e. back) of its title page. Along with librarians, many book lovers also use this book metadata in real or virtual bookstores when browsing and buying books of interest.

Genre, and your audience, are also very important because these usually influence the format(s) you’d choose for your book. In turn, the format(s) you choose will determine how you must distribute your book. 

Format and distribution choices will impact your costs and the price you can charge for your book (two topics which will be covered in another section of Authormaps.)

NEXT in this 3-part Slider series, we’ll cover “Formatting Your Book” in Slider Two. That topic will be followed by Slider Three, “Distributing Your Book”. To read these two articles, click on the yellow and green tabs at the top of Authormaps home page.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries, An Insider's Guide for Authors


 How to create the kind of book librarians will buy

Identify specific types of libraries your book could sell to

Know the kinds of librarians whose jobs include purchasing books


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