About writing, Author Life, Lessons from Writers

What the Heck is Visual Branding?

Last week I was able to attend one day of the LTUE Conference with my daughter, and even though I was familiar with the conference from previous years, and had volunteered with some of their vendors, this year was my very first year as an attendee. 

There was one class in particular (An Authorpreneur’s Business Plan) that left my head spinning with all the amazing information I learned. Simply put, it was a class about the business side of writing, you as an author & entrepreneur and everything that goes into that. From an author’s business plan, with all its technicalities like legal structure, competitive landscape analysis, and market opportunity research, to the simple, yet profound power of something like consistent branding. 

The amount of information shared in this class by Karma Chestnut and Rachel Huffmire from Author Capital was monumental, so I won’t be able to cover it all. But there was one particular aspect that I thought incredibly helpful, because even though I had heard and read about this topic many times before, they went into the nitty gritty, actionable things we can do to improve it.  

I think as writers, oftentimes, the last thing in our minds is our author brand. We hear about how important it is. We read about the cruciality of its existence, and yet, we have no idea how to implement it, at least in a consistent way. Well, let me share some of the specific action steps Karma and Rachel taught about that we can take to change that. 

But first…

What is Visual Branding?

Visual branding is the way people can visually recognize you or your products. If anyone comes across any of your platforms, books, channels, etc., can they tell it is yours? Pretty simple, right?


Apparently, we only have 3 seconds to catch someone’s attention before they scroll to the next thing, so in short, we have to be intentional. But how can we do that, you ask? Simple. By keeping our visual branding consistent. We can do that by considering these four easy things.

ONE: Colors

Visual branding at its simplest is a set pattern that can be recognized at a glance. Combinations of colors play a big par in this. Think about McDonalds, Hogwarts, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. What’s one thing they all have in common? They use the same colors consistently.

So step one is to pick your colors. Don’t fear, it is more straightforward than you think. According to Rachel and Karma, we only need five. A white tone, a dark tone, and three other tones that match our genre. Find and save the exact color codes, and be consistent with their use. Don’t stray from them.

Pro tip: make sure they look good when you wear them. Yes. You can, and should, use yourself as an extension of your visual branding.

TWO: Fonts

If I tell you to picture the words Disney, Harry Potter, and Gap, what images come to mind? It wouldn’t be these, would it?

If it is, good! That’s because their visual branding paid off and seared itself into your brain. So how can we create our own? In order to achieve visual branding consistency we need three fonts (and only three), one easy to read (for big chunks), one fancy (for main names, logo, or sparing use), and one in between. Save what these are, and be consistent with your use.

THREE: Image Recognition

Not every brand has this. But some of the best do. What would Harry Potter be without its lighting bolt P, or Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters without its angelic rune, or Cinderella without its slipper? These icons stand out because they are a visual embodiment of something bigger. You see the image or symbol and you immediately know what it means and where it comes from. You don’t need to have one, but maybe you’d like to.

FOUR: Messaging

Also important is our messaging. How are we going to present ourselves and what is going to attract our customer profile? This one is a bit more open-ended, no specific steps to guide us. But that is because it will be extremely unique to us, and that is something no specific steps can help us reach. But maybe this question (and meditation) can get the ball rolling: What is the messaging (word or sentence) you would like your customers to easily repeat when recommending your book? 

I hope this was helpful in understanding a very crucial part of our author’s side. It is often forgotten or relegated to an afterthought. But it deserves to take a place just as important as the worlds we create in our heads, because in reality, it is.

I created a reference card for myself as part of a personal exercise. I hope it helps you visualize at least some of the steps. As you probably can see, I’ve implemented them in my website. What do you think?

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And if you want to collaborate with me don’t be shy. I love to work with fellow writers, spotlight authors, and host writing challenges. I’ve also been known to swap short critiques on occasion. Reach to me here

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