How to Build an Author Brand

John Purkiss helps you connect with readers by building an authentic personal brand.

How to Build an Author Brand - by John Purkiss
When people ask me what it takes to write a book that sells, I tell them it is 50% writing and 50% marketing. As an author you are marketing yourself as well as your book. The challenge is to find your audience and then connect with them. If they like you and your book, they will spread the word.

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room

So where does your personal brand come in? As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. Sometimes I hear the phrase ‘branding yourself’, but that sounds to me like sticking something on the outside, rather like branding a cow or a sheep. To be effective, personal branding has to be authentic. It has to come from within.
Brand YouMy co-author on Brand You is David Royston-Lee, who is a business psychologist with a marketing background. The first four exercises in the book are those he has used for many years with a wide range of clients. They work for anyone who does them conscientiously.
The first step is to discover the talents you love to use. You may take them for granted because they come naturally to you. Since you are reading this magazine, writing may be one of your talents. You may have many others. I invite you to make a list of the high points in your life, when you felt fantastic about what you were doing. Maybe you were so immersed that you lost track of time – an experience sometimes described as flow. Now examine each high point in turn. Which talent(s) were you using? How were you using them? What were the circumstances? Who were you with? You will start to notice themes, in terms of the talents you love to use and the way you love to use them.
The second step is to discover your values, i.e. what you believe is important. You can do this by looking at the people you admire. The qualities you admire in other people provide clues to your values. Having completed this exercise, you will be able to apply your talents in accordance with your values. You will also know who you can and can’t work with, which makes life much easier and more enjoyable.
The third step is to begin to discover your purpose, i.e. the reason you are on the planet. This is a life-long quest. However, you can get some clues from the things you can’t stop doing. Writing may be one of them. Your purpose is like the horizon – you can pursue it for the rest of your life. It is more important than any job or business – or book, for that matter. Jobs, businesses and books are vehicles for your purpose. If your vehicle crashes or breaks down, it is time to find another.
The fourth step is to discover your main archetype. The word archetype is derived from Ancient Greek and means ‘first moulded as a model.’ Carl Jung identified archetypes as inherited memories represented in the human mind by a universal symbol. We recognize these symbols instantly and often unconsciously. Archetypes are very powerful, whether you are marketing a product, a company or yourself.
You may already have used archetypes while writing a book or a screenplay. One of the archetypes is the Hero – hence The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. We recognize the others just as easily, in ourselves and in other people. Jack Nicholson consistently evokes the Outlaw. Deepak Chopra evokes the Sage. Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist evokes the Magician, and so on. You can download the complete list of 12 archetypes that are used in personal branding from It is a good idea to show the list to other people, and ask them which archetype they see in you. It is particularly useful to do this with people you have met recently. If your main archetype is clearly defined, people will see it in you quickly.

If you want to get on, be interesting and interested. Then other people will do your PR for you.

These four exercises complement each other and will give you a much clearer sense of who you are and where you are going. Once you know this, you are ready to start communicating it to the outside world. Knowing your talents, values, purpose and main archetype will give you the confidence to stand out and be different. Now it is time to engage with other people – both online and offline – whom you find genuinely interesting. You may notice that you share some important values with many of them. As the dialogue develops, on Facebook and Twitter, and in ‘real life’, they will start to spread the word about you and your work. As Martin Loat, the chief executive of Propeller PR, puts it, “If you want to get on, be interesting and interested. Then other people will do your PR for you.”
My final suggestion is that you start writing a blog about the things that interest you most. It is a great discipline for writing short, snappy pieces on your favourite topics. You will also get valuable feedback, so you can fine-tune your approach. These days many writers find their publisher this way. A publisher can see from your blog that a) you can write, and b) people like it.

John Purkiss’s Top Tips For Personal Branding

1. Discover the talents you love to use. Start using them to serve others.
2. Discover your values, i.e. what is most important to you.
3. Discover your main archetype and evoke it consistently. Then people will ‘get’ you.
4. Write a blog about what you are doing. Include links to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
5. Be interesting and interested. Then other people will do your PR for you.
The second edition of Brand You: Turn Your Unique Talents into a Winning Formula by John Purkiss and David Royston-Lee is published by Pearson and available from and
This article first appeared in issue 2 of Publishing Talk Magazine.
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John Purkiss

John Purkiss is the co-author of Brand You: Turn Your Unique Talents into a Winning Formula (Pearson). He studied economics at Cambridge University and has an MBA from INSEAD. John has worked in banking, management consultancy, sales, marketing and executive search. He was a partner with Heidrick & Struggles and now runs the leadership practice at Veni Partners. Find him at and follow him on Twitter at @JohnPurkiss.

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