How can branding help you sell more books?

January 15, 2018

How can branding help you sell more books by Sarah Lentz
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Why does branding matter?

I've been doing some research on book marketing tactics -- so I can include the best books I find in a list for my next book, Writers in the Red. 

My book won't be long enough to contain everything you'd ever want to know about self-publishing, so the least I can do is provide a list of books that have actually helped me sell more of my own books. 

If I want that list, I'm pretty sure the readers of my next book will want it, too. 

Just today (or today as I'm writing this -- on Friday, January 5th), I was looking over three books by Richard McCartney (all of which I've bought within this past week):

I couldn't help but notice the repetition of the mountain image in this author's book covers. 

And I remembered what someone asked me when I was sharing images of the cover design for my second book. 

He asked me why it didn't look more like my first book -- for branding purposes. 

At the time, I thought, "Branding, shmanding. This design works better for a book on this subject. And I don't have to make it look like my first book. It's too different from that book, anyway."

And it is different. My first book, The Hypothyroid Writer, was about thriving and creating in spite of the challenges that hypothyroidism poses for writers who live with it. 

The second book, Create Stunning Journals & Workbooks Using Canva & CreateSpace, was about exactly what the title suggests. There wasn't any "Hypothyroid" in there. It was just about creating print journals and workbooks. It's still one of my biggest sellers, too. 

The other big seller is Writer on a Budget

And that became the first of a series of books with the word "Writer" or "Writers" in it. 

After Writers in the Red will come the next Create Stunning... book -- this one specifically about book cover design, using Canva. 

And after that?

Well, that's where the next novel will come in -- unless I save that for book #4. 

So, what's the point of branding?

Just as in the case of the three Richard McCartney books, there are advantages to visually tying your books together. 

  • Those who've enjoyed one of your books are more likely to spot other books of yours and be curious enough to click on them. 
  • If the cover design for your first book attracted a fair number of the readers you were hoping to attract, it makes sense to give them a similar cover for the next related book. 
  • Even something as simple as using the same signature fonts and the same color scheme can help make your books more visible and attractive -- not only to those who've read your books but to other target readers who have yet to become acquainted with your work. 

Helpful books on branding:

There are a number of books on Amazon written to help authors with their branding -- whether or not they identify as "authorpreneurs." If you're not sure about all the other businessy things authorpreneurs do to bring in more money with their creative work, but you definitely want to sell more books, here are a few books that might help. 

I have the first one, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's still trying to wrap their head around branding for authors. Angie Mroczka provides and explains helpful examples from professional authors who've successfully branded their work. 

Different genre, different branding?

It's more accurate to say "different audience, different branding," though switching genres can mean you're writing for a different audience. 

For example, Rick Riordan's YA books have a different look from his  thrillers for an older audience, but the books in each series strongly resemble each other, which makes them easy to spot when you happen to be on a sales page on Amazon, and you're scanning over the "Also boughts" -- or when you're looking over the results of a search. 

For nonfiction, check out the similar covers on Chris Fox's six books for writers. He also writes fiction, but the five nonfiction books I'm talking about are unmistakably linked to each other. 

What details can authors use to visually tie together the covers of different but related books? 

  • fonts / typography and special text effects
  • textured backgrounds or image themes
  • the placement of the text on the cover (title, subtitle/tagline, and author name)
  • the structure of your subtitle / tagline
  • colors / color schemes

Take a look at Monica Leonelle's books for writers. Though the colors are different from one to the next, the books all have the same textured background, fonts, and two-line, all-caps subtitles. The author's name is always at the bottom, in the same font and with the same spacing between the letters. 

Amelia Griggs is creating a series of books on Microsoft applications. She recently published one for Microsoft Word, is working on one for Microsoft Excel, and will also write one for Powerpoint. 

You can see the covers she's made for them in her Facebook cover photo below. Each book also has links to tutorial videos she's made and posted on YouTube -- to further help her readers. Since video has become a favorite way for many to learn something new, this is a brilliant way to supplement her books. 

I've noticed, when looking over the books on my KDP Bookshelf, that I have four different color schemes:

  • Yellow, red, and black for The Hypothyroid Writer
  • Red, black, and white (or grayscale) for the Books for Writers series
  • Turquoise, black, and white -- with some green -- on the Canva books
  • Blue, black, and yellow for my novel, The Lazarus Door

So, if I write another book with the word "Hypothyroid" in the title, I'll probably stick to the yellow/red/black color scheme. And I've already created a cover for the next Canva book that uses the same colors as the first one. 

As for whether I use the same colors in the next novel, it'll depend on whether I'm writing in the same genre. 

More Examples of Branding with Books

Turn your passion into a thriving business by Gundi Gabrielle
Starting a successful blog when you have no clue by Gundi Gabrielle
You started your blog Now what? by Gundi Gabrielle
The Sassy way to social marketing when you have no clue by Gundi Gabrielle

The author of these last four -- Gundi Gabrielle -- has written seven books for this particular series, and (according to Kindle Spy) she's currently earning over a thousand a month in book royalties. 

So, while more books doesn't necessarily mean more money, more good quality books in a series that readers (apparently) can't get enough of can generate a nice monthly income. 

Of course, I have no idea whether or not the author uses AMS ads to help promote her books (I used to -- until I could no longer afford them), and that could have a dramatic effect on her monthly royalty income (some of which will go to pay for those ads). 

If I were to reactivate any of my AMS ads, I'd probably do so for my $2.99 books, which are linked to my other books by the "Also bought" listings on their sales pages. 

And for fiction

We're Rick Riordan fans, and the gorgeous covers aren't the only reason we've been collecting them -- but they definitely don't hurt. 

I've been working on my own branding, lately, and have modified two of my book covers to make them resemble each other more -- and thereby make them (hopefully) more attractive to those who've read one or more of my books for writers. 

Below, you'll see the original cover on the left and the new one on the right. 

I was keen to modify the cover, anyway (though I do still like the original cover), but it made sense to use the same font for Writer that I'd used in the latest cover for Writer on a Budget: Wild Heart by Dirtyline Studio (Creative Market). 

Important legal note: Since I used the same font for three different book covers, I had to go to the Creative Market page for this font and buy two more separate licenses for the font. Otherwise, I would be in violation of the standard license by using it on more than one commercial end product. 

Fortunately for me, it was on sale this past week -- 40% off -- so I paid only $15 per license. It's an extra expense but a manageable one, and I consider it worth the cost to be able to use this font (which I love) to help me visually link these three books of mine. 

That said, if you find a free (open source) font that you like just fine for your book covers and want to use it on all of them -- or all the books in a particular series -- to help with branding, there's nothing wrong with that. 

The other two fonts on this page are Lato and Special Elite, both of which come standard with Canva (free).

Branding for a book series

If I'd known ahead of time that I'd be writing three books for writers, I would have created a series name and made Writer on a Budget book one, Writer Overwhelmed! book two, and so on. But I didn't. 

The nice thing about series is that Amazon will show customers other books in the series right there on the sales page, so you don't have to worry about whether the other books will show up in the "Customers Also Bought..." line-up. 

They'll be right there -- easy to view, to admire, and to click on. 

But for those of us who didn't think of that beforehand, all is not lost. We can fix it. (Update: I'm still working on nailing down exactly what is required).

I went back into the KDP setup for the two writer books that I've published so far, added the name of a series ("Books for writers") and gave each book its number in the series. Then I saved / re-published them. I also went into the KDP setup for my upcoming book, Writers in the Red, and added the series name and the number 3. 

I checked the books' sales pages a couple days after Amazon told me their pages were "live" again (after I added them to a new series), but the series line-up still wasn't showing. 

So, I went to the "Help" link on the KDP website, clicked on "Contact us" (at the bottom of the left-hand menu bar), selected "Amazon Product Page" and then "Kindle Series Bundles," and filled out the message form to ask them to link those two books in a "series bundle." 

I'll post a screenshot (here and probably on Facebook) of the series line-up -- even if it is only two books right now -- when they're showing on the books' sales pages. 

We'll see how it goes. When I've published the third book, Writers in the Red, I'll probably need to email KDP again to link all three in a series bundle. It doesn't take long, and if it makes life a little easier for both of us, I'm fine with it. 

I'm more interested in the results. If every little bit helps, I'm hoping this will amount to more than just a little bit. 

In any case, seeing them lined up neatly on each books' sales page will make me even gladder to have taken the time to visually tie the books together.

What do you think? Do you like to see books in a series -- or related books by the same author -- similar in their cover designs? Or do you think it doesn't really matter, as long as the book covers are appealing?

NEW UPDATE (1/15): Amazon sent me the following email this morning (emphasis added):

Hello Sarah,

Thanks for your interest in the Series Bundle feature. After checking the titles you're requesting to be added to a Series Bundle, I can see they don't follow a volume number sequential pattern or continuation of content. Therefore, they're not eligible for a Series Bundle.

The goal of a Series Bundle is to have titles grouped together that follow a sequential pattern with volume numbers or have content with a visible continuation among the titles. When customers see a Series Bundle, they can make an informed decision that all titles in the bundle belong there.

As part of our review, we take some or all of the following into account: book titles, volume numbers in titles, descriptions, cover images, Look Inside the Book features, About the book sections, customer reviews, author’s biography, author’s official webpage.

If you believe your series titles do have sequential volume numbers or a continuation of content, please submit your request with this information where you've specified your titles meet these requirements.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

I just changed the title of one of them by adding "Books for Writers Series, Book 1," and KDP allowed me to save the change. So, ASIN codes may be more flexible than ISBN numbers when it comes to titles.

In any case, I'll do the same for "Book 2," and update this post when I've re-published them, emailed KDP again with the same request, and received a response. 

To be continued. If you've ever had to change a book to make it part of a series -- please share in the comments. 

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How can branding help you sell more books? (Plus some examples from pros) #selfpublishing #branding #authorpreneur

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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