Author Branding: One Author’s Journey of Failing at Instagram


One of the things that new writers hear about all the time is the need to find a brand. As if authors are breakfast cereals that can be boiled down to zingy catchphrases like ‘delicious and nutritious’ or ‘heart-healthy.’ Not gonna lie, the idea of defining my author brand was the stuff of nightmares. But it was a nightmare I knew I’d have to face… someday.

Well that someday came knocking when I had my first call with my editor at Voyager. It was the get-to-know you call—he told me how much he loved THE FROZEN CROWN, what his idea for edits were, how he thought he could position my book in the market. It was a great call… and then he said something that made me shudder:

I should join Instagram.

Never in all of creation had an app been created that so viscerally illustrates what it means to have a personal brand, than Instagram. I wanted to puke.

For years I’d been one of those people who clung to the notion that Instagram was just Twitter but for people who couldn’t spell. Lies! In truth, I was terrified. Because Instagram is all about content. You can’t simply reply to other people’s posts or retweet, or fire off a whiney rant about the terrible service you got at the neighborhood coffee shop. I had to actually create… stuff… Like. Pretty stuff. But what?

Creating an Instagram page is like a mini education in personal branding. The pictures you post are the stories that you tell about your life, your aspirations, your dreams. In a nutshell: it’s your brand as an author.

So what was my brand? Well… I’m a writer, I thought rather stupidly. I mean, let’s face it, there are only so many posts of computer screens and messy notebooks that one person can fire off before your feed beings to look like a crumbling soviet housing block. I had to dig deeper.

For me, branding begins with identifying the things that make you, well, you. After some introspection, I made a list of all the things I love to do: spending time with my kids, reading, cooking and baking, knitting (even though I’m terrible at it) playing Dungeons and Dragons, and travelling.

It’s a short list, sure, but it was a start. And it’s about the best advice that I can give you. Figure out what your passionate about and then figure out what you’re willing to share.

That second point isn’t something to gloss over. I just said that I love spending time with my kids. They’re babies—so they are cute and cuddly and unwittingly hilarious. In a nutshell, they’re social media gold (right up there with grumpy cats and hyper pups) but if you go to my Instagram feed, how many pictures of them will you find? One. That’s because my husband and I decided that we’d rather keep them off the internet. And that’s okay. You don’t have to share everything of yourself in order to create a brand.

My Instagram feed focuses on books these days. On my books (obviously) but also books that I’m excited about and books that I’m reading. I’ve been on a major cookbook kick recently, so you’ll also see my delicious adventures at cooking and baking.

I used to post pictures of knitting projects, but I’ve had to pivot away from that as my life is just too hectic to start yet another project. That’s okay too—as you grow and change, so will that nebulous creature that you call a brand. Now I post character art that I draw from the insanely popular D&D game Critical Role, and I hope to expand those posts to character art of other properties that I enjoy, from books to film, as my skill improve.

All of this is insanely, stupidly basic. But when I started the year, I had maybe a hundred Instagram followers. Now I’m pushing five hundred. In only three months.

Not bad for the girl who signed up for Instagram with shaking fingers. Happy branding.

Author: Greta Kelly

Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. Though she has travelled across the world, including brief stints living in Germany and Japan, life always kept bringing her back home to the Midwest. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughter Lorelei and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather. Her debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager.