Before I got into publishing, I worked as a small business consultant. I helped small businesses develop their brands and implement web marketing campaigns (website, social media, etc.).

Becoming an author is exactly the same as developing a small business. Just like any kind of business, authors need a brand that helps customer remember and relate to them. By “brand,” I mean a consistent set of images, words, and phrases that represent your professional presence.

Small businesses and authors are both inclined to make the same mistake that wastes a lot of time, money, and brand clarity. They try way too hard to make their logo represent everything about them. Their logos get crazy busy.

What is this?

Don’t make your logo cute. It does NOT need to perfectly encapsulate all of the services you offer.

The big mistake…

Clients and authors always have a million dollar idea for their logo. It’s a traffic cone with a dog paw coming out the top, blending with a crescent moon. It’s a glass prism with a rainbow coming out of it and illuminating golden letters. It’s a saxophone that dissolves into the letters of our band.

Two of those three are real requests that I received. The prism guy spent over $3,000 just fiddling with the exact distribution of colors in the rainbow (“let’s try it this time with a little more red and less blue”). For several drafts the rainbow was all golden.

Your logo does not need to communicate what you do. People aren’t going to give you money because they fell in love with your logo. All your logo needs to do is create a tone for your brand.

This is really good news for authors. The world has enough logos with quills and ink bottles, fountain pen tips, and typewriters in them.

Doing it right…

Take a look at the logos of the top ten brands in the world right now:

With the exception of apple, because, come on, that one’s kind of a freebie, we see the same thing over and over again. Stylized text with a minor embellishment.

There is sometimes a danger of imitating brands with national recognition. After all, you know exactly what every one of these companies does without any context clues. But in this case, the design principle holds up regardless of the scale of your company.

Of the logos that include some kind of symbol or embellishment to the text, there is usually little relationship to the service the brand offers. What do the symbols have to do with any of the logos above?

What does a checkmark have to do with Verizon offering wireless service? What does a sun/flower thing have to do with Walmart? Practically nothing.

In addition to those, what does the Nike swoosh have to do with shoes? Absolutely nothing.

What does a bowtie have to do with Budweiser? Or with Chevrolet? Nothing.

Why is UPS on a shield? No idea.

Why is BBC in black boxes? Definitely don’t have a clue.

But it works. What I do know about each of these logos is that they convey a mood. They tell me if this company is confident, trustworthy, creative, bold, edgy—all with the choice of a font.

Notice that Nike doesn’t have a shoe in their logo. Budwesier doesn’t have a can of beer or a party hat. Chevy nor UPS have a truck and BBC doesn’t have a TV tower.

The simple 2-step process…

Keep your logo simple. Here are the two steps for creating a logo:

  1. Pick a font.
  2. If you’re really ambitious, add a simple symbol.

So you’re a writer? You don’t need a pencil in your logo. You don’t need a typewriter. You don’t need a quill and ink bottle. A black square, an orange check mark, or a blue paw print work just as well, or even better than any of those things.

You need one thing: a font that captures your personality.

And you can get that for free! Head over to dafont.com and browse. Make sure to select “100% FREE” in the search options so that you respect other’s hard work and copyrights.

All of those national brands–you can read them all easily, right? So don’t go crazy. Pick a font that’s just a little bit unique and fits your values. Viola, you’re done.

Simple text will professionally represent your brand and your personality.

The amateur mistake is to try to fit our services and everything about us into our logo. You really don’t need to pack it all in.