More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brand Me, Baby! Guest Post by Candi Wall

BRAND ME BABY!

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t what you had in mind for ‘Branding’!

That’s good. I hate to disappoint and I just wouldn’t be able to go through with this – for anyone.

Anywho-

Ever notice in this industry, we get to hear the oddest turn ‘o phrase. Seriously.
There’s:

Head hopping, POV, WIP, WP, critique partners, galleys, plot holes, dirty drafts, genre jumping, cross genre… the list just goes on and on! But one of those odd phrases is by far one of the most elusive in understanding.
Why’s that? It’s not tangible, visual, tasteable (I know that’s not a word!), audible or buyable.

But what it is – is INVALUABLE.

Your Author Brand is what makes you YOU.

An author brand is your personal, visceral, immediate response from a reader. Your logo or trademark as it were. It’s what keeps your name in a reader’s mind when they peruse the shelves of their local bookstore or favorite website and have X amount of dollars to spend, expecting quality.

YOU and your brand have to deliver.

So the sticky part is how to build your brand. Since you along with all your readers probably aren’t willing to have the hot iron process, (not to mention you want an emotional brand instead of a painful brand) it’s up to you to define your brand, promo your brand and fuse your brand into the minds of your readers and networks like super-glued sticky notes.

Here’s an easy one: Toys ‘R Us!

The first thing you thought about was toys and that clever little jingle, right?
THAT is the response you want when people hear or think of your name. Okay, maybe not toys and a jingle, but you want your brand to click an emotional connection when a reader hears your name.

 So the first thing you have to do is have a stellar product. Learn, refine and perfect your writing. It’s an art, but it’s a subjective art. Make your writing the best it can be. Leave them sighing, crying, singing or laughing.

 Next - figure out what your brand is. What sets you apart? What do you offer that’s different? How do you want to be seen? Make it unique and OWN IT. It’s not enough to write ‘hot romance’. You have to find that spark of difference that screams ‘Hotter than Hell Romance.’

 Then - you as the author have to build/create your brand and get it rolling before any amount of promo will help. Network, pitch in, join loops, do workshops. Get you and your brand out there and make it good. Word of mouth spreads faster than any promotional tool available.

 In the meantime - make yourself remarkable and memorable. Ever met two people and walked away only remembering one name. Why did that person stand out? Did they lag in the corner, or did they get in the mix, help out, make you feel good? Emotional connection. Hit ‘em where the heart strings run.

 Tailor your presence to your brand. Write hot and sexy? Play the part, have a smokin’ website, and do workshops on ultimate love scene blunders. More conservative? Tailor your presence.

(Here’s a fun example of the last point.) Think of your immediate reaction to - a Brain Surgeon.

I see a tall, thin middle aged gentleman with a starched shirt and tie, wearing a white lab coat. He’s sitting behind a desk, forehead wrinkled slightly from years of concentration. Maybe some Bach playing in the background, and a brandy snifter with crystal glasses near the antique globe that sits by the window.
NOW imagine him leaning forward to tell you that he is a Sumo-wrestler on the side.
HUH?

Throws off the picture you had in your mind. Discombobulates your whole immediate reaction right? Same with your brand. Make it yours and stick to it.

 Keep your brand consistent. While many authors shift their brands, starting out, you really need to focus your brand.

 Beware of Shadow Branding. This is why I say be consistent. If you appear one way, and build a brand on that, but are caught on the side being or acting in a totally different fashion, you can develop a shadow brand. An alternate brand that usually isn’t very good. So keep your brand as close to who you really are unless you’re ready to commit to your brand 100% when you are in the public eye, ear, or reach.

So get out there, and make yourself available. Take on fundraising. Picth in with other authors. Blog. But you have to get out there. No agent or editor is going to come knocking on your door. As much as we wish they would. So until they do, anything you can do to cast a positive light on your name is branding. It may take years to build yourself a strong brand, but every step you take along the way just makes you and your brand more pronounced.

In the interest of defining Brands, let me know what brand an author has that stands out for you, and maybe we can pick it apart. Figure out how that author managed to make their brand so memorable.
Drop us a comment!

14 comments:

K. A. Laity said...

I have a lot of difficulty with this concept, because I write such diverse stuff (which is probably part of the problem in sales, too LOL). So far I have come up with the humourous tagline, "an acquired taste" but it's difficult when you don't stick to a particular genre. My pal C. Margery Kempe does a much better job at this because she only writes in one genre, erotic romance.

What do you do when the "brand" isn't that specific?

Candi said...

K. A. Laity,

Thanks for coming by.

I think branding is difficult enough when you do have one genre.

I know numerous writers who do the same, and they have to build brands for different genres - yikes talk about work - UNTIL their name/brands get big enough for them to be able to blend the different genres they write and still keep their following.

But I think most writers, just starting out, benefit from a singular, strong brand for their strongest area.

The rest can be built in time.

You've got a great tagline though!

Carol Denbow said...

Great post! Thank you!

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Candi, you did a great job of putting a difficult to explain concept into digestible terms. I'm a genre hopper, and the only thing that all my work has in common is that there's always magic involved. So that's what I ran with, but sometimes, I wonder...

Candi said...

Carol,

So glad you stopped by.

Candi said...

Liane,

It's such a difficult concept. How in the world do we make our name in this world?

We'll get there, just have to iron out the bugs.

Shannon Delany said...

Candi,

Glad you tackled this topic! Author branding is a very difficult (and very important thing to do). I'm constantly toying with options because I want my brand to be on my main website page soon (which we're working on now).

I have hopped genres in the past with projects, but decided to stay in YA paranormal for now since the trilogy comes out relatively soon.

I know several authors who hopped genres successfully(like sci-fi romance to urban fantasy to straight romance) and made the branding more distinguishable by changing their pseudonyms.

Even the Class of 2k10 (a group of fellow authors debuting with YA and MG in 2010) has developed a brand for itself--so uniting very diverse things under one umbrella is possible--it just takes a lot of time and thought. :-)

Thanks so much for sharing this with us--very helpful!
Shannon

Marie-Claude Bourque said...

Great post Candi and right on the spot!
As promo guru Theresa Meyers will tell you, branding is very important and it is partly your voice, partly the contract you have with readers.

I took a great workshop with Katie MacAlister last month at ECWC and she mentionned the importance of keeping your voice (brand) even if you write in different genre. Nora Roberts /J.D. Robbs will always deliver serious prose and MacAlister is always snarky.

I know for me keeping to a brand (dark, gothic) as an unpublished writer as helped me in keeping me focused in the kind of writing I wanted to do. And now it's helping to stay focus as well as I'm hoping to build a readership. I don't want to hook them with a sexy prose them break that trust by suddenly taking all the love scenes from my next novel.

Taglines are a great way to narrow that brand down. You can always keep it in mind as you plan your next novel.

Thanks for the great advice Candi :)

Candi said...

Hey Shannon,

It really is an interesting and diverse undertaking.

It seems like most writers who write more than one genre, especially if they are very different genres, are using pen names to keep from ruining a certain brand.

The way I look at it, if you make a brand that you can rely on, and it becomes known to the public, it's hard to do something outside that brand without making a new brand.

Kind of like J.K.Rowling. Can you imagine her suddenly putting out a historical romance? It just doesn't fit! Though many may buy because they are loyal, many will not.

Many authors also 'shift' their brands. Again, something that isn't impossible, but quite an undertaking.

But you know, we're writers. AKA Gluttons for punishment. We plod along where other give in. It's all about the drive.

Candi said...

Hey Marie-Claude,

Thanks for stopping by.

You hit that right on the head.

The only way a Brand is truly effective, is if your reader looks for your name with certain expectations, and you deliver.

Not that you couldn't branch out some from the Dark Gothic, but your readers would want to know that consistantly, you'd deliver a sexy, dark sided read, even if your newest hero wasn't a sorceror.

Thanks again!

Robin said...

Candi--
Thank you so much for focusing on this. I'd like to say "To Hell with genres!" but I know I can't.

Looks like I'll have to get me a pen name. Or do you think I could borrow that red hot iron?

Marie-Claude made a fantastic point. When you have a brand, it keeps your focus on what you are writing and how you write it. Knowing that one is a paranormal romance writer will keep one from suddenly moving the story into strange(r) territories.

Candi said...

Hey Robin,

I have to agree with you. Though there's a part of me that wishes it could go both ways.

I LOVE to write Historical as well, but focusing for now, is what I think will benefit in the end. My Contemporary is stronger - IMO, and at least Historical isn't too far from Contmp.

I really give it to authors who can do a broad sweep, but if we're talking specificly about Branding, I have a hard time finding more than a few authors I can think of that have pulled off a strong enough brand to pull it off without a penname.

I love Jenna Peterson, and her alter erotic Jess Michaels. But she was well into a strong brand before she showed her two names to her following. I actually remember when I found out. I was shocked. Happily shocked since I loved her steamier stuff just as much. LOL.

But THAT brand is what we as aspiring authors need to build.

Time, hard work and a dependable product!

C.J. Ellisson said...

Great blog article on an important topic. Which of course is making me think of a tag line for my "brand"...

Experience the ride as it happens...

Helping the undead to unwind

Hmm... more coffee is needed for this undertaking.

Candi said...

C.J.

Love the second tag. Too funny!!!

Thanks for stopping in!

 
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