Everyone talks about branding. As a writer, we're all supposed to brand ourselves if we want to get ahead. What is branding? Why should we slap a brand on our respective hides? And what happens if you don't brand yourself?
Bob visited Sling Words recently so I followed his link back to his Writing-Journey blog. I found myself leaving a comment about this issue and thought it would be an excellent topic for us to sling around. So I've taken part of my comment and slung it into a blog.
What is Branding?
If you've been in this biz a while, then you already know that branding could be considered the current buzz word for what we've always called name recognition. It's a promotion tool.
A marketing principle is that it takes 9 instances of hearing a name before someone remembers it. Branding is a way to make sure the person who remembers your name also remembers something linked to the name i.e. Stephen King = horror novels; Nora Roberts = romance novels, etc.
Admittedly, King and Roberts branded themselves the old-fashioned way: by publishing well-received books at a fast pace in a time when the entertainment industry (books, movies, video games) wasn't over-saturated with names, all competing for your entertainment dollar. Their name became their brand so all you have to hear is the name, and your brain supplies the link.
There are so many people out there now, all competing for the public's attention and bucks, that branding is a good tool to have in your writer's tool kit. Most authors know that publishers normally give very little publicity money to anyone below their big A list authors thus the self-promotion industry was born. This home-grown industry is our amateur way of achieving the same thing that an ad agency might.
These promotion efforts vary widely from the very professional to the amateurish, sometimes embarrassingly so. If you're into self-promotion, you should start with branding. For what do you want to be known? Unfortunately, most people don't know this very basic fact. They struggle to brand themselves. They have difficulty with the concept.
Three reasons why people can't figure out a brand:
1. They don't yet know who they are as a writer.
2. They cannot be objective enough to see the common denominator of the underlying theme in their work.
3. They just don't have the marketing skills necessary to know how to present themselves and their work.
You need to write a lot before you'll know who you are as a writer. Literary author Larry Brown and popular fiction author Dean Koontz both have said something to the effect: "You need to write X number of words before you'll be able to write anything that is publishable. What X is varies from person to person."
Write a lot. Let it flow. Become one with the word. Develop an affinity for telling stories then ask yourself what stories come to you? How do they come? In languid, descriptive prose? In taut, staccato bursts? What do you find yourself saying over and over in many different ways? All writers have a universality of story and of technique that is unique to each. Find that in your writing.
Look at your writing and figure out what you're trying to say. Theme. Yes, every story has one whether you realize it or not. You may think you're writing a story about a woman who's been hurt so she resists the hero because she doesn't want to be hurt again. In actuality, that story may be about redemption.
Look at everything you've written and see if there is a theme you come back to again and again. When I began reading Dean Koontz many years ago, it took only three books for me to see that he was writing about child abuse survivors in each book. Later, when I learned that he'd been physically battered by his father, it came as no surprise.
Whether we like it or not, we all write what we know. So your theme is based on something that is a hot button for you.
Do you write romance "where love conquers all?" Then that is your brand. My brand for romance? "Live fully...laugh often...love deeply." I write sassy, heart-warming romantic comedy.
Think like an ad agency
You know, there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips. Learn the basics of marketing if only to know what is effective and what isn't. Writers have lists devoted to promotion tips. The Net has thousands if not millions of articles about marketing. You have to know what to do with your brand once you've identified it so research, read. Find out what works in print and what works on the Net. If you want to promote but don't want to do it yourself, then find a pro who'll do what you want. But know what works so you won't pay for something that doesn't. As in everything, buyer beware.
How some of my friends branded themselves.
Colleen Thompson: "exciting, compelling, suspense."
T. J. Bennett: "Dark and daring romance."
Gerry Bartlett: "Because vampires are everywhere."
Kerrelyn Sparks: "Where romance sparkles with humor."
Nina Bangs: "Hot, funny, and deliciously different."
The Takeaway Truth
A writer must always look inward and explore in order to create, establish, or discover one's writing identity and in what way you want to share that identity with the world i.e. what genre of type of writing. It's not rocket science. It can be learned.
The Net is filled with authors who have successfully branded themselves. Study what they did. If necessary, enlist the help of friends. Develop your own brand that will make the reading and buying publish recognize you.