MARKETING MATTERS: Branding

Kathleen Y'Barbo

Blogger:  Kathleen Y’Barbo, Publicist

Location: The Woodlands, Texas PR Office

Weather: Blue Norther coming! Translation: 90s to 50s in one afternoon

Last week I asked for you to send me your thoughts, rants, raves, and ponderings on the topic of author branding. Next week I will be sharing those with you; so there’s still time to weigh in with your opinion on the subject.

After reading the comments and tallying the votes, however, I reached this conclusion: branding does/doesn’t matter to an author’s career and is/isn’t important to consider.

DOES: It matters, how? A brand matters because when your book is sitting on a crowded shelf with other worthy tomes, which one is a reader going to choose? Title, cover, and a myriad of other factors are certainly working to cause Suzy Shopper to reach for a certain book. But, what if Suzy Shopper has read your books and is familiar with your type of writing, say cozy mysteries? And what if tonight’s the perfect night for Suzy to curl up by the fire and read a sweet who-done-it like your brand suggests your book will be? Here’s where brand DOES matter. She’ll coming looking for you if she knows your brand is what she’s seeking. To Suzy, her mood determines the brand she seeks.

DOESN’T: Rhonda Reader loves books. Lots of books. In lots of genres. Depending on the day, she will read just about anything. When she walks into the bookstore, she’s going to be picking up whatever strikes her fancy. Does she care that you’re the best edgy historical writer ever? Likely not if she’s just browsing. Thus, to Rhonda Reader, brand has no bearing on her purchase. Some days she’ll be reading Bill Giovannetti and others DiAnn Mills. To her, mood trumps brand.

IS: Let’s look at the publisher’s point of view on whether brand is important. If you’re not yet published, your brand may be what catches the eye of an editor or agent. If you write medical thrillers starring an Army medic and based on experience gleaned in your three decades of experience in that job, your brand IS essential to cultivate. Imagine the cross-pollination of publicity between those who read thrillers, those who are in the medical field, and those who are in the military. And all of them will find you through your brand. Wendy Lawton has a great theory proving branding IS important. She says, and I agree, that the best career path for most writers is narrow and deep, meaning that an author should find what he or she writes well and continue to deliver that to readers consistently and regularly.

ISN’T: Anyone who has picked up three Angela Hunt books would state that brand is not important. Though I would say that Angie has a broader brand–that of a satisfying read as opposed to being limited to a genre or type–I would agree that it is hard to know what you will get between those covers. As Janet Grant said in a recent Books & Such blog, sometimes brand is NOT in your favor, meaning that sometimes the best thing to do to shake a writing career out of the doldrums is to go against brand and write something completely different.

So there you have it. Next week I will be sharing your comments and talking more about this topic. What do you think? I want to know.

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10 Comments

  • Teri D. Smith says:

    I’m thinking that I’ve finally found my genre: contemporary romantic suspense. So maybe the brand is next, just bubbling under the surface.

    Wendy’s comment on “narrow and deep” clicked with me.

    I’ll be checking in to see what else you have to say on branding!

  • Lynn Dean says:

    Again, a great post. I’m starting to get a better understanding of the ideas “brand” can encompass. I’ve even got an idea what mine might be–”Bringing His-Story to life.” I’ve learned many spiritual lessons through observing life situations. When I write historical fiction, there always seems to be a strong underlying message–an analogy or application subtly woven into the story.

    Am I getting warmer?

  • Eva Ulian says:

    The problem with my brand is that I write about a religious vocation and so people would think along the devotional, reverent and conventional lines of Christian publishing, whereas in effect, it is rebellious, outspoken, fearless bringing to the surface the raw emotions of a human being without veils; while at the same time not denouncing religion or God. So, I’m giving mixed signals. The secular publishers can’t define it because it is too religious, the Christian publisher would be afraid to touch it so as not to upset the applecart. What on earth can one do with such a paradox???

  • My brand was narrow and deep, but controversial. With a background in the “crisis pregnancy center” movement, I wrote stories about women who had abortions and found forgiveness and redemption in Christ. However, because the topic was controversial, publishers in the Christian market didn’t want to touch it (especially because I am unknown to them). So I’ve broadened my focus and write stories about women who must make any number of difficult choices. My “tagline” is “the power of positive choices.” Would you call that a brand?

  • Valerie says:

    Branding has always been a topic that keeps me up at night. I can see how they are effective, but I can’t seem to fit my creative bursts into one narrow path.

    How do you choose a brand when your unpubished and have ideas that span genres?

  • KC Frantzen says:

    I’m going to keep reading these blogs.
    Those are my thoughts at the moment!
    And now you know! (since you asked!) :)

  • Hello Kathleen,

    I really enjoy reading your blog and getting tips on marketing. Have you already done a blog on your recommended books and resources for authors to read regarding marketing? I’m reading Tribes now as you recommended.

    Thanks,
    Jennifer Degler

  • I’m looking forward to your blog on this. This is something I’ve struggled with as I work on my own “voice” and just what story I want to try sending out. I think it is important to ME in how I approach my own writing.

    I’m moving forward, but I’ve written reams of stuff, tossed aside, and tried again as I find my own sweet spot in writing. It’s like hitting that perfect shot in golf–you know it when it comes off the club head.

  • Steve says:

    If you want to write to sell books, you need to write for the market. If you want to get a truth across, you may be better off in non-fiction or self-publish for friends and to sell out of your trunk. They aren’t mutually exclusive – but I think it is a decision to make. I think Julie has done that, so all the best.

    Many people don’t always know what they don’t know – branding and tags helps them to begin to know. Follow it up with a great book.

  • outlet says:

    great post! I used google translation to translate it

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