MARKETING MATTERS: More Blogging About Branding

Kathleen Y'Barbo

Blogger: Kathleen Y’Barbo, Publicist

Location: The Woodlands, Texas PR Office

Weather: Another Blue Norther due this afternoon

I’ve enjoyed reading all the responses to my question about branding. As I wrote last week, the consensus is there’s really no consensus. Still, you had great comments and gave me much to think about. This week, I would like to share some of those thoughts:

Tamara Cooper, a reader, writes about what brand means to her: “On branding, I ONLY buy authors that I know their works. I want no surprises as to genre or content direction. (Author’s name deleted) blew it with me because for years, I felt confident picking up any of her books (and buying every one of them!), knowing I would get a good romance with a tiny bit of mystery… I knew I would get a good story with her. But then she changed her branding. She started writing “occult” and “witches” stories. I didn’t trust her. I stopped buying her. . . So branding, to me, means EVERYTHING when I purchase a book. That’s branding: identifying yourself as an author with your reader.”

Ane Mulligan had this comment on knowing when a brand fits: “For me, it tells readers what to expect from your books. My Southern-fried fiction lets them know Southern people, places, and issues fill my stories, and a bit of humor.”

From Jennifer Degler, a great comment about the search to find brand: “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.”

Kathleen Maher, a pre-published author, had this to say: Marketing is obviously something we all have to immerse ourselves in, and branding for me as an unpublished writer still challenges me.  I know I write in the Civil War era, and that my characters are Southern transplants up north, but I have not yet found the right sound byte/slogan to capture the essence of what I’m about.”

I love what Crystal Layne Miller says: “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.”

And finally this from author Andrea Boeshaar: “My agent, Steve Laube, says branding is only for cows. ROFL!”

On a personal note, I think a brand is most often something an author grows into. A career that begins with an I’ll-sell-anything attitude is shaped into a more purposeful direction with time. So a brand is not only what you write, but also what readers expect you will continue to write.

So tell me, what have you learned that will give you insight into your own brand?

6 Responses

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  1. Michelle Ule says:

    After I’d written four (unpublished) novels, I realized themes kept turning up. There’s always music, a pregnant woman, family loss and ironic humor. I also can’t write straight comedy–it always goes deeper. So what sort of “brand” would that make my writing?

    Contemporary women’s fiction.

    Sometimes after you’ve written a “body” of work, you can look back (just as you can look back and see how God worked in your life) and recognize a pattern. It’s probably helpful to review what you’ve written to see the direction you may be headed in.

  2. Teri D. Smith says:

    I agree that a brand is something you grow into. Sometimes even certain tools of the craft, as you learn them, may play a role in the road an author takes. Some questions I now ask my characters has nudged my writing to the contemporary romantic suspense genre. A “strong women, desperate times” theme emerged.

  3. NikoleHahn says:

    My main brand is christian-fantasy. However, I still dally in Christian-romance-suspense from time to time. Bonnie Grove says go with what my passion is, and I have to say my passion is Christian-Fantasy. Eversince reading and watching Narnia and Lord of the Rings, I am entranced at how they hid the message of Christ.

  4. Lynn Rush says:

    Hi. I’ve enjoyed your branding posts. Very helpful. As an umpubbed writer I feel like I’ve grown into a brand a little more with each book I’ve written. Thanks for these posts.

  5. Steve Laube says:

    If I may, I would like to clarify my snarky remark made to Andrea about branding. I was referring to a fascinating book by Jonathan Salem Baskin called BRANDING ONLY WORKS FOR CATTLE: The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy) – published September 2008. It does not mean that I don’t think branding is important, I just think too much of made of it too early in a writers career.

    Kathleen, your last paragraph above, distills the exact meaning of branding. It is something you grow into. I have found that too many writers, with good intentions, begin to worry about this issue too early. They have attended a writers conference and heard the “branding buzz” and then are motivated to find theirs. Truly I think this is energy that could be directed elsewhere.

    Steve Laube
    The Steve Laube Agency

  6. I had an interesting conversation with my sister-in-law yesterday who has inherited her father’s collection of Louis L’Amour books. When I said I thought he just wrote Westerns, she began telling me about all the other great books he wrote that aren’t westerns. I would never have picked up a L’Amour book because I don’t like reading westerns. but now I’m interested in seeing what else he wrote. His “brand” has kept me from reading him.

    All that to say I think branding can work for you and against you.