Blogger: Mary Keeley
I often talk to writers who are confused about the necessity of author branding and what goes into determining their unique brand. The quick answer is that the best way to guard your author identity is to establish and maintain a clearly defined brand. Readers begin to associate your name with your particular voice, style, content, and genre. They become synonymous. That’s the beauty and reliability of a well-established brand identity.
Establishing your author brand is essential to creating a consistent perception in readers’ minds. Voice, writing style, personality, passion, and themes—these qualities establish your unique identity within your chosen genre. No one else can do these the same way you do. And these unique qualities of yours are what attract your readers to your books. So it’s important that they are present consistently in everything you write. Think Karen Kingsbury. What comes to mind? Think Debbie Macomber or John Maxwell or Rick Warren. What brand qualities come to mind when you see these well-known names?
You know your personality, but it takes lots of practice at writing to discover your special voice and develop your writing style. This is why many authors don’t get their first, or second, or even third books published. But these works still have incredible value as learning and discovery tools. Blogging is another way to practice your writing.
Get started by asking yourself the following questions. You might find them elementary at first glance, but bear with this exercise. You could gather additional insights into identifying your brand or refining your current brand concept:
- Have I chosen the genre that best suits my interests and passions, or am I going for what is currently popular? Genre popularity is cyclical, so choosing by that standard alone is a mistake and won’t result in your best writing if it’s the wrong fit for you.
- What are the characteristics of the readers I want to attract? How can I touch their deepest needs? How can I give back to them?
- Nonfiction writers: What topics am I most passionate about? How can I convey my message through my unique writing style? Fiction writers: What kinds of stories do I want to write? What values do I want to express in the characters I create?
Genre selection, voice, personality, passion, writing style. These have to be clear to you before you can define your brand with confidence. It may be helpful to ask your critique partners or mentors for their perspectives on you as well as your values and strengths. Others often see qualities we miss in ourselves.
What did you learn about yourself through this little exercise? Do you think you have identified your brand accurately? How might your current brand concept need refining? In which areas do you think you need to give more thought?
This little exercise will help you to define your author brand. Click to Tweet.
Author branding is vital to a successful writing career. Learn more here. Click to Tweet.
Kristen Joy Wilks
I landed on YA because it seemed the best option for me when I was taking a course on writing for children. I think that is still a good fit although I do wonder if middle grade would be better because my sense of humor more closely matches where my children are at now. I landed on comedic romance because that was the first ms. that sold. I think writing funny quirky books fits well but the romance is always hard. I tend to forget that there are supposed to be romantic moments and have to go back and tweak the story until it tells the couples story and not just the heroines. I think that funny is a must for me. As Elizabeth Bennet said “That is too bad, for I dearly love to laugh.” So fun, funny, stories maybe?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
MANY people have suggested I write romantic comedy, as I may have a slight penchant for dry wit and comedic situations. Sure, that’d be fun, but my heart doesn’t ache to change the world through that type of writing.
My heart aches to be that Micah 6:8 woman.
(Not the Proverbs 31 woman, as I hate getting up early and I’d just give stuff away because discussing money is awkward)
Justice, mercy and humility ring strong in my soul.
I’ve long thought that if I could write well enough, I could go back and save those who walked headlong into a hell on earth built to crush them into good Christians and instill an attitude of happy servitude.
The readers I want are people who like a good epic and who see that there are good and bad people on both sides of every conflict, and that although the good may get crushed, they endure because if they don’t, hope itself will die.
I want to give the readers that hope, that desire to pick up the sword from the valiant but dying knight and whisper to him or her, “your loss will not be in vain, I will carry your standard, and will pass it on if I fall”.
I want to draw them in and leave them feeling like I’ve taken them far away, but that they won’t get lost on the way home.
I want them to dig deep, feel every word on the page, and weep when they get to The End.
But you might catch more people interested in you and your writing if you start out there and then lead them to your passion.
See my writing career so far.
There’s something to be said, as well, for learning about the publishing world with “simpler” stories and books before getting into what is truly close to your heart.
We can win more people by being winsome and clever and then as they follow and trust us– bring them up to the truth.
There’s merit in such an idea, Jennifer. I trust you’ve been praying and thinking about it.
And it wouldn’t take you long at all.
Of course, there’s the Revelation 6:8 man.
I’m a Proverbs 31 woman . . .
“She brings her food from afar.”
From the pizza place, the burger joint, the carry-out counter.
Love it, Shirlee. I am, too. I noticed she is an entrepreneurial woman (buying fields, reinvesting her earnings, trading, selling what she makes, working ’til the wee hours using a lamp) and not once does it say she keeps a spotlessly clean house.
Interesting topic, and a good exercise.
* My brand seems to be evolving, based on life-experience.
Things are changing me, changing the perspective from which I can communicate.
* To wit – last night I came up against one of the fundamental concerns when I felt my soul being pulled from my body after a particularly bad stretch. It was a singular experience, and engendered not fear but anger. I fought it with everything I had. Barb told me I should just let go; but there was no way I was going to do that. There’s stubborn and then there’s stupid, I guess. But I never learned how to spell kwiit, and now’s not the time. So I went there and back again, to quote our mutual friend Bilbo Baggins. I seem to have made something of a specialty of returns from what were supposed to be one-way trips.
* So where does that leave ‘brand’? I thought I was destined to write contemporary romance, because those are the stories that I’ve enjoyed developing. But now…spend enough time at the the intersection of Temporal Terrace and Eternal Avenue and it really messes with your head. But the point is NOT that romance is made trivial. It’s something else altogether.
* See,the takeaways are that everything we do in this life matters a great deal, and the way we treat others matters most of all. We have responsibilities in this life; not rights.
* There is certainly something behind this Potemkin village of our physical universe. What we see, and experience, and even time itself are the plywood storefronts that line the street of our life. But behind that plywood is scaffolding, and beyond that is the Reality.
* So that’s the brand, I guess. I peeked through one of the windows, and saw what was on the other side, and saw why this stage-set on which we live is vital. Transcendence walks beside us. Carl Sagan was fond of saying “we are (made of) star-stuff”; he was an idiot. We shine with the divine fire that LIT the stars.
* The best way I can see to write it (though I have no idea how) is through parable and allegory. “The Little Prince”. “Illusions.” “The Prophet”. And, of course, “Lord Of The Rings.”
* Readership? The millennial who, like Oliver Twist, wants more. The baby boomer who sees Christianity substituting stridency for the Good News. The Gen-X’er to whom the New Age is revealed as empty, and the Old Hippie who found that the spiritual road East eventually circled the globe to the darkness that remained in his own heart.
* So, how to get there from here? I have no idea.
Whoa, talk about choppy writing! Said what I meant to say, but that’s embarrassing.
Write it, Andrew. I want to read it.
I actually have started it, Carol, though until this morning I didn’t realize it. It’s called “The Home Of Grace”. Here’s some back-cover copy. Love to hear opinions.
* Grace O’Malley has moved on. She has a new husband, a ten-year-old son, and a beautiful home in San Diego. She wants these years to last forever. Her first husband was a security contractor; what had seemed a romantic adventure had quickly turned into loneliness and dread. Now she’s floating on a peaceful suburban sea and, eyes closed, loving it.
But her life changes on Christmas Eve, when ex-husband Bob shows up with a Nigerian boy, whom he begs her to protect at all costs,
The ruling military junta has learned that the child is thought to be the fulfillment of a prophecy that will bring all warring sides to the table of unity, and the generals don’t WANT that. They set out to kill the boy, but Bob rescues him and takes the child to the only safe place he knows on earth…the house of his wife.
When Grace looks into the terrified yet trusting eyes, she can’t turn the child away, and puts everything…her new family, her very life…at risk. For a child, yes, and as she soon comes to suspect, for a world given one last chance.
Oooh! You HAVE to finish this one.
Methinks you write romance of the most contemporary kind, Andrew.
Janet Ann Collins
Andrew, don’t you dare die before you finish writing that book and getting it published! I can’t wait to read it.
One question I have. I heard at the ACFW conference that we shouldn’t make our work an “issue.” It shouldn’t come across as an issue. I’m assuming that means–something we want to solve, something we want to draw to others’ attention, etc. How do we balance our passion and our work, as not to appear an issue? Involving a topic that draws attention, without it appearing an issue? I may be asking in all the wrong ways … 🙂
Shelli, for what it’s worth (and I may be totally missing the ACFW point!), my take on the question is this – an old quote from I don’t know where. Take it from the reader’s point of view.
* Don’t follow me; I may not be fit to lead. Don’t lead me; I will not follow. Just walk beside me, and be my friend.
* Translated for me, this comes down to “Don’t try to predict what I will like, and don’t try to make me like something. Just tell me a story that comes from your heart.”
Beautifully stated, Andrew. Thank you for sharing.
Love that, Andrew.
Shelli, how much of that message is because people, even in Christian publishing, are so focused on the monetary bottom line? Obviously the publishers have to be, or they’d go out of business. Agents must because they serve both publishers and authors. Authors, maybe not. Some are meant to write nice, clean fiction that can be enjoyed without stirring uncomfortable emotions, but maybe you (and Jennifer and I?) are called to writing something deeper that might disturb as well as delight? If you feel an issue burning to take form in a novel, maybe that’s because God wants you to write about it that way. Of course, that would probably mean independent instead of traditional publishing.
For those who might be interested, I found an article on BuzzFeed that explains why Nicholas Sparks’ brand is so successful and enduring.
Mary, thanks for asking these kinds of questions. It’s exactly this type of post at B&S that has helped me put into words what and why I write.
I write stories of difficult friendships growing into love coupled with the spiritual transformation of one of the protagonists. I want to inspire and attract by spotlighting powerful faith that strengthens its owner and irresistibly draws an unbeliever to accept Jesus as Lord. I hope the novels will both encourage believers to strengthen their commitment to take difficult stands for Jesus and provide something to share with a friend who loves a skillfully crafted story but isn’t drawn to Jesus…yet. Do they have the potential for the sales numbers a traditional publisher needs? Maybe, but maybe not. Either way, it’s a brand that fires my passion, and I can sustain it through many more novels than the ones I’ve already written.
Writing, I’m a woman of few words.
In person, NOT!
So much for “You are what you write.”
Thank you for this lesson Mary. I didn’t consider myself a “brand” until I met you. I’ve been working under the umbrella of “Friendship, Hope, & Fried Fruit Pies” for the past year, and I’ve learned to ask myself if the blog post fits my brand. What I’ve just realized is that I need to ask the same questions when I post on Facebook or tweet too. I’m far from mastering branding, but at least I’m aware of the problem so I can work to improve.
I recently faced this dilemma. I wrote YA fiction for a decade. At the beginning, I was so young I couldn’t write anything else. My reading list comprised of YA books and a beloved aunt wrote YA. It didn’t occur to me that I had another choice. Ten years down the road I stumbled upon romantic suspense. I didn’t know such a genre existed, and I was enthralled. RS suits my personality, my tastes, and has an audience with whom I believe I can connect. I’m now mid-way through writing my first RS novel and I’m having a blast. Finding the right genre has brought pure joy to my writing.