More thoughts on branding for authors…
6. Clarifying your brand is crucial. Figure out what need your writing addresses, what connection you make with readers, what defines you as a writer. Branding consultants are always asking, “What’s your core message?” I believe a brand comes from the inside out — it’s not something imposed onto your work (“I’m going to try and sound deep”), but instead is rooted in your unique voice and message. Your brand is a natural extension of who you are, so think about how you’re different and what you want to be known for. Once you figure it out, you work that brand consistently.
7. Branding means being both unique and consistent. You can’t really be “the Queen of the Cozy Mystery” — Agatha Christie sewed that up 40 years ago. You need to figure out what’s unique, what is different, and then you need to hammer away at that same message again and again. Talk it through with marketing and sales in advance of your next release. Be sure the packaging reflects your brand. Get the word out with every editor and author. Focus on your brand with every media contact (rather than only talking about your immediate release). Target specific audiences who will be receptive to your brand, rather than aiming for a wide audience. Look for groups who should be reading your books, prioritize them, and find avenues for reaching them. You want to be clear and concise (most authors spend far too many words trying to describe their brand) and consistent in pushing your brand. And remember to show evidence for your brand; don’t just make a claim (“The best romance writer on the planet” probably won’t fly with readers unless you can buttress that claim with awards, acclaim, and sales numbers).
8. Branding may not be for you. You may not be ready to brand yourself. Maybe you’re currently working in various genres, and a firm brand at this time would be premature. (An example: If you’ve published a gritty crime novel, but want your next two books to be a cozy mystery and a funky YA urban fantasy, then you may not be focused enough to brand your work.) OR you may be an author who defies brands — you create literary fiction, and it tends to wander in and out of genres, and by establishing a clear brand you’ll constantly be breaking promises to readers. I think forcing a newer author to focus his or her writing may make the publisher’s job easier, but it may not be the best thing for the author’s creativity. As Jack London once put it, “I can never get out of the damn Klondike!”
9. Branding is about quality. In my view, branding for a writer comes back to quality — if you create a great read for people who like the sort of books you write, you can begin to establish a brand in their minds. But even a wonderfully inventive brand won’t support a lousy product, which is why I always say the success of a writer always comes back, eventually, to the quality of the craft. Become a great writer first, and you’ll establish your brand in the minds of readers.
Feel free to ask me clarifying questions about this — I love talking branding.