Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What is Your Brand?

What does branding have to do with writing?

Y’all know what branding cattle means. A rancher marks his livestock with a brand so everyone knows that animal is his.

And so, how do writers brand what they write? Well, it doesn't involve branding irons. Every time a writer writes she/he is branding the book so readers will know who wrote it. Their writing stands for something. Think about it…what do you think when you hear the names J.K. Rowlings, Stephanie Meyer, or Mary Higgins Clark? You think of their stories and the impressions made. You know that if you go into a store and ask for a J.K. Rowlings book, you’re going to receive a magical story where one scrawny kid with limited powers will overcome evil. For Stephanie Meyers you’ll get good vampires helping a mortal girl develop courage. And Mary Higgins Clark will put ordinary people in life-threatening situations, but good will survive.

These authors have branded their names with their writing. But what if they choose to write in another genre? Does the brand still stick? Usually it does because branding has to do with more than wizards and vampires. It has to do with the author’s voice.

To show you what I mean, I’ll pick on myself. I’ve written several books that are inspirational fiction. The Forgotten Warrior was about a young woman with a black belt in karate who was going through a very bad time in her life. Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse she was thrown back in time to Helaman and the stripling warriors. As the story develops the protagonist learns that faith builds courage.

My next book was An Angel on Main Street. No time travel here. The story is about an eleven-year-old boy who gets in "noble" trouble with the law. As the sheriff escorts the boy home, they come upon part of a nativity in the center of town. No one knows whose is building the scene. He tells his sick, little sister about the nativity and that no one knows who is building it. She tells him angels are and when the baby Jesus comes he’ll make her better. The book follows the boy as he tries to find the nativity builder to bring the baby Jesus to his little sister. He learns that miracles do happen.

These are two very different stories, but they are both branding my name. How is that? Both stories are inspirational fiction and there’s my writing voice.

I have another YA time travel coming out in August, but I’ve also submitted a romantic suspense novel to my publisher. AND the thread that keeps them in common is, you’ve got it: writer’s voice, inspirational fiction, and my name. When someone sees my name they will know what will be in the book.

So how do you go about developing your brand? Focus on, what your writing says. What are the common themes in your work? What is it that will make readers ask for your books by using your name?

16 comments:

  1. I work on my voice by writing the way my passion for the story moves me-I have no doubt that I have a recognizable voice for those that become familiar with me.

    Most people who followed my blog for instance had a pretty good idea which 2 stories were mine in the LDS Publishers Short Book of Mormon story contest a couple months ago. And I'm glad they liked it.

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  2. Great question. I asked a writer friend of mine the same question. She said to start with what your audience will expect from you. Once your name is out there, it is possible to write under your same name, but if the book is different enough to cause problems, change the name for the genre. It's good advice, but I'm still pondering that solution.

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  3. David, so true to write where your passion lies and then your natural voice comes out loud and clear. Thanks for making that point. I hope your new book is selling well.

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  4. Carolyn: You want to build a following for your writing and sometimes when you write in two very different genres that you've been published in it can be a good idea to use a different name. Makes me think of Nora Roberts who built up her name with romance novels. Then she started publishing under the pseudonym of J.D. Robb for her mystery-suspense books. Didn't take long for people to put two and two together because of her writing voice. It's certainly something to ponder.

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  5. Great post! I haven't published yet, but my writing all tends to be about hope and teamwork.

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  6. Hi Kathi. How do I brand? Well, so far I've published two novels that both involve an American protagonist who lives overseas. I loved my own abroad experiences so much that I incorporate them into my stories. My readers can expect to read general fiction that is character driven and involves a bit of armchair traveling.

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  7. Great post Kathi! This helped me learn a lot and think about how I can develop my voice in writing. I really like coming to your blog! :)

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  8. Jemi, it doesn't matter if you're published or not, you still need to think of your brand and what you want your writing to say about you as a writer. Hope and teamwork are wonderful values to be known for. Thanks for stopping by. Hope your computer woes are over.

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  9. Wendy, your books sound wonderful. I can see readers asking for your books using your name. They'll want to see the world through your protagonists! Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. Thanks, Sheila. I'm glad you like stopping by my blog. And I'm so happy to have helped you with your writing. Can't wait to see you at the conference!

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  11. My brand is not light and fluffy. I write the darker aspects of human nature. But there is always a journey to complete, and hope to be had; even if all does not turn out well in the end.

    As for your bio question of what to do with the pool sized hole in your back yard: Uhm, how about a pool?

    Or a really lovely fish pond, with a shade tree and bench to sit on and contemplate the universe. Be sure to put up a "no fishing" sign for the hubby and grandson :)

    This was an interesting post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathi.

    ......dhole

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  12. Donna, your books sound wonderful. And the hole in my backyard...we thought of a swimming pool (that's why we dug it), but before we knew it the kids were all grown up and my husband and I joined a spa. The fishing pond...now that's has possibilities.
    Thanks for stopping by.:)

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  13. Thanks, Carol. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it does well. :)

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  14. My brand is myself. How I view life. How I believe what is worthwhile and what is pretty but empty chaff. How I have characters interact with one another. How I depict what drives them towards a goal, or towards each other, or drives them apart.

    If you have the time and inclination, come visit my blog, WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS. I entered a challenge to depict two characters carrying on a conversation without dialogue. Ouch. That proved to be interesting.

    Have a productive, beautiful week, Roland

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  15. Very intriguing, Roland. I'll have to check out the challenge on your blog. Thanks for stopping by.

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