Friday, September 05, 2008

No Hot Pokers Please!

I still remember the first time I went to a branding workshop, but sure what to expect. At that point the only branding I knew of was the kind they did to livestock with a scorching hot poker. I soon learned in writer’s terms the outcome is the same, but sometimes no less painful. In short, branding is a high concept for the author. But it can get more complex. The brand can encompass everything the author writes which can be multiple genres or it can signify they’re most marketable series.

Most author’s have started branding with catchy phrases (remember how I said Futuristics from the Heart wasn’t one of the best things I could come up with?) However some are so iconic they can simply use an emblem. Think of Vicki Lewis Thompson’s nerd glasses, J.R. Ward’s Brotherhood series sword, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series marked with lightening bolts (including the titles), and Nora Roberts NR logo on everything she has on the shelves.

See what I mean? Being that concise for a reader to grasp not only your genre, but to have enough oomph to sum you up in a second is hard work!

So what can you do to brand yourself? Start with a “theme” that runs across all your PR materials. You want your website to match your bookmarks, business cards, and anything else you had out as a promo. If you have mismatched offerings the reader, agent or editor doesn’t get a clear sense of what you write or what you’re passionate about selling.

Your website should reflect you as a person and author, not in content, but in how you promote yourself. For instance, if you’re a Southern gal who pens westerns, you shouldn’t use a cityscape in gritty grays and blacks. On the other hand if you’re writing dark paranormals, you may want to steer clear of light pastels or bright cheery colors. Whatever theme you use, make sure it shouts professional and is easy to use/read.

One of the most important things you can have is a catchy pen name if you don’t want to use your own and a memorable tagline that identifies you in a crowd. These two things, as well as your website address, should be heralded across your promo pieces. If readers, etc. are hooked, then you want them to know exactly where to find you.

As you might have surmised coming up with that simple catch phrase linked to you can make an author sweat bullets. Why? You want something that sums up everything about you, but you only have 4 to 5 words max. To narrow the field create a list of what gives your writing its X factor? Also pen a list of adjectives that symbolize your sub-genre. After you have several ideas, start combining the two lists in different combos. You want something striking and not too cheesy, unless it’s a play on words that conveys the humor in your writing. But remember, there’s a reason guys cheesy pick up lines don’t work. And remember, for the most part, you’re selling to that same audience, just with a different product.

If you’re in doubt about what sums you up, ask a friend or a critique partner for their two cents. They’re often way better at boiling an author and their books down without remorse or an unending ride on the emotional rollercoaster.

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1 comment:

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Skylar, I've done some of that 'branding', with miles yet to go. But hey, I'm learning.

Congrats on being a biggest loser.