Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Day before yesterday Bonnie asked if I’d covered writing a synopsis yet. Um, no. Bonnie, you’re new here, so I’ll forgive you for saying the “S” word. Thing is, I really don’t know how to do them very well. As things turned out, I never had to write a detailed one, so I’d be a poor teacher at it. My last proposal spent most of its pages giving the aura and stating the case for the series (Hidden Faces). I included the premise for the first book, then finished off with something along the lines of, “and exciting stuff will happen.” The next two books in the series got one-liners. The series ended up with a fourth book, but that one wasn’t even proposed, so it got zilch.
Like I said, I’m lousy at synopses. Hope you stick around anyway, Bonnie.
Okay. We’re finally back to branding.
A couple weeks ago at the Zondervan novelists’ retreat, I heard a very interesting presentation on branding given by Z novelist Tom Morrisey. By the way, if you haven’t read Tom’s novels, you should. They’re especially great for men. And anyone who wants to feel adventuresome. He’s written stories about Nascar racing and deep sea diving and all sorts of cool stuff. Please visit his intriguing Web site to read about his books. I’m using this info from his presentation with Tom’s permission. (And no, he didn’t bargain for the plug. He just deserves it.) I should add that Tom is kind of Renaissance guy. Another thing he does is write freelance marketing copy and figure out branding stuff for some American companies you might have heard of. Like Ford.
Yesterday Lynette asked how I envisioned my readers. Great question, as this is exactly what Tom’s presentation was about. Tom started by using Zondervan’s best-loved sentence, “It’s not about you.” (If you don’t get this joke, I’m not going to explain it.) He then used this quote about brand: “Your … brand is the gut response generated in your customers when they see your logo, hear your name or use your product or service.” He used Harley Davidson as an illustration. Harley definitely has brand. And that brand doesn’t come from the metal and engine and parts that make up the machine. The brand comes from the community of people who drive Harleys. So—if brand is about the people who use your product, and not about you—who is your customer? In our case, who is our reader?
An author’s brand is determined by his/her target reader. A target reader is not the author’s average reader. The target reader is the persona that your reader dreams of being as he/she reads your work. The aggregate of these dreams is your image brand.
Harley example again. Many Harley owners look like the mild one during the week. Then they shed that image on the weekend for the wild one image and mount their Harleys for a road trip. The Harley image comes from these weekend personas.
What do your readers “look like” on the weekend?
Tom then had us “create the character” of our readers. Remember, these target readers (the readers we’re writing for) are the dreamed personas—what our readers want to be, or envision themselves to be as they read our books. Tom handed out questionnaires that we had to fill out about our target readers. They included questions like: favorite thing to do on a weekend (other than read our books!), music listened to, who influenced the reader most, favorite actor, who would reader turn to for help in making a decision (other than God), what kind of clothes the reader wears, what kind of watch, what’s in his/her living room, whose photo is on the desk, where does he/she live, where does he/she get away to? Then the open-ended question: what else do you know about your reader?
From these aggregate answers, we were to come up with the one-word value for our brand. For example, Harley’s value is: Freedom. Fits, doesn't it. You think of the open road, wind in the driver's hair, power to let loose, etc.
Finally, we were to come up with a few words or a phrase that describes our community of readers.
Interesting, huh. I'll stop here for the day. Whatdya think?
Read Part 4