Thursday, October 13, 2005

Branding--Day 4

Oh, boy. Guess what I got yesterday afternoon. My editorial review letter on Violet Dawn. All 16 pages of it. That’s right. Sixteen. Yikes.

Actually, I’m thrilled and a little scared at the same time. Scared at having 16 pages of things to consider and fix. (Five or six of which are major things, the rest minor to little details.) Thrilled because I know, at the end of the process, I will have a much better book. I always do. God love those editors! Nothin’ beats a deep, hard edit for an author. I tell you the truth—if you receive a “fix these two little things and we’re good to go” editorial letter, be wary. In my opinion, a good editor’s gonna find lots of things to fix, no matter how great an author you might be.

At any rate, I shall certainly stay out of trouble for the next couple of weeks.

Back to branding. I wanted to pick up from yesterday and tell you a little about how I went through the assignment Tom Morrisey gave us to do—filling out the questionnaire about my “target reader.” At first, I had trouble with this. Anything I thought of, I immediately rejected as not good enough. (Sheesh, no wonder I have trouble plotting.) When we broke into groups of three and talked about it, the other two in my group helped me get a handle on things. I’ve also thought more about this exercise since then, and revised my findings somewhat.

Remember that the bottom line of the exercise was to decide upon two things: (1) the one-word value for my product, and (2) the phrase that describes my community of readers.

Cara said something interesting in her comment yesterday regarding her mindset when she reads one of my books or other suspense novels: Probably a mix of escape, adventure, and learning something, too. I've never been a forensic artist. But I like to learn about it while I try to outsmart the writer in solving the crimes/mystery.

This resonates with what I came up with regarding my reader. For the one-word value for my product, I’ve ended up with: Dramatic. I think readers come to my books expecting that roller coaster ride, intensity of murder conflict and character emotion, and twists. I think my readers envision themselves (as they read my book) adventuresome, action-oriented, able to handle tension, strong even when they’re spine-tingled. And one more important thing, as Cara mentioned. They see themselves as intelligent puzzle-solvers. They know I’m going to try to catch them off guard through a twist or two, and they’re looking to figure out that twist ahead of time. If they figure out the twist, they’re proud of themselves. If I fool them, they’re more than willing to grant me kudos for it.

The phrase I’ve ended up with to describe my community of readers is: More than meets the eye. (Actually, one of my group members might have said this first; I can't remember.) I’m going to continue to think on this, and maybe I’ll refine it, but I think it hits the mark pretty well. It’s an aggregate of various words that describe my readers, such as: rollercoaster riders, puzzle-solvers, unbridled, daring, adventuresome, learners, confident. My readers may be quiet computer techs during the week, or moms, or teachers, etc., but when they approach one of my stories, those words are what they become. They are multi-faceted people. The “More than meets the eye” phrase refers both to these levels of layers within my readers and their twist-solving approach to my stories, for they know that within the plot there’s more than meets the eye.

The cool thing is, after I went through this process, I saw how the answers do fit with my “Seatbelt Suspense” brand descriptor, and the tagline, “Don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . .”

From this exercise, I’ve come away with a better idea of who I’m writing for. Who I’m trying to please as I plot that next book.

BGs, I’d love your feedback on this. Do you think I have it right? What would you add? Disagree with?

After all, I’m used to a hard edit.

Read Part 5


Unknown said...

I would say you've nailed it, Brandilyn. I would just add that one of the things I find most appealing about your writing is that it doesn't waste my time. I'll bet most of your readers are extrememly busy people and reading is a luxury. Your tight writing and lots of white space appeals greatly. You don't waste words. A long, leisurely novel with lots of purple prose is something I'll bet most of your readers simply don't have time for. So, in a nut-shell, BUSY.

C.J. Darlington said...

Kind of as a little bit of an aside, I wanted to mention that I really like how you take the time for character development AMIDST the roller-coaster ride. Some thrillers are go go go, and they don't give you much about the characters' life or inner struggle. I enjoy how you include both, especially in your Hidden Faces series. The struggle Annie has with her family (gotta love her sister!) give us a breather from the threat of death, but also make it a more enjoyable read.

Tina Helmuth said...

Most of the words you listed describe what I am when I read your books. And "More than meets the eye" sums it up nicely.

That's also what I become when I write. When people who only know me casually read my book they said, "I didn't know she had it in her." Because I'm so quiet most of the time. Even my own mom said, "Where do you come up with this stuff?" Oh, it's us quiet ones you have to watch out for.

Domino said...

;) I've got your one-word target audience: Non-weenies!

Being a weenie, I know you are targeting the tenacious suspense readers. Your readers are able to read suspense at night, alone in a quiet house. I'm a "definitely daylight" reader. I'm a "sitting in the yard with the sun beating down on the sidewalk so hard it causes me to squint" reader. No nightlight for me.

I think you attract more than your target reader, but to refine the brand, you ignore the fringe readers and only describe the die-hard fans. Right?

Lynette Sowell said...

I think you've got it. I notice, though, that you don't add a "spiritual" quality to your target audience. Was that intentional, or is it something that comes along in the reader experience? Because I know you have definite spiritual messages in each of your books. :)

I've heard a lot of writers say, "I write for the unchurched" or "I write for people with abusive pasts" etc., etc. In your opinion, does that limit a writer? Or maybe what I really mean, does the author's message become more important that the story? (thinking out loud here)

D. Gudger said...

BC, I think you've pegged us. I like surprise. I am a literal and literary roller-coaster fan b/c I love the high octane, stomache dropping feel - mystery/suspense novels also engage the mind. I just finished Dread Champion and boy did my mind get a workout! I love feeling the compulsion to turn the page, turn the page, turn the page - oh! It's 2 AM! Turning blue from hypoxia, I appreciate the "dont forget to b r e a t h e . . "brand :)

Here's an off topic question that is niggling in my brain as I am currently reading multiple books ... why do so many authors make their protagonists (especially female) skinny, shiny-haired, and very, very pretty? What about the readers who don't identify with that? The readers who have been ostracized and passed by for promotions b/c they don't fit the "American Ideal" of beauty? Should we as writers consider ordinary folk type protags? I must admit, I really LOVE Chealsea Adams - especially in DC - people think she's a freak and I can realte so well to that.

Karen Eve said...

By jove, I think she's got it! To help some of us newbies, can you say how it might have changed since you were first published in fiction? I know it's hard to brand right out of the gate, but did you know who your audience was at first?
Thanks again,

Pammer said...

You have it Brandilyn. Also when I open one of your books I become a student. (I usually forget that in the ensuing fray, however.) I think your brand and taglines are exactly. . .'write'. :0)