Thursday, October 06, 2005

Marketing & Branding

Thanks so much to all you BGs who left birthday wishes. Y’all are terrific. And welcome especially to those newer BGs who left comments for the first time. Hope to hear more from you folks.

A few comments I’d like to respond to:

In my novel, I say, "the master gave him a scratch behind his pointed ear." Since we're in the creature with the pointed ear's pov, should I not have said that? It stops me each time I read it to ponder if I shouldn't cut that.

Gina, two thoughts from me. First, yes I think you should cut the pointed ear part. Since you’re in the canine’s POV (a doggone interesting one, by the way), it sounds strange for the dog to be thinking about his ears being pointed. He's certainly not looking at them. He’s into feeling that good ol’ scratch behind 'em, and that's what counts.

Second point in general: When a passage bugs us like this one did Gina, we need to pay attention. If your eye snags on a line every time you edit, something’s there. You might not even be sure what it is. If you’re not sure, ask opinions of critiquers or something, but pay attention to that gut feeling.

At the National Book Festival I spent the day in the Mystery and Thrillers tent and heard a wealth of advice from the likes of Nevada Barr, Sandra Brown, and David Baldacci. John Sandford said to include a strong smell in the first scene. It will draw readers in better than anything else, he said.

Thanks for that feedback, C.J. Ah, yes, John Sandford. I’ve taught him well.

I think I may have had an ah-ha moment on show v. tell. Showing doesn't necessarily mean adding more description. It means showing the actions of a person v. telling what a character did. Is that close??

Closer than close, Cara. It’s right on the money.

How about "Leila drew closer, swaying with seductive grace."

Yes, Wayne, this sounds better. Drew is a stronger verb than came. It would be great to strengthen the verb even more. Maybe use swept?

Okay, so, we’re on to marketing. For today, I’m going to talk a little about that word you’ve probably all been hearing: branding.

This word gets tossed around a lot in our publishing world. Most folks think “branding” comes down to figuring out an interesting tagline to stick after your name on e-mails—a tagline that captures the essence of your kind of story. (Some may call this a logo instead of a tagline.) As a result of this thinking—and the general talk that everyone needs such a thing—authors rush to figure out something to put after their name on e-mails and on their Web sites. I’ve seen so many new authors do this, including many who aren’t published yet. Even for those who’ve published a few novels, I’d say it’s way too early, for two reasons.

First of all, branding is way more than this tagline. An author needs to really understand what it’s all about first.

Second, speaking of the tagline itself, the effective use of the tagline means it’s put with your name everywhere. On your Web site, on your business cards, eventually on the back covers of your books, on your e-mails, etc. Little by little, folks begin to know this tagline and think of you. That’s the whole point. It works as a marketing tool to point out the uniqueness of what you write.

Most of you probably know the tagline I’ve had for a number of years now:

Don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . .

It takes time to build recognition of a tagline. So you have to use it and use it and use it as you write one book after another. And if you’re going to use something that much, it had better be on target. It had better really represent you and what you’re writing. This is why deciding on a tagline as a new author is jumping the gun. I’d argue you need a number of books under your belt first before you begin deciding what you’re all about. New authors jump genres, change courses, etc. If you do that, you’ll need a new tagline. Then all the velocity you’ve gained with recognition of the old one is nixed, and you have to start over. So what good did it do you?

Bottom line, don’t jump into this just because you hear the word “branding” tossed about everywhere.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you the process I went through to find Don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . ., and how I’ve continued to refine my brand since then.

Any thoughts, y’all? Issues about branding you want me to address? I hardly consider myself an expert in this process, but I can at least tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years.

Read Part 2


Anonymous said...

Thanks for tackling branding. Because I'm an attorney, several people in the business that I respect are encouraging me to write legal thrillers, because they will be easy to brand. So my first book has a TV reporter as the main character.

I know I could write legal thrillers, but not yet. I haven't found what I'm calling my voice for those yet. I have ideas binging around in my head and I'm turning a secondary character in this book into an attorney just in case she tells me what her story will be. But I've decided for now I can't force myself to be a "john grisham-esque" writer when I don't know how I would be different and distinctive.

My random thoughts on branding. :-)

Stuart said...

Ah yes, nothing like getting something seared into your flesh with a red hot iron only to discover it was a bar-Q when you really needed the cross-Z. :D

I don't ever imagine myself jumping genres any farther than from sci-fi to fantasy and back, and blurring the line as I go. :)

But I also have never had much of a desire to brand myself. I prefer branding my worlds instead, charred dirt smells better than charred flesh. ;) (and because someday I hope to prove to you that YOU can write a sci-fi suspense filled with crazy aliens and get you to come over to play in my world) *snicker*

Dream big or go home asleep.

Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on branding and how you went about discovering your tagline(s).

Gotta go now, my crazy is calling. :)

Camy Tang said...

Aw, does that mean I shouldn't use my tagline? I kinda like it. I think it describes my personality more than my writing.

Unknown said...

Camy, I love your tag-line. Yours is the only business card that stuck in my mind, but I see Brandilyn's point.

Thanks for answering my question about the ghoul's pointed ear, I'm a clip that baby right off. (I can see how you'd think it was a dog).

Another question: My first novel is women's fiction with a touch of supernatural suspense, the second is a thriller (peretti meets chick-lit) and I figured my brand ought to be supernatural suspense.
BUT: I've got the craziest lady in my head trying to tell me her story which is NOT a thriller, just a quirky women's fiction, maybe even literary.

I know they tell you to be a brand, what to do? Thanks!

Grady Houger said...

I hadn't even thought of tag or sig lines being marketing. I don't have any. Now I'll have to not make one up, my writing is way too larval to set up something perminant.

Giving away freebes is the marketing angle I think about most. If it wheren't for professional authors giving out free ebooks of their older work, I wouldn't have started writing.

mrsd said...

Camy, what is your tagline? Thanks.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

"I hardly consider myself an expert in this process, but I can at least tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years."

And that's exactly what we--well, at least, I--want, Brandilyn. You give us an "insider's" experience which sheds light on our own journey. Thank you!

BTW, I think I came up with my "brand" this morning before I read your post. But I'll keep it quiet for now, let it simmer a little. Like Stuart, I don't see myself leaving fantasy any time soon.

Gina Conroy said...

What about Bill Myers who writes juvenile and adult? What’s his brand? I have a juvenile adventure series and an adult suspense, but I’m not thinking about branding now. When I sell, I’ll worry about that. But what about those writers’s who are successful in jumping between different genres like Rene Gutteridge? Can we have more jumpers out there?

On a different subject, is there an unwritten rule as to when you should introduce your main character? Brandilyn edited the beginning of my chapter two a few post ago where we meet my main character Michael for the first time. Michael is mentioned in the prologue and chapter one, but now I’m thinking of adding a scene introducing Michael earlier. What do you think?

Pammer said...

No questions...thank goodness, eh? Just can't wait to see what you'll say next on this subject. I tried to jump the gun, but couldn't come up with anything I liked that sounded I'm still thinking, now I find out that it's okay. Imagine that. :0)

Happy Birthday to you....happy birthday to you...! Okay you can uncover your ears now. Hope it was great.

Karen Eve said...

Like most children of the 60's (and probably most other eras) there's a part of me that says "I don't want to be branded, I just want to go where the mood takes me". Then I realize that branding is actually a positive thing, not a negative, and I won't necessarily find my niche for a few books. That makes it easier. I do want to write in at least 2 different genres, suspense and children's (preteen), so there probably won't be much a problem since they are obviously 2 vastly different audiences. Now back to reality and the study of multicurrency financial applications. Ugh.
God Bless,