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