Friday 5 – Tough questions about “brand” for you to answer.

I’ve seen lots of posts on branding. Everything from it’s a must to just be yourself. I’ve seen many different ways to go about it, the strict brands of paranormal romance, horror, classic middle grade, dystopian; to it being more about great writing.

Here are five questions swirling around in the gray matter of my brain. Pick one and answer in the comments.

1. Do you believe a writer can create a true brand before they even have a book or two out? Do you think about brand before you start a story?

2. Do you think brand equals genre you write in?

3. How many of you find the idea of a brand a bit constricting? Or do you not worry about it at all?

4. Have you ever been upset with an author that wrote a different story from what you were expecting? And did you get over it?

5. Do you think creating a brand is a make or break thing for a writer? Do you think an author can brand their career to a certain death when the trends change?

Share your thoughts. Curious minds want to know.

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30 Responses to Friday 5 – Tough questions about “brand” for you to answer.

  1. Matthew MacNish September 30, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I don’t worry about it too much. The one thing that scares me a little is getting pigeon-holed into writing only one genre. I have a friend who left his agent because the agent wanted all his books to be just like the first one he got published. I would hate that.

  2. Louise September 30, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    When I think about brand in these terms, I think especially of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz/Barbara Michaels. A reader knows, depending on which pseudonym she’s writing under, exactly what to expect. From Elizabeth Peters, mystery/adventure. From Barbara Mertz, nonfiction Egyptology. From Barbara Michaels, gothic romance. Everyone knows they are all the same person, but that way you don’t pick up an Elizabeth Peters book, thinking to read a fun mystery, and find with a shock that it is a tome on Egyptology. I think that’s a clever way of creating her brand, especially since she plays it up and makes her plethora of names a bit of a joke, so everyone knows she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

    Along those lines – regarding Question 4, if the author can let the reader know in advance, whether through prior marketing or even just an author’s note at the beginning of the book, that this is different from what he/she usually writes, I think most readers are willing to give it a chance. It’s the shock, usually, of only finding out partway through the book that this is nothing like the others, that bothers most people (I think).

    • Laura September 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Matthew – I totally agree. It’s like if this book is the one, is that all I can ever write? I hope not. 🙂

      Louise – I love that. Not hiding a pen name, just using them to show the different genres.

  3. Stina Lindenblatt September 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Since I’m not published, I’m not too concerned about my brand yet. The one thing that’s consistent in the books I write, whether they are YA horror or YA contemp, is that there’s always romance and danger in them. I guess I could consider that my brand. *shrugs*

  4. alyslinn September 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m not really concerned about my brand (thus far unpublished here). And I also don’t have any problems with authors going outside their usual style. No shock there. 🙂 (and anyway, I think that the cover blurb and such would help a reader to realize the content of a book?)

  5. Traci Kenworth September 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I do find the idea of a brand a bit constricting. Simply because I don’t like to limit myself. Now, with that said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t concentrate in certain genres as I write, but I don’t want to lock myself into only one area of writing. I think too many people are forcing themselves into corners when it comes to brands and it’s going to be difficult for them to pursue other agendas. I want the sky to be the limit. I realize, right now, my own site leans toward the “dark” stories but I do occasionally through in some “light” even “historical” or “time-travel” ones to mix it up. Recently, I’ve begun to open more of myself on the blog, nothing too personal, just insight into past times I pursue, that hopefully give a balanced view of who I am as a person and not just as the writer. I feel this is important to our readers to get to know who we are behind the keyboard as well. So maybe that’s the brand: to show a well-rounded view of yourself.

  6. shelley moore thomas September 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I don’t even like the way the word BRAND sounds.

    However, it would be kind of cool to always have my name in the same font on a book….

    And without trying to create a brand, I have one. I mean, I am a storyteller who dresses as a queen, I write about knights and dragons. I have a novel coming out about featuring ancient Celtic folklore…but these are just things I love so I guess it makes sense.


  7. Shannon September 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Hi Laura! I’m here from Alex’s blog, and am now your newest follower, though I think I’ve been here before. =)

    Interesting questions. I think branding, to a certain degree, is important so readers know what to expect, but as a writer I don’t want to be limited.

  8. Jami Gold September 30, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Interesting questions. As you know, I have quite a few branding posts, so I’ll take a stab at this with my thoughts. 🙂

    #2 – No, my brand includes my genre, but is not limited by it.

    #5 – I think a brand is simply the “tag” that goes along with our name when others think of us. When we write queries or synopses, we tag our characters with “stubborn orphan girl,” “disillusioned popular girl,” etc. People do the same thing with those they know. Brand is something that happens whether we want it to or not. So the question is: Are we doing anything to be conscious of how we present ourselves to others? 🙂

  9. Donna K. Weaver September 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I’ve heard about branding, but I’m playing the Scarlett O’Hara card and promising I’ll think about it tomorrow. Probably not wise, but how can I establish a brand when I don’t know yet what I want to be when I grow up? I think the thing that concerns me the most about it is the connection to genre I sense. So far I have three WIPs and they’re in three different genres. I don’t read one genre and I don’t want to be pinned to writing one genre. I know in the traditional bookstore way of finding books, if you write multiple genres it’s harder for people to find your books. But with it so easy to find not just ebooks but books by author at the online vendors, it seems not to be such a big deal.

    Unless, of course, your reader is expecting one kind of story and gets another and is therefore upset with you. I guess you just have to make sure your blurb about the book is accurate.

  10. Wendy September 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    I think the best brands are those that grow organically out of what an author values, what they hope to convey in their works and who they are as a person.

    It’s obvious when it’s forced and they take time to develop.

    ~ Wendy

    • Laura September 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      Good answers, everyone. As Jami commented, I think we should watch how we present ourselves, but, if we’re trying too hard I think that comes across. And not in the good authentic way we want. I do think branding happens but I do think author branding can be different from the branding that happens in our work. I just do. Someone can be really nice online but write creepy dark stories. Seems very different.

      I keep hearing that brand will help you find your niche audience.

  11. Elle Strauss September 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I’ve thought a lot about this because I do write a wide swath of styles. They all fall under YA which is helpful, but it’s why I gave myself the blog log line “writing otherworldliness…” because that is the one common factor. Basically, I’m saying I don’t write contemporary, but everything else is fair game 🙂

  12. Patti September 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    I don’t worry about it because who knows when I’ll get published and with what kind of book. I do know of an author who wrote a bunch of mysterious, but didn’t get really famous until she wrote romance and when her fans went back to read her previous books they were disappointed.

  13. Stacy September 30, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    This is a great post, Laura. I think brand and genre (at least my genre) sort of go together. If you’re writing suspense/thrillers, etc., than you need to be known for being knowledgable and interested in those topics, and you need to network with others who feel the same.

    That said, I think the writing still must speak for itself. I’ve read many books (and loved them) without knowing a thing about the authors. It’s very cool to be able to go online and learn more about them, but like Wendy, I agree they need to be organic and come from who the author is as a person. Since we’re always changing, it’s great to see their “brand” and interests evolve.

    I’d have to categorically say no to number 4 and yes to number 1. You can start building a brand prior to publishing, but the book itself has to be a part of it.

  14. Karen Lange September 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Wow, great food for thought! I’ve thought some about branding but not quite this much. I don’t really care if an author breaks out of their expected norm. I say go for it!

    As a writer, I don’t want to be too restricted by such. On one hand I can see the need and perhaps a comfort zone that follows, on the other, I like to be rebellious and throw caution to the wind. In theory, anyway!

    Have a great weekend!

  15. Loree Huebner September 30, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    I don’t worry too much about it. I think it naturally comes out as we bloom…

  16. Kelly Polark September 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I don’t think of “the brand” so much as just hopefully people thinking of me as a positive person or not a douchebag. 🙂
    I think if a blogger comes out with a book, and if I enjoy their blog and them as a person, I am highly likely to read their book whether it is in my fave genre or not.
    But now that I think of it, my brand is probably a bit rock n roll, and my first mg is rock music themed. So that’s good, but my next mg is not musical at all.

  17. Susan Kaye Quinn September 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    3. How many of you find the idea of a brand a bit constricting? Or do you not worry about it at all?

    I actually found my exploration of author branding freeing because I came down on the side of it being about who you are as a person. It goes back to authenticity, as the great Nate B. talked about. I think it’s freeing to be yourself – and this doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it, per se, as I check it against these ideas I have in my head and say, “Self, is this consistent with what you believe and why? If so, carry on.”

    Also: I believe readers (and people in general) are more flexible than you might think.

  18. Jill Kemerer September 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Great question, Laura. I think my brand is me. With each blog post, each tweet, each facebook post, and each personal interaction at writers groups and such, I have to engage in a way that makes people open to what I have to offer, especially since I don’t have a book published yet. However, I do keep my genre in mind in regards to how all of my online sites are presented.

    Some authors have no desire to expand their career beyond writing their books (and there’s nothing wrong with that), and I’ve seen some authors brand their books, going as far as to create websites for a series.

    Others hope to increase their fan base through speaking engagements, social media, collaborating on projects with other authors, etc…

    I think it’s smarter in the long run to brand ourselves as authors, so to speak, with the genre and tone of our books as a backdrop.

    You do an excellent job of just that.

    • Laura October 1, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      Thanks Jill. I agree. I like the brand by tone, theme, writing style – so we can branch out when the time comes.

  19. Ann Best September 30, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    In my long life, I’ve just been interested in a good story. I’ve never before heard about “branding.” Somehow I see a cow in a pasture (smile face).

  20. Marcia October 1, 2011 at 2:42 am #

    I also got started when nobody was thinking about branding. Still even then, I think I was “sort of literary CBA.” It was more about who I was than what genre I wrote.

    I now think of myself as MG literary-with-plot. For me, plots have to be populated with fully fleshed characters, and characters have to have goals, action, and growth — a character arc. I don’t think brand can be a genre, because what happens when that genre isn’t hot?

    I like authors who write two or three similar (not “the same book over again,” though) books when they’re starting out, and then start stretching and reaching and branching out. For example, Karen Cushman started with historical but eventually wrote contemporary too. When I’ve seen two or three books by one author that are really sharp, I’ll gladly follow that author into other genres.

  21. Lisa Green October 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Here’s what I think: My “brand” is me. My online persona isn’t fake, it’s who I am or at least who I want to be when I’m not wearing other hats. I have been surprised, humbled, and delighted that so many wonderful people seem to appreciate who I am. Now… to get a book sold! LOL

  22. Medeia Sharif October 3, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    I don’t really think about branding.

    I like it when an author writes something I don’t expect, unless the new genre or style doesn’t suit him/her.

    Have a great week.

  23. Margo Berendsen October 4, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Can’t resist spouting my own swirling thoughts because maybe it will help me clarify where I stand on this whole brand thing.

    1. Do you believe a writer can create a true brand before they even have a book or two out? Do you think about brand before you start a story?

    Yes, and yes. But I think you have to write at least four or five books before publication to figure out what your brand is. Unless you are genius.

    2. Do you think brand equals genre you write in?

    No. It’s genre, plus something uniquely identifiable about you and what you write.

    3. How many of you find the idea of a brand a bit constricting?

    Oh yes. Because I love all sorts of genres, both to read and write. But such is the sink or swim publishing world.

    4. Have you ever been upset with an author that wrote a different story from what you were expecting? And did you get over it?

    Yes, more startled than upset, but hey if it’s still a good book, no problemo

    5. Do you think creating a brand is a make or break thing for a writer?

    Pretty much. Again, unless you are a one book wonder like Harper Lee or one series wonder like JK Rowling (I guess with her it still remains to be seen)

    Do you think an author can brand their career to a certain death when the trends change?

    Possibly, but not if a writer is flexible and gets good promotional/branding advice.

  24. Margo Berendsen October 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    So after posting that monster comment, I was wondering if you would mind me posting with more detailed thoughts have a post of my own, with credit to you of course?

    • Laura October 5, 2011 at 3:43 am #

      Of course I don’t mind Margo!

  25. Leslie Rose October 5, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    I have yet to write two stories in the same genre, so the restrictive feel of branding freaks me out a little. I stick to YA and wouldn’t mind keeping in that slot. At a workshop an agent said once you write 3 books in your genre then you can switch. I know if I like an author, I’ll follow them anywhere.


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