Saturday, July 18, 2009

Branding and the author

I keep reading that an author needs a brand or more specifically a position statement that say what the reader can expect when they pick up her novel. It is something I have thought deeply about.
You can see my tag line or position statement -- Passionate about history, Passionate about romance. My books have passion and they are historical romance. I am also passionate about what I write and really believe in it. It also fits into the North East tourist board Passionate people, passionate places theme. My books mainly are set in the North East of England and I live and work here so it makes sense. But to get all this, you would have to know about the ad campaign...
But I must say that I have never really bought into the whole branding thing/position statement. First of all, it would need to appear on ALL my covers, not just my website and blog (and this does not happen, nor will it). Second, does it accurately describe why someone might pick up my books. I read books for lots of reasons. Sometimes I read the books in spite of the statement, not because of it.
This is why I was interested to see the AdMan Answers #65 on MJ Rose's brilliant blog --Buzz, balls and hype. My brand is actually my name. My readers do not look for Passionate about history Passionate about Romance books, they look for my name. They look for the M&B Historical or Harlequin Historical branding. If they have had a good experience, they will come back.
I have a website which lists all my books because if you are like me, once you have an author you like, you want to read her backlist, you want to know when the next book is coming out and how they are related to her other books. There is a link to my website on the side of the blog. The other stuff on the website is interesting but really, it is the books that I am interested in -- plus when the next one is coming out. My daughter spends more time on other authors' website but it is generally to learn about characters. But in part reflecting my tastes, I have a bit on writing, the excerpts and a few reviews. To get the full experience of my books, you need to read them. If I had wanted to write short stories, I would have written them for magazines. I write books and create worlds for those books.
Anyway the best thing I can do to improve my brand is to write a story that keeps people coming back for more, so that they really do seek out my name. It is the back cover copy that draws people in, and the story that readers coming back for more. It is my CONTENT that will help my readership grow. And for that I have to make each story the best it can be.
Right back to the wip and looking at the RWA Nationals coverage


Lacey Devlin said...

Great post! Thanks Michelle :)

Nell Dixon said...

For me, branding is about meeting the readers expectations of what they will get when they pick up a book with my name on it. Recently, as a reader, I picked up a book by one of my autobuy authors, I'd waited eagerly for the release, even buying in hardback as I was too impatient to wait for the paperback. Her books had always been light romantic reads with a humourous twist but deep layers. This book was more like a misery lit, no humour, no happy ending, no romance. Result, I probably won't buy her next release - for me that was a branding fail.

Jen Black said...

I blogged on Freda Lightfoot's talk on branding at the RNA conference on Thursday. It certainly seems ot be in the air!

Donna Alward said...

Nell - there are some terms being used a lot now like "high concept" and branding and permutations of what that means. I was at a workshop today that agrees with you. For so long I figured that little slogan you put on your cards, sites, etc is your brand.

BUt I was at a workshop today with Nina Bruhns and Natasha Kern and they both said it's more about the promise for the reader. What makes a story a Nell Dixon, or a Donna Alward, or a Michelle Styles? Then take the heart of that, and make sure you take it with you to whatever you are writing - to avoid the reaction you just said.

For me, my voice will always be warm, emotional. No matter what length or type of story I write, I highly doubt that will change. Those characteristics then form my promise to the reader and become my "brand".

It isn't always but it can be bigger than a slogan.

Just my thoughts...