I was pretty tired Monday after doing the teleseminar with Allison Bottke, and my brain fell asleep on me when it came time to blog Monday night. But I’m back now. There are still many questions to answer, so I’ll try to deal with some of them today. In a day or two, we’ll switch gears and talk about the craft of writing for a while.
I see how branding is done and used when you have something going into print, have an agent and that already, but I’m still a bit confused on how to use a brand/promotion when you’re only still writing that first novel, freshman or maybe sophomore level. I guess what I’m asking is: how can you go about establishing it when you have nothing specific to promote yet?
Randy sez: Please bear in mind that YOU are part of your product. Readers don’t just buy books, they buy authors. Ever been to a movie just because it was a Harrison Ford movie? Or a Mel Gibson movie? Or a Julia Roberts movie? You’re not just seeing a movie, you’re seeing an actor.
Of course you have. Maybe you’ve popped into the bookstore and bought the latest Grisham or Clancy. You’re not just buying a book, you’re buying an author.
So no matter where you are in your career, you should be thinking about what it is about you that your readers are going to be buying someday. This is uncomfortable, unless you are an incurable egotist. But it’s part of branding.
I’ll mention Camy again. Part of her brand is her great big smile. I teased her a bit about the fact that she laughs a lot, but that’s part of her brand. As her editor once said about Camy, she lights up a room. She’s fun to hang out with.
My options, as I see them:
1.Toss the current baby out the window and begin fresh with something that reflects my “brand factors.”
2.Beef up the baby to include bits of my bf’s, so that it somewhat resembles the style of future stuff
3. Finish current wip all serious as first intended, count it as practice, cross my fingers and send it away. Then have a blast cramming my NEXT novel full of fun, twisted, provoking stuff.
Randy sez: Only you can make that decision, Camille. My advice is to work hard on whatever book you’re working on until the day comes when you decide that this story is never going to work and your heart is no longer in it. Then set it aside and work on something your heart is in 100%. You will know if and when that day comes and you’ll know what you’d rather be working on.
It took me all five manuscripts to figure out what I wanted to write. I had tried suspense, and while it was fun, I discovered I liked writing chick lit better. When I came up with my tagline, “Romance with a kick of wasabi,” I purposely made it applicable to both chick lit or suspense, depending on what I wanted to focus on. After I decided to pursue chick lit, I didn’t have to change the tagline. I wrote more chick lit manuscripts after that.
I guess what I’m saying is that it might take you several manuscripts to figure out what your brand is and how you want to focus your writing. You might write 2, 3, or 10 manuscripts before you discover that unique marketing angle that will become your brand.
Randy sez: This is typical, folks! It’s OK to take some time to figure it all out. We don’t all have to succeed instantly at everything we do. It’s common in publishing to say, “Joe took ten years to become an overnight success.”
Success comes and success goes. Pursue your dream, write what your heart is screaming for you to write. Whether you ever make megabucks or not, whether you ever even get published or not, you are doing what many people only TALK about doing. You’re writing a novel. You’re feeding your soul. If you make a few bucks or get famous for your allotted 15 minutes, that’s gravy. Be authentic to the writer you were born to be. When the money’s gone and the spotlights go out, you’ll still be authentic. That’s its own reward.
I am really intrigued by the concept of branding as a writer and most interested in Camy’s story. I am from South Africa and writing Christian “teaching” books and ebooks on various topics, but especially end times. They are “easy to read” and understand, though full of doctrinal truth. Often devotional. Always challenging.
Randy, do you have some helpful comments? Right now I “brand” myself (if you can call it that) as “www.valwaldeck.com – reaching our generation one book at a time.”
Randy sez: Sounds a little vague to me. That could be about anything. I’ll toss you something off the top of my head. It sounds like you write “Truth For The End Times.” Please remember that these taglines are only a small part of your brand. Your name is part of your brand. Your genre. Your style. Your angle. Maybe your haircut. (Those of you who know Ted Dekker, wouldn’t you say his hair is part of his brand? And for sure, Einstein’s hair was part of his.)
The tagline can be useful, but it’s just a piece of it. Personally, I think authors spend too much time angsting over taglines and not enough thinking about consistency in their genre. I’ve certainly fallen down on that score, and I’m hearing a number of you who also want to write 3 and 4 different genres. Remember what Allison said Monday: A brand requires Quality, Uniqueness, and Consistency.
I don’t know if what I’m writing now could have such a specific brand. What about a tagline like, “Seeking to Satisfy the Searching Heart” or is that too vague.
Randy sez: It’s vague. Now I’ve got a question for everyone: What is Stephen King’s tagline? Quick, no cheating! No looking at his web site. Does anyone know?
Honestly, I have no clue if Stephen King even has a tagline. I don’t think his sales are suffering for it. Stephen King is the best in the world at writing horror fiction. And he’s a master character creator. Those are the things he’s known for. Not his tagline, if he even has one.
Clearly I should spend more time on it, but I got a rough draft of the WHAT you do, WHO you are and WHY you do it settled down. Next was the nefarious tagline (Brand Identity Statement).
I came up with two that I actually like (room for improvement I’m sure) but now face a dilemma. One tagline expresses WHO and WHAT, the other deals with WHY and the target audience. As an unpublished writer, should I focus more on selling myself and my style or demonstrating who the publisher would sell it to?
Randy sez: Good question. Tell us what genre you write and a bit about yourself and then run your taglines past us and we can vote on it.
This is a great series, Randy. I wish I could’ve done the teleseminar. Will you offer this in a downloadable format for later? Or offer it again?
Randy sez: It takes a lot of time and energy to put together a teleseminar. So we record them and never repeat them. By the way, the recording is already available. The engineers sent me the recording today, so I’ve posted it on the same page with the three handouts. If you missed the teleseminar, you can still get it here.
What about, like, a very strong theme/pattern that crosses genres, like, “Friendships tested in the face of terror” or something? That could be suspense, fantasy . . . It sort of narrows it down to a thriller-type thing, but could involve many different elements.
I’m still quite the freshman, but looking at my passions and tendencies, I enjoy writing about strong relationships with bouts of action. Perhaps it should be “Relationships tested by terror” or something. What do y’all think?
Randy sez: This sounds like a good start. My one concern is to be sure that you know what genre you’re writing for. Crossing genres is all fine, but every book needs to have one main genre. A gothic romantic mystery western spy novel sounds cool in principle, but which shelf do they put it on??? So specify your genre first!
Okay, Randy. You’ve got me actually thinking about maybe narrowing down my nine genres. LOL. My question is, WHAT am I supposed to do with all these story ideas that keep popping into my head?! Think we could set up some kind of story idea exchange forum where I could dump all these other genius ideas that don’t fit into my genre of choice? (Whichever that one turns out to be.)
And what if the genres are close? Like, romantic suspense, cozy-mystery w/ romance elements, and contemporary romance? Would that be narrowing it down enough?
Randy sez: LOL, like I was just saying . . . pick a genre, any genre. (I’m preaching to myself here. Those of you who’ve read my books know I’ve worked in about 3 different genres.)
Here’s what you do with those extra story ideas: Write ‘em down. I have a thick file full of story ideas, some several years old. When I need a story idea, I go riffle through that file. The first novel I published sat in that story idea file for probably five or six years while I worked on other things. Then one day, after getting some comments back from an editor on yet another rejected manuscript, something she said made me go to my file and pull out that story and start writing.