The comments today were amazing! You all are really gelling into a terrific community.
I’ll tackle just one of the many questions that came up:
Is it worthwhile marketing a first novel in advance if the chances of a first novel being published is really low?
There are two parts to my response:
1) You are not really marketing your novel in advance, so much as you are marketing yourself. That is what branding is all about–teaching your readers to make the decision in advance that any book you write is a book they’re going to buy. Several of you mentioned Ken Follett and his book THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Not many people bought that book because of their burning interest in medieval cathedrals. People bought that book because they knew Follett could deliver a great historical novel with lots of suspense (and the usual level of “steam”).
Along these lines, I thought Carol has chosen a brilliant marketing strategy–speaking in schools. This is how one of my friends, Bryan Davis, has done phenomenally well with his “Dragons in Our Midst” series. This series had everything going against it: A Christian fantasy published by a nonfiction publisher. But Bryan is an accomplished speaker and he goes to schools and speaks and gets kids fired up and sells a ton of books.
2) By marketing yourself, you raise your chances of selling your first novel enormously. And if you don’t sell your first, then you are still raising the chances of selling your second. It costs tremendous amounts of money to publish a book. Think $50000 to publish a novel. For a children’s picture book, it costs even more (all that art work has to be paid for). Publishers don’t want to risk that much money on a loser, when they could just as well risk it on someone who shows an interest and a talent for marketing.
Let’s talk more about branding, because I can see there are some misconceptions about that. Ask me your most pressing question about branding. I’ll answer the best ones tomorrow.
If I can’t answer you, I’ll ask Allison Bottke. She knows more than I do, and she’s helping me get my own brand focused.
Thanks for explaining about marketing. I suppose since the book is about disability I could have a website/blog for parents and anyone else interested. Because my sons are also twins, there is another area to cover. I also work as an occupational therapy assistant for people with acquired brain injuries. All that probably points to disability as my main marketing area. As you can tell I really don’t know much about it. Branding I know even less. I understand it to be having a focusing on one area and being known for that. When livestock are branded they have a certain design (not that I think authors are going to be having their rumps branded) but it seems design could figure in it somewhere. Am I way off track?
Oops, I meant focus, not focusing.
Jenny McLeod Carlisle says
Since I’m pre-published, I used to feel branding wasn’t important yet. But now, I can see that I should be aware of that even when pitching my manuscript. I have a WIP that is based on family stories, and set in the late 19th. century. If I send that to an agent/editor and they like it, they will expect me to churn out historicals, which I’m not prepared to do. Right?
Better to pitch one of my Contemporaries, or YAs, since I could easily follow up with half a dozen more of that type.
Am I on the right track?
Then, of course, when I’m famous, I could shock everyone with a brilliant historical.
Looking forward to your take on this.
Jenny Mc C
ML Eqatin says
Branding is something I’ve been mulling over while developing my brand. I had 3 possibles to choose from: 1. our years running a discipling home for women and children; 2. my lifelong love of history (being raised by an ancient history teacher); 3. a quarter-century working with llamas and other animals.
My selection process went like this: Disciples’ House puts me in a Christian ghetto. I’m not comfortable there, and neither are my secular and Muslim readers, the ones nearest to me and that I care most about. History has its fans, but most people react to the word like they do to ‘math’, and besides, I don’t have a lot of degrees to prove I know anything. But with llamas, I always get interest and there is nobody writing who has 25 years of trail experience. The overlap into the animal-loving community is tremendous.
Guess what I chose for my platform?
Enjoy the ride! -MLE
PS. Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet
Valerie Fentress says
How do you decided to contain yourself to one brand? I find myself jumping genres all over the place. My brain doesn’t like being contained to one brand. Do you have to choose one to gather a following before jumping over to another?
Should you choose one that fits your expertise? (ex. I’m in genetic/cancer research, but I want to write historical fiction)
What are the most publishable or popular brands on the market right now?
I guess that’s more than one question, but I’m sure I’m not the only one out there stradling a fence.
Can’t wait to hear your response!
Carrie Stuart Parks says
OK, my dad was a cowboy so when you mention branding, I think cows… Our brand, by the way, was the Greek letter mu. We wanted to have brand mu cows, plus we wanted to ask for our cows by brand name…”have you seen our mu cows?”
You’re right, I sure have a misconceptions about branding…
I’ve been trying to market myself for the past year through my growing websites. I know it’s just a start, but it’s all I have time for right now in my busy life.
But I know it’s paying off because I’ve been making publishing contacts and out of the blue a publicist for authors like Lisa Samson and Tracey Bateman called me to have coffee. She said she was watching me and excited to see what will happen in the near future. She’s encouraged me to finish my WIP and opened the door with an editor I thought was closed!
SO I totally believe in marketing before you publish!
I’m just curious what your take on pseudonyms is? Is that a good option for writers who want to be accessible as a public person, yet private as a private person and not want to mix those worlds? I would also think that if you brand a pseudonym rather than your name that it would make it easier to maintain several brands (pseudonyms). Am I right or totally off base? I mean if you get branded as a bad writer under your own name, and yet you improve and/or switch audiences, you can’t necessarily get rid of the first impression, but if you had a pseudonym, you could switch to a new name.
There’s an Australian writer (can’t think of her name at this point) who writes in different genres and uses a different name for each one which could be why I can’t remember her name or perhaps its just my memory Lol.
I suppose that could be a possibility to avoid being confined to one type of writing.
I don’t want to just write in one genre either.
Pam Halter says
MU cows! HA! It took me about 15 seconds, but I get it … hey it’s Friday of graduation week and I’m exhausted. 🙂
I’m with Valerie ~ my brain jumps from one idea to the other, but I’m learnig to focus and get known by writing for children. That doesn’t stop me from publishing devos and participating in compliation books, though. Doing those small projects won’t hurt me as a children’s writer, will it?
Lois Hudson says
I’m already fighting the biological clock–for writing, that is. Way past the other one! (I’ve seen entries from others in similar stages.)
My WIPs (and there are several active, and more germinating), are all in different genres. Is there hope for a plan of action?
Tendrils of sickening smoke and the smell of burning hide and flesh curled past her nostrils as the searing sound of the red-hot branding iron hissed in her ear. The sound was forever singed on her memory.
She was released to roam the range; free but not free. She alone could see the invisible corral that now bound her. The symbol she now wore not only left a mark on her hide, but on her soul, redefining her. She still looked and felt like a wild long-horn. But that would all change soon. Too soon.
Round up was coming.
And once she was herded into that coarse, narrow chute, there would be no going back. Buyers from every arena of the cattle industry would be at each of the holding pens, their sharp, well-trained eyes looking for the choicest flesh.
She could smell the thick stench in that tightly cattle-packed pen even now, suffocating her. And the horrendous buzzing of flies…
Waves of nausea rippled through her stomachs. Could she do it? Could she parade herself before those examining eyes, hoping to be chosen as prime Bar-BQ material? Was this her chosen path, her only destiny? Would her secret dream of joining the circus vanish, scattered into the wind like a wisp of curling smoke?
Tammy Bowers says
I have two main questions, Randy.
1) How does one build an audience for their blog?
2) When you say branding, do you mean becoming an expert in one thing and just focusing on it? I am an expert in insurance. You know how boring that is! Although I have lots of stories, if I started a female insurance investigator line, I think everyone would say I was just copying Sue Grafton. Is there room for another Kinsey Millhone? And when it comes to stories, I love variety. I read it all and with my own writing, I dabble in suspense, non-fiction, fantasy, and romance. It sounds like that will do me a disservice. So, are you recommending using strong discipline to over-ride my eclecticism and just focus on one genre to become an expert in that line?
Okay, so now I’m sort of depressed. Not that I’m a great artist yet, but I love the freedom to run where ever my imagination and fancy leads. I don’t want to limit that, but on the other hand, I want to publish. So, any insight you can offer would be great. Perhaps I’m missing the point a bit.
I’m a first-time poster on your blog, long-time subscriber to your e-zine.
My question is, can you brand yourself without expertise? I’m a “prepublished” writer of YA fantasy, but I have no expertise in any field. I just love words and books. My work experience is as eclectic as my interests. I cannot say I have five years of solid experience in one area. (Mostly I’ve done admin/clerical stuff, but at this point I’m not really interested in writing anything with the likely title, “Dial P for Paper Jam.”) Does this mean I need to become an expert in something before I can have a hope for getting noticed by agents and editors?
Joleena Thomas says
I feel weary to think about branding because like Tammy, it seems to be limiting.
It might be akin to an actor getting type-cast.
This is very difficult for me because I’ve had some success with some light hearted short works; yet I am also working on dark fiction.
That difference is quite a big bridge to cross. I’d hate to be thought of as a dark author and then not be given consideration otherwise.
I don’t know the answer to this kind of disparity.
Tina Dearmont says
Randy – It seems we’re all chomping at the bit for that teleseminar you and Allison Botke will be doing. I know I can’t wait. We all want to know more about what branding is, how to do it, how it might be limiting opportunities to write in other genres (does that really happen?), and how it will propel us forward. Did you do that with Advanced Fiction Writing, then again with Mad Genius? Can you brand, then re-brand yourself once established with the first brand? I hope that makes sense. It seems that some are apprehensive about branding themselves in a corner and being stuck there once they’ve become established/known for that brand. Did Allison Botke rebrand for BabyBoomersRock after God Allows U-Turns? I’m probably asking what you will have on the Teleseminar, but I think we’re all eager to know more–so when’s the teleseminar???
Sharon Ball says
Now I know how my older brother felt trying to tutor me in math when we were kids. All I kept telling him was – I don’t get it. When it comes to understanding what you mean when you say branding, I don’t get it. If a person has never written a book (I’m a contemporary fiction writer) how does branding work and what would you suggest a person work on to get their brand out there. See, I told you…I don’t get it.
As a fantasy writer, finding my ‘brand’ has been difficult. So, my question is: can short fiction be a ‘brand’ or platform? ATM, I am working on a ‘serial’ of short stories when not writing my novel. The reason I chose this idea is that there appears to be a large market for SFF in mags and ezines. Is this a bad idea?
I got this idea from looking at this site and seeing so many SFF opportunities http://ralan.com
Carrie Stuart Parks says
Carrie Neuman says
Can you brand yourself in a kind of story instead of a genre?
I want to tell non-dirty love stories and I don’t want to have to choose between fantasy and sci-fi. Although both my genres fit under the speculative fiction umbrella, so maybe it’s still ok.
Carol F. says
I’ll keep this much shorter, I promise. I’ve run into some interesting problems picking what name will appear on my writings. I would be perfectly happy to use my first and last name, simple and to the point. BUT, I googled my name, “Carol F______” in quotes and found there are at least two other authors who had the audacity to share that name with me, and one is writing things I would never in my life want any child (or adult) to google and think I had written! I have been forced into changing my name at least a little.
And for now, I’m using two different names; one for my fantasy books and one for my educational resource book. I’m still “pre-published,” so I can change that if you think it’s a bad idea. I’m glad we’re covering this now.