I read through everybody’s questions on branding. There are too many to answer all today, so I’ll take them in groups. I’ll deal first with the “what is branding” questions.
First off, Gina’s post caught my eye, so I clicked through to her blog and read her most recent post. It’s a review of Rene Gutteridge’s latest book, which begins like this:
Having not read Scoop, the first book in the Occupational Hazard series, I was’t sure what to expect. I only knew if Rene Gutteridge wrote it, it had to be an entertaining read.
I was right!
No one does quirky characters quite like Rene Gutteridge.
In Gina’s mind, Rene has a terrific brand–writing quirky characters. Gina hadn’t read the first book in the series, and yet she felt comfortable jumping in on the second. Why? Because she knew that Rene would deliver what she wanted.
Folks, that’s what branding is all about: Establishing a reputation for delivering a particular kind of goods. Branding is about consistency.
Stephen King consistently delivers a spooky tale with great characters. Tom Clancy consistently delivers the guns and ammo and huge explosions. John Grisham consistently delivers legal suspense.
Oops, not so consistent! When he wrote THE PAINTED HOUSE, his fans were upset. Why? Because they bought it assuming they were going to get one kind of experience. Instead, Grisham gave them another.
That’s like going into McDonalds and ordering a Big Mac and having them hand you a pizza. It might be a GREAT pizza, but . . . you came for a Big Mac. You were expecting a Big Mac. You were all primed for a Big Mac. They gave you pepperoni. If you’d wanted pepperoni, you’d have gone to Pizza Hut. You came to McDonalds with expectations, and those expectations were violated.
Now, McDonalds is too smart to actually do that. But we authors want to have the option to do exactly that. We get tired of writing legal thrillers and decide to write a literary novel. We delivery a fine product, but we wonder why our past customers shriek that they were cheated.
They were. If you want to succeed in writing, you need to build a market following. And they are going to want consistency. So do you when you read a book.
Branding is about delivering the same KIND of experience consistently. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same. But it needs to be similar enough that your readers don’t feel cheated.
What do you all think? If I popped out a terrific blog article today on 10 Great Ways to Invest In Stocks, would you all be pleased with me?
I don’t think so. They might be great stock tips, but you come here to read about writing fiction. You are all very different folks. Some of you are wealthy; some aren’t. Some of you are American; some aren’t. Some of you are people of faith; some aren’t. What you all have in common is that you write fiction and you trust me to deliver the goods on writing fiction.
If I violate that trust and deliver some other kind of goods, I have moved away from the one point of commonality you all had. It’s easy to cater to people who all write fiction IF I talk about fiction. But it’s impossible to cater to people who have all different sorts of economic, national, or religious backgrounds.
So I don’t talk about money here, nor politics, nor religion. I may mention one or more of these IN PASSING, but only if they are necessary in order to talk about The Main Topic here, which is writing fiction.
Because my brand on this web site and this blog and the associated e-zine is “Advanced Fiction Writing.” Anything else is off-topic, and should be discussed elsewhere. I can and do discuss other topics. But I do those ELSEWHERE. I picked my topic for this site, and I need to stick with it while I’m here.
When you publish your novels, you too are picking a topic or a genre or a style. People who come into your universe and buy your books are buying your particular topic or genre or style. When they come back to buy again, they’re saying, “Hey, I liked what you did last time. Give me some more of that.” If you now switch topics or genres or styles completely, you are violating their trust.
Early in my career, I did that. I wrote about whatever interested me. I wrote nonfiction and fiction, historical, futuristic, contemporary–whatever. That was wrong. I didn’t know any better. I know better now and I intend to do better.
Today’s blog has answered some of your questions, but mainly it’s been setting the stage. Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about branding and will answer more of your questions.