Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Branding. What’s That All About?

Okay, so it’s been a few years since I’ve published a book. (In case you’re wondering, I blame that lapse on my ex. Not that it’s really his fault that I got distracted by other things and stopped writing, but I do like to make him feel special even though we’re no longer together. I’m like that. Considerate, I mean.) Anyway, now that I’m writing again, suddenly, everybody is talking about branding.

“Faye, you need a brand!”

That’s what other authors usually tell me whenever I tell them I’m writing again. I figure they must mean it since they used an exclamation point and everything.

“Okay,” I say. “How about Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey? That’s a great brand.”

“No, no, no!!”

Again with the exclamation points. They’re also looking at me funny at this point.

You need a brand, Faye. Readers expect a brand. You’ll never get published again if you don’t have a brand.”

Okay, fine. I guess I’d better get one then. (Plus, an agent and a publisher. Maybe Target is having a huge blow-out sale this weekend and I can pick up all three.) But before I rush right out there and pick up mine, I’d like to know what you guys think.

How important is branding to an author’s career?

Do readers really expect us to have one?

And what's wrong with Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey? (I mean, have you tried it?)



Colleen Thompson said...

LOL on Chunky Monkey -- nothing at all wrong with that brand. Except for the chunky thigh side effects!

I've given a lot of thought to branding of late. I think it's about figuring out what it is about your writing that resonates with your audience. I'm not into clever catch phrases (translation: the cool ones are all taken), but I've made a conscious decision to use what's worked so my readers won't be disappointed. I've paid attention to reader e-mails, reviews, and comments from book clubs who've invited me after reading my first romantic suspense and tried to get a handle on what they liked and what they might enjoy seeing more of. I've also given a lot of thought to what I don't want to write. That's part of branding, too, IMO.

I think that as an author, you're eventually defined by the work you put out there -- whether or not it's in synch with any tagline you invent.

Alfie said...

Ten years ago--before branding was a thing--I suspect I had a definite brand that my (small but)loyal group of fans could have identified. I see my brand now in their letters. Of course, I didn't recognize it and take advantage of it at the time. Now, all of my projects are so different from anything I've done in the past, and my future ideas are even more varied, I've decided life isn't fair. Why, oh why am I always so ahead (or behind) the times. Wouldn't it be nice if I could be at the right place at the right time?

Oh wait, maybe THAT'S my brand...Right place. Wrong time.

It's one of those things that makes you go hmmmmmm, isn't it?


Nancy Morse said...

Believe it or not, when I looked at this page this morning, this was the first time I'd heard of branding. It seems to me that this writing business is getting too bogged down with all this other stuff. How about just writing a good book? Does that count as branding? Readers were reading books (including mine) long before there was any such thing as branding. When I sit down to write, I can't worry about things like this. Build it and they will come. Write a good book and they will read it. To my mind, it's as simple as that.

Ann Roth said...

I think branding is a neat idea. As Faye mentioned, consumable products often are branded. Why not authors? There are professionals out there to help figure out what your brand should be and how to market it.

In today's marketplace, with hundreds (or more) new books out every month, we authors need to do something to differentiate ourselves. First, write the best book we're capable of, and second, use our brands to help readers recognize us.

Allison Brennan said...

I've taken a couple branding classes because I think it's important that when a reader picks up a book, they know what to expect. But I don't know if an author can create their brand "on purpose" without a lot of guidance, money and publisher support. I think a brand is something that develops over time as you give readers consistently satisfying reads.

Like Nora Roberts. She IS a brand unto herself.

One of the classes I took the teacher identified my "brand" as "You can't change the past" because a common theme in my stories are my characters having to deal with tragedies in their past because of something that happens in the present. I don't know if that's a "brand" I want, but it's fine to discuss as a theme.

What I want is for readers to consistently get a good story for their money. If I can do that, I think the brand will come on it's own.

Or not. LOL.

JoAnn Ross said...

Years ago I was told that a publishing house loved a book I'd written, but was going to pass on it because they didn't know where to tell the booksellers to shelve it. I told my agent to tell them to shelve it with the good books. It sold, btw, for a lot more money than that first publisher would've paid even if they would've just trusted their instincts.

I've spent the past twenty-three years making a very nice income writing whatever strikes my fancy and although my agent is one of the guys who brought the idea of branding to publishing back with Tom Clancy, I'm going to keep concentrating on the Work and not let myself get sidetracked by the latest hot buzz word. Remember High Concept? And now we're hearing how we all need platforms.

Actually, I already have two platforms. Pink Candies sandals with wooden soles, which, when I wear them, I I tower over people, which is kinda cool and makes me feel powerful and pretty all at the same time. And another pair of pink Born sandles with flowers printed all over the platform.

As for Branding, I prefer a mix of 1/3 Cherry Garcia with 2/3 Chocolate Fudge Brownie.