Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Author Branding – Will It Help Sell More Books?

My guest is historical inspirational author, Jennifer Hudson Taylor. I have to admit I have a fondness of things Celtic--what a surprise, huh? But Jennifer, like me, has searched out her Celtic roots and I know that one part of her family, the Morgans, were part of the MacKay Sept. As you can see by her author pic, she is a fine Scot lassie, :-) Her debut book, Highland Blessing, and her just sold second book, Highland Sanctuary (October 2010) are both set in Scotland.

I know many writers have varying opinions on branding, but the truth is, branding is a necessary thing today. Successful authors play up their branding in various ways. One way is their websites. Trust me, as a blog owner who spotlights authors I look at every website. Some notable author branding websites and their realization of the importance of branding, Nora Roberts vs her JD Rob website. Christine Feehan, Jayne Ann Krentz--take a look at her website and then note each *entrance* to her books under her different pen names. Newer authors coming up the ranks? Jessica Andersen--even her author reflects her branding, Judi Fennell. Lydia Dare , and Donna Grant .

Jennifer speaks about branding: what it is, why it's necessary, and why aspiring authors need to start even before getting a contract.

  • What is author branding?
It's the reputation you build in the publishing community and to your readers of what kind of stories to expect when they see your name on the cover of a book.

  • Is author branding necessary? Why?

If you want to build readership, yes. If you want to sell more books, yes.

Readers who like westerns aren't typically interested in a science fiction book. For this reason, so many authors have had to create pen names for various sub genres. People work hard for their money and they can chose to spend it on a number of things. You don't want them to be disappointed if they take a chance and spend it on your book. If that happens, most likely they won't spend more money on anything else with your name on it, nor will they encourage others to do so.

Author branding is another way of target marketing. If you are promoting your book based on the book's contents, you are going to appeal to those who would like that particular book. Marketing and advertising is expensive. You don't want to waste your time and money trying to appeal to an audience who won't like what you write. You aren't likely to sell many books that way, and it doesn't make sense. So why wouldn't you create an author brand for yourself?

If you're like me, you might be hesitant to build a label around yourself because you don't want to be limited to writing one kind of book. I've already mentioned pen names as one way to get around this. Another way is to write the same sub genre for a decade or two and then rebuild your image. Lots of authors do this, and if you do it well, you won't lose readers, in fact you may gain more. For instance, a contemporary romance author may choose to brand him/herself as a romantic suspense author. That way you aren't losing readers who like romance and contemporaries, you're just giving them a new element to read along with what they already read. Keep the sub genres similar, but give readers more. This will ultimately lead to more readers, which will lead to more sells.

  • Do unpublished authors need an author brand?
Yes. Before you can sell books on a store shelf, you first have to sell to a publisher. You need to stand out among the masses of other writers. There isn't enough shelf space for all the wanna-be writers in the world, so you've got to find a way to stay out of the slush piles. There are a lot of good writers who sit in the slush piles year after year. Their works are good enough to be on the shelf of a bookstore. The difference is, their marketing proposals may not be unique enough or stand out and get noticed.

At one time I believe it was true that good writing would get noticed. But with the competition the way it is today, the demand so buoyant, and the hectic schedule of the publishing industry, I no longer believe that's true. You still have to get someone to read your work in order for it to be noticed. That can only happen if you stand out in promoting yourself and your work. You must make a good impression in your proposal and presentation of your work before an editor or agent actually sits down to read your work. If your impression in your proposal doesn't stand out, they'll never turn to the first page of your manuscript.

Remember, an unpublished writer is selling to an agent or editor. These folks are looking for specific markets where they know they can sell something. While good writing has to go along with it, if an author has written something that's great, but the story isn't right for an open spot, then it still won't sell. Don't waste their time or yours. Sometimes a quick rejection is a good thing. It will give you a chance to get that manuscript where it belongs much faster than wasting time on an editor's desk where it isn't going anywhere. By building an author brand, you will be letting them know upfront what they are getting from you. This will help you appeal to the right agents and editors. Target market to the right publishers and you will sell more and faster.

Plus, publishers have less in their marketing budgets for new authors and mid-list authors. They reserve most of their budgets for the BIG name authors where they know their investment will pay off. Therefore, a new author will have to do so much more of their own marketing. By showing you are ahead of the game in your promotion and author branding, an editor will feel more comfortable taking a chance on you. This means if it comes down to your good writing as opposed to another author's good writing for one publication spot, you might have the edge since you have self-marketing potential. Editors are looking for authors they can build into careers for a long investment, not one-time book wonders.

  • What new strategies are you trying to build your brand awareness?
  • What are your thoughts about brand awareness?

~ * ~ *~ *~ *~ *~
Highland Blessings (Scotland, 1473) Blurb:

Highland warrior Bryce MacPherson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment ...
Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce.

                     Chapter One 
Book Trailer

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is the author of historical and contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, will be released May 2010. Other works have appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, genealogy, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of NC.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Jennifer, a warm welcome to Over Coffee. I'm so glad you could visit with us.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Sia, Thanks for having me. Glad to be here!

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, another wonderful 'new to me' author. Thanks.

Jennifer,enjoyed your post. Having different pen names does help readers if an author changes their writing genre. I don't think you'll lose a reader fan by changing genres as long as the reader knows up front this book is completely different.

Thoughts in Progress

tonya kappes said...

Hi Jennifer! I do believe author branding is sooooo important. I have branded myself as fun, quirky and professional. I have worked hard at being good at networking and being the one who will go out of my way to help another writer or reader. I love and truely believe in giving back to the writing community and my brand proves that.

Judi Fennell said...

I guess my branding is working since you gave me a mention. :) Thanks, Sia! And I've had a few industry professionals comment on my website - attractive, easy to use, informative. Best money I've ever spent was having it professionally designed, though I did build it and I maintain it myself.

Jennifer, GREAT post! All the best with your debut - and future books!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jennifer, I enjoyed the excerpt.

I'm in agreement with your thoughts on branding, especially in today's market. I think everything bit helps and it takes some thought to build a platform that works.

Kat Sheridan said...

Jennifer, great branding, and Sia, her book matches your site! I haven't really branded myself (sounds painful!), but I already have in mind what I'd like the brand to be. Dark, tortured, gothic. Guess I need to get that website built! (Oh yeah, and the current WIP finished!)

VA said...

As a reader who is looking for new books and authors I have to agree with the branding. While I do like to be open-minded, branding is the shortcut that makes me go, "Yeah, I know where this is going." I use blogs like this to meet new authors and read excerpts.

Excerpts, authors. I gotta say that this is the single most important tool in me committing to a new author. I want an excerpt long enough to give me a good feel for the author's voice and their skill in storytelling. I have consistently purchased books by new authors due to Browse-Inside features. One paragraph, like a back blurb is not enough for me to make a jump off the fence. Not even for favorite subjects. If there is no browsing then I need a solid recommendation from a trusted source.

Love the image banner at the top of your site Jennifer. Great excerpt.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Vivian, I agree. Thats why I started asking for excerpts if I can't find one on their website or publisher's website. You need to get a feel for the author and one paragraph just doesn't do it.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I'm looking forward to seeing your website when it's done. You can have so much fun with Dark and brooding--both in books and websites.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, I love the simple but elegance of your website. It does fit in so well with your fairtales with a twist, and you pic reminds me of a combo of Centerella/Sleeping Beauty. Hey you're a Princess with style...

Helen Ginger said...

Great post. Straightforward and very informative. I agree on branding and the necessity of it for authors.

Straight From Hel

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I think the excerpt is very important. So many people use it to determine if they like the writing and style. I love the insider features.