Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CUTTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER WITH A CLEAR BRAND

You solidify your brand by contributing something new or fresh to the conversation of your genre or theme...

It's my pleasure to have New York Times bestselling novelist, Thomas Greanias, as my guest. As a former journalist he uses his knowledge of politics, national security, and real life conspiracies to write tightly woven thrillers of international intrigue and mystery. 

Tom's topic is one that many are chatting about these days, pro and con, branding as an author.



A lot of writers are worried about their "brands" these days. Even Brand Name authors.


One fellow New York Times bestselling author, who has sold millions more books than I have, confided to me just how hard it is to "break through the clutter" in the paradoxical world of fewer print sales for authors and more titles for readers than ever before. "You don't get it, Tom. You have your Atlantis series, and you're the No. 1 name in eBook adventure. You were the first to break through big-time in the digital space. I can't claim that leadership position. Now the digital space is where publishing is going."

The answer, this author decided, was to launch a new series, which has done well, and on top of that add a young adult series. The workload is so heavy that this Brand Name author is close to the next predictable stage: taking on co-authors like James Patterson did.

I think there's a better way to build your brand, a better brand for you to aspire to, and that brand is you.

The reality is that your name IS your brand. And the most powerful way you define your brand is through the novels you write. Each new title adds an association to your name, associations that hopefully strike a positive chord with readers. Positive emotions usually come from writing a damn good novel that delivers on its promise. If you're writing a suspense novel, for example, you need to deliver suspense to your readers. A romance novel should deliver romance. A thriller should deliver thrills. Your voice in how you tell your story fills out your brand.

So you build your brand by writing your books. You solidify your brand by contributing something new or fresh to the conversation of your genre or theme.

For example, I contributed to the conversation about Atlantis to advance it to the 21st century. Everywhere I looked in fiction and Hollywood, it was the same old underwater fantasy that had little to do with Plato’s 4th century BC account. For starters, I went back to the source and asked, “What if it were literally true?" That led to Raising Atlantis, my novel about rogue archaeologist Conrad Yeats, beautiful Vatican linguist Serena Serghetti, and a secret U.S. military expedition that discovers ancient ruins two miles under the ice of Antarctica. Sequels such as The Atlantis Prophecy and The Atlantis Revelation then established that Atlantis is more than a lost continent. It’s a centuries-old global conspiracy playing out before our eyes even now. The Atlanteans, in short, are among us.

You, too, can rise above your genre or subject matter by adding something new to the conversations that you’re passionate about. You get your brand, and we all benefit.

  • Question for readers: Do you prefer the familiarity of the same character in a series of books (Harry Potter, for example), or the same type of character (poor rookie lawyer from South) in different one-offs (John Grisham's legals thrillers).

Tom is offering two chances to win either a copy of his special edition Atlantis Legacy (first two books combined) or a hardcover of The Atlantis Revelation. If you're interested in being considered, please either leave me a way to contact you in your comment or send me an email: siamckye at gmail.com
 
Back Cover Blurb:
 
Deep beneath the ancient city of Jerusalem lies a secret that knows no bounds, devastating enough to reach across time. History’s greatest spy story begins here.

For a millennium, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has been at the center of war and death. There’s never been a time when blood wasn’t spilled upon this ancient, sacred site. Flash forward to present-day Jerusalem, where 35-year-old Israeli counterterrorism agent Sam Deker has just thwarted the most recent act of violence—an attempt by radical Palestinians to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque and pin the blame on right-wing Orthodox Jews. The threat, however, is a diversion. Deker himself is the real target. He is captured and taken to neighboring Jordan, where he is tortured because of his deep knowledge of Israel’s most closely guarded state secret.


Deker escapes with his comrade Uri Elezar, making it all the way to the border, only to be taken down at the banks of the Jordan River. This time, however, Deker wakes up in the middle of the ancient Israelite army on the eve of its historic siege of Jericho. Deker doesn’t know if he is dead, in some torture-induced psychosis, or really back in time. But General Bin-Nun has declared a colossal holy war, and he’s sending Deker and Elezar on a dangerous mission to spy on the Promised Land in advance of the invasion.


For Deker, it’s his only hope to escape this genocidal hell. Then he finds himself in the arms of a beautiful enemy named Rahab, caught in a web of deadly betrayal, as he struggles to unlock the truth, secure Israel’s future and his own, and save the twenty-first century from The Promised War.  EXCERPT

Hardcover and digital

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New York Times bestselling novelist Thomas Greanias is one of the world's leading authors of adventure, No. 1 in eBooks, Audiobooks and the World Wide Web. His tightly woven thrillers of international intrigue and mystery first exploded online before thrilling readers in print in dozens of languages and countries around the globe.
 
A former journalist, Greanias has reported on issues of national security as an on-air correspondent in Washington, D.C. for NBC affiliates, and he has advised the White House, Congress, and Fortune 500 corporations on the future of digital media. His work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, radio and television, and his top-ranking sources in governments, intelligence agencies and supernational organizations continue to inform and inspire his plots.  Thomas Greania on Twitter  On Facebook


27 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tom, welcome to OVER COFFEE. I have to say I like your thoughts on branding. Especially the idea of "contributing something new or fresh to the conversation of your genre or theme."

As for your question, it depends upon the story. Some authors do a marvelous job at keeping the stories fresh even using the main character. Robert B. Parker comes to mind with his Spencer. I loved his Spencer series.

tonya kappes said...

Hi Tom! My brand has become fun, quirky...I started writing mystery and it's still humorous and quirky but I wonder if my brand needs to change? I really don't want to write under a pen name for my mysteries.

Ken Coffman said...

There is a comfort in knowing a character and the backstory and the history/context of new situations, events and people you're reading about. These things a series delivers. At the same time, I always want something new. So, there's the answer. We're greedy. We want it all.

Helen Ginger said...

Such an interesting post. He's not inventing new worlds, but taking the world we know and altering it. It seems he does that so well that the lines between what is real and what is imagined are blurred.

Definitely sounds like a book and an author I'd like to read.

I'm gonna go tweet this, Sia.

Helen

readwriteandedit said...

I'm with Ken in wanting it all. I like to follow a character through a series, but that can get old eventually--I no longer read Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone stories. I also enjoy certain types of stories, so I'd read several unrelated novels with similar characters. But even that gets old. So then I go for another type of story or genre and read until my interest is temporarily exhausted there.

The best thing is that there are thousands of books available and I can pick up one of the many and be entertained.

Thomas, your stories sound fun. I'll be looking for them in the store.

Beth

dalecoz said...

Interesting interview. Cutting through the clutter is the central issue for anyone who wants to read, write, or market books these days.

K. A. Laity said...

I've been turning over this idea of "branding" for some time because it's been such a buzz word. I like your idea of your name being your brand, but I face the challenge of each thing I write being often quite different from the last thing I wrote, as I straddle genres and modes. As you point out, people like familiar things. I settled on pseudonyms for my romance writing, but for my own eclectic titles, I finally hit upon "hard to spell, easy to read" as a tagline which I used in my book trailer. Will it work? I don't know.

K. A. Laity said...

@dalecoz You hit the nail on the head; there are more avenues to audiences than ever, but the challenge is helping them find us!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, that thought intriqued me too, a different perspective and I like that.

Ken, I like different too and yah, I want it all. I think using the same character(s) in a book is a challenge for a writer to keep it fresh. I've only known a few that do it well.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kate, what a lovely trailer. Is that you playing in the background?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Beth, while I love romance and paranormal, it gets old. My refreshment, if you will, is reading a different genre too. For me, that's usually thrillers or Sci-fi which engages my brain in a different way while entertaining me.

VA said...

Excellent question with no easy answer as evidenced by others, Tom. Honestly, it depends on what I'm looking for at that particular moment. My reading is divided into two camps: entertainment and informational.

I love reading, it is my favorite form of escapism. Recurring characters are tricky, they can get very old fast. I prefer the non-aging protagonist in different plots. I fell in love with the character for a reason so when authors then feel like they have to change them to show progression it can lead down a path I don't want. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum is a character I've enjoyed.

Now it works if you are developing an entire world in which you are populating with marginal characters who become main characters in subsequent books. Anne McCaffrey's Pern series.

I don't have a favorite genre, but I do tend to read through in waves. Every so often I want something different, outside the sphere of familiarity. But well-used tropes are like a comfortable pair of jeans, they're worn and showing through in spots, but so easy to slide into that you wont' give them up.

Thanks Sia, for a new introduction. I've been pawing around looking for new areas of play.

James Rafferty said...

Tom, I like your view on solidifying the brand by contributing something new or fresh to the genre. I think you're on track in focusing on your own writing and not building a writing factory using other writers. As a reader, I like variety, but have enjoyed the way writers like Martin Cruz Smith have established a territory and then continue to mine and extend it in fascinating ways. I'll have to check out your Atlantis series.

Sia, thanks for introducing us -- your readers -- to Tom.

Kat Sheridan said...

OMG, this is my new MUST HAVE series! I'm SUCH a fan of this kind of book. YUM!

As for the question, I'm going to say "it depends". I do tend to favor the same character repeated, so long as he stays fresh and interesting. I'm thinking characters like Travis McGee, Jake Lassiter, Kinsey Milhone, or Robert Langdon. There's always some unknown quirk or secret to discover about them.

On the other hand, TOO many in a series can get stale and I start looking for something new. This tends to occur for some reason more in romance, where characters are not the same, but related to the originating characters. By the 12 or 15th book in a series, when the hero is the original hero's best friend's second cousin twice removed, it gets old.

BTW, I mentioned Kinsey Milhone BEFORE I read readwriteedit's comments. She and I think alike SOOO often!

As for branding your name, as K.A. Laity indicated, sometimes it's necessary to change the name to match the brand a la Nora Roberts/JD Robb.

Best of luck to you Tom, and you are definitely on my to-be-read list now!

Kat Sheridan said...

And of course, you know how to find me Sia, if I happen to be a lucky winner!

K. A. Laity said...

Hey Sia -- it's not me playing: I tried to record me playing and had too many technical issues (my office does NOT make a good recording studio) so it's my friend Gerry playing kantele. He made my first one! Very cool -- yeah, it's helpful if you know wonderful musicians like Gerry, Ulla and my pal Paul, but there are free use music sites out there.

K. A. Laity said...

Or did you mean the flute on Unikirja? That's Ulla.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Both are lovely, Kate. You do have some gifted friends.

K. A. Laity said...

Indeed :-D It's inspiring to be surrounded by so many fabulous folks.

Other Lisa said...

I'll still read Sue Grafton--her "brand" to me is that she consistently delivers solid prose and an interesting story.

And I do think that's the part that gets lost sometimes. Write a great book.

I suppose if I were going to try publishing something far away from my "quirky kinda literary not quite a thriller" thing I'd consider a pen name though.

Excellent post with a lot to think about!

Anonymous said...

For me "branding" has been difficult, mostly because I don't like to be pigeon-holed into one genre or even one voice. I'd love to have complete freedom of expression and write whatever I want, but since most readers have expectations that book B is similar to book A, I have to keep my genre promiscuity under control. So I'll "brand" myself if I must, but that doesn't mean I'll like it. It hurts like the dickens and leaves an ugly, permanent scar on your flank.

-Jamie C.

Thomas Greanias said...

Great comments all. I am particularly interested in VA's observation that, when it comes to series, she prefers the hero or heroine NOT change. She even infers that to do so could even be constued as a type of betrayal by the reader, akin to "he's not the man I married," or vice-versa. Which explains why James Bond remains popular, regardless of whether or not we like his womanizing and Continental airs. He's the same spy, simply updated when world geopolitics demands it.

The "one-off" novel--and I don't like that term, because it implies a single novel is less than a series, when in fact the unity of the novel makes it whole--demands a character arc and growth.

I've tried a different strategy with my Atlanits trilogy and now my new The Promised War trilogy, and that is to carry the character arc over three novels. More than a one-off, but not an unlimited series.

Were I to write a long or unlimited series, I now believe your comments have convinced me to keep the characters essentially the same and the adventures wildly new and different. That alone, Ironically, would force the characters to grow in interesting ways while remaining true to their natures.

Fiction is an amazing art.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I think carrying the character arc over a trilogy is not only doable but the changes in the character, his/her growth makes the series even more interesting. It builds and expands the story. Actually, I prefer trilogies.

Vivian, I love Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. The story of the world and the dragons continue on but the recurrence of favorite characters is more like visiting home and familiar members of the family. We get glimpses of what's happened to them since the last time we *saw* them, but the emphasis of the story is on the current main characters with the others becoming supporting characters.

Kat, I thought this might be a series you'd like.

I don't mind a series that goes five or 6 books but after that, they start to get old.

Lisa K. said...

Thank you for the interesting and insightful thoughts on branding. As an aspiring novelist myself, it's a subject I'm very interested in.

I don't actually have a preference when it comes to series versus one-offs. Just give me a good book and I'm happy.

Journaling Woman said...

Sia, a great interview.

Tom, you are very interesting. I love what you said about our name being our brand. This makes sense and yet I need to ponder this idea. thanks for the helpful info.

Teresa

Other Lisa said...

Oh, I gotta argue a little bit here. I think it depends on the series, but if you have a series with a continuing MC and big things happen to that MC, you'd better see some changes in her/him.

aries18 said...

Hi Sia and Tom!

Nice to meet you Tom. And your books sound like they're right up my alley. I'll be out looking for you, for sure.

Your question: I love a series with recurring characters, like Harry Potter but I also love a series built on world with both recurring characters and different characters, like Anne McCaffrey's Pern books or Judi Fennell's Mer books.

In some instances I like the character to stay relatively the same, like James Bond but I'm also comfortable with a MC who does grow a bit, like Kinsey Milhone.

It all depends what feels right for the story and what the author wants to say.

As always a great interview with a great new( to me) author. Thanks.