Monday, December 28, 2009

What Is Your Brand As a Writer/Author?

As writers, we know what genre we write but do you know your brand as a writer/author?

Recently, a friend and I had a rather lively discussion about this over drinks. Honestly, I hadn’t thought as much about what my brand was or even what a brand was, other than in general terms as applied to marketing.

So what is an author’s brand? The author's brand is his or her work. They’re known for writing certain types of books. Think Stephen King, Christine Feehan, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, or even Dan Brown. You know when you pick up one of their books exactly what you’re going to get. For the most part, we pick up books largely based on the authors’ brand.

Established authors do see themselves as a brand. They work to protect that brand and some even have trademarks attached to their names. Their brand represents a certain standard or identity readers recognize. In many ways every author is a brand, though they may not see it that way.

As one writing friend reminded me, when we were discussing this, branding is important as is the integrity of that brand. He cited how Nora Roberts has her JD Robb identity for certain stories she writes and that way she doesn't confuse her readers. Jayne Ann Krentz does the same, to a certain extent, with here Jayne Castle persona for her futuristic stories, Amanda Quick for her historicals.

Years ago, Disney realized that they had unused movie making resources (writers, producers, directors, studios, etc) and signed Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and others to multi-picture contracts (which relaunched their careers) producing such films as Ruthless People and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

The Disney brand was so valuable, and these movies were not PG, they came up with a clever solution and distributed the movies under a new brand — Touchstone films.

From a marketing standpoint, having a brand is important. If someone says, Johnson & Johnson, Harlequin, Disney, Campbells, Revlon, Wilson, or Black & Decker you know exactly what the products are. So it’s not surprising that Publishers are actively cultivating the trend of authors as a brand. Publishers are the first to acknowledge that branding is becoming a more conscious marketing activity.

Lynne Brown, Dorling Kindersley's brand manager, made an interesting observation.

  • “In recent years in an ever more crowded market, the consumer has come more and more to rely on brand identity as an indicator for purchase. We believe this is now true in all industries and no less so within publishing… this will continue to be a strong ongoing trend…”

I have a brand as Sia McKye Over Coffee. I have a logo and a tag line. I play up my Celtic roots. Judi Fennell, author of In Over Her Head, has a brand, Fairy Tales with a Twist. Whether she writes about Mers or Genies, you know her books are going to fit into that brand. While she incorporates darker threads within her stories, she never loses sight of her brand. They’re light, fun, and humorous.

  • What are your thoughts on branding?
  • What’s your brand? How do you present you and your work?

Lazy G (TM) Freeze Brand

Touchstone Pictures (TM) Brand


Lesli Richardson (aka Tymber Dalton) said...

Great topic!

I've heard a lot of writers who say, "Oh, I'm not published yet, so I don't do promo or have a website yet." Wrong. Branding starts from before you're even published. Publishers want to see your website before they take a chance on you. They want to see you're serious about pursuing your career before they risk money on you. And developing a brand is very important.

Lesli. (aka Tymber Dalton)

Tonya Kappes said...

Great question Sia. I believe branding yourself is a big deal. I am friends with Jenn Stark a branding expert and fellow writer. We discuss this a lot. Branding starts as soon as you decide you are going to be a writer. It's what you put your name on and how people know you.
My brand is my blog site and I am the cozy contemporary writer with a humorous voice. I know I am funny and I play that aspect up in my writing and when I am infront of other writers.
If you want to break branding down even more, you could say it is 'personal image.'

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good post on branding!
I've logos - for me and for my series. I've a speaker brand name and a slogan for my series. You're right, it's important that an author select a 'brand' in the beginning, something that identifies him or her.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sia,

I first started hearing about personal branding about ten years back and find it's more important now than ever in this era of social networking and a low signal to noise ratio. I've worked hard to establish a brand as a "must-hear" speaker and blogger in my business life and have redefined my personal blog in the last year to focus on my loves of travel, writing and personal technology. I think of the brand as being like an introduction, a glistening surface that invites the reader or other kind of contact to explore your creative work.

James Rafferty

Judi Fennell said...

Hi! Thanks for the mention. I first came up with "fairy tales with a twist" when I started writing my second novel, Cinda Bella. I realized that the happily-ever-after at the root of my stories is just like what we get with fairy tales and played up on that. You know exactly what you're getting when you pick up one of my books.

Now, if I sell this contemporary I'm working on, I'll probably have to do so under a different name.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tonya, You have a smart friend. And you're right, branding starts as soon as you think you want to write for publishing. It means thinking about your style, you're strengths.

I've heard writers say, Oh I'll wait until I get a contract. In today's publishing fields, it HAS to start even before you publish. You build name recognition which is vital for building a readership base. You may have to adjust and refine, but IMO you have to start long before the contracts.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Diane, you've done a good job with branding. And you're overall brand identifies you, but I also like how your brand is broken down to cover different aspects of your work. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

James, you've worked long and hard in promotion and marketing. I have a great deal of respect for acumen.

Your brand does work. I enjoy reading your blog.

Thanks for the thoughts on the subject.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, I love the whole idea of Fairy Tales with a twist. Your writing does reflect that so clearly. You're one of those wonderful writers that started the branding long before you had contracts.

I've learned quite a bit from watching authors like you. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Les, you are SO right. I appreciate your comment on what publishers look for.

Elle J Rossi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Sia,

Way too many typos so I had to start over!

Fantastic post. I am far from being published but since the day I decided to start writing I have taken it very seriously. I do have a website and 2 blogs. One shared with my sisters and a lone one as well. I have a feeling my brand will lean towards the paranormal. I feel this is really my strong suit. I'm still working it all out but I want people to know that they'll get fantastical characters on a mission with some witty humor and sarcasm thrown in. Too much?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nope. Sounds good to me, Elle. Like you said, you'll revise and refine as you go on.

I'm considering another blog a little more personal. So far it's only in the considering stage. This one takes a great deal of my time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sia, as an author of dark romantic suspense, my readers know that when they pick up my books they'll get an emotional and suspenseful read.

As I build my career, I may some day branch out into other sub-genres, but I enjoy writing deep, emotionally moving stories and anticipate that will always be part of my brand.

Christy Reece

~Sia McKye~ said...

Let me be the first to assure you, Christy, when I pick up your books I get "an emotional and suspenseful read." You write well and I really enjoyed Rescue Me. Looking forward to the next one!

John Philipp said...

Sia, I'd add that often times a "brand" is not a word or a title (though it can be that) but an expectation.

When you start a Dave Barry column you know what kind of read you're in for. Same with Nora Roberts as J. D. Robb.

Iain Banks, one of my favorite authors alternates every year with a new novel. One year it is science fiction, the next a literary fiction. The scifi novels are signaled by the fact his name is Iain M. Banks while he signs the literary fiction just Iain Banks. (All wonderful reads by the way.)

~Sia McKye~ said...

John, that's a good point: a "brand" is not a word or a title (though it can be that) but an expectation."

You're right.

Deanna said...

I have never really thought books had a brand. I guess it's because I know what i'm going to get when I pick up the book I want to read. Here is an interesting thought you brand yourself by the books you read and what you watch. Huh... that really makes me think about what I read and watch Hmm...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Deanna, brands work that way too.

"I know what I'm going to get when I pick up the book I want to read."

That because the author has established their brand.

Thanks for commenting Dee. I love getting comments from readers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Sia. So glad you enjoyed RESCUE ME!

Christy Reece

Anonymous said...

Good article, Sia! I think branding is a wonderful idea. Now if I just knew where to find a branding iron that says exactly what I want to say and isn't painful to apply!

Pat Bertram

~Sia McKye~ said...

Pat, I'm thinking your brand is well established, sweetie.

Pain? I'm thinking, blood, sweat, and tears go into creating a good brand. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sia, in my case, to be honest, Harlequin is my brand -- I am "branded" by the publisher. I think that's probably the case with a lot of authors -- we are subject to what the marketing dept puts us out there as. At Harlequin, that actually gives a writer a lot of freedom -- I can write suspense, paranormal, contemp, all under the same brand (and ... See Moreeach line has its own branding as well). Mainstream/St authors probably have more pressure to create their own brand, but not even that, entirely -- I know when I pick up a Berkley Sensation or a Grand Central Forever book what kind of read I am getting regardless of who writes it. Just a few thoughts...

-Samantha Hunter

Olivia Cunning said...

I'm working on it, Sia. It's not as easy as it sounds. And it doesn't sound easy at all. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

You'll do a fine job, too, Olivia. Of that I have no doubt! Looking forward to Brian's Muse.