Thursday, April 22, 2010

WHAT IS YOUR BRAND?

What does branding have to do with writing?

Y’all know what branding cattle means. A rancher marks his livestock with a brand so everyone knows that animal is his.

And so, how do writers brand what they write? Well, it doesn't involve branding irons. Every time a writer writes she/he is branding the book so readers will know who wrote it. Their writing stands for something. Think about it…what do you think when you hear the names J.K. Rowlings, Stephanie Meyer, or Mary Higgins Clark? You think of their stories and the impressions made. You know that if you go into a store and ask for a J.K. Rowlings book, you’re going to receive a magical story where one scrawny kid with limited powers will overcome evil. For Stephanie Meyers you’ll get good vampires helping a mortal girl develop courage. And Mary Higgins Clark will put ordinary people in life-threatening situations, but good will survive.

These authors have branded their names with their writing. But what if they choose to write in another genre? Does the brand still stick? Usually it does because branding has to do with more than wizards and vampires. It has to do with the author’s voice.

To show you what I mean, I’ll pick on myself. I’ve written several books that are inspirational fiction. The Forgotten Warrior was about a young woman with a black belt in karate who was going through a very bad time in her life. Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse she was thrown back in time to Helaman and the stripling warriors. As the story develops the protagonist learns that faith builds courage.

My next book was An Angel on Main Street. No time travel here. The story is about an eleven-year-old boy who gets in "noble" trouble with the law. As the sheriff escorts the boy home, they come upon part of a nativity in the center of town. No one knows whose is building the scene. He tells his sick, little sister about the nativity and that no one knows who is building it. She tells him angels are and when the baby Jesus comes he’ll make her better. The book follows the boy as he tries to find the nativity builder to bring the baby Jesus to his little sister. He learns that miracles do happen.

These are two very different stories, but they are both branding my name. How is that? Both stories are inspirational fiction and there’s my writing voice.

I have another YA time travel coming out in August, but I’ve also submitted a romantic suspense novel to my publisher. AND the thread that keeps them in common is, you’ve got it: writer’s voice, inspirational fiction, and my name. When someone sees my name they will know what will be in the book.

So how do you go about developing your brand? Focus on, what your writing says. What are the common themes in your work? What is it that will make readers ask for your books by using your name? Once you've answered those questions, go for it and write your best book.

4 comments:

  1. I like the idea of our voice being branded. I wonder if it's harder if we stray too far from our genre to keep our audience. Stephen King is known as a horror author, but the subject books vary greatly. Others don't veer much from a formula. This is an interesting subject to think about as I move forward in my writing.

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  2. Branding ... I don't like that word really. Like the branding department in my company; they just make everything more difficult for the peole doing the real work. Anyway, I guess for an author, branding could be a set of fundamental themes that you always have, no matter what the "surface story" is ... maybe.

    Cold As Heaven

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  3. I like your post! You included everything I thought of as being part of an author's brand: some parts their personal voice, and other parts the material they chose to write about.

    Great job!

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