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Author Branding

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message 1: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1826 comments Mod
Here's a term I've seen popping up a lot the last couple weeks - Branding.

I assume it's all about an author "establishing a brand" around their work for readers to connect with (unless I'm hideously wrong) and was wondering what pit fine folks have done in that sense? Float good ideas one another's way :)

message 2: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) You know I have a brand. This has been created based on my work experience as a graphic designer.

I don't have a registered business and probably never will. Unless, by some miracle, I suddenly make a million dollars per year in sales, I don't see the point.

I've concluded the only two things an author or an aritist needs are consistency and a well enough designed logo. Use that logo for everything. Use the same color shemes. Use the same tagline, and make sure it's a good one.

So, yeah, it does work well to have your own brand. However, it's nothing new. It just seems that way with the explosion of online publishing. It's actually kind of backwards to have products before creating a brand. It's like reinventing the wheel.

I would advise, when you're first starting out, keep it simple. Establish the foundation of a brand first, and nothing else. If all goes well, use that foundation to allow your brand to evolve.

I'll use Coca-cola as an example. The first versions of the brand was fairly rudimentary. Nothing that fancy. The logo has evolved and gone through many versions. But, they've been using a white logo with a red background for a very long time. That's branding.

sorry to be long-winded. I just happen to know a lot of about this stuff ;)

Hopefully my brand works, but, still in the early stages, and I'll let you know.

message 3: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1826 comments Mod
No, by all means be a font of wisdom. It makes all sorts of sense and it piqued my interest so I hoped it might make for a lively discussion :)

message 4: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) I was just worried my long-windedness cut off further discussions. Hopefully not...

message 5: by Jacek (new)

Jacek Slay Lily, but brand doesn't have to be (and in many cases isn't) a logo or whatever graphic. Just your name can be a brand. "Stephen King" is a brand. "JK Rowling" is a brand. And so on. And they don't have to have any taglines, any graphic signs, any anything... Hell, I don't even see a NEED for a writer to have a logo. I assume it does work for graphic artists but for writers - it's pretty much unnecessary.

But it definitely IS good to estabilish a brand as a writer (or as any other artist). How? I've always been told to start with short forms. Get your story published in some magazine. Then another one. And another. And a dozen more. That way you're giving your readers a chance to get to know your name before you try forcing them to buy your novel.

Or you can always run a blog - not even necessarily with your writing. Or some fancy FB fanpage. Or a Twitter account. The point is, brand your name in readers' minds, so when they see your novel on the bookshelf/in KDP, they'll think "Courtney Wells, isn't she that chick from that fancy knitting blog?". ;)

message 6: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Jacek, as I expressed, years of work experience, unlike you, so please don't insult me.

message 7: by Jacek (new)

Jacek Slay Lily, I'm pretty sure my experience and knowledge in this particular area isn't inferior to yours. A brand can be a name. A brand can be a graphic sign. A brand can be a shape (like Coca-Cola bottles). A brand can be all of it or just one of it. And although it often DOES come with logos or any other symbols, it isn't a necessity. A brand is something that distinguishes your product from the other products. And "a book by Stephen King" is enough to distinguish his books from other books. Even if Stephen King doesn't have any specific logo.

But we're not here to fight about basic marketing definitions, are we?

message 8: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Very good, so there was never any need to argue "that's not branding," now was there?

message 9: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1826 comments Mod
I think branding can be like either instance - formal or informal.

Some people have established themselves so they are the "Master of Horror" but it's hard to be so prolific your name becomes a trademark.

I think that's where consistency and reinforcing one's presentation of an image helps because so few of us will be trendsetters simply be doing what we do. It's almost a conscious effort to become recognizable in the public eye.

message 10: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Consistency is always key. At least, I've seen any eviddence to the contrary.

message 11: by Jacek (new)

Jacek Slay Right, Courtney. Your behaviour (in a very wide meaning) is also a part of your brand. What you write, how you write, your attitude towards readers, your Facebook page... virtually anything that makes you recognizable as this specific entity.

message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) There's branding, and then there's word of mouth. The latter is all about how the author interacts with others. Personal presentation, if you will.

The Coca-cola brand never talks, never interacts with anyone, because it's just a brand.

Granted, this topic breaks down a lot of various marketing tools and focuses on branding only. We could start a new topic about word of mouth, but I'm pretty a lot of topics have already been started for that. So, one thing at a time.

message 13: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1826 comments Mod
I honestly have zero empathy/connection with mechanical authors who do nothing but drone on, preen and pimp whatever they write.

It makes me feel like they are too invested in their writing and assume we are all as enthralled. Then - when they do show a "personal" side - it seems artificial or staged.

Nope. One of the reasons I trail like a ducky behind some authors, scarffing up words and wisdom, is because they were personable from the start and act as if they're the least impressed/most disinterested person in the room in respects to their writing

message 14: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 154 comments Make sure people know your books belong together:
Locked Room A Katla KillFile (Amsterdam Assassin) by Martyn V. Halm Microchip Murder A Katla KillFile (Amsterdam Assassin) by Martyn V. Halm Fundamental Error A Katla KillFile (Amsterdam Assassin) by Martyn V. Halm Aconite Attack - A Katla KillFile (Amsterdam Assassin Series) by Martyn V. Halm Reprobate A Katla Novel (Amsterdam Assassin Series, #1) by Martyn V. Halm Peccadillo A Katla Novel (Amsterdam Assassin Series, #2) by Martyn V. Halm Rogue A Katla novel (Amsterdam Assassin Series, #3) by Martyn V. Halm

It think it's one of the most important strategies you'll need to sell your series.

message 15: by S. (new)

S. Rivera (sjacksonrivera) | 6 comments I've run across this question as my 2nd book is a genre jump for me. I was told I should have a new pen name for each genre I write in, but only have 1 other out, I wanted to establish myself. I used the same name and will on whatever I write in the future, but I've decided each genre will use a different font for the name. It will have to do. The comment just before mine-perfect example of branding for authors.

message 16: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 154 comments I've finished a novel(la) in another genre that I will probably publish under M.V. Halm, instead of Martyn V. Halm, so my suspense fiction readers won't think it's the same genre.

message 17: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1826 comments Mod
I always find book series with a cohesive quality to their covers very smart - both handsome and clever :)

message 18: by S. (new)

S. Rivera (sjacksonrivera) | 6 comments Martyn V. (aka Baron Sang-Froid) wrote: "I've finished a novel(la) in another genre that I will probably publish under M.V. Halm, instead of Martyn V. Halm, so my suspense fiction readers won't think it's the same genre."

I'm sure if I had more books out, I would have switched it up a bit but jumping genres so soon, I didn't want to start over again.

message 19: by Ashe (new)

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) That pen name thing confuses me. Like, I could get it if you're wanting to write something WAY different. Like a sci-fi writer wanting to write erotica. Maybe it's me, if I like an author, I'll pretty much look at anything they've done, regardless of genres since I do so love genre. So I guess I just don't see the point in multiple pen names. But again, that's me. I suppose it could work as far as potential branding.

message 20: by Renee E (last edited May 08, 2015 04:53PM) (new)

Renee E | 395 comments My work seems to be split into two paths, one of them among the dark side of human nature, so those will carry the name, R. Rommalb.

The other side, that leans toward fantasy will go under R. Liralen.

Anyone who has read Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld will know where the names come from — and what they mean ;-)

I came to that conclusion after seeing the shock that hit people who were used to reading my fantasy when they suddenly got exposed to the other side.

message 21: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Ah, the pen name advice. I guess it's still floating around. It's a bit outdated. Authors use to have to use different names for different genres. But, with online publishing, things have changed a lot. Many author are now openly using different names for different genres, but essentially, it's all under the same brand, if you will.

So, on one hand, it's no longer needed. On the other hand, if you decide to use different names, do so openly, but keep under the same brand, and it should be fine.

message 22: by Ashe (new)

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) Renee: I guess that makes sense. Especially if your books vary a lot, I could see that shocking readers.

Lily: I guess that's why it confuses me that it's still in use. But i'm glad when folks are open about it. It makes it easier to read their stuff if I like it.

message 23: by Jacek (last edited May 09, 2015 01:56AM) (new)

Jacek Slay Oh, several pen names thing. Yeah, this one is a bit tricky. There's plenty of authors who openly admit they go under different names (like Jack Kilborn with his feminine alter ego Melinda DuChamp) and there's plenty of authors who keep their secret pen names... secret (assuming you can keep something secret in the era of information ;) ).

I've never really recommended using a different pen name for every single genre; it's hard enough to estabilish one brand and if you were to create a brand for every genre... good luck with that.

However, it's a good thing (and I usually recommend it) to have two or three different names (AND NOT ADMIT THIS IS THE SAME PERSON) if you decide to go into the areas you wouldn't want to get connected with your main brand - say, writing hard S-F under one name and lesbian interracial BDSM erotica under the other. Or gore books under the one and children books under the other.

So one name - one brand. Two names - two brands.

edit: poor wording

message 24: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 154 comments With my pen names, I'm more into mirroring what Iain Banks did with writing literary fiction under Iain Banks, and science fiction under Iain M. Banks.

Everybody knows it's the same writer, but nobody picks up an Iain M. Banks story expecting literary fiction.

I write suspense fiction under Martyn V. Halm and in that series, the sex scenes are mostly the 'fade to black' variety.

My wife instigated venturing into the erotic romance genre, so I wrote a 45K novella that is erotic/romantic/suspense. The characters are interesting enough for sequels, so I can put out a series with Severin and Patricia.

However, I wouldn't want anyone to sample the Severin & Patricia stories expecting Katla & Bram and murder and mayhem, so I'd make a minor adjustment to my name and turn it from Martyn V. Halm into M.V. Halm. Still quite clear it's the same author, but the stories are different.

By not publishing the new series under a totally unrelated name, I can still preserve the connection that the new series is written by the same person who writes the Katla series, so that fans of the Amsterdam Assassin Series can check out other work without getting confused.

message 25: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 154 comments S. wrote: "I'm sure if I had more books out, I would have switched it up a bit but jumping genres so soon, I didn't want to start over again."

I often write at several projects at the same time. While I was writing Ghosting, the fourth novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, I finished editing In Pocket (a stand-alone novel about a heroin-addicted nomadic pickpocket), wrote Aconite Attack (novella for the Amsterdam Assassin Series), and wrote Just Enough Rope (an erotic suspense story).

Right now I'm editing Just Enough Rope with feedback I received from my beta-readers, working on Limelight (the sequel to JER), and finishing Ghosting.

message 26: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Ashe wrote: "Lily: I guess that's why it confuses me that it's still in use. But i'm glad when folks are open about it. It makes it easier to read their stuff if I like it."

It comes from the traditional publishing model. For indies, that's needs to be translated, because imitating the same businesss model doesn't work unless you are planning to be traditionally published. But even then, no guarantees.

Trad publishing does marketing based on a spefific demographic. And it's really, really, specific. Let's say, author wrote a book about 15 teen year old girls attenting a private school that's been attacked by zombies (I'm making this up). The demographic is 15 teen year girls who attend private schools. Let's also say, the same author wrote a non-fiction book about golfing techniques for elderly men. The demographic would be men who enjoy golfing, over the age of 65. (Again, making this up).

Since the two demographics are incaptiable, different pen names are used for marketing and different brands for advertising. Brands are pure advertising and nothing but.

For independent authors who are mostly selling to an anonymous internet with a non-specific demographic in mind, something like readers who love a good murder mysteries, different pen names and different brands are pretty much usless, and does nothing but cause confusion.

Also bear in mind, if you're planning on public readings or book tours, multiple names will be a huge problem.

There's nothing wrong with being versatile. I write both fantasy and thrillers, often at the same time. I've always been honest, fantasy and thrillers, one brand, one name. I've never had any problems with that.

message 27: by Jacek (new)

Jacek Slay Two words: Ockham's razor.

Martyn uses a slightly alternated but pretty similar version of his name to mark two paths of his writing. Kilborn goes by several names but openly admits those are his pen names. I have made a few pen names and created a few different brands for each segment of the market I don't want to get connected with my main brand.

Every way is a good one as long as it's a conscient decision. Just stick to Ockham's razor - don't multiply entities beyond necessity.

message 28: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Kilborn only seems to go by two names as far as I can tell. Jaack Kilborn - horror. JA Konrath (his real name) - mystery.

Two genres, two names, and if you look at the covers for either name, one brand for all.

Yet again, it comes down to demographics. He's smart to seperate, because not all horror fans like mystery books, and vice versa. Though, on GR, he's listed with both names.

I strongly feel that a brand can't be establisshed until a targeted audience is established. If you're not targeting difference audiences, then I fail to see the point of multiple pen names and I've yet to see that work.

Let's all be honest, and I'm in the same boat. For any indie author, we all start the same way, selling to friends and family. Rarely does an indie author have a well-established massive fanbase and a specific demographic. While Jack Kilborn is a good example of the end result, he's not a good example of how to get started on all the various marketing tools, more specifically, the only thing this topic is suppose to be about - branding. It's not something you can reverse engineer.

In essence, branding is behind the scenes technical stuff. It's the hard work that the audience never sees.

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