Ditching or Mixing My Author Brand– Part 3

In Part 1 of this series I started with some concerns I am facing with author brands.

In Part 2, I discuss branding without genre, and some elements towards a personal brand.

In this final part, I attempt to suggest what this all means (to me) and provide all the reference links used in these posts. I’ll be rounding up what I think is an author brand, and how this pertains to my own exploration across genres.

Say What? What’s an Author Brand, then?

1. My Summary

If I found some more good links to discussions or posts on author branding, they wouldn’t further help to clarify the subject. At some point it becomes necessary to simply draw a line in the sand, and say “I’ll work with what I think I know.” But in Part 2 of this post series, I came up with some pretty good definitions of what author brand really comes down to –

  1. Author Name
  2. The emotional response invoked in somebody (a reader) when hearing that author name. The authenticity acceptance.

When it comes to genre writers, much of that response comes from the actual genre and reader expectations of it – thriller readers expect thrills, horror readers want chills, romance readers want…spills…um…

Writers who wish to write in differing genres with the same brand author name can locate the same type of response or authenticity recognition in their potential readers if they look for common threads and key words for them personally and for their fiction.

Platform is how this is all built and communicated – without hard sell. It takes time to build, and the best – and perhaps only way to do so, is by producing writing – producing books.

To ease my own thinking, I’m simply going to combine –

2. Key elements of Personal Brand as a Writer:

  • Your name (with a website under this name domain as your key platform communications device).
  • Your message or promise to your audience.
    • What do you believe in? Ie. what is the message or promise you will give to your readers (no matter category or genre ). Philip Martin suggests you can find this in your creation or origins as a writer, and in key words, Ami Hendrickson went looking for common threads in her fiction for a genre-less brand.
    • What are the genre audience expectations? For specifically genre-orientated authors, Rachelle Gardner says that genre is simply enough as a marker for brand.
    • What are your key words? Personal words as a writer? Specific words for your genre or fiction? Both Philip Martin and Lynn Viehl discuss words for branding.
      • Keywords are how new readers may find you, through search engines. Include your author name.
      • Additionally, can you create a catchphrase or motto to capture your belief, using these words? Do you need or want to? Aside from a publisher UK website, Jodi Picoult doesn’t feel the need.
    • Different messages for different brands / audiences? Several authors such as Joanna Penn and Ali Cross have book-centred author-named websites, and other sites directed at writer audiences. Others combine into one site.
  • The design of your brand (communicated through platform communication channels) – colours, logos, website headers, catch-phrases, tag-lines, how and where the author name appears on book covers, images used, themes. Matthew Turner talks about the look and feel of brand. Ali Cross talks about design also.
  • Your communications. How will you communicate your brand / your self? Dan Blank says branding is communication.
    • Consistency in design. Matthew Turner talks about having websites, logos through social media and book covers consistently themed.
    • Blog and Post on Topic. Joanna Penn suggests we blog and network on our niche topics.
    • Platform for Communicating. What platforms will you build? I’m talking about physical platforms  – websites, blogs, social media usage, but aspects of off-line communications – networking, promotions such as book launches, etc.
    • Promotion, Pricing and Productivity. Certain aspects of these communication (and marketing) channels are discussed in posts by Kimberly Grabas, Kowloon, and Phil Sexton.
  • AFTER ALL THIS, Who is your reader? And what do they want?

3. Not forgetting Platform

Several of the referenced posts in this series have pointed out that having an author brand is all fine and dandy, but won’t take you anywhere without a platform.

But, if author brand can – for some – simply be a matter of author name and genre, then it doesn’t need work at all. You could very easily have platform without thinking about brand at all.

Contrarily, some experts suggest that brand is marketing. Given this, my immediate response is: I need brand to market with, and then I can build platform. Lots of new authors have this reaction – they get onto twitter and annoy the rest of us with ‘Buy this’ tweets or ‘Please share this, please review my book, please take notice’ posts. They might even have put thought into having a kewl name and all.

Which is where I need to remind myself that platform requires the superhero power of “reach”, and reach doesn’t come about with spam marketing, requests to buy or even reciprocity of messages sent. It comes from producing books, improving writing, and producing more books. From finding readership naturally.

So, One: think platform first, just as a form of communication channel, and this can simply mean having a simple website which doesn’t require too much time away from actual writing, and Two: take your time over the branding. But be aware that your communications will already be building both your platform, and brand (as emotional response and reputation) as you go.

I think it fits together something like this:-

Author Brand Venn

What’s That All Mean for Me?

In case you were wondering, or *gasp* actually got to the end of all this, I’m still assessing my personal brand in that I’m still analysing my own belief systems. As many of the posts I’ve referenced suggest, such thinking takes time. And then, at some point I’ll have to re-design my author website, still under my name, but with a branding that allows for more than thrillers. Not a major change, but perhaps a change in content and certainly, feeling.

Just as I prepared to post this final article, resigned to redesigning my author website, I got a request from the Huffington Post towards an interview on one of the serial killer typologies I have up on that website. The year-old posts they are talking about were researched through several books, written by some legitimate experts on certain crime, but I can hardly claim I’ve somehow become an expert on serial killers or forensic psychology now, and feel a bit of a charleton. So, be aware of how much depth as an author you go into, when providing posts on your niche topics, that’s my word of warning. Now I have a problem with branding on my author website that I was holy not expecting, Batman.

Common threads in fiction

strong-woman_thumb2_thumbAfter reading through Ami Hendrikson’s Non-Genre branding post, and Philip Martin’s latest post on the subject, I have come to some common threads that run through all my stories –

  • My main characters are generally strong, smart, witty and independent women.They are flawed and realistic, but when the stakes are drawn, they’ll be the ones shoving them in, rather than at the pointy-end of them. (My men are equally strong but flawed). Some of my female characters might even be a little kick-ass. Literally. With karate or something.
  • I want to portray realistic relationships between work colleagues, fantasy figures, generations and genders. Just because the story is centered on a young adult doesn’t mean that adults will just vanish from taking any part in the story other than as the villain. (I really enjoyed the Secret Seven, Famous Five or Nancy Drew mysteries as a tween, but always wondered what world they lived in where they could go wandering off for days and nights without any parental figure caring, or any responsibilities, chores or homework requirements impacting their sleuth-work, at least. Oh, and they contaminated the evidence all the time).
  • I may have psychological thrills, steamy epic fantasy or urban super-heroes in mind, but each has at least one cultural, domestic or modern issue at the heart of the story. I want to provide a thought-provoking issue as a background and leave my readers to explore it as they wish.
  • Despite the category or genre, most of the stories I’m planning also hold a good level of suspense or mystery, if not thrills and crime.
  • Various levels of humour or wit are often part of the character and story. But I can’t promise that, because it’s quite subjective. (I am funny, right? Not all the time, but sometimes, right? Huh? *Whimpers*).

With that in mind, I have a few key phrases appropriate to all the genres I am contemplating – “strong, smart, independent female characters”, “thought-provoking issues of our time”, “realistic relationships” and “suspenseful thrills” or how about “serious suspense”?

Yes, it’s still too mixed as a message. I know that. It could be drilled down into something like – “Smart girls fighting real issues” but that takes away the fantasy elements, and the fact I also have male protagonists. Um….

Ohhh, ohhh…dances around… alpha-female. What about that? But with realism.

How about the old adage I was brought up on – “Girls can do anything…including cocking-up” ? Okay…

Obviously my branding needs a little more thought and work – to provide a non-genre-fied personal brand that works for both thriller and YA readers, for instance.

These posts have allowed me all the necessary thinking for my Id to work on in the background, so now it’s back to work for me. If you have any suggestions, they will always be greatly welcomed.

Your turn:

What is your own message or brand? How is this shown in your platform?If you’re happy in the one category or genre, how is your brand communicated?If you’re thinking about several genres, how are you branding yourself personally?

Author Brand Links

These 3 posts reference to the following posts on Author Branding:-

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