Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Trying on Brands

No, I'm not preparing to write chick lit. One aspect of writing/marketing that’s currently hot is branding – connecting your name with what you write in a way that bookstores know where to shelve you and readers know whether they want to try your books. It’s not really pigeonholing as much as focusing so readers know what to expect, much as when they pick up a Clancy or Grafton novel.

Problem is, I’ve written a historical, a romance, and am starting a fantasy. Three totally different genres. The romance isn’t that much of an issue; with the length, it should be a mass market title, likely a book club one, which doesn’t have much of an influence on building readers outside of those who belong to the book clubs. I don’t know that I could or would want to write a full-length (80,000 words +) straight romance. It would have to be mixed with some other genre, like historical, suspense, fantasy, etc.

Anyhow, I’ve been pondering this for a couple weeks now, wondering if I could establish a brand that encompasses all I want to write, if cross-genre branding was even possible. One author friend, Camy Tang, came up with a tagline that fit both genres she was pursuing. When she got a contract in one genre, she moved her focus solely on that genre. I wouldn’t mind that. So as we were singing patriotic songs at church this Sunday, America the Beautiful came up. I love the lyrics to that song, especially the “heroes proved” and “patriot dream.” That got me thinking of war, the American Revolution, my books . . . and it hit me. Spies. Hidden identities. In some respect, all of my books have to do with hiding who you are for some reason. Even my romance has it, though it could be enhanced by editing, which I need to do anyway.

So I’m brainstorming what to do with this idea. One phrase I like: Revealing your identity can save your heart – or kill you. It also ties in with my passion for being authentic – and my love of the “cool” spy stuff. It touches the periods of history I’m most interested in – the Revolution and WWII – and can also apply to contemporary international thrillers as well as cloak and dagger fantasy. Now it’s time to pull out my thesaurus and have fun – conceal, disguise, camouflage, mask, hidden, undercover, masquerade, secret, veiled, stealth, furtive, spy, identity.

3 comments:

Camy Tang said...

I like the tagline, but what I think you should focus on first is your brand. Your brand should be the aspect you choose to write that sets you apart from every other author out there.

For example, my brand is Asian romance. I had written a chick lit and a suspense, but both had Asian American characters and romance. When I was contracted in the chick lit, like you said, I focused on that genre, but it didn't change my brand.

Robin Caroll writes Southern romantic suspense. She infuses Southern culture in all her stories. I don't think there are any other authors in CBA who focus on Southern suspense, although there are several who write Southern romance.

Cheryl Wyatt writes special ops action romance. All her stories have a strong romance thread with at least one special ops character (SEALs or PJs, etc.), and the amount of action varies. No one else in CBA focuses on special ops romances.

All three of us were contracted because of our brands. I don't even know Robin's tagline and Cheryl has like 2 or 3, but it was our brands that got editors' attentions.

You have a leg up over some other writers because you review books, so you already KNOW what's out there and what's been done. You can look at what's been done and see what you can write that will be different and unique in the market.

Camy

Katie Hart - Writer and Avon Representative said...

Thanks for the advice! I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my brand is - so I'm playing with words and exploring what I like to write while I figure it out. :)

C.J. Darlington said...

The only danger I see in branding yourself as a new writer (I've been writing for over ten years and still consider myself new), is that it can close your mind to new directions. "Oh, this great idea I had doesn't fit my brand so I can't write it." You know what I mean? I see a lot of new authors give more credence to branding than I believe they should. This, of course, is just my opinion. I know that it's generally a good idea to stick with one genre until you're established because people do come to expect certain things from you.

But especially before you're published---that's the time to spread your wings and experiment.

But if coming up with a tagline or brand HELPS you personally as a writer, then go for it! Some of us are wired differently. Maybe it doesn't work for me but will work wonders for you! :)

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