Your brand is how you can stand out.
Today’s post is inspired by one of my favorite creators, Creative Hive. She makes handmade craft items, but a lot of her input applies to writers, too.
Now I’m going to share what I got from this video using the “writer” lens.
Branding Your Books
This applies specifically for authors who’d like to make money on their books. I did address this in an older post, but I think it’s worth mentioning again because the key to branding is letting your readers know what kind of books you write. People who love your work love it for a reason. The more specific you can get, the better. All genres can be broken down into smaller segments. Do you have a unique angle within your genre that sets you apart from other writers? If so, that will narrow your brand down even further.
I have a unique angle within the historical romance genre. I write Christian romances where the characters wait until marriage to have sex, and when they do have sex, I show it. I do not get preachy because I hate preachy Christian fiction. I don’t always come out and state that my main characters are Christians, but they are. If they aren’t Christian at the beginning of the book, they will be at the end. I will insert overtly Christian messages into a book when it fits the plot. I prefer to keep things as natural to real life as possible.
Most historical romances authors don’t use this particular angle. The only two authors I know who do historical romances the same way I do are Carolyn Davidson and Rose Gordon, and I’m not sure if either one of them are still writing books. So my angle is very specific. It appeals to a smaller audience than your typical historical romance reader, and this does mean making less money overall. Keep that in mind when thinking of your brand. If you want the potential to make a lot of money, you might want to broaden your brand. Still, whatever brand you choose, stay true to it so readers know what to expect when they buy your book.
Also, when you’re branding your books, I advise picking only one or two genres to write. The reason for this is that people who love romance don’t tend to read thrillers or fantasy. (I know this from experience.) But people who love Regency romance might be willing to read historical western romance and vice versa. Those two genres are sub-categories of romance. There’s some overlap. Likewise, science fiction and fantasy are genres that can appeal to similar readers. Thrillers and horror seem to be a natural match, too. I’m sure there are others.
My point is that writing a variety of genres can dilute your brand, especially if they are wildly different from each other. It’s hard to build up a substantial readership that will follow you over time if you don’t have a solid brand. This is the reason I don’t write fantasies or thrillers anymore.
Branding Yourself Online
Years ago I read an article that said it takes people 8 times of seeing your book to remember it. Through the day, people are exposed to so many things that their subconscious mind has to filter all of the “noise” from their conscious awareness. If we picked up on every single thing around us, we’d go crazy, and in a world where we have the distractions of the internet, we need that filter more than ever.
That being said, I believe it’s important to stick with similar colors and images on all of your sites, such as blogs, websites, emails announcing new releases, and personal storefronts. These colors and images are a snapshot view of “you”. I don’t necessarily think all of your books have to look similar, but there should be a similarity within the series.
I think it’s also important to be consistent with the type of content you create on a blog or social media. You don’t have to repeat yourself all the time, but work within something that represents you, both personally and professionally. You are a part of your branding. The way you present yourself will inadvertently market your books because what people see coming from you online will affect what they think of the books you write.
I think you should be authentic. There’s no sense in trying to be someone else. There is only one you, and you have something to contribute that no one else can. There’s no point in trying to be someone else. I’ll explain why by sharing my own personal experience.
Back in 2012, I admired an author who had the gift of telling stories from real life that were so funny that she attracted a lot of comments. Those posts were fun to read. I enjoyed them as much as the others did. I tried writing a couple of posts about my personal life in a way that would make others laugh, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have her gift. I’m going to age myself here, but does anyone remember the Bob Newhart shows–both the original in the 70s and the new one in the 80s? Bob Newhart’s characters were “dry” and “boring. On the show, this was funny because the the people around him were a strong contrast to his character. While this was funny on TV, it’s not funny in a blog post. The incident with my kids might be funny in real life, but the way I wrote the incident read like a technical manual. It was boring. I had to come to the conclusion that I’m not the author who had a gift for making her personal life so much fun to read about.
After experimenting with different posts, I finally realized my “niche” is writing posts as if I am sitting across from you and sharing a cup of coffee while I talk. It’s informal and relaxed. It’s like talking with a friend. Some authors are much more professional in their tone than I am. That’s their “niche”. They’re not me, and I’m not them. So there’s no point in them trying to be me, nor is there a point for me to try to be them. We’re all better off just being who we are. Whatever your personality is, make that personality work for you. Let other people see who you are.
Branding is About Quality More Than Quantity
I still believe that taking the time to write the very best book possible is worth it. I don’t think rushing books is a good idea. Even though money is something we want, we should devote everything we have into what we’re writing. I believe that, in the long run, producing quality in the eyes of our readers is what matters most.
Notice I wrote “in the eyes of OUR readers.” It doesn’t matter what the critic thinks. It doesn’t matter what our family or friends think. What matters is that we’re satisfying our readers. Quality is subjective. I know it’s easy to forget that when someone comes to you with a scathing review. It’s also easy to forget when you know a family member or friend really didn’t like your book, but to spare your feelings, they tell you they enjoyed it. Scathing feedback and false sincerity are both hurtful. That’s why I keep saying to focus on the people who love your work. They are your barometer of quality.
I have yet to come across a reader who has said they are willing to give up quality in order to have me publish more books in a year. While they might want more books (and it’s a compliment when they say that), they would rather have me take my time and produce something of quality. They are willing to wait. So don’t worry about trying to get X number of books out in a year. I know this is a huge deal in the writing community because everything is about maximizing income. I like making money as much as everyone else, but if you’re writing sloppy stories, how long do you think it’ll be before you hurt your brand? Eventually, readers will say, “This author used to write great books, but lately, something is missing. I’m done buying their books.” That’s the kiss of death.
A quick note on readers burning out:
Personally, I think we’re in such a “hurry up and get it out there” author culture that it’s easy for readers to burn out on the same author if that author has a new book coming out all the time. Having a waiting time between releases helps to give readers a break so they can read other authors’ books. The break is good. I think when you’re not getting a new book out all the time, readers will enjoy your books that much more because they weren’t trying to keep up with all of your books.
I mean, I enjoy certain types of movies, but I can’t watch them all the time. I need to break up the monotony and watch something else for a while. The same thing is true with music artists. There’s one that puts out a new song almost every week. It’s just a 3-4 minute song, but it wore me out when I was trying to keep up with all of his new releases. I ended up walking away for a couple of months just to catch my breath.
A final thought: contrary to public opinion, you don’t need to write every single day. What other job would you say someone isn’t a real _____________ if they didn’t do it every day? We wouldn’t say it to a teacher or a doctor. My husband is a car detailer, and he takes days off. When he was in the military, he was on call and had exercises, but he still had days off. As writers, we should have days off. These are days to relax the mind. They can be days to get caught up on updating our website or catching up on emails. Or we can binge watch movies all day. Or maybe we can take that hike we’ve been meaning to get to. It doesn’t matter what we do just as long as we’re giving our creative wells time to fill back up. When we allow ourselves time to decompress, we are in a better position to create quality stories. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than putting a book out there and realizing it doesn’t represent your best work. I’ve made that mistake early on, and I have since rewritten those stories. I would have been better off taking my time instead of rushing them. Quality matters.