Branding (A Post For Writers)

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.

/burnout

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.

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Updates on What I’m Writing

The Cursed Earl (Marriage by Necessity Series: Book 2)

Books in the Marriage by Necessity Series:

A Perilous Marriage new cover 4 the-cursed-earl-mbn-2 Heiress of Misfortune MBN 3 ebook cover Might be a Book 4

I’m finally on Chapter 5. Considering I started this book back in March, it’s frustrating I’ve made so little progress, but it is why I pushed the release month from September to November.

Part of the delay was having to rewrite about half of An Earl In Time. I ended up putting all books on hold and focusing in on that book for a good month. An Earl In Time also turned out to be longer than what I usually write, so that didn’t help, but I was determined to fill in all of the loose ends. I didn’t see the point in making it a series or a serial. Despite all of the frustrations, I am glad I wrote An Earl In Time. It’s just that sometimes I wish there were two of me. 😀

Since I did have such a wide gap between starting The Cursed Earl and finally getting to chapter 5, I forgot how I was going to bring Christopher Robinson and Lord Edon into this book. All I jotted down in my notes was “Lord Quinton, Lord Edon, and Mr Robinson”. I’m sure those three were going to be connected. I have Lord Quinton. He’s a new character, and his role has a direct impact on the hero of this book. But I have no idea what I was going to do with the my favorite two Regency characters. If they don’t fit in here, I’m sure I’ll find another place for them in a future book.

The Loner’s Bride (Wyoming Series: Book 4)

Books in the Wyoming Series:

theoutlawbridefinalebookcover TheRanchersBrideFinal3 thefugitivesbride2 The Loner's Bride ebook cover

I’m on Chapter 2. It’s funny that I never really understood why Jeremiah wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with Abby in this series. On paper, they probably seemed like a natural match since he was a good family friend and they’ve known each other for the longest time. I knew Abby only saw him as an older brother, even though I never came out and stated it. I never got that deep into Jeremiah’s thoughts in The Rancher’s Bride since he was preoccupied with finding Abby and Lloyd. But from Abby’s viewpoint, she had zero romantic interest in Jeremiah. In fact, the prospect of a romance between these two was so far removed from her that it never even made a blip on her radar, hence why I never even addressed the “why” she wasn’t interested in him.

It wasn’t until I started Chapter 2 (Jeremiah’s point of view) in The Loner’s Bride that I finally understood why he has no interest in Abby. Until I’m writing a character’s point of view, I don’t really understand why the character does and think the things he/she does. This is probably why plotting doesn’t work for me. I think they term a writer who learns as they write a “discovery writer”. I had to look it up online, and I’m right. A discovery writer is a writer who has very little (if any) idea on how a book will end up. They just start writing and see how things unfold. That’s how I write, and it’s why I can’t answer questions I’ll get once in a while from someone who wants to know why a certain character did or didn’t do something. I might have written something in the book, and I know it’s what the character wanted to do, but until I’m in that character’s head, I can’t tell anyone why the character did it.

So basically, I start a story and let the character tell me who that character is. That’s how I figure out a character’s personality. A character’s personality shapes the story. Based on the character’s personality, that character will make certain decisions that will end up impacting things (for better or worse) as the story progresses, and as a result of this, other characters will react based on their personality traits. Then those characters’ decisions will impact how the character acts in turn. So it’s like a cycle that builds on itself. This is why twists often pop up when I’m writing. I’m often blindsided by about half of the stuff my characters end up doing simply I can’t predict their actions until I’m writing the scene.

The reason Jeremiah never had an interest in Abby was he doesn’t see her as a woman. He sees her as a “boy”. Abby’s not really equal with her brothers since he does feel protective of her, but she’s not really a “girl”, either. I’m not sure if that makes sense or not, but that is his perception of her. She’s halfway between a little brother and an adult woman. This realization came to me when I was writing the scene where she asks him to help Katie find a husband. Katie will be staying at the orphanage to help the widows and him take care of the children. Katie is now 20 and ready to get married, but Abby wants her “older brother” who happens to live in the center of town to be her chaperone. Anyway, as Abby is buttering him up to help Katie find a husband, she’s batting her eyelashes at him, and all he’s thinking is how ridiculous she looks because (to him) she looks like she’s trying to blink away a bug that’s in her eyes. So there’s no way Jeremiah could ever be matched with Abby.

Katie, however, is going to be a different story. Katie is feminine in how she looks and in her personality, and those two things will attract him. I had no idea this was why my subconscious mind told me that Jeremiah’s only match was going to be Katie. I shied away from writing their story because of the age difference. She’s going to be 20, and he’ll be 44, but as someone pointed out, Katie’s mature for her age. The men who are her age won’t appeal to her. To them, they’re going to be like “boys”, not grown men. This is all in her personality. This is why a character’s personality impacts everything. I’m hoping that I’ll get to do a scene where Katie bats her eyelashes at him. I think his reaction is going to be completely different than what it was when Abby did it.

Suitable for Marriage (Husbands for the Larson Sisters Series: Book 3)

Books in the Husbands for the Larson Sisters Series:

Nelly's Mail Order Husband for website Perfectly Matched Ebook smaller suitable-for-marriage-book-3-ebook-smaller There will be a Book 4

I’m in Chapter 5 of this one. I started this book way back in December. It’s been very slow going on this one, but the ideas are finally flowing. I hope that keeps up. I have this set for March 2022 for a release month just in case it stalls out again.

Erin’s goal is to get Alex to give up his pursuit of her. His past proposal when he gave her a frog with a ribbon tied around it and a love letter didn’t impress her. 😛 He’s been doing other things to woo her, but he doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to be romantic in a way that actually appeals to women. So he’s a great guy. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing.

As a result, Erin’s desperately trying to find a young lady somewhere in Omaha who’ll take an interest in him. Alex knows exactly what she’s doing, and since it offers him a chance to spend time with her, he is going along with it. It wasn’t until I was writing in this story last week that I realized Daisy is starting to feel sympathetic toward him. That idea came to me when Daisy told Erin to be nicer to Alex. Alex’s initial thought was that Daisy might be an ally. So he’s going to ask Daisy for help, and I think Daisy will go along with it, even though her initial plan was to help Erin. We’ll see how Erin reacts if she catches on to what Daisy will be doing. It’s possible Erin won’t figure it out. I’ll find out as I keep writing.

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You’ll Never Please Everyone, So It’s Pointless To Try (A Post for Writers)

The topic of this post is probably the #1 reason why it’s best to write what you want. If there is a single person out there who loves your story, it ought to be you since you’re the one who is writing it.

No matter what you write or how you write it, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. On the flip side, you’ll always have someone who does like it, which is good news.

Here are examples from my books to illustrate how people can have different opinions on the same book:

Book 1: Review #1 = “This author is awful with her historical knowledge.” Review #2 = “This author really gets into the time period with her understanding of how women were treated back then.”

Book 2: Review #1 = “Terrible grammar.” Review #2 = “Considering this was self-published, the grammar was polished up.”

Book 3: Review #1 = “No, not a heroine who is NOT a virgin!” Review #2 = “It’s refreshing to have a heroine who isn’t a virgin while the hero is.”

I’ve heard it all over the past decade. The stuff some people love, others hate. There is no pleasing everyone.

There are authors out there writing stuff they don’t like in order to please someone else. Either they are trying to please enough readers to get lots of sales or they are looking for tons of praise through reviews and awards. They are putting their own interests aside in order to tailor their work to someone else’s version of “the perfect story”.

I know. We’re apt to think, “Hey, she’s making a living. It’s a job. Plenty of people have jobs they hate.” While that is true, writing isn’t a job where you can just do A + B and get C. The creative process requires focus and effort. Books aren’t a widget on an assembly line.

So let’s say that we have an author who is pleasing others at the expense of pleasing herself. She’s writing books other people want to read (rather than a book she wants to write). Consider how short life is. We are all only given a set number of days from the moment we’re born. How would you like to spend that time? Do you want to do it crying in misery because so much of your time is dedicated to writing something you don’t care about, or would you rather be pursuing something that is your life’s purpose?

I do think it’s important to earn money with your work. I know that sometimes your passion isn’t what pays the bills. In the case where you need your writing to pay the bills, I recommend hiring a ghostwriter and writing the stuff you enjoy. Or, if you can’t find a ghostwriter, then at least give yourself something to write that is your passion. That way, you can at least get some enjoyment out of your work while writing stuff that pays the bills. It will probably mean less money (because the less books you get out there that sells well, the less you’ll make), but this might be offset by cutting back on expenses. If you’re so strapped for money that you can’t afford to stop producing books that you hate, then you might need to get another source of income. I realize that the advice I just gave sucks, but I’ve come across enough authors who hate what they write so much that they say it’s sucking the life out of them. That’s a terrible way to live.

In the case of authors who are striving for praise, I see two problems emerge here. One, there will never be enough praise to satisfy the writer. And two, if the book reaches enough readers, eventually someone is going to hate it. So even if you are getting praise, someone is going to creep into your world and disrupt that euphoric feeling. Not everyone is polite when they offer up criticism. Some people are downright rude. Check out the way people talk to each other on Facebook and Twitter. These two sites best demonstrate how strong the hate is in the world. Why would you expect reviews to be any different? Rude people is something all writers must deal with at some point. This is why I tell authors to read the 1 and 2-star reviews on books from popular authors in their genre. Even authors who are popular get their share of hate.

Also, keep in mind that creativity is subjective. The person reading your book is going to come at it from their worldview. They will have likes and dislikes that could differ from yours. They might have certain expectations going into a story. If you don’t meet those expectations, they aren’t going to enjoy it. There’s just no way of vetting the people who find your book and read it. Likewise, there’s no way that people can vet every single book they pick up before they read it. The reader has to take a chance to find out if you’re the kind of author that writes a story they will enjoy.

So if your aim is to get the praise of every single person who reads your book, you might want to rethink this goal because it’s just not possible. Instead of aiming to write a story to please everyone, why not write it to please yourself and the core audience you’re writing for? It’s okay to care about what people think of your book. Just keep in mind who you are writing for. As long as you’re pleasing them, that’s all that matters.

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