Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Author Branding, What's That?

The idea of branding confuses me some. I suspect it always will. I’ve never worked in retail or dealt with marketing, although family members have so I’m not completely ignorant of what goes on. Still, I don’t have that kind of mind.

From what I can tell, branding is a way of differentiating a product from others so you get noticed. I hear about author branding often enough I figure I should learn more about it so I was looking forward to a presentation on the subject at last Sunday’s Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles meeting.

The speaker was multi-series author Diane Vallere. I’m amazed by how much she gets done and how fearless she is. I’ve seen her go from self-published author of two series to author of four series: 1 self-published, 2 published by a large publisher and 1 published by a smaller publisher. SinC/LA member Ellen Byron even wrote a blog post on WWDVD—What Would Diane Vallere Do.

On her website, Diane notes she writes “Fiction for women who like shoes, clues and clothes.” That’s her brand. It’s catchy and you know when you read something she wrote fashion will be some part of the book.

I came away from the meeting still somewhat confused but a little wiser about branding. Here’s a brief summary of Diane’s talk on Creating Your Brand.

Why the need for branding? There are a lot of books out there. It’ll help you distinguish yourself from the pack. And readers will know what to expect from one of your books. It’ll help you effectively promote everything you write and decide whether a publicity opportunity is worth the effort.

What your brand is and is not. Your brand is not your book or you. It’s not someone else’s brand, e.g. don’t say your books are just like Stephen King’s. Your brand is recurring elements in your books. As mentioned above, for Diane that’s fashion. Your brand is bigger than your genre, it’s everything you write.

Where to use your brand. Facebook author page, twitter, in graphic images used for promotion, newsletters... E.g., if fashion is a common theme throughout your books, you would post items related to fashion on social media. Diane is known for posting photos of clothes she packs for conferences.

Exercises to help you discover your brand by identifying common elements in the things you’ve written or want to write.

1) If you had a guarantee your next five books would sell a lot of copies what would you write? Write down five different ideas, writing as much as comes to mind. What do they have in common?

2) Think of at least three movies you wish you’d written because they fit you. What themes run through them?

3) What are your personal interests that are also in your books?

That’s what I got out of the talk. I probably missed a few things here and there. I’ve invited Diane to correct me. We’ll see what she says. I haven’t done the exercises yet. I think they’ll help me figure out my brand. And, if I get stuck, I’ll just ask myself WWDVD.


Diane Vallere said...

Thank you, Sybil! The best way I've found to look at it is that author branding is similar to our Photoshopped author photos: it's us, but it's the polished and edited best version of us that represents what we write. And, it should be flexible enough that we can change genres and still it will be an accurate portrayal of what's in the book. I always find it interesting to study brands that transcend their products, like Coca-Cola, Spanx, Kate Spade, Vans.

Good luck identifying your own brand!

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks, Diane. I like that description. I think I get it a bit better now.