Author Branding Bootcamp, part 2: target your brand. p.s. don’t use a shotgun

I hope yesterday’s post got everyone sufficiently briefed in the basics of branding and what it can do for you as an author.

In today’s lesson, *snapping on my sweatband* I’ll be putting you guys to work. Get ready to sweat.

I dressed accordingly– a la Richard Simmons. I hope you did too.

So you’re wondering, how, exactly, do you brand yourself?

Let’s start with a simple question:

What do you write? *hand to my ear* Hmm?
For some, this answer is simple– neatly wrapped up into a few words. Something like:

“women’s fiction,” “middle grade science fiction,” or “ inspirational non-fiction.”

These people know their stuff. They are overachievers. They all brought me apples this morning. *eyebrow wiggle*

If you’re in this category, you can skip ahead to the “Frou-frou brand identity statement” section, but do not pass “Go.”

For others, it can be more complicated. I know some people reading this may have responses like:

“Well, I write paranormal y.a., contemporary romantic fiction and regency historic non-fiction.”

No worries, I’ve heard this before. Hell, I’ve probably said this before. It’s fine, perfectly fine, if you dabble in all these genres, but from a BRANDING standpoint, you gotta hone your answer a bit.

I’m not saying pick one genre and give up on the rest. Oh, no, my friend.

I know plenty of authors who successfully write cross-genre.

It can be done, but it’s good business sense to target your market a bit, or at least have a common thread or consistent branding element throughout all of your works.

In case you forgot, a big mission we have here at Creativity Loft is to teach creative brands to develop their pursuits into sustainable businesses.

Businesses don’t set out to do everything, so authors, who want to become successful creative brands, can’t expect to write everything. Don’t overextend yourself into too many genres or too big a genre.

Business professionals see overextension as a sign that you’ve run out of ideas. Publishing professionals may see it this way also.

Any publishing pros in the audience who want to chime in on this theory?

In my opinion, you’re much better off developing in and dominating a particular niche, then branching out into other niches, or related niches.

Here’s an exercise for you.

Frou-frou brand identity statement:

Write down all your finished manuscripts/books in the genre(s) you write consistently in.

If you don’t have 2 or more works within that genre, forget it, bud. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but PROVE to yourself you can successfully write more than one book in a particular genre before you tie yourself to the genre. Remember, “branding” is created through consistency. It isn’t something you change every month with every release.

In fact, that may be the complete opposite of what we’re going for here.

Your branding should remain pretty consistent throughout your career. Re-branding is a topic for some other time, my dears.

Now that you have your list. Think about each of these works in each genre.

Is there a common thread between them? Or a dominating theme?

Something like: “strong heroines,” or “flawed heroes,” or maybe all your stories focus on some type of journey. There’s bound to be a common thread.

Is there a way for you to combine all your genres into three or less words? Keep it short and sweet.

Something like: “paranormal romantic suspense” or “contemporary women’s fiction” or “historical non-fiction” or “suspenseful fiction.”

Now, see if you can combine the two statements, into something like:

“Character-driven paranormal romantic suspense.”

or “contemporary women’s fiction where death is a catalyst.”

It may not be a neat, tidy phrase. You may need to refine it a bit before you can put it on your website as a tagline.

Please don’t let me see “contemporary women’s fiction where death is a catalyst” as a tagline on someone’s site. *smh*

This statement is just for you. It may translated into a tagline later.

Some may call this statement your brand identity.

Your brand identity should represent what your author brand stands for and you should be able to apply this to all your works even if they are slightly different. So it should have a little “give.”

When I say “give” I don’t mean ” it should be all inclusive– just in case you decide to switch genres later.”

No.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to target every reader on earth by having too many genres or too big a genre.

It won’t work.

Who’s ever heard of a New York Times Bestseller for inspirational, young adult, multicultural, mainstream, erotic, suspenseful women’s fiction?

Didn’t think so.

Make your statement targeted but give yourself a little wiggle room.

I’ll give you an example to help you complete the process:

Sarah P. Writer writes contemporary women’s fiction and urban fantasy, but she’s been dabbling in erotica for a while.

Her common thread between all her works is strong heroines with romantic elements.

Sarah might have the following identity statement:

Character-driven sensual fiction for women.

This identity statement encompasses what she currently writes in a neat package with a little room to grow should she want to branch out to erotica.

Does that make sense?

So, yes, your identity statement should be targeted, but flexible.

It can be tricky, I know. I didn’t say this would be easy. It’s definitely something you may need to ponder over.

Need a little more time to develop your brand identity statement? Want to dig a little deeper into your brand’s identity? Use the attached worksheet to sketch out your ideas.

Creativity Loft Brand Identity Development Worksheet.

So you know what you write, now what?

Remember the three most important branding elements from yesterday’s class?:

-What you believe
-What you portray
-What other people believe

Well, you just completed element one.

You believe you write “[insert your identity statement].”

Any brave souls want to share their brand identity statement in the comments section?

Once you know what your brand identity is, or what you want it to be, it’s a matter of portraying that effectively. But how?

Tomorrow’s lesson can help:

“branding vehicles. no lemons here, people”

This will outline cool vehicles authors can use to brand themselves. We’ll also highlight a few “best practices” examples to give authors ideas on how to use these vehicles effectively.

Sign up for my blogfeed to get the lesson delivered to your mailbox. At the end of the week, subscribers will get access to a handy, dandy eBook of all the materials from the Author Branding Bootcamp, so sign up today.

Have a specific question about branding you want answered this week? Feel free to leave a comment or you can ping the content minions at henchmen (*at*) creativityloft.com. We’ll do our best to response.

DON’T FORGET: At the end of the week we’ll pick one lucky author from our visitor/subscriber pool to do a case study on.

Subscribe to the blogfeed or comment (be sure to leave your author website information) by Wednesday, December 1 to be considered!

20 Comments

  1. Okay, I’ve been working on the branding worksheet, and I come up with “Dark and Sensual, Romantic Suspense” which I like, but then I thought, “Dark and Sensual, Romantic Suspense with Happily Ever Afters” but that seems too long.

    Most of my titles are Contemporary, Romantic Suspense. But I have one Fantasy Romance, and although contemporary, it deals with elements of Celtic Folklore. Sort of old and new worlds clashing. lol. So, it would still fit the slot I think.

  2. In my books the hero and heroine always have fate in the way or giving them another chance at lahve, *sigh*.

    And I write contemporary romance. I created a little tag-line for my business cards: Tempting Fate one word at a time.

    Don’t know if it fits or is cheesy or what? In my query and synposis I have: Fate might be fickle, but insert her and heroine’s names are willing to tempt her for a second chance at love.

    Not sure if I’m in the right ballpark or freaking state with a baseball team.

    1. Marquita! Love it.

      The idea of fate being in the way or giving characters another chance at love sounds like an integral part of your brand identity. You also mentioned contemporary romance.

      Sounds like you have it all here! Your brand identity, from what I’m processing, may be:

      Contemporary romance where fate plays a significant role in the relationship between the hero and heroine (or something like that)

      The goal of this post was to get people thinking about their brand identities so they could eventually get a tag-line, but you already have one! F’ing over-achiever. *grin*

  3. I’m going to ponder “theme” today. Genre is easy, but theme is always elusive to me. It’s there. It’s mine. And I bet my beta readers could nail it down for me – but poor me – I’m going to have to sidle up to it today. Thanks for the lesson!

  4. Cool stuff!!! I think I did this yesterday, but it was good to go over everything again.

    I write character-driven thrillers for women….Thrillers with Heart, for short.

    CJ

  5. My irrational superstition and belief in fate will never wane as long as wonderful opportunities like this keep showing up.

    I’m brand new. If you check my site, you’ll see it’s empty. I’m slowly filling it with information, but I’ve only just received offers on two of my novellas, so I’m waiting to sign contracts before making announcements, posting blurbs and excerpts and the like.

    It’s funny: When I designed my header, I decided to not use a tag line, but the branding articles are giving me ideas.

    Hmm. I guess I’d brand myself something like:

    Contemporary Sensual Menage…When More is More Fulfilling (or something).

    Definitely have to work on that. 🙂

    Thanks for doing this. It’s wonderful and a great help.

    1. U are so welcome, Stephanie!

      And CONGRATS on the two offers! You need to celebrate!

      Re: “Contemporary Sensual Menage…When More is More Fulfilling (or something)” Keep in mind, if you want to use this as your brand identity, the majority of your works should reflect it. That’s lots and lots of menages, my dear. But, hey, the more the merrier, I guess? *wink*

  6. Okay sidling up to my brand didn’t work. I’m going to put it in the forge and hit it with a hammer until it shapes up.
    SMALL BOX: edgy, kinky, erotic romance about characters on journeys of self discovery, identity, control, empowerment
    BIGGER BOX: edgy erotic romance about personal journeys
    BRAND: I am an author of red hot romance.
    Which is exactly where I started. *sigh*

    1. LOL. Miranda!

      How about a word or phrase that is a little more descriptive than “red hot?” Is that all your books have in common?

      Remember, your brand identity statement isn’t your tag-line, not necessary. It’s a guiding light to help you develop your brand, so it doesn’t have to be so marketing-y. If that makes sense….

  7. I’ve titled both my website and blog The Heart of Romance. Corny perhaps but I hope telling. I loved your example ‘Strong heroines with romantic elements’. That so describes what I am writing and what I am about, can two quthors use the same tag-line/brand? Meanwhile I’m trying to think of something as punchy but not the same.
    I am learning so much here, Thank you.

  8. I’m really enjoying the bootcamp!

    I’m also a contemporary romance/romantic suspense writer and came up with “Sensual romance laced with contemporary suspense”. Might switch it around a bit, but now that I know what direction to go, it’s a lot easier coming up with a tagline.

    Thanks for the great ideas, and idea starters!

    Robin

  9. I’m late, but here goes my brand: I write contemporary YA about real boys growing into real men.

    My books and short stories are centered around a teen male protagonist and his pursuit of adulthood. I have plans to also write adult romantic suspence sometime in the future, hence I use a pseuonym for the YA so there will be no confusion if/when I launch adult books.

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