Author Branding Bootcamp, part 4: don’t let your brand get stale. it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

We’re more than half-way done with our Author Branding Bootcamp. Can you believe it?

Today is the last official lesson. *sad face*

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done so far:

Author Branding Bootcamp, part 1: you don’t know jack about branding
-We discussed the basics of branding and brand equity. Positive or negative brand equity is your brand’s “street cred.” It can lead to sales and a successful career, if positive.
-We discussed the three basic elements important to branding: what you believe (about yourself), what you portray (to your audience) and what your audience believes (about you).

Author Branding Bootcamp, part 2: target your brand. p.s. don’t use a shotgun
-We discussed brand identity and walked through the steps to develop your author brand identity.
-Some of you submitted some pretty cool identity statements. Thanks for participating.

Author Branding Bootcamp, part 3: branding vehicles. no lemons here, people
-I outlined several vehicles you can use to brand yourself and gave you a few examples of how to use them effectively.

Today we’ll discover a few ways to keep your brand fresh and current.

As I mentioned before, branding is a never-ending process. It’s not something you can simply “set and forget.”

Why?

Because, my friends, brands get stale.

IF, big “if,” you don’t actively work to keep them fresh.

What do I mean by “actively work to keep them fresh?”

I mean, consistently sticking to your brand identity, or refining your brand identity, and keeping your branding vehicles up to date and aligned with your brand identity.

Here are some other “refresheners.”

Regularly release products.
You have to keep new works out in the market. Readers can be fickle if you aren’t supplying them with their literary crack. Plus, if you are releasing a new project less than once a year, another author can come into your market with a similar brand and steal your readers while they are waiting on you. The sales opportunities you’re not taking advantage of are being snatched up by other authors.

“But, Tivi, my publisher only releases one of my books a year! I can’t make them release them any faster, no matter how fast I write.”

Here’s an idea for situations like this:
-Be an anticipation whore. As in, don’t just update your audience, followers, readers when the new book is about to come out. If you only have one project a year, build the anticipation about your new release throughout the WHOLE year.

Yeah, dude, it sucks getting an email from you once a year and I’ve likely forgotten about you.

One of my absolute favorite authors, Karen Moning, is thisclose to being done with her Fever series. (Sidenote: Writing books in a series helps to keep people interested in your brand between releases.)

I’ve been waiting over a year for the next book in her series. You’d think I’d have forgotten about her and moved on by now, but no.

The sneaky little anticipation whore sends an email out every month with a teaser from the next book, plus new “super secret” details, just to keep me dangling on that line.

And it works. Let me tell you.

Another solution for dealing with publisher-caused delays in your releases: if you’re able to, write for a new publisher. I mean, have more than one publisher.

Want to work for yourself full-time? Have multiple income streams. If you don’t work for yourself, have multiple income streams. Yeah, there’s an old saying about eggs and a basket and the implication of the eggs breaking and you being screwed, or something like that.

Periodically evaluate your brand identity.
As you grow in your career, you may outgrow your original brand identity. And that’s fine. Then you’ll need to re-brand.

Ask yourself these brand identity questions with every release or periodically.

–Is it still relevant?
–Does it still work for my future career goals?

–Is it time for tweaking or re-branding?

Keep up with your industry news.
I was just discussing this issue with a business associate–someone who I may be hosting a class with soon. So excited!

We were talking about how hard it is to keep up with trends, news and information in our respective industries and work on our businesses at the same time. We don’t want to get out of touch and have a brand that people think is out-of-date.

Well, one solution I suggested was spending 30 solid minutes a day reading/skimming industry news.

Do you do that?

*hanging head* Yeah, me neither, but, now that I told you guys this, I better start. Damn.

But, seriously, keep up with what’s going on in your industry. This will keep you current and help you develop new branding practices or discover new branding vehicles to get your brand in front of the right people.

If you’re living in your own little author brand bubble, you’ll miss something important.

Also, interact with your peers and see what they are doing to keep their brands in the public eye.

Fight for your brand (and your right to paaaartay).

If you haven’t read my post about why creative entrepreneurs should know how to fight, read it now.

I was reading an article recently about Ben & Jerry’s and discovered that in the mid-80s, when they were trying to expand their business, Haagen-Dazs tried to limit Ben & Jerry’s distribution.

Ben & Jerry’s responded to the situation with an “What’s the Dough Boy Afraid Of?” advertising campaign.

They fought for their business. That took cajones.*

If you want to keep your brand from getting stale, get some cajones!

Don’t be afraid of the competition, because when they see your brand succeeding, they will try to get in on the action. Going to re-title this section “Get some cajones.”

Innovate.

Try new things and new projects that portray your brand in a new light.

For example, if you write “dark mysteries with flawed male protagonists” but usually do them as stand-alone books, try your hand at a few connected books or a series of books featuring the same character. I’ll say it again, books in a series can really drive sales.

Focus on innovation that relates to your brand, of course.

Don’t fix something that isn’t broken.

Yes, innovation is GREAT. It really shows a go-get-’em mentality, but, on the other side of the coin: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If you’re making a killing selling pop-up children’s books on medieval architecture, don’t let innovation for the sake of innovation push you to abandoning what’s working for you.

Expect the unexpected and, sometimes, go with it.

I’m an OCD strategic planner.

I’m like that about my business and my life. I’ve been that way since I was a kid.

I won’t apologize for it, but, I just want to end this by saying, sometimes, in life and in business, opportunities arise that may cause you to rethink things.

Remember, branding is a business concept. Another equally important concept is taking advantage of awesome opportunities and being flexible in order to sustain growth.

Let’s take our “dark mysteries with flawed male protagonists” example and really aim for the sky:

Say this author is dominating this niche and really using his branding vehicles and resources to keep his brand fresh, but what happens if his publisher comes to him and offers him a sweet deal to write “dark mysteries with strong female protagonists” because they noticed this is an underserved area?

Seriously consider relevant and appropriate opportunities. The author may be a fool to pass up the opportunity without seriously considering it. He’d be an even bigger fool to consider a sweet deal that isn’t relevant and appropriate to his brand. As in, if he’s dominating the “dark mysteries with flawed male protagonists” area, it doesn’t seem a logical progression for his brand to go into “pop-up children’s books on medieval architecture.”  But that may be a situation where a separate pen name and brand identity is appropriate.

But my point is, I don’t want you lovely authors to pass up once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because I’ve turned you all into branding snobs.

No. The guilt would kill me.

So are you guys thoroughly overwhelmed with branding concepts and information yet?

Yes? Well, good thing the bootcamp is coming to an end.

Tomorrow, I’ll be unveiling the winner of our author case study here on the blog.

The author who wins this will get a pretty sweet deal.

A platinum level Creativity Loft Branding package, a product we don’t even offer to the public yet.

What does this mean for the winner? He/she will get:

-Custom Brand Evaluation with tips and insights to building a better brand
-Year-long Branding Action Plan
-45-minute call or chat with me to discuss your branding (and kick you in the pants)

I’ll be posting the custom brand evaluation here on the blog.

While I can’t share the specifics of the author’s Branding Action Plan, I will post the tips and insights provided in the evaluation and that information will help all of you with your branding, so be sure to check it out.

Also, I won’t be contacting the author before hand. Check out the blog or blogfeed tomorrow and be surprised.

DON’T FORGET: At the end of the bootcamp, all subscribers will get access to a handy, dandy eBook of all the materials from the Author Branding Bootcamp, so sign up for my blogfeed by the end of the day (11:59 p.m.) tomorrow, Friday, December 3, to get that eBook. It’ll go out on Saturday.

* balls, dude. Balls.

7 Comments

  1. You are amazing, lady. What a kick to read, learn, and laugh at the same time. Who said you can’t teach an old broad new tricks? Now I must have some rice pudding, write another chapter of “Reconstructing Charlie”-deadline end of the year, and ponder a series.

    Reconstructing Charlie by Charmaine Gordon

    Charlie Costigan has a secret. Home life gone from bad to the worst when she protects her mother from another vicious attack by her drunken father. Midnight. Clothes thrown into an old suitcase, she races for the bus with a letter to an unknown aunt and uncle. “This is my daughter. Embrace her as if she were your own.”

    Determined, Charlie begins again. Alone with her secret.

    Best to the Best,

    Charmaine

  2. Okay, loving this!!! I think I’m doing okay–going down your checklist, in the last year I’ve:
    –changed from sending my newsletter quarterly to monthly
    –published five backlist titles electronically and have given my newsletter subscribers free copies as well as short stories tied to my Berkley series
    –accepted when Erin Brockovich asked me to partner with her on a non-medical suspense series (totally out of my comfort zone but so worth it!!! Not just to be working with a personal hero but a real challenge to my writing skills)
    –changed (several times–still needs work) my website from “medical” to more “women’s fiction” thriller writer atmosphere
    –keep up with industry news (even began a blog *Marketing with Heart* to help me organize all the resources and share with others)

    BUT…is doing okay good enough? I feel like there’s something missing.

    People who have heard of “CJ Lyons” think “female thriller writer” so the name recognition is starting, but it’s the taking it to the next level…not just name recognition but evoking that emotional response in the audience so they think of *you* first when they’re looking for a new book to read….

    Not sure if I’m making any sense or if this is even a question anyone can answer, guess I’m asking about “Breakout” branding, just like we all hope to have breakout novels???

    Thanks so much for this course, it has been wonderful!!!
    CJ

  3. Thanks Tivi for a wonderful, informative and fun workshop. It is another link in this year’s learning curve. I now know I must re-do my website again. Thant I must tinker with my blog site. I have just beend contracted to a new publisher for my next book, Duty Calls, which releases on Feb 11th. I accepted the challenge of writing and going through to final edits on a 12k story for a VAlentntine’s anthology. (Somethiing I might have passed on if I hadn’t done this workshop.)
    The branding is taking shape – slowly, but thanks, again, to your workshop, I have a better idea of what I need and want. The two, I’ve learned are not neccessarily the same 🙂
    Thank you again for this workshop.

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful bootcamp! I loved your insights and as I am just getting started, it has been tremendously enlightening. I can now state with confidence that I am a character-driven romantic suspense author and mean it. Congratulations on working for yourself full time, that takes cajones.

  5. Lots of food for thought and action. Since branding is elusive – a bit like trying to remember a dream – I think I will carry two thoughts in mind as i ponder your helpful (thank you) insights:
    1. Create a concrete branding plan, just as I will create a business and marketing plan.
    2. But don’t forget about the product. Write! Be intensely creative.

    PS – you totally freaked me out when I got a message from you through the RWA-PRO loop! I’m keeping that identity separate from the ever-so-kinky Miranda. Whew!

  6. This has been great. So much info in such a small space. Your address is definitely going on my blog as one of my fav’s.
    I’ve saved your lessions in the Classes folder of my documents so I can pull them up as I work.

    After long thought about my identity statement, I think I like: Character driven psychological drama.

    How’s that?

    Thanks for this class. It’s been great.
    Ryder

  7. Thanks for a very informative branding workshop. I have my work cut out for me! I think my brand is rather flimsy and it needs some serious work. Going to start working on a web site next week. I have a RomanceWiki page I’ve been using as a web site but it’s not good enough. I’m also a sex writer and a political writer so I think my brand may be too confusing. I have a lot of work to do!

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