Friday, March 23, 2012

Discovering Your Author Brand by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I once had an agent say to me, “I don’t think you know what you want to write. And you need to decide that or I can’t market you.”

I was stunned. What did she mean? I wanted to write historical romances and that’s what I’d been writing. Was she crazy?

Let me clarify the broad range of what I had written: a Civil War novel, a Regency, a Scottish Medieval, an Irish historical, and a prairie romance.

Not exactly one brand with one readership in mind was it? Yes, you could say that I was a historical romance writer, but how did that narrow me down from all the other hundreds of historical romance writers? Historical romance writers write both secular books and Christian fiction--some on the opposite ends of the spectrum. What would be different about me and my books? Pick a number and get in line. That’s essentially what I was doing to myself.

Choosing an author brand is sort of like choosing a career. It’s a very personal and individual decision. Regardless of how you came to be a writer, if you intend to sell your work, you need to be promoting it and thinking of how you want to be known.

When you hear the names Steven King, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Rick Warren, or Jannette Oke, what comes to mind?

I think of the following:
Steven King – Horror thrillers
Nicholas Sparks – Love Stories/Drama
Nora Roberts – Romance/Women’s fiction
John Grisham – Court Dramas/Suspense
Rick Warren – Self-help Religion
Jannette Oke – Historical Christian fiction

What do you want people to think of you when they hear your name? It can’t be a long, drawn out paragraph that distinctly describes your writing like a company mission statement. It should be short and categorical, because that’s how your book will be shelved in the stores and listed online. Where do you think people will go to buy the kind of books you’re writing? This is important as you think about your author brand.

Next, what do you like to write? If you’re a new writer, what do you like to read? If you can narrow this down to 2 or 3 genres, consider which one you could write for thirty years without getting tired of it. Then consider the other subgenres as elements in your books.

I’ll use myself as an example. In addition to writing, I research family history. I've been all over North and South Carolina researching historical archives. I’ve lived in the Carolinas my whole life, and my family roots go back 250+ years. I know the historical culture here, the changes that have evolved, and how the area is today. I'm familiar with the types of families and ethnic backgrounds that immigrated here. I know the land, the climate, cities, towns and rural areas, as well as the slang language of old and of today.

God has given me the gift of writing and a love for the history and culture here in the Carolinas. I love the idea of making the history of the Carolinas come alive again. While some of my stories involve a setting in the Carolians, others bring characters to the Carolinas or have native Carolinians migrate to other places. This way I’m not limited to a time period or place, but incorporate one place into many other places through historical immigration and migration. I can include the elements of romance, suspense, mystery, and most importantly, my faith.

Therefore, I've adopted the tagline, Historical Christian fiction set in Europe & the Carolinas.

What are YOUR plans regarding your author brand? How important do you consider author branding to be?


Deena Safari said...

I am so glad you wrote this! I can't tell you how frustrating it's been sharing my work with other writers and them always asking who my audience is. I just write. Whoever enjoys it, does! But it's not a book yet, so I guess I will have to choose a genre/audience sooner or later. Great topic!

Jill said...

You (and that agent back then) are right about BRAND being important. Writing the book is easy finding your audience is HARD! But if your brand is clear to them and they come to identify you with that brand (whatever it may be) then your readers will remain loyal to you!

Millie Samuelson said...

Great blog! Thanks for the insights so beautifully expressed! After YEARS of brand deliberating my brand, I've happily settled on: YESTERDAY'S STORIES FOR TODAY'S INSPIRATION. That covers everything I write and speak about, from my Women of the Last Supper stories to my China historical novels. . . :-)

Cheryl said...

In the beginning, I didn't consider branding at all. I wrote what I wanted and went from there. Once my first book came out and a second had been accepted, I realized I had a problem: one was a Christian children's book, the other wasn't. Now, the values taught in the second book could be considered Christian values, but they were two totally different books.

I opted to write my second book under a pen name. A new website specific to that name, along with social media sites is underway. When it releases this fall, I don't have to worry about muddying my "Faith-filled journeys for kids" brand with a secular project.

Thanks for talking about this today. I'm still learning about branding, but I feel it's important if I wish to find representation.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Great post. I've been juggling this branding thing around as I focus on refocusing. You asked some pertinent questions: What do you like to read? What could you write for the next 30 years? I've written several things, but I need to hook my name to one and save the others. Thanks for the advice.