Tuesday Topic: Branding

In early 2013, we at The Writer Diaries first discussed what it meant to “brand” yourself as an author. This week, we wanted to re-discuss the topic with our new group of bloggers!

So, ladies, how important do you feel it is to brand yourself as an author? Ex: Most of the time, the name “Stephen King” is followed by “great horror author.” Do you think it’s an issue authors should be worrying about? If you do brand yourself, what steps do you take? Do you plan to use a pseudonym if you write outside your age group/genre? How about those authors who cross age groups using the same name (ex: Richelle Mead) — how do you think they manage success?

Talk to us about branding!
S. Katherine:

I believe branding is important . . . for those who want to be defined by it. There are many good reasons and I respect them all, as they’re individual and sometimes very much needed. No way an MG writer should write erotica under the same name, for example. As a reader, I do appreciate knowing what I’ll get from a specific author, so I know on that end that branding really does work. However I do also enjoy being surprised by their range of talent if they branch out.

As far as for myself, I struggled for a while trying to figure out what was best. I then decided I’m not defining myself with a specific brand. I think it would be perfectly fine for me to cross age groups and genres in my work. Few reasons: 1- Personally, I don’t go over the top with scenes I worry YA’s reading if they venture into the adult books. 2- I want to grow as a writer and be able to share my different take on things with my readers, who I trust to understand the different genres/story types when they read my book’s descriptions. They can cross-read too. Don’t we all? I think its up to them to decide. And 3- Goodness I cannot for the life of me deal with having to create different websites & accounts, work on new fan base for each brand, write, raise twins, and not drown in confusion. The added stress will eventually lead me to neglect one or all of them.

As far as those who don’t brand themselves, I think they manage success by trusting their readers. Each new genre will gain them new fans who can and probably do cross-read their work. Also, well it helps that they’re good at what they do lol.
Amy P.:

S.K. I like your last paragraph here. I have mixed feelings about branding. Right now I write emotional NA contemporary romance. But I’m hoping to branch into just adult contemporary romance, and someday I want to go back to my first love (and the first book I ever wrote), which is YA. I don’t think branding is a bad thing in that you want your readers to trust that what they fell for with your words is what they’re going to get when they pick up another book of yours. But at the same time, don’t want to pigeonhole myself eitherI really like the idea of having a recognizable voice but hopefully growing as a writer and being able to cross genres and categories and still have readers in my corner because they like my voice. Right now I’m proud to say that I write sweet, emotional, NA romance and hope that if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll give my books a read. But I also hope that if you like my NA and find out I’m writing adult contemporary, you’ll want to check those out too. And if I ever write this YA urban fantasy that I have all beat sheeted and ready to go someday that the same will happen–I like AJ Pine’s voice, so let’s see what she does with YA.

Case in point-I LOVE Stephanie Perkins. Anna, Lola, Isla=LOVE. Now she’s taking a turn and working on a horror manuscript, and while horror is not my go-to, Stephanie Perkins and her voice are, so I’ll give it a go because it’s her.

Okay, that was a mouthful. Ha. I guess what I’m saying is that I support however writers want to brand themselves because everyone should do what’s best for him/her. For me, a light sort of branding is what I hope to accomplish. Come for the voice, and stay for the story.

I really agree with with Amy P. had to say about this stuff. I’d like readers to rely on my “voice” and follow me in whatever age group or genre I turn to. For my favorite authors, I would follow them into whatever creative venture they choose to take because I trust them to tell me a good story and the kind of way that I like to read stories. That being said, I do think there are some places that would benefit more if you branded them differently (like S.K. brought up about writing YA vs then going into adult erotica). Some shifts I feel require some kind of different branding so you don’t totally offend or confuse your readers. But for the most part, I’d like to think my faithful fan base will follow my voice into any genre or age range, and hopefully, I deliver!

I agree that I will follow my favourite authors anywhere and gladly give whatever they turn their hand to a try. I do also still read descriptions before I buy, so if for example a YA contemporary romance writer like Stephanie Perkins turned to horror, I’d want to give it a go. But if I read the description and if it didn’t feel like my bag, I’d give it a pass. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t return to any future books by the same author which were my bag.
However, I say that as a discerning reader who spends time looking up what I want to read and thinking about it – as I suspect we all are on this thread!

There are people who simply don’t give it that much thought and do think ‘I fancy a book to read on holiday, I know I like Stephen King, I’m going to buy Stephen King’. This is where a clear niche that people can latch on to can help. Because if you bought that Stephen King or whoever and it was a contemporary romance or some such you may be disappointed and not buy him again if you were expecting something different. Just throwing that out there as a thought.

I think genre of writing matters more than age group – if you see what I mean? Age group is easy to understand. If you write NA romance or adult romance or YA romance, I think it’s easy for audience to follow and gather okay it’s still a romance but for different age groups, in my view. If you wrote a horror then an urban fantasy then a romance, then you have to be careful how to market them – especially to the more ‘casual reader’