Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Branding for Writers

Branding....no not with a  hot iron on the ranch!  (although that would be a great setting for a great story--but I digress--need more coffee!)

I'm talking about what brand an author or writer has. It's a certain voice, or genre. It's an appeal to a particular audience. It's what the readers know they will get every time they pick up a book from that author. It's something dependable, predictable, and most importantly--sellable!

Publishers, I'd imagine--since I don't have one yet, want an author they don't have to work unreasonably hard to sell their work. Although I personally thought vampires fell into that category, there apparently is an audience out there who thought differently. There needs to be an established or establish-able audience for a debut writer to be worthy of a risk to the publisher.

Chip MacGregor's blog today got me thinking. Visit his blog to get your juices and thoughts pondering,
http://www.chipmacgregor.com/blog/marketing-and-platforms/do-i-need-to-have-a-writing-brand/, or follow the link at the sidebar on my blog-page.

So, what's your brand? 
What's my brand?
Hmmmm.

Well, that's easy--at first glance anyway. Historical Romance right?

I'm only on my second book, so perhaps one can't have a brand yet with only two books. As they say, one or two plot points on a graph don't make a trend. But let's look at what I have so far: both are historical romances set in 1890's. Both are in rural settings that depict country life in a small town--it's what I know. And after all, we are told to write what we know, right?

My themes are rural, historical, simple living, and faith. Ugh, sounds so boring...how is that different than a thousand other wannabe writers hoping to catch the eye of a publisher or agent? There seems to be a fine balance to be struck between not being too different, or too much the same to what is already on the shelves.

So what makes it stand out as sellable--without selling my soul to make it so?  
Hmmmmm.

I'm Mennonite, ahem, not Amish. No bonnet. Yes, we have electricity (laptop, hello). My tagline on my blog, Twitter page, and Pinterest is--Mennonite girl without a bonnet. Its sort of like the saying "you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl." There's no bonnet, but you can't take the bonnet out of my worldview.

My husband is a beekeeper. Our honey jar labels have an Amish buggy on them. The honey is made in northern Indiana Amishland, but any Amish or Mennonite here would smirk if we heard someone say the honey is Amish honey--sort of makes you think of honey bees with bonnets and suspenders! LOL.

My husband thinks that if I'd just put a bonnet on my characters, my work would sell faster. But I just can't do it. Why? I think it's something sort of opposite of "I can pick on my little brother, but you can't." It feels more like "You can write about Amish or Mennonite (while we sort of snicker), but I can't write about my own." (and kudos BTW to any author who can write it, I'm only taking an inward inventory here!) And yet strangely, several of my characters are based on real Amish people I know--God rest their souls. But in my book they don't wear bonnets, they aren't Amish. It's the essence of who they were that influenced my writing--not their bonnets. But is that enough? And for who? To put a bonnet on them seems to betray them in my mind somehow.

So, is "Mennonite girl without a bonnet who writes historical fiction" really a brand?
Hmmmm--no answer here.

Perhaps I just haven't written enough yet to know my brand. I mean I am regularly tempted by Colonial Quills writers to jump the fence to a different century! Would that mess up one's brand? It would still be historical romance right?
Hmmmm.

What have you learned about brand? How has your brand changed? 

Have you compromised to establish a brand?

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