Branding Basics

Novelists are learning to be marketers. We Twitter, and blog, and send out e-newsletters. But branding is a little elusive. It goes hand in hand with platform, a concept that’s also a little squishy for novelists. Still, the branding basics can be tweaked and put to use for book promotion. Here are the fundamentals, which I made note of long ago.

  1. Have enough passion about your brand/product that you appear alarming. (This one’s easy for me.)
  2. Know more about your topic/product/genre than 98% of the population. (I interview experts and do research for every novel. I also read everything I can about the publishing industry and crime fiction, in particular.)
  3. Choose an attribute somewhere between extraordinary and outright offensive. Stand out! (I’ve latched on to the words provocative and mystery/suspense to describe my stories. I could do more of this though.)
  4. Treat your brand as if it were normal, not just a publicity stunt. (Yep. It’s who I am. Everywhere I post, I’m always L.J. Sellers. )
  5. Work yourself silly at branding for nine months to
 three years. Don’t quit during a lull. Only the tenacious survive. (I’m coming up on three years of 70-hour weeks and I see it paying off. Finally!)
  6. Sell something while you’re establishing your brand. Even if you think it’s not working, stick with it and keep
 selling. (I’ve been selling all along and recently added three books to my portfolio.)

Writers: Do you use branding tactics in your promotional approach?
Readers: Do your favorite authors have clear brands (or characters or themes?) Is that what attracts you?

3 Comments
  1. As authors, our names (bylines) are our brand.

    I worry about writing in multiple genres, but my creative interests are diverse. My first novel was a historical fantasy. I’m currently working on a horror novel and a hardboiled detective novel.

    Will this dilute my brand? Maybe.

    Many authors use different names for work in different genres. I’m loath to do so myself.

    I think I’ll just have to trust my readers to associate my name with quality entertainment, as opposed to thinking of me in terms of a narrow genre.

    David Wisehart

  2. You’ve got a good grasp on this. #1 & #2 are right on. You have to be enthusiastic and you have to know way to much, but you also have to intrinsically understand your audience. I’m not sure I agree with #3 completely. I believe that the hook that you pick just needs to be outstanding. You don’t have to be controversial for people to talk about you. number #4 is really important. When you’re trying to define your brand it isn’t going to be a bunch of one offs that pull people to you, something solid, cohesive, and evolving is what’s going to do that.
    I’d also like to add to #6, the “stick with it”, if something isn’t working stop using it, but keep going in a new, maybe only slightly different direction that might work better. Don’t do a drastic 180, just a little retooling, but definitely keep going and don’t give up!

    @David. You nailed what you need to focus on in your last paragraph. “associate my name with quality entertainment”. Ok, so you write for two genres. But what you write are great stories (I’m assuming) in your distinct voice (I’m guessing). So what about /that/ makes what you write quality entertainment. Go from there, that’s your brand. Instead of “David Wisehart, Historical Fantasy writer but I dabble in Horror and Detective novels” you have “David Wisehart, Quality Entertainer” (Or whatever)

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I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
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The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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