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Monday, August 12, 2013

Have YOU Discovered Your Author Brand?

An agent once said 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 fiction 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 western.

Not exactly one brand with one readership in mind was it? Yes, you could say that I was a historical writer, but how did that narrow me down from all the other hundreds of historical writers? Historical writers write all types of books, including varying centuries, time travel, suspense, Christian, secular, and the list goes on. 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.

I needed to think outside the box. 

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 James Patterson, Steven King, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Rick Warren, Karen Kingsbury or Jannette Oke, what comes to mind?

I think of the following:
James Patterson - Suspense thrillers
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
Karen Kingsbury - Contemporary Christian fiction
Jannette Oke – Historical Christian fiction

What do you want people to think of 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.

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 30 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 in the Carolinas. 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.

I have 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 Carolinas, 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, Inspirational fiction set in historical Europe & the Carolinas.

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


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