As a novelist, you are often asked to define your "brand." This is a tricky question for aspiring writers and first-time authors, because we are so consumed with writing our stories that we often don't think about our brands. Many of us don't even know what a writing "brand" is, because we are so used to hearing about the word in terms of marketing merchandise.
If we take a moment to stop and think about it, however, it becomes much easier to make the connection between branding merchandise and branding yourself as a writer. Allow me to give you a few examples...
What do you think about when you think about the brand Tommy Hilfiger? Clean-cut, classic American styles? Maybe afternoons on sailboats and summers in Martha's Vineyard?
This is no an accident. Here is an excerpt from Tommy Hilfiger's mission statement: "The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation is dedicated to the living spirit of the American dream. We believe the spirit of youth is our greatest inspiration."
See? The Tommy Hilfiger Corporation has keyed into those exact images and evocative feelings, and every decision they make is based upon holding true to them.
Let's move on to something a little less tangible. What do you think about when you think about the actress Jennifer Lawrence? Most people see her as funny, self-deprecating, approachable and strong. This is no accident, either.
Is Jennifer funny, self-depracating, approachable and strong in real life? Probably. But--just like everyone else--I'm sure there are many other sides to her character as well. She can almost definitley be reserved, sexual and aloof as well, but these are typically not the first words that jump into the public's mind when they think of her.
This is because of branding. Jennifer (or her publicist) has probably determined that fans "like her best" when she displays those funny, self-deprecating tendencies, so she is consciously aware of them whenever she is in the spotlight. (What is interesting about Jennifer, however, is that she can "play" very serious roles in the films she selects, and these don't interfere with her personal branding. This is--in my opinion--a sign of a very successful and talented actress.)
Let's move on to an author (and I'm going to give you a very easy one). What do you think about when you think about Nicholas Sparks? Most people agree that Nicholas Sparks' novels follow a very predictable pattern: intense, emotional, young love followed by something disastrous--usually a life-threatening illness or injury.
Some people see this formula as boring and predictable, but die-hard Nicholas Sparks fan clamber to pick up his next novels the moment they are released. This is because they love his brand, and they know what to expect every time they read one of his stories.
Let's move on to another, well-known author: Nora Roberts. She is obviously a very multi-faceted and creative writer, and her interests lie far beyond the world of women's romance. This is why she--like many other authors--has chosen not to limit herself to just one genre or style.
Nora has released several mystery books as well, but she has chosen to write these under the pen name J.D. Robb. Everyone who knows anything about Nora Roberts knows that she is J.D. Robb, but she still uses the name to designate her departure from her women's romance line. If you pick up a J.D. Robb novel, your expectations are different than if you had picked up a Nora Roberts novel.
I tell you these things--not because I want to bore you with facts you probably already know--but because I want to help you create your own author brand.
I have been working on my author brand for quite some time, and the more I create new stories, the more I begin to see it coming together. I feel like I know myself more than I ever have before, and I believe I will be able to use this knowledge to help continue to take my stories, my brand and my career to the next level.
I hope you will join me in two weeks as we chat more about some of my experiences, as well as the questions you should ask yourself before you begin creating (or refining) your own author brand.
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