Friday, August 3, 2012

What's Your Brand?

*If you are looking for the Summer Giveaway Hop, you can find it here.*


Branding is not something I really thought about much. That is until a recent conversation with my awesome agent. You see, I like to write whatever comes to me—everything from picture books, to middle grade, to young adult. The common thread between all of them was the fantasy/paranormal element. But...


This year I wrote a YA contemporary romance. My agent was reading it, and while she really likes the story, she brought something to my attention. I have 6 books under contract (YA and MG) and they are all fantasy/paranormal. That means my brand is fantasy/paranormal. That's where my mind typically goes. And to be honest, my work does have elements of horror. I like creepy. I like to be scared, so my books reflect that.


So, what about my contemporary romance? Switching genres like this could mean I won't find a home for my contemporary romance because I'd have to re-brand myself and some editors see this as too time consuming. I'd never even considered this as an issue, which is why I'm so thankful I have Lauren (my agent of awesome) to guide me. We decided to hold on to the manuscript for now. In the future, I might end up writing contemporary under a pen name, which I'm fine with. It avoids having to re-brand. So a pen name might be the answer. Time will tell.


What's your brand? Do you think about branding when you draft a new WIP?

62 comments:

  1. It's great you have found the solution. I think a pen name might work beautifully when you cross genre. I'm not so sure what my brand is yet. Maybe I'd have to write more to find out ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope it's a solution. I guess we'll see. :)

      Delete
  2. Goodness, I've never thought about branding before. My mind is always all over the place and so are my WIPs. Your thoughts and Lauren's are really helpful, and make alot of sense. Now my mind is churning out pennames for my future WIPs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm having trouble thinking of another name to use. I can't decide—not that I have to worry about it right now though. I'm going to keep going with my paranormal/fantasy for the time being.

      I can't wait to hear the name you choose though. :)

      Delete
  3. I had this exact problem, as I wanted originally to publish my Victorian detective books as Victoria Collins (yeah- get it?)not Carol Hedges, who writes teen crime chicklit, until it was pointed out that people like to follow an author,not a book. So I stepped back. Also, it would have involved setting up parallel author pages/blogs etc, coz people will get confused.And separate my stuff in shops/online. So now I am me. Jigsaw Pieces which is adult/crossover, is me. I am the brand. But that's my decision. I'm sure whatever you decide will be right for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's a great point. People do follow authors. I think once you are established, it's easier to bring your following with you. It's harder for me because my books aren't even out yet.

      Oh, and I love the Victoria Collins thing. ;)

      Delete
  4. I'm having the same problem at this very moment. I write paranormal thrillers, but I'd love to do something entirely different. Not sure what I'm going to do yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck with your decision, Vanessa. I like doing different things too. It keeps your writing fresh.

      Delete
  5. Hey Kelly,
    Great post. My take is a little different. As a reader, I love finding out books by my favorite authors that are in different genres. I am thinking of wonderful Walter Mosley, who writes mostly mysteries but also does sci-fi/speculative fiction and also literary work, too. I recognize that there is a wisdom to thinking about the marketplace, but let's give readers and audiences credit for being able to appreciate the spectrum of an author's work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michele, I agree with you. This is how I viewed it too. I had no idea that editors could see this as a potential problem. It was news to me. I can see both sides of the issue. I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that when my books come out, I'll have a following and that will help me put out contemporary books too. That's part of the reason why we are sitting on this manuscript right now. We have to see how my books sell and what kind of following I get before we move forward with a different genre.

      Delete
  6. I've thought about this, too, since my projects are all over the place. What I'm working on now is very different from my other projects, so I guess we'll see what happens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope it all works out smoothly for you, Anna.

      Delete
  7. I think my brand revolves around mythology. Destined was set in ancient Greece, my short story for Two and Twenty Dark tales draws from Egyptian mythology, and my co-written novel draws from Greek mythology. Even though one is historical and the others are not, I feel like mythology-related themes are my brand. Which pretty much makes me a paranormal/fantasy author, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup! I love mythology too. Touch of Death and the other two books in the trilogy are based on mythology. Mythology is just so much fun to write about. :)

      Delete
  8. When I hear the word branding, I think of branding cattle and horses. LOL. I guess I have no brand since every book I write is different. Maybe I should consider this.

    Great post. Has me thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kind of wish we didn't have to think about this. I'd rather write what comes to me. I hope one day, I'll be in a position where I can write what I want and not have to worry about branding too much. Of course, I'd need a really good following first to pull that off. ;)

      Delete
  9. Yes, a pen name is the simple solution to you being able to write romance. Branding is something I didn't think much about when I started. It is important, for better or worse. I'm trying to brand as an author of speculative fiction.
    Catherine Stine’s Idea City

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Catherine. It is what it is, and we have to try to fit in somewhere, right?

      Delete
  10. I can think of a few authors that made their name work for other genres - granted they are all romance but some go more paranormal and others are literary and some are contemporary. But had her name not been the same I would never have looked for them. Granted it is a shock to look up an author you like and start to read a new book not knowing it is not her coined genre.

    That is a touch choice to make. Another author I follow has, 3 pen names, I think. But I did not know this for years. Once i found out, I started to look at her other series. But in the end I had tunnel vision and never branched out to her other books until the knowledge got to me that the pen names were the same person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's why I think I'll make my pen name known. I want people to know it's me. Whether that goes against having one, I don't know.

      Delete
  11. I've thought of my brand in general but not much about my brand as a writer (not as much as I should). My stories all have similar themes and characters. I love creepy as well ;) I don't think about it while I'm writing though. My brand just sort of comes out in the story. I wrote stories not thinking about them being scary only to be told how scary they were. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Auden. I think all my books have romance in them, so the switch to contemporary romance wasn't that big a deal for me. But I think the industry views it differently.

      Delete
  12. Pen names are interesting. At first I thought they were used as a sort of privacy thing for the author, but I know women used to write using men's names, or just their own initials, because books by women were not well received. Fortunately, times have changed. Even so, I have thought about having a pen name, but unsure as yet what to do about that. Ever hear of Kabalarian Philosophy regarding names? If balanced, a name has a huge affect on one's success. Always something more to ponder. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting. I'll have to look into that!

      Delete
  13. Thoughtful post, Kelly. Yes, branding matters for book sales. But, like you, I write what calls to me to be written. I think your agent's advice is spot-on - a great solution to a vexing problem.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've thought about it, but I think the readers are more forgiving than that slight change. If you were suddenly writing adult historical westerns, a pen name would be in order. However, I think a contemporary ya would allow you to broaden your readership in your already established target audience.

    Did I mention one of my favorite books growing up was Pollyanna? Perhaps that perpetual optimism never wore off. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a Pollyana doll growing up! It was my mom's first. :)

      I don't think the shift is that big either, since all my books have romance in them in addition to the paranormal aspect. I'm just glad I have my agent looking out for me. I trust her judgment.

      Delete
  15. Interesting issue. I agree that a pen name seems like a great solution. It can be a variation of your actual name (incorporating a maiden name, family name, initials, or whatnot). At a writers conference I met Christie Craig, who writes racy romances under her own name, and NYT bestselling YA paranormals as C. C. Hunter. Obviously, you wouldn't want young YA fans to stumble on her more "adult" work. Having two separate brands solved the problem for her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That definitely makes sense. I'm thinking of either using initials or my middle name or a combination of the two. My middle name can work as a last name. ;)

      Delete
  16. Branding is less an artistic issue than a marketing one, and for those of us writing (& publishing) under our own real name it's a tough one, because we are real people, not brands.
    The market doesn't quite know what to do with the likes of Jane Yolen who is the exception with three hundred every-sort-of book published writer. This is why she is the exception, even as many writers write (but not publish) just as she does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, some people write just about everything and have no problem. I can only hope I'll fall into that category one day. :)

      Delete
  17. I don't know if branding helped me or not. Honestly, my agent told me to keep my YA and adult romance separate and I did. I published my first YA book as Ednah Walters and used its success to launch my adult series as E.B. Walters. I'll start writing adult paranormal and still use E.B. Walters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your pen name is so close to your name. I like that. I'll have to consider doing something similar.

      Delete
  18. Before I started writing I didn't know anything about branding (not that I am an expert now). I guess it makes sense because people know what to expect from an author in a certain genre. I know that sometimes authors crossover to other areas, but maybe they have a common tie- or the authors are just really well-known (Grisham, Gailman, and Patterson come to mind right off the bat).

    Thank goodness you have such a great agent to help you out! It could be fun to come up with a pen name. :) Of course, maybe in time you won't need a pen name since all of the books are YA. Good luck!
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jess. I hope so, but I'm preparing for everything. ;)

      Delete
  19. Famous authors have used a pen name like Stephen King. I think trying a pen name is a good idea. I am learning about branding but part of it really is a self discovery and sometimes I think writers, artists are pushed too early in their career to self label. I like the paranormal genre. Good luck. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ann. The paranormal genre is my favorite. I feel at home there. I'm not even sure if I'll write more YA contemporary romance, but I do love the one I did write, so who knows.

      Delete
  20. I probably should think about branding, but I'm so not into that. I just write what I want to, and if someone wants to read it, I'm very grateful. Obviously, I'm not here to make money, right?

    Good questions, Kelly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying to find a balance between writing what I want to and making a living at this. That's not easy to do. LOL

      Delete
  21. I've been hearing a lot about branding lately. You know, I don't even consider it as I write. I've been meaning to do research on this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never really considered it either. I'm used to just writing what I want. But I guess it's something we have to think about after all.

      Delete
  22. Apparently, I do have a brand or style of writing that is uniquely me . As for me, you, and anyone else, which I am sure your agent told you - get famous first, then you can do whatever you damn well please. Think about singer songwriters, first time anytime stars or actors, they do what sells, what the public wants until they get too big to bother, after you can do what you want. The pen name is used widely by others. I think most writers don't want to limit themselves when a story comes a'calling.So don't - but you can save it for when you have your star on the writer's walk of fame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. I'd love to get so famous I can write whatever I want. That would be amazing. :) I'm definitely going to hang on to this manuscript because I love it. It needs to see publication, even if it's not right now.

      Delete
  23. I don't see why you can't use a pen name and sell it now. Romance is always hot, and most successful authors have written under pen names. (I think Dean Koontz has like 20.) Good luck with it whatever you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I didn't even know Dean Koontz used pen names. Where have I been? I'm okay with using a pen name if that's what it comes down to. Whatever it takes to sell the manuscript.

      Delete
  24. Very interesting topic, Kelly. Right now I'm writing picture books, but also have a couple MG ideas brewing. I'm thinking since these both fall under umbrella of "kid lit" I should be okay. I'm guessing this real issue comes when we cross marketing fields - i.e. kid lit author jumps into chick lit. Then again, Madeleine L'Engle wrote for kids, YA, and adults and it didn't seem to effect her career. And hasn't Judy Blume written for kids and adults?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, once you have an established name and a huge fan base like those two, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Since my books haven't even come out yet, I don't fall in that category. LOL. I think you'd be fine writing PBs and MG. They are both kid lit like you said. My issue is that my YA is paranormal/horror and then I break out a contemporary romance and it really shifts the genre. Maybe it won't be an issue, but it definitely could be. Only time will tell.

      Delete
  25. I haven't thought a lot about branding, but I might have to watch closely if I decide to become more public with my work. I only write on my blog and I have a few shorts, but if I were to choose a genre, it would be romance.

    I know I bust on romance novels quite a bit, but I really do love me some romance. I find myself inserting a bit too much romantic notions each time I start some new project. Then I'm like, "DOH! Stop that, Diane!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. It's good that you know what you like. I love paranormal with a touch of horror and some romance mixed in. Parahorromance? ;)

      Delete
  26. A pen name seems like a good solution.

    I don't mind if my favorite authors switch genres--I carefully read book descriptions before purchasing, and only in some instances I've been put off by the genre switch--but I can see how other readers expect a certain type of writing from them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm the same way. Genre switches don't bother me. I go by the book description and determine if it's for me or not.

      Delete
  27. I got my Bachelor's in Marketing, so I actually do put a lot of thought into branding. I think your agent makes a good point. This is not to say you shouldn't write outside of your current genre, but a pen name is probably a good idea. Customers (in this case, readers) learn to expect a certain type of story from you, and you don't want to send mixed messages that will change customer expectations. It's great that you have an agent helping you along with the marketing/branding side!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm sure somebody has mentioned this already, but I would think that using a Pen Name would be the way to go. I'm considering kind of the same problem...although I'm not published yet, I like to write in two distinctly opposite genre's...Mystery/Suspense & YA Horror.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And now I think those go together. LOL. Suspense and horror can overlap, in my mind at least.

      I do think I'll end up going with a pen name when we go out on submission with this one. It seems like the easiest solution. Not that I'm all for the easy way out, but I also don't want to ruin the manuscripts chances by digging my heels in over my name, you know?

      Delete
    2. I think it's the YA that might make it necessary. ??

      BTW. Thank you for the WRiTE CLUB vote, but it won't be able to count unless you register on the Linky List. :)

      Delete
    3. Oh, I didn't even realize the mystery/suspense was adult. Yes, that would make it necessary.

      And yeah, I'm not registered. As my daughter (and Sponge Bob) says, "Barnacles!"

      Delete
  29. I'm using two pennames. One for my solo work, in the counter terrorism genre, the other for a cowritten book in the erotica genre. The two are so different, and it works better that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know that, William. Am I allowed to ask what your pen names are?

      Delete
  30. This is interesting, especially since I recently wrote a piece about writing in multiple genres. I never imagines myself a romance writer -- until I started writing romance, and that ended up being my first published work. I sure hope some of my readers will someday follow me into SF, action/adventure, and humor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they do too. This is a new topic for me and I'm really interested to see what comes of it, not only for me but for others, too.

      Delete

I love comments, but not spam. All spam will be deleted.