To Brand or Not to Brand

By: Beth Shriver

 

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

As I navigate through this publishing industry, I’ve learned many things: voice, pacing, motivation, characterization, and internal/external conflict, to name a few. But there is one aspect that I still have a problem with…branding. Although I understand the concept that as a writer or illustrator, to label yourself into a certain genre and style of writing and the reason for doing so is to develop a following of readers who know what to expect from your writing, I’ve had a considerable amount of difficulty doing so.
 
When I started writing eight years ago, the only published author I knew well enough to contact was a romance writer, Shelley Galloway, who informed me that romance is the biggest-selling genre. Although I’d never read a romance, with Shelley’s encouragement, I did. After studying how to put a story together, I wrote a young adult romance, Love at First Flight. Then I wrote a romantic suspense, A Case of the Heart, and another Reclaiming Faith. Two were published, which gave me the motivation to write still another romance, Love is a Rose. But through this process, I realized romance wasn’t what I truly wanted to write. I like a romance as a subplot, but it seemed to leave out so much of the characters lives about which I wanted to write.
 
I decided to try my hand at a historical fiction with strong romantic elements, Remnant of the Fall. This gave me an opportunity to tell more about the first-century Palestine setting and to show what it was like for Christians during that era. I liked the balance, and the romance seemed more real being a part of the story instead of the entire story. My next project, Annie’s Truth, was a women’s fiction. I thought I’d finally found my genre, until a speculative fiction idea, Fear of Falling, came bounding into my head that just poured out of me. Although my manuscript has been requested and has gone to the publishing board a couple of times, the Christian market is still warming up to this new genre in the CBA. So I left my niche and wrote another woman’s fiction, Funeral Hopper,/em>. My agent loved it, and so far it has been well received by editors.
 
Are you dizzy yet? I know my agent is, but she’s wonderfully and patiently waiting for me to settle down so she can brand me. I commend her for doing so. I sometimes feel like a rebellious teenager not wanting to follow the rules of the literary industry, which brings me to the next genre, none other than non-fiction. Yep, you heard me. My absolutely-God-given devotional, Peace for Parents of Teens, was released in May. Inspired by the difficulties my teen went through, I poured out my heart onto the keyboard with the desire to aide other parents struggling with teen issues. I’d never, ever planned to write non-fiction, but He had different plans for me and my writing.
 
After all that you ask, what exactly is a “brand?” Your brand should say something about you. One needs to learn how to create and reflect the brand that you want readers to know about you. Know how to build, to communicate, and to maintain (my weakness) a personal brand. The following steps may help you with this:
 
1. Develop a vision for your brand.
2. Position your brand in order to differentiate yourself from competitors as well as building one’s image using the media as a vehicle.
3. Create a personality for your brand.
4. Articulate the benefits your brand delivers to customers.

5. Define the values your brand represents.
 
It seems there is always something new to learn about the writing industry, and branding has become an important one, one that you and I, as writers and illustrators, need to settle into and find out where we’re comfortable. And that will be where God makes us comfortable, where he wants us to be.

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