Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doing it your way

Wasn't Anny's post pretty? She's a woman of incredible talent both for her writing and her creativity in crafts. I've seen these hairpiks and the longer, fancier versions. She makes chinka boxes too any fabric, button, and yarn crafts you can come up with. She's just that good.

I'm less creative with the crafts and lean pretty heavily on internet promo. I've been studying Anny and Cindy for a year now, watching how they handle chats and how they interact with their reader audiences. I confess I'm not as adventurous as they are... yet. I'm working on it at a snail's pace. I'm also up against some professional changes in my life and have slowed down my promo until I have it all worked out. My first milestone is to host a chat. I haven't yet and I'd like to.

Promo comes down to one thing: Getting people to recognize your brand. What's a brand? It's how people recognize your work, your name, your image in the general market place. Yes, a simplistic explanation but a valid description. Your brand is everything from your genre to they way your name appears on your blog/website. If your brand is inconsistent, it confuses the reader and takes them longer to remember who you are and what you write.

People require ten mentions before your name is remembered. If you have your name coinciding with an image, it strengthens the recognition factor. For example, Regina's avatar, the sexy little blonde cartoon from Three Wicked Writers she uses or the eyes avatar on my blog. Those are things that even when seen without my name or her name attached, will become recognized for their association.

Do you have a brand? You might without even realizing it. What do people associate with your work? Wicked humor? Damaged alpha werewolves? Klutzy heroines? Do your stories have compatible themes? Do you write in one or more genres? It's all part of how your reader will recognize you. If you haven't thought of it, now is the time.

Another aspect of branding is getting your name out there. It goes without saying that if you don't put your brand out there, no one will ever know your work unless by chance. So get out there. Drum up the sales and extend yourself. It doesn't matter if you chat, do contests, give things away, or flash your pearly whites. Whatever it is you do and makes you comfortable, go for it!

~Kelly~

19 comments:

  1. Good blog! Glad to see you made it home okay!

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  2. Branding is good. The problem is figuring out your brand. LOL It's not always easy. Some authors do a fantastic job with it. Some of us struggle.

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  3. AH branding. Bleh. Heard a lot about that from my first publisher who tried to stick us in niches where we could only write one thing and nothing else. Boring.

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  4. True but my dear Cindy, you branded your name with a dragon. So, um, while you are niche less, you do still have the visual connect to an item. Maybe you're just natural.

    Hi NJ, glad you stopped by. At this point your initials can be seen as your brand. It's unusual enough to catch the eye.

    Hey Anny! Yep, I'm home and tadaaaa my house was cleaned and unpacked while I was away. Note to self, must disappear more often.

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  5. Branding is a promise you make to your readers. You don't have to write in just one genre or subgenre, as long as your core story is similar enough to satisfy your readers. Jenn Stark has some good info on branding on her Web site: www.JennStark.com

    In the case of my brand, my readers know I will give them a funny, sexy story, whether it's a straight contemporary, a romantic mystery/suspense or (something I'd like to try in the future) a lite paranormal. I tie my PR/marketing into my brand -- so that my PR materials, Web site, etc reinforce the brand with the use of fun fonts, my dog caricature, a comic sex advice column on my site, etc.

    -- Marcia James ;-)

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  6. So....I'm guessing Arbor U is my brand at the moment? Thought about that yesterday; I designed a logo for my fictional school; maybe create some kind of 'school spirit' stuff, like for mini-notebooks or pens/pencils? Something to think about for when #3 gets pubbed.

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  7. Molly -- I'm not an expert on author branding, but I think Arbor U is more your series than your brand. That said, your idea for PR giveaways that tie into the University theme is a great one.

    As I understand author branding, it's a promise to your readers that they will get what they expect from you. In my case, it's a funny, sexy read. If I wrote an angst-filled inspirational, I wouldn't be giving my readers what they expect from my brand and should probably choose a different pen name for such a departure from my other books.

    One way to help determine your brand is to ask friends and readers who are familiar with your books to give you a series of adjectives or phrases they think describe your stories. I haven't had the opportunity to read one of your books yet, so the following are just some general examples:

    heartwarming, family-oriented, suspenseful, funny, character-driven, complex plots, redemption, forgiveness, second chances, overcoming adversity, rags-to-riches, dramatic, slap-stick, angst, humor, dark, clever, imaginative

    If you have certain themes and tones running through your books, you can use these to come up with a tag line that sums up your writing -- and then create your PR materials and Web site to reinforce that.

    If you go to a Web site that is dark with scary images, you wouldn't be surprised to learn the author wrote romantic suspense. If you go to my Web site (www.MarciaJames.net), you'll see that my font, images, etc. all have a light-hearted, fun feel -- which matches the tone of my books.

    I co-present PR workshops and write PR articles (some of which are on my site), and one's author brand is sometimes a tough thing to lock down. And once you pick a tag line, it's always wise to Google it to see if any other author is already using it. You always want to be unique.

    Happy promoting!
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  8. Great blog Kelly and good input Marcia. I don't know anything about branding. Giving away things that are related to your story the way Anny does it with her hairpicks will make people remember her name. Usually I like the nailfiles some authors give because they are useful or bookmarks made of beads because they are so cute, but I never take the magnets, big cards or lipglossers I wouldn't use them. My husband gave me a box of red pens engraved with To Love A Hero, my first book. They were gorgeous and went very quickly. But I don't know if people bought my book because of these pens. To be honest, I never bought a book because of a promo item. The only thing that makes me buy a book is the blurb and the first page.

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  9. Thanks Marcia:) Great input. I've had several people opt for the postcards and magnets, rather than the bookmarks, which surprised me. I love the bookmarks, since I habitually read 2 or 3 books at a time. I also love sticky notes:)

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  10. To sell a book, usually the best thing to give out to potential readers is either excerpt booklets (which can be pricey) or something like a bookmark or postcard with a book blurb on it. Giveaways like my thumbcuffs or Anny's hair pics should be something that makes a potential reader curious enough about you to go to your Web site (which is why it's important to have your URL on these items). Hopefully, once at your Web site, they will read your book blurb and book excerpt.

    So I think it's wrong to judge giveaways by whether or not they directly sell your book. Their main purposes are as teasers to your Web site and as name recognition reinforcers.

    For example, my dog caricature seems to be well-liked by pet owners and states clearly that my books aren't serious. If a potential reader gets one of my giveaways, s/he may be curious about why I have a dog logo and what my funny books are about. As long as the giveaways get potential readers to my site, I'm happy.

    I'm about to update my Home page so it's more lighthearted and mentions a novella I have coming out in a Berkley charity anthology next year. My dog will be featured prominently on my redesigned Home page, as he is on my original one. I think once an author has a cool logo or avatar, it's good to stick with it so it becomes part of your brand -- like McDonald's arches or Nike's swoosh.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  11. Hey Moll, your brand is the college set women's fiction so far that I can see. You cater to that audience of young adults just starting out in life who are trying to find their footing. Seems to me that if anyone picks up your books, they can count on seeing that premise. That's a brand. Arbour U paraphenalia, like Marcia said, is product regarding a series, but it certainly can serve as a brand reminder.

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  12. I'm so new and still learning the "branding" stuff. The little avator you spoke of helps I think. Like Cindy's dragon. Now everyone knows she writes paranormal stuff but since her cowboys rock the house, I keep hoping she'll put a little cowboy hat and boots on Cedric. LOL. Think we can talk her into that??? NAH. Probably not.

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  13. Oops. Forgot this part. What I write? What I'm known for? I HOPE that I'm known for creating three dimensional characters and relaying their hopes, dreams and conflicts in such a way, the reader is moved. I'm far better with character development than plots for some reason. But I AM working on "thinking outside the box"...thanks Anny.

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  14. Heh. Yeah, I can jussst hear what people say about my books! It might be interesting, at that. Excellent comments, Marcia!

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  15. ack - I so hate promo, and I have no clue what my brand is, but this is one great post, Kelly - it's truly terrific.

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  16. Thanks, Anny! By the way, I have a 170+ page Microsoft WORD file of PR information that I give away to other authors for free. If anyone would like it, just go to my Web site (www.MarciaJames.net) and email me through my "Contact Me" page. I'll reply and attach the PR file.

    Lyn -- many authors hate PR, but there are so many ways to get your name out there, you can usually find something that goes well with your budget, time, books, and personality -- 4 things that can help you narrow down what's best for your particular PR needs. I have some PR articles on my "Articles" Web site page that talk about the different PR options out there -- such as ways to cross- and co-promote with other authors.

    Anny -- writing R-rated or X-rated books (e.g., my first book was set in a sex club) can sometimes limit your PR options, unfortunately. But obviously there are lots of readers who love our stories and are clamoring for them. ;-) Still, I'm looking forward to promoting the Berkley charity anthology I'm part of in 2009 since the book is PG-rated and that opens up venues that wouldn't consider promoting a book with a higher level of sensuality. For example, the anthology will have 10 stories featuring pets, and the money from the book goes to a no-kill animal shelter. So we could do booksignings in Petsmart and send press releases to dog- and cat-lover magazines. ;-)

    Happy promoting!
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  17. Good blog, Kel. Promoting is so important. sigh. Not my favorite thing.

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  18. I've thought about branding but am not sure what my brand is either. I tear my hair out over promo but I really dread it. I can't figure out what's working and what isn't.

    And Kelly, when I'm away from the house, I come home to a wreck, just the opposite you did.

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  19. Nothing like your own face image for branding. It works magic & gives an instant recognition.

    Getting a self promotion logo is a good idea. In whatever you give away by way of promoting, you can always put your stamp there!

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