PDA

View Full Version : Are you "branded"?



MartinD
04-08-2010, 02:19 AM
Recently, I attended a local writer's group because a literary agent was speaking to them. The agent told the group that each writer needs to think of him or herself as a "brand".

According to the agent, Stephen King started off as a "horror"-branded writer and that helped build his audience. Nora Roberts started off as a "romance"-branded writer, building her own audience before branching off into other things.

I like to write in different genres. Am I hurting any "brand" I might build? Should I write under pen names when writing material in different genres?

Or is the agent wrong?

Cyia
04-08-2010, 02:29 AM
Focus on one book. Get an agent. Ask him/her what to do next.

katiemac
04-08-2010, 04:31 AM
If you publish, you are a brand.

But exactly what your brand might be is still unforseen. You could be all one genre. You could jump around. Like Cyia said, this is something to discuss with an agent when the time comes.

Marketing that next product, however, is always easier if you've already built that base, but that base will not necessarily follow you from genre to genre. This doesn't mean it won't/can't happen, or that you would hurt your brand. But brands take time to build, so strategically it might make more sense to publish a few novels in the same genre before branching out.

You're more likely to hurt your brand by writing a bad book, no matter the genre.

incognitopress
04-08-2010, 04:36 AM
I think it's a valid question. Don't worry so much about branding as in pigeon-holing yourself into one genre corner, but building your own brand as an author.
I actually think it's important to start on building your brand that BEFORE you actually publish. Blog. Get your name out there. Etc.
For example - do you have a website? A blog? A way for others to reach you and learn something about you? Build up your general brand as a writer. Don't worry so much about genres at the moment.
I have noticed there is a trend toward branding into specific genres. I prefer to work in multiple genres, but until I'm told otherwise by a publisher, I'm not going to worry too much about it. However, I do have a couple of different website domains and blogs reserved for my alternate pen name, in case I need to build up an alternate profile.

shaldna
04-08-2010, 02:06 PM
I remember Claudia saying something about this a while ago, and I think it stands well.

You should establish yourself in one genre before moving on to another.

seun
04-08-2010, 04:23 PM
It's a rare writer these days who can start off as a nobody and be free to publish in whatever genre they choose. People like to label writers (or anyone creative). Unless you're the reincarnation of Shakespeare, I say stick a genre and go with it until you're established and/or popular enough to go in different directions.

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2010, 04:55 PM
It's a rare writer these days who can start off as a nobody and be free to publish in whatever genre they choose. People like to label writers (or anyone creative). Unless you're the reincarnation of Shakespeare, I say stick a genre and go with it until you're established and/or popular enough to go in different directions.

You can get published in any genre you can write well enough. It's just that simple. There's no "free to publish in" about it. The question is never whether you can or can't publish in any genre, but simply whether you can get enough books out there to build a name in a given genre, if you've spending a lot of time bouncing around.

PortableHal
04-08-2010, 04:57 PM
Interesting question. Thanks.

Reading a biography about Dean Koontz, he apparently faced a similar situation. Accordingly, he used various pen names to sell his different kinds of fiction. When one of those pseudonyms hit the bestseller list before "Koontz" did, it made him unhappy. From that point on, he decided to put everything under his own name.

Not everyone agreed with this choice but, all in all, he's done okay....

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2010, 05:20 PM
Recently, I attended a local writer's group because a literary agent was speaking to them. The agent told the group that each writer needs to think of him or herself as a "brand".

According to the agent, Stephen King started off as a "horror"-branded writer and that helped build his audience. Nora Roberts started off as a "romance"-branded writer, building her own audience before branching off into other things.

I like to write in different genres. Am I hurting any "brand" I might build? Should I write under pen names when writing material in different genres?

Or is the agent wrong?

It a real way, she's right, but it's kind of a Duh moment. Stephen King wrote what he enjoyed reading and writing, and so did Nora Roberts. They still do.

But keeping you name out there is important, whether it's your real name or a pseudonym. And you have to keep it out there in each genre. You can't write one mystery this year, one SF novel next year, and one Fantasy novel the year after that, and expect to build much of a readership, unless, of course, your novels all hit very high on the bestseller lists.

Whatever you publish, and wherever it's published is going to brand you. Every type of novel has a label. Always has. But readers like novels to come along in their genre fairly often.

The problem with writing in different genres under different names is How Many Novels Are You Actually Writing, and How Many Novels Are You Actually Selling?

If you aren't selling any, the question is moot, and it may be because you're diluting your talent, not your "brand".

It takes time to learn how to sell in any genre. It takes time to learn how to write a publishable mystery, time to learn how to write a publishable SF novel, etc.

Even if you are prolific, pseudonyms are still usually a good idea. Pseudonyms allow readers to know what genre they're getting by name alone. This is usually a very good thing, and it stops your own name from competing against your own name.

But the wider you write, the more prolific you have to be to keep a readership growing.

Anyway, first you have to sell a novel somewhere, in some genre. After this, reader/publisher demand will tell you how soon you need to write another novel in that genre.

If you're fast and good, you can write in as many genres as you have the talent to write in, but you have to meet this demand in each. And if they are different genres, pseudonyms help keep things straight in reader's minds.

But first, sell one genre to one major publisher. Until you manage this, nothing else matters, and to do this, you usually have to concentrate on writing a given type of novel until you get it right.

seun
04-08-2010, 07:21 PM
You can get published in any genre you can write well enough. It's just that simple.

Excatly. It's that simple. My point is how many writers have the talent to do so?

Shadow_Ferret
04-08-2010, 07:24 PM
I am not a brand, I'm a human being!

BenPanced
04-08-2010, 07:32 PM
I know I'm banded. I mean, these guys from National Geographic showed up on my doorstep one day and took me out for drinks. The next day, I woke up with this MASSIVE hangover and an odd metal band with some serial number or something on it around my ankle.

And they said they'd call back, but they still haven't. :cry:

JamieFord
04-08-2010, 07:45 PM
Very valid question.

When HOTEL was going to auction I spoke to the different editors bidding and one suggested I write under a more Chinese sounding name. I'm half Chinese, writing about Asian characters, but have a very Western sounding surname.

I totally get the branding thing, but didn't want to be pegged as only writing about Chinese things. My new book, for instance, is very Japanese.

Being comfortable with your genre, even if it's the literary/commercial genre is helpful in presenting yourself (and your work), and seeing yourself as a brand is a useful extension of that.

DeleyanLee
04-08-2010, 07:49 PM
Recently, I attended a local writer's group because a literary agent was speaking to them. The agent told the group that each writer needs to think of him or herself as a "brand".

According to the agent, Stephen King started off as a "horror"-branded writer and that helped build his audience. Nora Roberts started off as a "romance"-branded writer, building her own audience before branching off into other things.

I like to write in different genres. Am I hurting any "brand" I might build? Should I write under pen names when writing material in different genres?

Or is the agent wrong?

I think I have a different understanding of "branding" than you do, perhaps.

When I pick up a Dean Koontz novel, I know it's going to be scary, exciting, slightly techy and that the villain/monster/evil thing will die and the hero, heroine and/or dog will live. Guaranteed. That's what Koontz writes. When I'm in the mood for that kind of reading experience, I'll pick up a Koontz 'cause he'll give that to me every time.

When I pick up a Nora Roberts novel, I know the heroine's going to have internal strength, the hero is going to be some form of macho, that there's likely to be weird stuff (paranormal) involved, all the characters are going to be painted well enough so I know their role in the story from their first introduction AND that there will be a happy ending. I also know that it's going to be a quick, fast read, so I won't have to dedicate a massive amount of time to it. When that's what I'm in the mood for, I'll seek out Nora because that's what she does.

Likewise with a Stephen King book, or a Laurel K. Hamilton or an Anne Rice or or or or.

I know what the basic reading experience an author is going to give me. That, to me, is what being a "brand-name author" is. Like any other brand--when I get a Kleenx®, I know what I'm buying. Or a a Pepsi® instead of a Coca-Cola®.

To me, it's important to think of what kind of reading experience I want to give readers and to make certain that, work to work, that I can carry through with that same basic promise each time, regardless of what the work is. Writers often decry this as "formula writing" but readers crave "same but different"--and this form of branding guarantees that.

Cyia
04-08-2010, 08:52 PM
I am not a brand, I'm a human being!

No you're not! You're a small fuzzy vermin with a revolver! (in the conservatory)

Libbie
04-09-2010, 01:48 AM
Focus on one book. Get an agent. Ask him/her what to do next.

I agree with this, but I have some background in business and I also think branding is important. The agent certainly had a good point.

My plan is to write several historical novels and to make them progressively more literary in tone so I can segue into literary fiction with ease, and so that I can go back to writing historical fiction whenever I feel like it. It seems like a good plan from where I sit now, but we'll see how things pan out after my first book sells. :)

kuwisdelu
04-09-2010, 05:18 AM
Don't remind me of that day! It still burns. Oh, the horror! The horror!

Jamesaritchie
04-09-2010, 04:53 PM
Excatly. It's that simple. My point is how many writers have the talent to do so?

Judging by how many writers do exactly this, I'd say most writers have the talent. If you can sell in one genre, you probably have the talent to sell in a couple of others. The question usually isn't talent, it's speed/time/reading interest.

You have to be able to write novels in a hurry, you have to manage your time well, and you have to write in genres you love reading.

But there's no reason to believe a writer with enough talent to write a publishable novel in one genre can't do the same in another.

Jamesaritchie
04-09-2010, 04:55 PM
Focus on one book. Get an agent. Ask him/her what to do next.

Focus on one book, yes. Get an agent, yes. But for God's sake, and for the sake of your career, do NOT ask the agent what you should do next. The answer is always going to be the same, and it will be an answer that helps the agent a lot more than it helps you.

Ken
04-09-2010, 05:12 PM
... good practical advice given by the agent at the writer's group you went to. As with most advice though it is not a one-size-fits-all. If all writers pigeonholed themselves into 'brands' some very cool novels that have come out throughout the years would never have been written.