Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adrift in the Branding Sea

Writing a book is so much easier than promoting one. Put me in my office where I can see the sky through my windows, and hear the birds, my wind chimes and the clacking of my keyboard, and I'm a happy woman.
But navigating the promotional waters of the books I create, now that's a different story. I don't mind going along for the ride, but steering the whole darn ship is another matter. I'd so rather not. But since I don't have the luxury of floating through the process, I'm going to call on all of you to help as I make my way through the (n)oceans of branding, and try to create one of my own.
Latayne got us out of port and into the open seas of the branding issue, and there have been good comments to keep the boat afloat, but here are two questions: What is Branding? What is a Tagline? And are they synonomous? Okay, that's three. In my mind a tagline is like a teaser, for, say, a Steven Spielberg movie. "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water" for Jaws. "He is afraid. He is alone. He is 3 million miles from home" for E.T. "It's about life. It's about love. It's about us" for The Color Purple.
Taglines, right? That define individual films? But it takes a brand to define the combined works of Steven Spielberg. Something like The Storyteller's Storyteller. Am I right? Oh, I hope I've got it.

Author Randy Ingermanson wrote in his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine: "...the world of publishing has split into two armed camps. One camp insists that branding is vital to the health of an author's career. The other camp says that the whole brandwagon is a load of hooey ... ask six people to define branding, you get about eight different answers." He goes on to state his definition of branding, which I think is very helpful. "Your brand is what other people think when they hear your name."
So, assuming we're successfully navigating the waters of branding here, I'd like to launch my own lifeboat and see how far I get. I write contemporary novels about issues that cause women pain. Using Latayne's lighthouse points, I covered Time and Genre with one pull of the oar, as well as indicating my Audience. Every Good & Perfect Gift is about infertility and catastrophic illness. Lying on Sunday is about infidelity. These are my Topics. (The tagline for Gift is: True friendship is invaluable, but for Gabby Whitaker the cost could be too much; for Lying on Sunday the tagline is: For Abbie Torrington, betrayal and truth are about to collide.) Then like the labor of childbirth, I push through the pain to the point of deliverance. In the process I do all I can to cause laughter. And there is my Unique Tone or Flavor. Combined, this creates my Branding Statement. Have I got it right so far?
To put a fine point on it, I write Heart-of-the-Matter Fiction. Did I just create my Brand? If so, what do you think of it? From my branding statement in bold type in the above paragraph, can you suggest a better brand? If so, I invite you to share it. And for those readers who are not also writers, what does branding mean to you? Is it important? Does it help you decide whether or not to read an author's writing? Or is it, as one camp suggests, just so much hooey?
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "theSnowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 15,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit


Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Sharon, I think that's a perfect tag/brand for your fiction. It explains what you write but doesn't box you in. It's brief and to the point. You made it look so easy!

Anonymous said...

Debbie, I've been wrestling with this since the B&S retreat. I needed Latayne's instruction of a branding statement to write one of my own, which led to the encapsulated Heart-of-the-Matter Fiction. Now let's see what others have to say.

Kathleen Popa said...

Sharon, it sounds good to me. I especially like the first sentence.

Janet said...

"Pushing past the pain" perhaps?

Seriously, this stuff gives me hives. I've only written one complete novel so far. Does this exempt me from trying to figure this out?

Patti Hill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Sharon, I like your branding statement. Descriptive, but memorable.

Janet, you asked if one novel exempted you. It's kind of like, "only brush the teeth you want to keep." Only think of branding and branding statements for the writing career you want to advance!

Seriously, the exercise of branding was uncomfortable for me, but very helpful in forcing me to focus on what it is that I want to do best, and to be known for. Nobody told me 30 years ago that I should think about focusing my writing toward a particular point. I just wrote whatever was of interest to me (and, without being prideful, I think I followed the Spirit's leading in those books.)

So rejoice! At this point in your career, with one book, you have a luxury some of the rest of us don't have -- you don't have to try to corral all kinds of published topics to describe your ministry of writing. You can actually use the exercise to purpose in your heart, and focus your writing, toward what you want to be known for!

Latayne C Scott

Janet said...

Latayne, I like your positive twist on this. This will be a difficult exercise for me. Focusing has never been my strongest point.

Right now I'm querying a fantasy, and if it gets a good reception, that will help determine direction. If not, I have a lot of soul-searching to do.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Sharon, I know I'm not alone in gratitude for your "let's walk through the process" example. I need coffee and an hour in the Sonoma sun with your counsel and my brand and tag will sing like yours! (Did I say "walk"? Mine's more like jumping hurdles. Not a pretty sight but good exercise!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Latayne. I was going to ask the same question as Janet did. I'm working on several book ideas, that don't all have a common theme so this may take me awhile to figre out. :0)

Anonymous said...

Sharon, the title "Adrift in the Branding Sea" gave me a good chuckle. 'Watching' you apply Latayne's instructions helped me understand the process even more fully.

Anonymous said...

Susan, applying Latayne's instructions helped me as well. It's when and how I created my branding statement, making myself focus on exactly what I write. Oddly enough, it's been a theme in 20 years of writing, and I didn't realize it until I began writing this post.

Cynthia, I don't know, does mine sing? I'm still thinking about it, and we'll keep working on yours.

I'm still hoping for more definitive help with differentiating between brands and taglines. Still wondering if I got it right or if I'm splitting hairs.

I appreciate all the comments. Love the community we're becoming. But I'm missing Steve's word verifications.

Anonymous said...

Firt time visitor and enjoyed reading the comments. I like the brand you picked.
JWIsley AT

Anonymous said...

Welcome, JW Isley. Glad you stopped by.

Theresa said...

Hi Sharon,
I think your tag/brand works for what/how you write. I know for me I do not pay any attention to those things when opening the book or watching a movie. I go by what others that have read/seen it before me say. But mostly, because I love to read, I go by how an author writes. If he/she writes well, I will read again and again. Matters not how they "promote" themselves or how others promote them. Your work speaks for itself. Once someone picks up any of your books and reads them, they will fall in love with your ablity to tell the story and will be passing it along to others to read. Keep it up and I cannot wait to read what comes next!

Anonymous said...

Blueeyedchic, wow, I appreciate your comments very much. I agree that a tag or brand won't influence me one way or another. I depend far more on the recommendations a book or movie gets from people I know. These days I'm telling everyone who'll listen that Blue Hole Back Home is a MUST READ! Thrilled to announce it was nominated for a Christy for debut novel. Trust me, the author is a pro!