Saturday, March 14, 2009

Topic of the Week: Branding

Hello and top of the week to all you stimulating readers! Have we told you lately how much we enjoy interacting with you?

Don’t forget that if you post a comment on any of our topics this month you are in the running to win a Patti Hill library of
four books. This lady was nominated for a Christy Award. She’s a terrific writer!

Our topic of the week is
branding. Patti, Sharon, Katy, Debbie and I all attended a retreat last fall in which Jeanette Thomason gave a terrific presentation on branding. She identified it as 1) identity, 2) positioning or position in the marketplace and 3) distinctiveness.

On Wednesday, Sharon will give some wonderful insights about branding in general, from her own struggles with the concept and from Randy Ingermanson. However, for today’s post I’d like to examine the idea of a branding statement.

Jeanette said that such a statement should include key components (though not necessarily all) from the following list:

place in time
audience or market/s
category or types or genre
unique tone or tribe or flavor
topics or themes

When I wrote my branding statement (found in my January 19th post), I had to try to corral an established career that has covered all kinds of topics in many different genres. (I’m nothing if not versatile.) What did all this have in common? The fact that when I tackle a topic, I attempt to look it “straight in the eye." That idea became the core of my branding statement.

The publicity team at Zondervan loved my branding statement and are using it in publicity for my upcoming non-fiction,
The Mormon Mirage. It had to work equally well, however for my upcoming novel Latter-day Cipher.

How about you? Do you have a branding statement? Or do you know of an effective one used by another author?


Kathleen Popa said...

I love Brandilyn Collins' tag line for her suspense fiction: "Don't forget to breathe."

Being still young in my writing career (nice to be young somewhere!), I found it hard to think of a branding statement. How to know what will tie all my novels together?

I finally came up with "Don't miss the wonder," because I feel confident that anything I write will reflect my conviction that even in the worst, darkest moments, life holds a beautiful secret.

Susan Storm Smith said...

Thanks LaTayne for allowing me to finally have peace with an issue in my branding. Struggle has been with what genre do I fit the best? Writing columns, articles, blogging, then there are the books.

Always enjoy Novel Matters postings. Thanks and keep em coming!

Anonymous said...

As for a tag line, I haven't been able to come up with one yet.

I do have two themes that I try to communicate in each of my books.

1. God goes to extraordinary lengths to draw a lost sheep back to him.

2. God uses those things the enemy believes are victories to deliver the enemy's defeat.

Latayne C Scott said...

Susan, that's what we get for being renaissance women (smile.)

Lyle, you're on your way to a great branding statement. Since you know how God works in two specific ways, try to condense that down to how your writing shows His actions.

Bonnie Grove said...

Love this topic. Branding is a hot word - but the concept is not new.
It freaks writers out because many writers don't want to put themselves in a box. (Actors call it being "type cast")

Understandable, but a branding statement shouldn't be boxy - rather it is the "legs" of your mission statement.

Everyone in business (if you are a writer, you are a business) should have a mission statement. A basic model answers all three of these questions:

1) What needs and opportunities do I as a writer address/fulfill?
2) What will I do to address these needs/opportunities?
3) What principles or beliefs guide my work?

In my own striving for a tag line (or brand or whatever you would like to call it), I prayed through these questions, looking deep into my own heart, and at the work I had already produced. I discovered many very interesting things about how my heart is found tucked deep inside my writing - what need am I addressing? The need to experience grace in life.

What is grace to me? The relentless interaction of a loving God with humanity.

I hint at my "genre", but I don't state it, rather, I let the reader "feel" it.
I blended these ideas in a way that defines my writing style: a non-sequitur of Life is Messy - God is Love.

How long did this take? If I lined up all the time I spent working on it from start to finish - about a day.

Nichole Osborn said...

I haven't thought of a tag line yet, but there is a theme that runs through all of my writing: God's unfailing love. Whether the character is an orphaned child or a widow. God loves them and commands us to take care of them.

Patti Hill said...

A tag line is not going to make or break a career. Writing GREAT books is our best bet for gaining a readership. But, just in case, I came up with a tag line rather early in my career.

Here it is (drum roll): Women's Fiction, winsome and true.

Winsome definition: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.

Things that are winsome are irresistible. Winsome books, specifically, are written to be enjoyed with indulgent glee. The writing is sharp, creative, delicious. The characters are so well developed that a reader will consider them friends. This is so much easier to talk about than do, as many of you have discovered, but this is my aim.

And so, my tagline is my goal.

Jesus is our example. He is winsome, approachable and real. Irresistible. Our writing should be the same. It's a lofty goal, one that I don't think I've achieved yet, but I'll keep trying.

See how easy choosing a tag line can be? (Cough. Spurt. Gag.)

Irish writers blessing: May a tag line rise up with wee little effort!

Laura J. Davis said...

Branding is difficult to do because as many others have said, you don't want to get stuck in a box. I think that might be something I've done to myself. My tag line is "Bringing Biblical Characters to Life". I love biblical fiction, it's what I write - but what happens when I want to write a modern piece? Oh me oh my! I need to find another tag line! Any suggestions?

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

This is something I'm still struggling with. I think (?) it would be easier for a person who had a shelf full of books already written. They could look back and pull out the connecting thread, and say, "This is what I write." Choosing a tag line seems so final, that I approach it with fear and trembling!

Anonymous said...


Just following up on what you said, it might depend on what your contemporary fiction looked like.

My current project is a modernization of The Prodigal Son. The setting is Las Vegas and Texas Hold'em poker.

Even though it is a modern piece, it would fit under your tag line. So if your modern pieces are using Biblical characters as the model, then the tag line still works.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen stole my author's example so I'll just add BC's "Seatbelt Suspense" to it.

Mine isn't so much a statement as it is a description of the constant thread:

Relationship . . . Romance . . . Redemption

Unknown said...

I'm stepping out into dangerous territory here, offering advice on what I've only done once, which is create a branding statement.

However, as a reader (as well as an author) I'm thinking that words that are completely descriptive and apt can still be forgettable. And we want to be memorable, right?

So -- you others with branding statements chime in here and drag me back from the brink if I'm near it. But I wonder if something like "Bringing Biblical Characters to Life" -- though completely accurate, still needs some punch. I, too, am working on a Biblical novel. I'm wondering about something like, "Putting Meat on Biblical Bones." Maybe too over the top?

Even if it is, perhaps it will get us brainstorming...

Steve G said...

I'm thinking...

Laura J. Davis said...

Oh yes! Please brainstorm. I can't think of anything else! What if I gave you an idea of what I'm concentrating on in my stories?

For starters, my first book Come to Me, stressed surrendering to God during difficult circumstances (it is about the life of Christ, through Mary's eyes), so they both had a lot of surrendering to do.

My second book is about trusting in God and having faith in Him when all seems lost. It is about the struggles of the early church (particularly Peter). The next book in the series will be about the Apostle Paul. Each book, will have a particular theme, but all of them show that all of these servants of God were normal human beings that were used in extraordinary ways.

Does that help? Can someone think of a better tag for me now?

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

How about, "Seeing truth through ancient eyes"?

Anybody else want to jump in here?

Latayne C Scott

Kathleen Popa said...

Ooooh. I like that, Latayne!