creating an author brand

CTRandall

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#1
I was joined by Amy DuBoff, an indie author who writes really good Space Opera, the kind just up my street. Here she's talking about the importance of having an author brand, something I fail spectacularly at but am now musing on. Dysfunctional families? Norn Irish SF (but then where does Abendau fit in?) Edge of Madness (but then where does Inish fit in?) Character led spec fiction? Can you guys do any better with your own stuff:

Fostering An Author Brand: Amy DuBoff - Jo Zebedee
Jo's blog-post got me going, so have a look at it if you haven't already.

My question is, for "brand", why can't we substitute the word "style" or "themes"? Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash is a far cry from his Baroque Cycle which is, again, miles away from Seveneves, yet he has a distinctive style and has a pattern of setting his stories in the place where science brushes up against philosophy, so readers always know what they're going to get.

Amy DuBoff brushes on that in your blog, Jo, and it strikes me that is a better way of building a "brand" than trying to focus on specific genres or settings. At the risk of being too forward, you might not need to have a specifically Nor. Irish setting for your works to give them a Nor. Irish twist. Your plot of land has enough history--ancient and recent--and culture to produce its own mind-set and patterns of behaviour and, taken together, I don't see why they can't provide a strong connection between Abendau and Inish Craig.

So, if we write about what inspires us, won't there necessarily be connections between the things we write? And if so, is "brand" more about finding those connections and marketing them, rather than trying to fit our writing into a mould that might have little to do with style and inspiration?

Discuss.
 

Cory Swanson

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#2
I find myself increasingly writing about supernatural artists. Problem is, I'm over half done with a WIP that has nothing to do with that.

Ah, well. Gotta go where my heart and crazy imagination lead me.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#3
@CTRandall - I think this blog probably sums up my crazy mixed up merging of the Norn Irish in Abendau:

On Belonging

You’re right. I can’t be from such a place and not have it invade my deep thoughts and themes. We are all still working through our hurt here. We have much more of a journey to go on - and for me Writing is part of that journey.

Today I described myself as a writer of Northern Irish sf to someone (not Fantasy, interestingly enough - but I have been coming to terms with the fact it will always be secondary to the crazy path of a-woman-who-wants-to-write-sf) and it sat right on me.
Sadly as marketability goes it might not hit the heady heights to be a big seller. But I decided I’d rather write what I’m proud of than churn out something I’d be sorry to put my name to very recently. So I’m mostly happy with my little unique niche brand :D
 

Stephen Palmer

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#4
Unfortunately, what is regarded as an author brand by readers has a lot to do with how many books have been published. So, to use the example above, even though Neal Stephenson has published a few differently styled novels, when you say "Neal Stephenson" you have some idea of what to expect. There's no way around this for writers, or authors with only one or two novels.

My back catalogue over 22 years is massively varied, yet people know roughly what approach I'll take. I'll accept "surreal transformation" though, as that does describe so many of my novels - Memory Seed, Glass, Muezzinland, Hallucinating, Urbis Morpheos and Hairy London. I think my recent work though is veering away from the Palmer norm.
 

Cory Swanson

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#6
My dad is a stone sculptor. He has always talked about the importance of having a large body of recognizable work so someone could be walking along and see your work and say, "Oh, that's a Frank Swanson."

Later in his career, he tried to branch out from his usual abstract forms. Nobody bought them. He returned to his signature style, and he hasn't stopped working since.

Seems like we're talking about the same concept here.
 

millymollymo

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#7
Yes.
Terminology it messes with you.

Brand is a modern word, and has a commercial negativity, there are limited number of writers that can stomach a form of "commerce" thinking when applied to their own work - artists don't like "branding". You can't put a £$ on art. Writing is an art, it's creative. Style has more voice, more flair. It's harder to value, how do you insure a "style?"

Style is what you have, brand is what you "push". Agents convert your style into brand, so marketing departments can package it out to booksellers. Brands you can insure, and invest in.

Readers just want a good story. It's really nice when the good story comes with an awesome cover. You get to the point that you can spot your favourite author's books by their covers & the font of the title-> The branding.

How do you get a reader to pick up a book outside their "prefered authors"? By comparison, which is possibly why you see such things in query and pitches. It makes the agent's job easier. But also by their favorite authors recommendations and shout outs, by awards. Awards causes shop window/front page promos = awareness.

Jo has her style, Stephen has his. Stephen knows his style and how to brand it. Jo still shouts at me when I mention her's. :D.
You'll have yours, CT
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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#8
Style is what you have, brand is what you "push". Agents convert your style into brand, so marketing departments can package it out to booksellers. Brands you can insure, and invest in.

Readers just want a good story. It's really nice when the good story comes with an awesome cover. You get to the point that you can spot your favourite author's books by their covers & the font of the title-> The branding.
Perfect summing up! Of course, if the writer is self-published, they need to worry both about style and brand...
 

CTRandall

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#9
Style and brand. Hmmm, I was thinking of making my brand a circle-K but I believe that's already been taken by a store near San Dimas, California. I'll have to think of something else. And I'm not sure how well my tablet and red-hot iron will work together (I'm even more worried about paperbacks) but, if that's what it takes to succeed in this business, I'll give it a go.

Sorry, there comes a point, late in the night, when my brain grazes on strange pastures.
 

janeoreilly

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#11
I would put style in with voice but I don't think they are the same thing as brand - to me brand is a marketing tool which has more to do with cover art and book titles etc but as publishers do less and less and authors are expected to pick up the slack, we're now expected to know all this stuff as well as knowing how to write a book. Sigh. It would be nice to just be able to write whatever you feel like but there are lessons to be learned from amazon and indie publishing such as writing series, so you have multiple hits, making covers link together, sticking within a certain genre (though that said, there are plenty who move around within genre and do very well, such as Joanne Harris). Branding yourself as a particular thing then also helps you build relationships with bloggers who fit with that as you can go back to them with second and third books. I am probably not the best person to ask about this as I have changed genre several times though
 

sknox

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#15
The phrase is cemented in my brain because I used that sample in a music track. You listen to a loop a few hundred times and you don't forget it!
 

Jo Zebedee

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#16
This thread seems as good as any other for my current musings:

I know one of the barriers to selling Inish Carraig is that the title doesn’t feel like sf to people
I also know one of the more interesting elements that leads some to pick it up is the interesting title.

Now, I’m deep in book two (and having far too much fun, frankly) and am struggling to come up with a title.

Inish Carraig has a key story message in it and is used in the book (if anyone has read Brian Friel’s Translations, it has that sort of vibe to it) - so has a purpose. I could reframe some of the elements of book 2 into an Irish title but that would be for the sake of giving it a quirky title - which I’ve already identified as being a barrier to sales.

What I’m thinking of doing then is using Inish Carraig differently (since I suspect book 2 might not be the last) and making it the series title.

So, Alien Invasion: book one of the Inish Carraig series
Alien Aftermath: book two of the Inish Carraig Series

Since I’ve recently come up with a new sf I plan to set over here (for solid reasons) this enables me to do something similar for that series - give it an Irish-branded series title with sf sounding individual books.

What do you guys think?
 

Biskit

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#17
It's very easy to get utterly committed to a title. When I published my first book, I used the title I'd given it right at the start, because it was all about the silly moment that prompted the book, and it was all part of the story and an equally silly pun buried in the story. The first review I got was great, but I also got a private message from the reviewer highlighting a few issues, such as the title. It wasn't that it was a poor title from a reader's perspective, but completely crap and unhelpful, and misleading, and...

So, I changed it after a lot of thought, and trying alternatives, and finally going at it from the point of view of selling the book, creating a theme (a previously unplanned sequel was in the works by that point), and getting away from what worked for me or had strong associations with how the story came about.

I'm sure I'll get it wrong again in the future, because picking a good title is a lot trickier than you might expect, but that experience has me firmly on the track of thinking carefully about the title used for the outside world. I've just about got to the point where I no longer use the original title myself.

Titles and covers really are two of my pet hates. From experience, it's more important to get the title right the first time, at least if you're only doing ebooks. Covers can be uploaded and changed, but if you have to re-do the title, that is a nightmare. If you've been lucky enough to get reviews with the old title, it looks really weird on Amazon to have someone say 'XXXX is a really fantastic book' and the title at the top of the page is nothing like XXXX. Then getting places like Goodreads to adopt the new title takes a bit of work.

It might sound odd, but I think titles need beta readers. Perhaps not whoever read the manuscript. You need someone who has no investment in your working title to say whether it works, and the same for a series title. My first series title (once the standalone turned into a series) was rubbish too.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#18
The trouble is - the title is also popular amongst readers. Also - this will sound weird to most here but I am reasonably established as a writer of sf in Ireland and that’s something I want to build on. So keeping Inish Carraig in there somewhere is important :)
 

HareBrain

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#19
What I’m thinking of doing then is using Inish Carraig differently (since I suspect book 2 might not be the last) and making it the series title.

So, Alien Invasion: book one of the Inish Carraig series
Alien Aftermath: book two of the Inish Carraig Series

Since I’ve recently come up with a new sf I plan to set over here (for solid reasons) this enables me to do something similar for that series - give it an Irish-branded series title with sf sounding individual books.
I think the individual titles would need to be interesting of themselves without relying on the series title (I assume "Alien Invasion" is a placeholder, but if not, I think it's too bland). I also wonder what readers would think of Inish Carraig as a series title if the prison/rock itself played no real part in other books. Personally, as someone who reads very little SF, I would have been more attracted by the intriguing title Inish Carraig than I would have by a more SF one, but the fact that I'm not an SF reader means you probably need to discount my opinion.
 

Juliana

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#20
So, Alien Invasion: book one of the Inish Carraig series
Alien Aftermath: book two of the Inish Carraig Series
Personally, as someone who reads very little SF, I would have been more attracted by the intriguing title Inish Carraig than I would have by a more SF one, but the fact that I'm not an SF reader means you probably need to discount my opinion.
Although my heart agrees with HB (I love the mysterious quality of IC as a title), my brain can absolutely see your point, Jo, in that there's a real danger in just getting buried on Amazon (as a sp book) because it's not reaching its readership.

Writers with bigger imprints behind their books often find their titles changed for them by their publishers (sometimes to their utter dismay - happened to a friend who was not happy with the new title but it was a market decision). But with self published authors, the burden of what sounds cool vs market strategy is all on them...
 

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