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Deeper than Branding

Writers wear many hats these days. Today, I wrote one chapter of a novella I’m working on, and took a break, did some laundry. Yesterday, I sent out a newsletter, announcing a fabulous giveaway I’m involved in. Next I’ll be updating my social media channels. Now, I’m writing this blog post. Blogging is one those hats. Social media. Appearances. Giveaways. Conferences. Websites. Branding.

What is branding? Very simply it’s a promise you make your readers and a part of a conversation between you. Your part is your promise to deliver what they are used to getting from you, but in a different way from your previous book. (Tricky, heh?) Their promise to you is that they will buy your books—if you keep producing what they want. Sometimes they even write reviews and tell their friends—this is beyond their promise to you. (But much appreciated.)

Many writers don’t like to think of themselves as a brand. We are artists. Not businesses. True, but not really. Once your book is bought by a publisher, or you become an Indie publisher, you’re in business. Your art is what brought you to this point—but now, it’s something else, no longer completely belonging to you.

Maybe the tricky part for writer is the term “brand.” Let the publicists and publishers worry about the term. Let them call it what works for them.

What’s working for me is thinking terms of looking at my writing deeper. Give yourself permission to look at it —the writing, not website, not social media presence. (Yet.) What does your writing say about you? About what you are as a writer? Then look at it and see if your other hats line up…does your website and social media reflect the themes in your writing?

So I’ve been reading "Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales" by Dana Kaye and working through the exercises. (Highly recommended!) As I mentioned to her on Facebook, branding seems so simple on the face of it, but it’s a slippery thing. I still don’t quite have it down, but I’m getting there.

I started writing out all the themes in my books. (Working OUT from what’s inside the books.) I found: Secrets. Friendship. Strong women. Small towns. Outsiders trying to fit in.

I say I write cozies with an edge—and I do. Very few cozies include dark subjects like human trafficking or the darknet. But those subjects vary from book to book. The crimes are not a part of my theme. Goodness always overcomes those crimes. Goodness is a theme, not the edgy crimes. (So a dark and sexy-looking website? Not in the brand.)

It’s the same in the romances I’ve started to write. This is where branding gets tricky. How can a cozy mystery writer write romances keeping the same brand?

It’s the same promise, essentially, with different covering. Secrets. Friendship. Strong women (and men). Small towns. Outsiders trying to fit in. All ending in a happily ever after, which is slightly different from finding justice. But still—a satisfying resolution in both cases. Positive outcomes.

I remember years ago when I was a participant in the Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshop. My teacher was the poet Cornelius Eady. He said to me: “What are you about as a writer? Look deep.” I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. It’s a very hard thing for me, as trained journalist, who was used to writing what people pay me write.

But looking deeper at my fiction and poetry, I’d say I’m the same kind of person as I am a writer. I’m intrigued by, but hate secrets and lies. I believe that a group of women can solve anything together. I live in a small town, writhing with stories beneath the manicured lawns and between the picket fences, and no matter where I am, I always feel like an outsider—and I tend to gravitate to others who are the same. And despite the sometimes harsh reality of life, I believe in a good outcome. I believe goodness and love prevails, ultimately.

That’s me in a nutshell, um, er, brand. That’s a promise.

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