What does an author’s brand mean to their readers, and how would that definition involve embracing your own brand of crazy? Publisher’s Weekly defines brand in this way:
“A brand is a promise; it’s what readers expect from an author.”
If you’re the kind of writer who only likes to churn out romance books or crime novels, then you probably won’t have too much trouble when it comes to author branding. Your writing is so specific that your author brand lives up to the definition spelled out in the article. But what if that is not the case, and you’re an author who hasn’t settled on a genre, even after publishing three different works of fiction. How does that affect your brand, if you even have one?
Defining Author Brand
Defining your author brand as a fiction writer is not necessarily an easy task, unless you already know (for absolute sure) what you want to consistently write about. Branding becomes a problem when you publish three totally unconnected novels, not by genre, tone, setting, content, or anything else. Since 2014, I self-published the following titles:
- Experimenting With Murder [A novel about a billionaire scientist who discovers mermaids on his isolated New Zealand island. The murder of a colleague also occurs, in addition to the gruesome experiments he conducts on the aquatic creatures]. This book was listed as a Fantasy/Sci-fi Thriller (more or less). I’m currently doing a re-write of the book, so I took this title off the market]
- Skipping Childhood [Actually a blend of an urban, coming-of-age novel, if not for the “serial killer” element it contains, causing me to list it as more of a Suspense/Thriller]
- Lights Out at the Moulin Rouge [Based largely on true historic events surrounding the first racially integrated Las Vegas Moulin Rouge casino, though the content was delivered in more of a whimsical way, and focused mostly on the entertainment element. Listing the book was hard because I used a fantasy approach to convey a factual, historical story.]
As you can tell from the book descriptions above, there is no continuity of genre from one book to the next. About the only similarity in the 3 books, is that each one is based on or inspired by real life facts. The first novel was inspired by televised mermaid theories and whale beachings. The second novel was based on actual childhood events related to abuse (though the murders are all fiction). The third book was the result of tons of actual internet research. Other than the truth-based elements I like to inject into my writing, nothing else may seem to match. So the question is, “what can readers expect from this type of author brand?”
As I began to consider this question, I began to slowly but surely go into panic mode. I know from experience, it’s hard enough building a readership base to begin with, that is why it is equally important, that your readers have a reason to anticipate your next book. Does that have to mean that if you write suspense, your next release should be suspense, and everything after that? Not in my book (pun intended).
Readers have a right to have certain publishing expectations, when it comes to authors they enjoy reading. But authors should be able to write whatever they’re inspired to write. Defining your author brand shouldn’t have to amount to you being a cookie cutter and releasing a slew of similar but different books, or all written in similar ways. I’m an author who views author branding as learning to embrace your own particular brand of crazy, whatever that happens to be. For me personally, that spells diversity.
Regardless of any publishing expectations, I want to be able to write about what I’m inspired to write at the time and not about what I’m expected to write. I experienced that type of under the gun writing when I wrote freelance articles and did ghostwriting for clients. The most enjoyable writing for me in the past was when no publishing expectations were involved. When you’re not careful, expectations can lead to the kind of pressure that interferes with a writer’s true creativity.
Since I’m still an undiscovered author, my views about brand may seem naive to some readers, but I stand by them. As we all know, times are always a changing, and that includes how things work in the publishing industry. These days, there is never just ONE right way to do things. So even if my brand of crazy doesn’t appeal to one type of reader, it will surely appeal to another. If an author’s brand is known to be diverse and flexible, perhaps all they need are diverse and flexible readers.
Solidify Your Brand
When new and emerging authors have representation by an agent or traditional publisher, they usually get the right branding help they need. But when and if that happens, you may have already written and self-published multiple titles (like in my case). My solution for myself, and suggestion to similar authors; keep working to define, establish and solidify your author brand. Diversity in your writing output doesn’t have to be a negative.
This past November, when I began to truly consider what author branding meant to me, it caused me to hit a road block in my writing. I questioned whether or not I should have been working on the writing project that I was involved in at the time. I wondered did it make more sense to try and write a sequel to one of the previous novels, or at least something along similar lines. In the end, I stopped what I was working on, and didn’t write anything at all.
In hindsight, I realize the best thing for me, is to just write. Fantasies, suspense, whatever… As long as I connect with the right type of reader, someone will be there to appreciate my particular brand of crazy.