Branding Yourself: How to create a powerful and professional marketplace identity -- Sara ReinkeSara Reinke is a Zebra Debut author. Of her paranormal romance, Dark Thirst (available now!), Romantic Times said,
"This new twist on the vampire legend, filled with cultural differences and the challenges facing a deaf-mute hero, is a fascinating and unique romance."
Sara is here to share a clear description of what branding is and the basics of how to do it.
If you’re a published author, you’re probably already very aware of the fact that your job doesn’t stop once the words “The End” are typed. An author has to wear many hats—editor, agent, publicist, webmaster, accountant, secretary—and sometimes all of them at the same time! For many, one of the most difficult hats to wear is that of the publicist. Handling your own marketing and promotions is a challenge and writers are often uncertain about where to begin. That’s why branding yourself can be an extremely useful tool, giving you a springboard from which to launch current and future promotional endeavors.
What does it mean to brand yourself? According to Wikipedia: “a brand is a collection of experiences and associations attached to a company, organization, product or service; more specifically, brand refers to the concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, organization, product or service.” (emphasis mine)
In short, branding is a way for readers to easily distinguish you from other authors. For example, years ago, when my published career was still very much in its infancy, I came up with a slogan for my website: “Discover worlds beyond imagination.”
I chose this because I was writing several very different genres at the time and wanted a website theme that would encompass all of them without focusing on any one in particular. From there, I was able to parlay that slogan over the years into a number of distinctive graphics that I used on my business cards, as stationary header, as the splash page and header images for my website and more. Additionally, I was able to develop an email signature line incorporating my slogan: “From worlds beyond imagination to the world of the past, discover worlds beyond imagination with author Sara Reinke.”
While I still use my “Discover” promotional tagline, I’ve also recently introduced another one. Over the years, my writing focus has evolved and I’m no longer writing multiple genres. I’ve settled my focus, for the time, on paranormal fiction, and my vampires in the Brethren Series from Zebra Books in particular. Thus a new slogan seemed to be in order. Because my vampires aren’t immortal, can walk in sunlight, aren’t “undead,” can eat garlic, etc., and pretty much otherwise contradict any of the traditional vampire traits, I opted for a new slogan to reflect this: “Forget everything you know about vampires.”
No matter how many books are released in the series, that slogan will describe them all, thus I’m able to use it now as a website design, put it on business stationary, folders, cards, etc., just like my other one. Since I’m working on additional manuscripts that don’t focus on vampires, I will eventually return to the “Discover” tagline, but for right now, this one seems to be the most appropriate.
So how do you come up with a brand of your own? Author Devyn Quinn writes dark paranormal and urban fantasy erotica. She doesn’t have a tagline, but she has a tag phrase that is uniquely her own and when she uses it on her website, in her email signature line, in business stationary, etc., it distinguishes her. Her tag-phrase is Goth-Erotic.
Like Devyn’s, your tag-phrase or slogan should be immediately evocative and creatively unique, meaning it establishes an immediate picture in someone’s head and it doesn’t sound like everyone else’s generic tagline or slogan. Goth-Erotic conjures an instant image in your mind: dark and sensual. Which is exactly the kind of books Devyn writes.
Think about your own work in the same way. Do you write one specific kind of story or multiple genres? Try to develop a unique slogan that reflects your area(s) of specialty. Once you have that down, find a graphic and color scheme that best reflects this, as well. For example, Devyn uses a black and red color motif on her website; likewise, for my “Forget” campaign, I use black, red and gold. These colors suggest darkness, but also sensuality. Devyn’s imagery on her website shows a couple in a fervent embrace with a sinister face in the background—again encompassing the dark, sexual theme and visually representing her Goth-Erotic brand.
What to do once you develop your own brand idea? In short, put it everywhere. Your email signature line. Postcards to your readers. Bookmarks. Fliers for bookstores. Portfolios. Stickers. Magnets. Calendars. Banner ads. Print ads. Press releases. Anywhere and everywhere you can. Your brand isn’t going to do you any good if readers don’t see it and come to associate it with you. So get it out there!
Remember, too, an author is necessarily married to one particular brand. I just recently transitioned mine, for example. But it’s critical not to change from slogan to slogan, or brand to brand, frequently, because it takes time to develop brand recognition among readers. They’re not going to associate you with a particular brand if you keep changing it every few months. Find a brand for yourself and stick with it for awhile. Like a seed that eventually grows into a magnificent sunflower, so, too, can your brand blossom and develop into something amazing.