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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Branding Yourself: How to create a powerful and professional marketplace identity -- Sara Reinke

Sara 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.

Check out my website for examples of branding in action:, or Devyn Quinn’s for a taste of her Goth-Erotic:

Sara Reinke's second Brethren book, Dark Hunger, comes out in September 2008.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Sara, this is such a concrete and clear example of branding. Might have to print this one out for when I get confused.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks for explaining branding and showing how it can evolve. I realize that I need to add my brand tag line to e-mails, etc. Now why didn't I think of that sooner?!!

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Sara Reinke said...

LOL, don't feel bad. Marketing is such a time-consuming process, it's more than easy to overlook little things like that. :) I'm glad you found the info helpful!


At 12:06 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Sara, what a great idea. I love the idea of having a slogan to work with and to keep a writer focused. Your vampires sound very interesting and that tagline makes me want to read your books! A deaf-mute, very unique. And although your hero can go out in the daylight, I'm assuming he drinks the blood in the same way? I guess I'll have to read your book to find out!

Thanks for coming today and sharing these tips!

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

I always thought branding seemed a necessary evil in that it constricted what an author might want to write in the future while giving the readers something to look forward to. Thanks for showing how to start a brand that's big enough to include unforeseen paths and then how to adapt it as your writing changes.
Great presentation.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Devyn Quinn said...

Thanks for the mentionn, Sara. It is appreciated. :)

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Sara, very interesting! You're getting right at the heart pf the matter and focusing it, to make it clear.

I've always had trouble with the branding concept. How do I explain myself and what I write in just a few words? I found some help in asking other people what words they'd use to define me and my work. It's interesting to see what others find in your stories. Adventure came up several times.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Sara Reinke said...

One good way to think of a brand identity for yourself is to think about movie taglines. They're always short and sweet, but are designed to be evocative and catchy. Having a brand that includes the word "Adventure" could be a lot of fun -- find an "Indiana Jones" inspired font to incorporate into your slogan's presentation on a website and business stationary graphic, for example. Maybe an old "treasure map" with dotted lines to mark out courses, like you see in old movies. When I think of adventure, those are things that immediately come to mind anyway. :) Let your imagination run wild and have fun -- it sounds like you're off to a terrific start!

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Sara Reinke said...

Theresa, Eden and Devyn - - you're all very welcome. :) I'm glad I was able to share some useful info! I think figuring out the in's and out's of effective marketing is often as difficult and frustrating for authors as the pursuit of publication itself! Fortunately, it's also one of those things we can learn about from each other, by sharing what we think works or doesn't work.

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous PAM said...

Hey Sara!

Wow, are you a market genius or are you just friends with Bill Gates!?..LOL..Great explanation of "Branding Yourself"..I agree with printing this out for future reference. BTW, loved absolutely loved Dark Thirst..and hoping I win your Arc of Dark hunger on your site!..Maybe next year at Lori Fosters we can have a Margarita Toast to your NYT Best seller "Dark Hunger"..!! Till then..take care your Friend and Fan..Pam M...;)

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Sara Reinke said...

Pam!!!!! *hugs* You're so sweet!

I dunno about marketing genius, LOL, but I've got a BA in public relations, so it's nice to be able to put those four years of college to use. ;)

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Put me down as another aspiring/perspiring writer who will print this out for future reference. I LOVE your vampire series tagline and you have just added another couple of books to my overworked TBR stacks, yes that is stacks plural!

My tagline for my only finished novel ( I DO have three sequels outlined in the series) is

"Historical romance about men who refuse to ask for directions and the women who show them the way."

How is that for a tagline. So far it is on my website and on my business cards.

My other nearly finished novel (for which I have two sequels outlined) is a Gothic historical romance.
This is the first line of the synopsis and I thought about using it as a tagline for the whole series.

"The purest hearts hide the darkest secrets. The darkest of secrets can hide the purest souls."

Okay so am I even warm with these two? All suggestions are welcome!
Now I am going back to print, reread and highlight your fabulous post! Thanks Sara!

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Good job, Louisa! I like your taglines!

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Louisa, I love both those taglines!


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