Unlocking the Completely Baffling Mystery of Author Branding

And this is where it all started....

And this is where it all started….

When I first started publishing back in 2011, I thought to myself, “YAY! I’m a writer! I can write books now!”

Ha! Little did I know that writing the books is only about 50% of the rigmarole of being a writer. It’s the most fun part, mind you. It’s the part that I really and truly love and the part that makes me happy from the inside out. But the reality is that the day I became a published author (before that, even) I also became a marketer and a salesperson. I had to learn about things that completely baffled me on so many levels. Terms like “sales funnel” and “loss leader”, things that I would normally run screaming from, became my bread and butter.

Some of those concepts were more confusing to me than others. I will confess that the first time I heard that, as an author, I should be branding myself, I cringed. Branding is the Golden Arches. Branding is “Just Do It”. Branding is the fact that I can go into any Starbucks in the country and find the same color and grain of wood in the fixtures. To me it felt very sterile and “catchy”, but not in the good way. What does branding have to do with writing books? I wanted to reach people on an emotional level, make them fall in love with characters and stories.

Well, as with a bunch of other things about the business of publishing, I was wrong. More than that, once I tapped into my brand as an author, a lot of other things clicked into place, including how and where to market my books and what audience I should be courting.

And then it started to evolve....

And then it started to evolve….

One of the things that made my head hurt in the beginning was that I knew I would be publishing in more than one genre. I knew that my historical romance novels weren’t going to fit into the standard historical romance mold. I knew that my sci-fi novels weren’t going to fit into the regular perception of what constitutes sci-fi. I knew from day one that I was going to march to the beat of my own drummer, and that that march was potentially a lonely one. I worried myself silly about how I was going to fit into just one basket.

My author brand didn’t flash like lightning into my brain in a moment of bliss. In fact, it took me two years to figure it out to the point where I thought “Yes! This is me!” It all started with my name. I knew I wanted to publish everything under my real name, Merry Farmer, and that name alone. This was reinforced when awesome NY Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry told me I had one of the best author names he’d ever seen. Ah-ha! I was heading in the right direction.

The other element that added to my brand was the super awesome font that my cover designer, another Jonathan, found for the Noble Heart’s covers. I really like that font. Like, A LOT! It’s pretty awesome. But it also embodies both a spirit of romance and a more adventurous feeling. Definitely part of the brand.

The final piece of the branding puzzle came from my books themselves. I write romance, I write sci-fi. Neither are usual. What do they have in common? Well, I love writing romance. It’s the stuff of life! My sci-fi is full of it. I also love writing action scenes and adventure. My romance novels have all sorts of sword fights and gun fights and rescue scenes. Ah-ha! The genres I write may be very different, but the spirit of my writing is the same no matter what I’m writing. I have a definite style.

Merry Farmer: Timeless Romance, Epic Adventure

BEHOLD! A brilliant example of branding!  You know exactly what you're going to get when you look at Anne from Badass Marketing's logo.  The logo embodies everything she is.  THIS is what you're going for!

BEHOLD! A brilliant example of branding! You know exactly what you’re going to get when you look at Anne from Badass Marketing’s logo. The logo embodies everything she is. THIS is what you’re going for!

That was it! After two years of trying to figure it out, trying to wrap my mind around the concept of branding, there it was. I’m sold! Not only does it have a certain ring to it, in just four words it sums up everything that I write and everything that I am. It also helps to keep me focused and directed on what matters in my writing. When all else fails, I can identify myself and my writing with those four words.

So that’s my story, but what does this mean to you as an aspiring writer or established writer trying to figure it all out? Look inside of yourself and your writing. There is something about it that is uniquely you. The reason you write is because you have something to say that no one else has to say. You are able to tell stories that no one else is able to tell. Once you find that thing, you will know what your brand is as an author. Once you brand yourself, not only will you be able to concisely explain yourself to your potential audience, you will be able to keep yourself on track with your own writing. For those who want to go traditional, you will have a perfect tool to sell yourself and your future career to the agents and editors who will be the best fit for you. The more you know yourself and what your purpose as a writer is, the better you will be able to rocket forward into awesomeness!

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One thought on “Unlocking the Completely Baffling Mystery of Author Branding

  1. Yep, branding is important for any independent creative professional, as it is for everyone else. I can relate to the light-bulb moment when I knew my whole platform, and all my bylines, would be my real name — my married name, in this case. The downside is it’s a little hard to pronounce (especially for Americans), but it is memorable and unique and it sounds great, and I’ve never met another person, let alone another writer, with the same name. Someone once told me not to brand myself with a “black-sounding” name in the workplace b/c then no-one would hire me. Screw that bullsh*t. My spouse is African and if you can’t deal with that, we’re better off not working together anyway.

    Before I launched my blog I thought long and hard about a tagline and landed on the certain knowledge that I have zero desire to write fiction or make up stories (not to denigrate these great fields, they’re just not mine). I’m a journalist, essayist, and copy and ad writer, So “Fiction need not apply.” It’s still on my business cards today and it perfectly fits my eclectic but totally non-fiction focused career.

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