Thursday, November 03, 2011

Branding Is For More Than Cattle

What I'm reading: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin (don't laugh; I never read it). And I'm reading it primarily because I won a copy of Pride and Prejudice: The Jewess and the Gentile by Lev Raphael, and figured I needed to read the original before the mashup.

I picked up more books at the Emerald City conference, and many of them are going into my Giveaway stack. Be sure you check the Deals and Steals tab for all the different ways you can enter the contest. I'm very close to Giveaway #2 with my "likes"

I hope you'll read through today's post, because I'd like some opinions, and I've asked a few questions at the end.

At Emerald City, I went to Angela James's workshop on Branding. She's an editor for Carina Press, which is part of Harlequin, and she made some excellent points. She also spoke about digital publishing in another workshop, which I'll save for another post.

As to Branding: it's more than a tag line. Branding is how you become known to readers.

1. Branding is a promise. She used the example of McDonald's. When you go into a McDonald's, you have expectations, because they have a very strong brand. If tomorrow, they said, "we're going to become a vegetarian restaurant", consumers would feel cheated.

2. Branding is how you stand out from the crowd. JD Robb makes a different promise to her readers than she does as Nora Roberts. Branding creates marketing opportunities.

3. Branding draws consumers in. Angela spoke of seeing a store in a shopping center called, "Wine Anthology." It immediately called to her, and she thought it would be a great place to shop. Then she noticed that there was a sign saying, "Clark Circle Liquors is now Wine Anthology." The image of Clark Circle Liquors was totally different from Wine Anthology, calling up images of seedy men carrying open bottles in brown paper bags.

4. Branding builds familiarity. She spoke of the "Seven Touch Rule." In theory, something needs to be heard, read, or noticed 7 times before it sticks. It's not a hard and fast rule, because often one touch is all it takes, but more is better. And familiarity builds trust.

An interesting point she made here was that for a mid-list author, negative reviews are not as harmful as they can be for best-selling authors. If readers aren't familiar with your work, then what they're more likely to remember is the name, and not the connection to the negative review. It's one more "touch."

She suggested that a brand should be clear rather than clever. She had 10 points about getting your brand.

1. Consistently publish quality books.
2. Write in a consistent voice/style.
3. Focus on one genre or style.
4. Write connected books.
5. Publish connected books close together.
6. Spend time marketing yourself every week—newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
7. Have a good website.
8. Have a career plan.
9. Develop your brand statement.
10. Consistently publish quality books (yes, #10 is the same as #1. It's the most important thing you should do.

Ok, so here's my question. I was fortunate enough to win a free professional video book trailer from Visual Quill. What's your take on trailers? I have to remember than just because I don't find them useful doesn't mean others don't enjoy them. Also – what's your feeling about marketing a book vs marketing the author's brand?

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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the idea of branding much more than promoting comes a little more naturally to me, too.

As for trailers, they're not my thing, but I hear they're great to link to on Author Central at Amazon.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I agree, it's all about name recognition and providing a consistent product to readers. (And now I'll be breaking that "rule" by publishing a non-romance mystery. Sigh.)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Terry,

As usual, you provide valuable info in your blog. I think branding is important. We want readers to remember our name in order to build a readership. I write in a number of genres but agree that sticking to one is probably best. As to book trailers, I'd love to have one. I think this is a great opportunity for you. A whole lot of people have become famous from the videos on U-Tube.

Juliette Springs said...

I agree that name recognition and giving your readers quality material is indeed the best way to build readership. I have been focusing on getting my name out there more than working on my second novel. That will change now as I don't want to be a one timer.
As for the trailers, I've never brought a book based on one. I usually buy after reading the blurb on the back cover-gives me a better idea of how the author writes and if the story will be one I can connect to.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

great post Terry & so true about the 7 rule!

I've been writing "Inspirational with an Edge!" (tm) since day one and although I'm not published through traditional CBA - I think staying true to myself and my style of writing has aided in opening some of the doors for other 'edgy' 'sensal' authors in the Christian market.

I think trailers are useful as any other marketing tool.

Good luck & God's blessings for sharing this info!

Louise Behiel said...

thanks for a great blog. Branding seems to be everywhere lately. But since independent publishing is growing so quickly, it's the only way to separate yourself from the crowd.

looking forward to future blogs

Jenna said...

Congrats on winning the trailer! I've never bought a book based on one, either, but I intend to... if I can just remember the name of the book. The trailer was KILLER! (And no, I know it sounds like a joke, but it isn't. If I could remember the name of the book, I'd totally buy it. It just wasn't available yet when I saw the trailer.)

Brand is interesting, and I think Angela nailed it. As far as marketing brand vs. a book, I think anyone who wants a career as a writer will be better served by promoting the brand - the name/pseudonym - over the book. If you promote the book, you'll have to start over with the next book. If you promote the brand above the book, it becomes a lot easier over time. Not that you shouldn't promote the book, but promote the book as the latest release from xx, not as a free-standing thing.

My humble 0.02

Christine Ashworth said...

If you market the Brand, then marketing the books will be easier in the long run in that you don't have to start over with each book - the Brand will carry.

I totally failed at getting my series out close together - hopefully book 2 and book 3 will come out within a few months of each other and if they don't, maybe I'll put together a novella...

Pryce M. Jones said...


I agree with everyone else, branding makes a lot of sense, especially in view of the changes we are seeing in the publishing industry.

As for trailers, they are one of the seven touch points. No one may buy because they saw a trailer, but trailers increase the impact of your other touch points.

Beth Trissel said...

I realize branding is all important for an author. I need a larger brand for my work than simply historical romance though because I also write light paranormal, however those are mostly time travels, or ghost stories that lead to the past. So that's my common denominator. I'm doing my best to get readers to identify my work as historical in some sense.

Sherry Gloag said...

Branding the author leads to branding the books -Nora Roberts/JD Robb- I'll look for her name rather than her books then i have more to choose from.

I've created trailers for all my books. The one for The Brat had over a thousand hits. That didn't translate into immediate sales, but hopefully it got my name out there. So yes I do think they have their place.

Karyn Good said...

Great information, thanks for sharing it! As a writer still developing their brand, I get caught up in trying to be clever. I need to remember to be clear, instead.

As for book trailers? I agree that they can be a 'touch' point and I think it might be kind of fun to have one. But as a reader, they don't influence me.

Wynter said...

I rarely watch trailers and I don't know how much they help. Angela's workshops are always so helpful. I never pass up an opportunity to hear her speak.

Terry Odell said...

Jacqueline - above all, our name is our brand, and a trailer that drives that point home is probably a good thing.

Juliette - I normally give up on trailers because they seem so slow paced to me. I have to learn to think like the folks who like that kind of visual medium.

Pamela - I think you've got it right.

Louise - thanks for stopping by. I'll continue my recaps on my 'craft blog days'

Jenna - Yes, Angela did make excellent points, and opened my eyes.

Christine - my publishers tend to have very 'slow' release schedules, but with my back list, I can get them all out in rapid succession.

Pryce - yes, and I'm busy working on those touches!

Beth - as long as your 'voice' is consistent, I think you can have some variety of sub-genres. I hope so, because my next release is likely to be a straight mystery.

Sherry - you're right about not being able to judge whether something is effective immediately--if at all. You can only hope.

Karyn - I'm with you on trailers, but free is free, so it can't hurt!

Wynter, the people at the reception for Visual Quill did point out that we're not exactly in the right age demographic. "Younger" folks spend much more time looking at video clips, etc.

Roni Loren said...

I agree that branding is all about your name. Book titles are going to tick by and there will hopefully be more than one book, so you want people to remember you as an author.

As for book trailers, I honestly have never bought a book based on one. I tend to only watch ones for books I've already read or already wanted. So I see them less as a marketing tool and more as bonus content for your readers.

Anonymous said...

Good blog, Terry. I think focusing on the author's name as the brand is the way to go, versus a particular book. When I started writing, Harlequin was the brand that was pushed, the writers were secondary. Harlequin soon learned that certain writers drew readers and the author's name became more prominent. We have to think the same way. Make your name stand out.

As for trailers, I rarely look at them and they don't influence me. It's the blurb or the author's name that will sell me.
Maris Soule

Marcel van Driel said...

This is a great blog. I am a Dutch writer of Children’s books and although I've published over 30 books in ten years, I am still reasonable unknown. But since the internet, and especially Twitter and Facebook, I am getting better known and my books sell more! And a lot of that is because of ‘branding’ myself.

And contrary to some of the experiences here, was the book trailer we created crucial to the success of my latest novel. (You can find the trailer here: )

Gail MacMillan said...

Thanks for giving a clear definition of branding. The points make sense. I write in two major genres and have tried to follow all the instructions for branding although I didn't have a name for the process until now.
Thanks, Terry.

Mary Ricksen said...

Been hearing a lot about this very thing lately. Good advise as always Terry!

Unknown said...

I totally agree branding is crucial. It also can be a two edged sword. If you are going to 'brand' yourself, you need to make sure you are consistently adding to your backlist. I think it's important to keep an 'active' audience. If they google your name, and every time they do, they get the same thing, they'll lose interest fast.
Great topic!
I'm not sure how I feel about trailers. I'm guessing placement would be important to reach your target audience.

Terry Odell said...

Roni - for me, book trailers are like movie previews. I don't mind a movie preview because what you see is what you get. But a book isn't a video. I'll be talking to the people at Visual Quill later today and will see what they say.

Maris - yes, it's about names. Even if nobody spells mine right!

Marcel - thanks for sharing your experiences

Gail - I often have no clue that there's a name for what I'm doing. As long as you do it, that should be enough.

Mary - my pleasure

Adelle - which is why I'm working on getting another book out and finishing my WIP. Thanks

Suzanne G. Rogers said...

Marketing a brand is tough when you are first starting out (with only one title published). But I agree over time the brand can be established. As to book trailers, I don't look at them because I simply don't have the energy. Perhaps avid readers do, and I can't speak to that. I'd just rather not spend the money at this point. I guess it would be fun to have a trailer on my website.

Nancy Jardine Author said...

As a brand newly published author I admit to not knowing much (personally) about branding. I would ask how soon an author should consider it if they have been attempting to write in diffferent genres-till they find comfort in one particular. I've a contemporary published but I'm now trying to get a historical taken on...
I loved making my book trailer though!

Terry Odell said...

SG - according to Angela James, you need to start establishing your brand even before you're published. Create a presence with a website, social networking. It's plugging YOU, not your book that's important.

Nancy - Angela also addressed this, and did suggest you stick to one genre at the start so your readers will know what to expect. But you can still try to make your name visible.

AquarianDancer said...

About trailers for books - I like the short, live action ones. Or even a cartoon-ish one. I just don't like the ones with over-dramatic voice-overs and "epic" music. It's just too much for me. The more realistic the trailer, the more likely I will look into a book. A trailer I don't like, however, will not deter me from reading a book, it will just make it less likely for me to go looking for it.

Karen A Smith said...

Great post. Very thought provoking. I have been a big proponent of author as brand (probably my corporate background. While the author is the brand, the book is the product and your brand must be based on quality product. Anybody remember the Ford Pinto? Once your brand is associated with quality (multiple books) then things can start to happen. On book trailers,I believe they are new and evolving. I encourage every author to view the trailer as your commercial. McDonald's does not expect that, immediately after their commercial, you will jump from your seat and run up to the highway for a Bic Mac. What they do expect that when you are driving down the highway and are hungry that you will choose the McDonald's brand instead of Burger King, Wendy's or (fill-in the blank) on the same stretch of road. The goal of the book trailer should be to get the reader to pick you when facing that shelf (physical or electronic.

Elizabeth C. Main said...

Branding makes perfect sense. Good to keep in mind, once you find the right brand. Hmm.

I've never bought a book because of a trailer, but it seem like a fun way to update your image and make sure you're in step with the next generation.

Just be glad you've finally made it to Pride and Prejudice. The writing amazes me each time I revisit it. How many books can produce that reaction time after time? Liz

Karen C said...

First of all, congratulations on winning the book trailer.

I enjoyed this post - I always learn so much here!

It's the author and the book blurb that do it for me. I've never bought a book based on the book trailer and don't normally watch them.

Terry Odell said...

Aquarian Dancer - I definitely go for short. I tend to look first at the time before deciding whether I want to watch a video. A minute is about my old brain's limit.

Elizabeth - I will confess P&P is a slogging read for me. I'm not much of a literary fiction reader to begin with, and the language of the time requires a lot of effort to 'translate'

Karen - thanks! Glad you find it worth your time to stop by the blog.
I had a very interesting chat with the Visual Quill people, since (not surprising) I'm kind out out of the box for them. We'll see what they come up with. I did stress short, even though I'm not paying for it.

Pat Marinelli said...

Great blog, Terry. Congrats on the win.

I agree about the branding.

And I have purchase a couple of books but authors I'd never read before because I checked out their trailer. I feel it needs to give me a peek into the book, be short, and interesting. can't wait to see yours.

Anne Ashby said...

I know nothing about trailers so will leave comments about them to those more knowledgeable. Branding yourself rather than your books makes perfect sense, and allows continual exposure between book releases. thanks for the post, and to all the responders - I enjoyed hearing their views too

Anne Ashby said...

I know nothing about trailers so will leave comments about them to those more knowledgeable. Branding yourself rather than your books makes perfect sense, and allows continual exposure between book releases. thanks for the post, and to all the responders - I enjoyed hearing their views too

Kathy said...

I understand the branding. Sort Of. I see what she is talking about. I see a book in a store and recognize the name. I'm more likely to buy one where I've seen the name or heard something about the book. Money plays the biggest factor in my choices. Sad to say but reality. I walk down the book aisle at Wal Mart or the PX or somewhere and go I have heard of this book or this author. I wish Ihad the dollars. I tell people so many books so little money. Trailers are cool in their own way.

Terry Odell said...

K. Victoria - don't know why I skipped responding to your comment. You've nailed it.

Pat - Thanks. I had a nice chat with the trailer people (that sounds funny!) and I have to remember I'm not my target audience!

Anne - thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll come back often.

Kathy - in "traditional" publishing having your name above the title and in a larger font means they're selling you, not your book. Would be nice to reach that status!

Calisa Rhose said...

Great post Terry. Congrats on the trailer win. I have several friends who make and use them. I haven't yet, but I think I might in the near future. But then, I'm a movie trailer liker. lol I think along with name, that personal appearance- how we act in public- is also part of our brand. I read a blog recently by an author I hadn't heard of before. Her mouth alone, the way she spoke so negatively of the publishing side of the business astounded me! Just that one blog determined that I will most likely never read her writing. If she has that much disrespect for editors and agents (no I don't have an agent by choice at this time) made me wonder how she feels about her readers? Other authors? Her friends? Family?? It wasn't the foul words she used- we all use one or two. It was the intent and content of which she spoke so harshly and...BAD of those entities we all need in one way or another to get published or promoted. She branded herself a bad egg for me. That one blog is all I will remember about her. Not her books (is she even published yet?), not her hardships getting published, not her life's dreams. And she doesn't care.

It's our job to portray someone those readers will want to read, want to meet, want to know about in a positive way. I try to do that with my writing and in my website/blog. If I never published, I had followers because I love people and respect this business in all aspects. No I don't have an agent, but who's to say one day I'll want one and she turns out to be an editor I bad mouthed, or that my next editor won't be an agent-I-offended-turned-editor? I don't want to be branded as a troublemaker, but a good and respectful writer.

Terry Odell said...

Calisa - good advice. We forget sometimes that even though we're alone with our computers, we're out in public as well.