Branding

Craig here again. It’s a challenge to write these tips and tricks every time, because so many of the items are debatable. I hate to take a hard line stance, but I do for the sake of the comments that trickle in during the week. The topic today is branding.

Not that kind of branding. The kind where authors promote products. As you appear across cyberspace, what kind of recognizable materials do you use so the masses will recognize you? Chances are, you’ll have a blog, the popular social media accounts, and possibly a newsletter. What kind of branding do you use to tell people this is some of your work?

You will also make guest appearances on blogs, maybe blog talk radio, the occasional video of some kind. While these post are all different, your branding is what sews them all together as you – the author.

My first suggestion is to create one of those internet calling cards. The one I use is called a Gravitar. This is what posts when you like someone else’s article. This blog will have a row of them indicating who liked the post today. (God, I hope I get some.) In many cases, they also post when you leave a comment. Story Empire is set up this way.

These calling cards tell me who is interacting with our content. They also tell other readers. People like interaction, and I’ve gained many blog followers because I left a comment somewhere. I’ve also been known to click on the Gravitar and see if there may be some content out there I need in my regular feed.

I started off in the wrong direction. This is the first Gravitar image I ever used. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, but it didn’t do enough for me. Your mileage may vary, but once I decided that I am the brand, I changed my Gravitar. Now it’s an image of me, in a way.

About this same time, I started using a different banner image on my own blog. With my limited artistic skills, I’ve modified it over the past year to keep the blog fresh. The basic image is the same though. The island and the Moai never change, but I add things to freshen it up.

I may have screwed up when using an author photo. It’s probably better to pick one good image and use it consistently. I use three, but they’re all me.

If you look at my branding as a whole it gives a sense of whimsy, and that’s what I want. I like to include a bit of fun in my stories, even those that get pretty gritty.

In keeping with a bit of whimsy, I also promote using my original character, Lisa the robot girl. You met Lisa Burton in my last post with her whiteboard. My fans have taken to Lisa in a big way, so she gives me a different avenue to present my product.

This isn’t as easy as normal branding, and took me years to develop. Lisa has a spot on my blog called Lisa Burton Radio. She interviews the characters from other books (Maybe your book, just saying.) , and the author gets to provide a few purchase links and social media contacts. This has become a good spot and I get email from guests saying it helped them move copies of their books.

I also tend to weave my stuff together into a complex net. I have an image of Lisa with my Romanesque bust to use on my Facebook page. It gives a bit of familiarity. (oh yeah, that guy.) I will use characters from my novels in short stories. I’ve even woven my blog into the mix.

As an example, I included a Lisa Burton short story in my first Experimental Notebook. Then I included a section I called Intermission. Smack in the middle of the book, I wrote what amounts to a blog post introducing myself to the audience. Remember, it’s a collection of short fiction. You might not want to try this in a novel. Of course the books include links to my blog and other social media accounts.

I met L. Loren during one of Lisa’s interviews. I like the way she did her branding. She gave me permission to share it here. The image, the colors, and even her covers are consistent, and that’s what it’s all about.

One of the things L. Loren did was to allow room for growth. Her cartoon girl, the color scheme, even the fonts allow her to keep writing in her chosen genre, even after she works through The WanderLynn Experience. She could write another “LoveRotica” series with different characters, and still use the branding.

This brings me to series, and a bit of controversy. I see authors with a series or even single book Twitter account, maybe a Facebook page. Some of them are beautiful, but they pose some problems too.

First of all, a blog about a specific series doesn’t lend itself to anything else. While I’ve seen it done, hosting guest authors is a tougher sale. How much do you have to say about a single series? If that’s all you are going to post about, why should I follow that Twitter account? Those sites automatically have a shelf life, even if you don’t think about it today.

It also poses the question of how much you want to maintain. Do you really want a site and all the social media accounts for every series, stand alone book, or pen name you use? I don’t. The passwords alone would be maddening.

One of the secrets to content is to keep it fresh. Are you going to regularly update these sites, even after the last book publishes? Really? Do you promise?

This is the part where I have to lay down some rules. Feel free to debate them with me in the comments section, because nothing in writing is carved in stone.

Series branding should involve covers, book trailers, pinned tweets & Facebook posts. You’re going for consistency of theme here.

These are covers of my Experimental Notebooks. You can bet when I put out a third one, it will have three alchemy wheels, and probably will have an old worn out look to it.

Overall branding should involve you. Consider your own photo, and how you might get your individual voice across.

Branding should involve colors, graphics, fonts, and more – with an idea of consistency. Don’t forget relevance too. Black and pink tend to send different messages.

Branding involves thinking ahead. Will your series consist of three or ten volumes? Does that 90s glamour shot really do you justice today?

Don’t be afraid to give yourself a makeover. If you’ve given something a shot, don’t feel like it’s ’till death do you part. If you redo the whole thing, troop it all out en mass. Branding is largely about consistency. Tony the Tiger has been selling Frosted Flakes for over 60 years. On the other hand, Met-Life fired Snoopy, but they’re still around.

Look at other branding. You might learn something from Captain Crunch, the NFL, or the ATT girl. What about the Kardashians? They’ve managed to hold onto the spotlight for a long time, and even if you hate them, you know who they are.

You’re better off to have some branding, even if you don’t go crazy with it. Lots of branding lends itself to expansion later on. Lisa the robot girl didn’t start off with her own radio show, regular appearances on my blog, and guest appearances to promote my stories. She started out as the main character in a novel I was promoting. Keep your mind open to new ideas.

So what are your opinions on branding? Am I off my rocker? (Let’s limit that to branding, shall we.) Do you have another take on the idea? I’d love to learn more in the comments.

C. S. Boyack
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83 thoughts on “Branding

  1. Excellent post, Craig, with good tips. I’ve been thinking about how to do my branding, but not really sure how to approach it. You’ve got some great points, especially the one about being more “generic”, something that doesn’t lock you into a series or a single title. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Totally agree with your points. I see authors who set up separate FB pages for each book, and I think, “Wow. That won’t be easy to continue.” Consistency, as you say, is key, IMHO. If I were to start slamming my blog followers with endless reblogs and book promos, I’d probably lose half my list. It’s a blessing and a curse to have a narrow focus. Crime truly is my passion so it’s all good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have some of what are called “Trunk Novels.” When I wrote Lisa’s novel, it was the first good character arc I was able to pull off. It may be a little rough around the edges, but I’m still proud of it. I’ve improved my game since then. I didn’t start using her to promote with until several other novels were published. All I did then was a teensy bit of backfill with the paper dolls you can get on my blog site.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great blog, Craig, and right up my alley. I’ve spent a good deal of my time learning about marketing (which by the way never interested me in another life). The tips you offer here are solid. EVERY author, whether self-published or traditionally published must create a brand. I agree with several other comments above about branding yourself and not a particular genre. For instance, my four books are true stories, but now I’m writing my first fiction. So, I have to brand me as an author and not a genre. I commend you on the great job you’ve done in creating a great blog with various aspects like the Lisa Burton radio show. I’ve learned lots from you. Thank you for sharing this. Good stuff!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I read this post with great interest. I am very new to the whole published book and blogging area (only 7 months since I published my first children’s book). I definitely see your point about branding and I think I instinctively new some of it due to my job but I found this article set it out very succinctly and that is very helpful.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Reblogged this on and commented:

    If you’ve ever heard me talk about my life in the corporate sector, you know I used to specialize in corporate identity. For writers, you might recognize this as branding. Today, at Story Empire, C. S. Boyack discusses branding for the fiction writer. I hope you check it out and maybe start or join a discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve been reading about branding lately, so your post really grabbed me, Craig. You’re absolutely right about book covers in a series being consistent – your Experimental Notebook series and Mae’s Point Pleasant series are perfect examples.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Reblogged this on From the Pen of Mae Clair and commented:

    Remember when I goofed up my Monday Buzz post for Story Empire? I had the wrong topic listed and the wrong blogger. Well, as promised, C. S. Boyack, has the helm of the Empire today and he’s got a great article about branding. It’s informative and quirky all at the same time. Hop over and see what Craig has to say…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love branding and I do work to be consistent on it with my gravatar and even my headers across social media channels. I use the same fonts, the same graphic images, and have a tag line (although it could use tweaking). Part of my day job is to build brands for the people I work with, so I’m conscious of how important it is.

    When it comes to book covers, the bulk of mine have been through a publisher, but I think they’ve done a great job with consistent branding.

    When I started writing, I began as a romance writer using a mystery/paranormal slant, so my branding reflected that. Since then I’ve switched genres to mystery/suspense, with a slight touch of romance. As a result I had to redo all of my branding and start over again. Fortunately, I’ve been in this niche/genre for a few years now, so I’m settled. It’s interesting though…when I did switch genres many of the original author/bloggers I followed on social faded away. We kept in touch for a while with blog visits, but eventually crickets were heard. I guess that means I’ve done my new branding well. I guess it also means I’ve effectively transitioned to a new genre!

    Liked by 5 people

  10. With a BA in Graphic Design and as the daughter of a traditional signwriter/painter I really ought to be better at branding myself – but I’m not. Well, to be truthful it’s more I haven’t been, but I’m trying to do better. I think that your approach to your brand is wonderful because it’s organic and it evolves. It also matches how your ‘onion skin’ your books and how they’re eclectic and quirky – that’s always interesting.
    With my own blogs (I have two now, (one for my fantasy genre pen name Sian Glirdan and the other Jan Hawke INKorporated for indie author support themes) I currently putting on more personal imagery using fantasy tarot deck designs I did several years back. The major arcana are featured on the background of Sian’s blog and the minor arcana court cards are going on INKorporated. One of the best moves I made with those 2 WordPress blogs was to go onto a Premium Plan and get a .me domain. This, amongst other things, allows you to really go to town with the customising and, spread over a year it’s not too expensive to run.
    I’m in 2 minds about book blogs. I have them, but only use them as static advertising for the material to put on flyers and swag and so they’re more like permanent window displays that I link to from my ‘proper’ blogs.whenever I want to do a promo – the basic info doesn’t change so I agree.that bespoke book blogs are high maintenance as they’re one trick ponies and difficult to refresh.
    Reblogging & sharing now! πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 6 people

      • I’m ashamed to say that I don’t spend a great deal of time on either of them. The Sian blog is mostly about me and my tastes, and INKorporated is all about author support. That might change if I ever do another ‘mainstream’ or non-fantasy oriented again under Jan Hawke, but I’m tending to do most of my general interest and re-blogging on there for the foreseeable.
        Sian’s blog is much more on the ‘otherworldly’ side of things, so that’s reflected in the content and guests I’ll have on there, especially if they do speculative or sci-fi type stuff. πŸ˜€
        However, I think needing 2 blogs is mostly about keeping my multiple personalities in their assigned zones… πŸ˜›

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Great post, Craig. Like Harmony, I don’t do well with promotion, but I’m slowly learning the ropes. I agree that building your brand is important. And I like the consistency of designing the covers for your Notebook series. I struggled for months to come up with a good title for my newest release before finally deciding on Unseen Motives. By the time I finished the first draft, I knew I had two more books for the series. (I originally planned it as a stand-alone novel.) So, I wanted the titles to have a cadence. Fortunately, I was able to decide on the upcoming titles, Unknown Reasons, and Unclear Purposes. The titles, along with similarity in cover design brand them as my Driscoll Lake Series.

    And as for our personal gravatar, I use the same photo across social media sites. People know it’s me, and when the time comes to update to a new photo, I’ll make the changes accordingly

    Thanks for sharing these great tips today.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Thanks for this post, Craig. Promoting is where I don’t do so well. I hate talking about myself too. However, being a multi-genre author, I’ve had to brand myself rather than a particular book theme. I agree with your point that making a website and twitter account based on one book or a series will eventually leave you pigeonholed. Branding a blog or website is a good idea. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

    • You, Staci, and I are multi genre authors. I think it makes more sense to make the branding about us in that case. It is hard to talk about ourselves. Being self published is a double-edged sword. We get complete control, but we have complete control.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I was going to write my own comment, but I saw my name here, so here’s where I’ll chime in.

        I think it’s beneficial for writers (single- or multi-genre) to brand themselves rather than their work. Mostly for the reasons you’ve already mentioned—social media maintenance, identity across books and/or genres, stagnation of topic.

        Where I kind of disagree from where these comments have gone is the difference between branding and marketing. It’s kind of the “all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs” thing. To me, branding is definitely a huge component to marketing. Marketing, however, entails much more than brand.

        When I worked in the corporate sector, I was often in charge of branding. We called it corporate identity. Everything from Pantone colors, size of logo, font(s)… even the style guide factored into branding. That identity was incorporated into every correspondence the company made—websites, direct mailings, brochures, ads, etc. I was obsessed with brand consistency then, and I still am. That’s why all my covers show my name in the same font (except for the first book published, but that was a different publisher and a LONG story). Why all my social media platforms have the same color scheme. Why my different series all have the same look across the titles. (Cathedral Lake a bold color, a single iconic image, a title pattern of word-and-word. Medici Protectorate has the title in colored marble, a landscape and a couple, and a two-word title.) When it comes to identity, I get it. And I’m pretty sure I’ve established a consistent and recognizable one for myself.

        Marketing is another story. I don’t like to toot my own horn, I haven’t figured out how to design an effective ad and where/when to run one, and I haven’t mastered how to use the best keywords and categories to assure my place on the bestsellers list. That’s marketing. A different finger from the thumb that is branding.

        I do, however, think branding is important (clearly). It’s one part of marketing that is easy to master, and I think all writers can probably do so with little effort in the grand scheme of things.

        Great post, Craig. I’ve reblogged and shared on social media.

        Liked by 5 people

  13. I think branding is really important, but so hard to do. Requires a lot of experimentation and has that risk of pigeonholing. If your brand is one series or genre then it’s a challenge to branch out. So maybe it’s better to go for an author brand, which is tough for anyone who doesn’t like talking about themselves. There’s some level of extroversion required for this step. It’s also where agents would come in handy. At least for those of us that simply stumble along and want to get to the writing side of things.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Well, an interesting, thought provoking post, Craig.
    I sometimes thought about branding but never did anything. Regarding covers it’s an impossible thing as I have books with different publishers and even if I have a word in designing them , the result may differ. But branding the blog may be a solution.
    Thanks for sharing this quite complicated but, in the end, efficient tip !

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your books don’t have to fit with the overall brand, but if they are a series they should have a brand across the series. You can still look to your author brand so that all of your promotional efforts are recognizable as your material.

      Liked by 2 people

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