Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Protecting Your Brand by Patty Smith Hall

On Writer's Wisdom Wednesdays, we're excited to announce a new monthly blog post contributor. Please welcome Patty Smith Hall to Seriously Write. You'll read her posts on the third Wednesday of each month. Today, she's providing needed information about branding and how to protect yours. Welcome, Patty! ~ Sandy

When the news broke last week about the college admissions scandal, I was disappointed. One of the defendants plays a wonderfully wise woman on one of my favorite TV shows. It’s not just this show either—she’s played this kind of character throughout her 30+ year career with great success. How would her fans view her now?

She didn’t protect her brand.

What is branding?
As writers, one of the most important things that we do is build relationships with our readers, and as in any relationship, we must gain their trust. In order to do that, we must know who we are and what we can give them in our books. Author Fay Roberts believes “it’s a promise we make to our readers.” Author Debra Breese Marvin agrees. “It’s what your readers expect when they see you have a new book coming out.” Marilyn Turk, author in the upcoming novella collection, Crinoline Cowboys puts it this way, “Branding is your identity with the reader. It’s a commitment that you are who you say you are and write what you say you’ll write.

So how do you know what your brand is? Look for a common thread that’s weaved throughout your work. Author Janetta Fudge Messmer’s brand is comedy. “I can write in any genre but whatever I write has to have comedy in it. It’s what people expect.” For me, I write about strong women and their part in history. For example, my novella, A Cowboy of Her Own is based on Elizabeth Johnson Williams, one of the wealthiest cattlewomen in Texas. These kinds of stories play out in most of my 15 books.

Once you figure out your brand, it’s up to you to protect it.

How to Destroy Your Brand.
Remember the actress. Her brand was playing characters who walked the higher ground, the kind of person you wouldn’t mind leaving your kids with—for my daughters’ generation, she’s considered a favorite aunt. Yet, going forward, a large number of people won’t see anything other than her arrest which makes losing yourself in one of her movies difficult.

So, what are some ways to damage your brand?

1)Publishing before your manuscript is ready.
You’ve probably seen the reviews on Amazon, the ones that say something like ‘This would have been a great book, but all the misspelled words took me out of the story’ or worse still, ‘There were so many grammar errors, I couldn’t finish it.’


How can we expect to gain our readers’ trust if we don’t give them our very best? If we publish books full of grammar errors, passive writing or unclear conflict, what will the readers expect from us the next time? More of the same, which is why they’ll be saving their money!

Don’t rush to publish, and please don’t publish your first draft! Make sure everything that can be fixed is. Hire a content/copy editor. Run it through your critique group. Because in a writing career, first impressions are everything.

2) Stay with what the reader expects from you.
Recently, my dear friend and brainstorming buddy faced a dilemma. She was 30K into her next book, a fantastically dark tale we’d been talking about for months when she realized she had a problem. All of her previous published books featured slapstick comedy. If the book was published, what would her fanbase, people who loved her stories because they lifted their spirits, think about her latest offering?

We came to one conclusion. Her readers would feel like they’d had the rug pulled out from under them.

Which is exactly why Ane shelved it and started on something new. That’s how important living up to your brand is.

I love what author Faye Roberts said about it, ‘Brand yourself, not your books.’ Live out your promise to your readers. That’s what makes a writing career.


A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.