Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Branding 101: What is Your Brand? by Patty Smith Hall

Over the next few months, I’ll be focusing on discovering and building your author brand. It’s one of the items I had listed on my New Year’s resolutions and an important one as I transition from historical romance to historical fiction. Before I get started, I want to give a shoutout to Brandy, Kristie, Hope and Christina from the North Georgia ACFW for their fantastic workshop on branding which is the basis of this article.

So, let’s get started.

The Entrepreneur/Small Business Encyclopedia defines branding as the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies you and differentiates a product from other products. An effective brand gives you a major edge in an increasingly competitive market.

Coke has their red and white cans, Nike has its swoosh, and just hearing Stephen King’s name makes you shake in your boots. That’s what a good brand does for you—it makes you stand out among your competition. But how can a writer do this, especially when there are fewer opportunities to make that personal connection with a reader?

We start by asking a question: who are you? Because your brand IS you. Let that sink in. It’s not your books or your short stories, or your magazine articles that make up your brand. It’s you, pure and simple, so you have to figure out who you are and what you offer to your readers that nobody else can.

Before we get too far into this, a piece of advice. Be you, the real you, not some fake replica. No one likes to discover someone they ‘thought they knew’ hasn’t been honest with them. Be truthful with yourself and your readers. In fact, telling them when you mess up makes them like you more. Why? Because they can identify with you! A few weeks ago, I put a video on Facebook about baking my first ham only to discover ¾ of it was fat! Not my brightest moment, but the responses I got were amazing, everything from reader’s own cooking disasters to encouragement. Trust your readers with the real you! They’ll appreciate you, warts and all if you always keep it honest.

So, who are you?

It’s a tough question, but one you need to answer if you want to develop a brand that sells books. I had a rough time with this, not because I don’t know who I am but the view I have of myself might not be what others think of me. Rather than rely on myself, I went to those I trusted the most. How would they describe me as a whole? Because they’ll see me as a reader would, and its readers I’m trying to attract.

Here are some of their answers:

1) Sweet, Kind; Faithful
2) Bible-thumping Feminist (my favorite!)
3) History nerd
4) Strong and independent; knows your own mind.
5) A bunny in a world full of wolves.
6) A steel magnolia

How can this list help me come up with a brand? Let’s narrow it down to three attributes. Because I write historical fiction, I feel it’s important that my readers know I’m a history buff who loves stories about the forgotten women in history. Also important is that people see me as strong and independent as it gives them a hint to the kind of characters I write.

The last characteristic is one I struggled with. Do I use my brand to tell the readers I write Christian Fiction? Even though the book I’m working on now has a spiritual thread, it would work in a secular market. Yet, many will hear that Christian fiction label and push it to the side. While I don’t want to misguide anyone, I also want to share my Christian worldview without being too preachy. I’m still praying on this one.

For now, my brand—what I want a reader to think of when they see my name is: A history nerd who loves writing stories about the strong, forgotten women who shaped history.

That’s me in a nutshell. So, tell me—who are you?

Next month: I have a brand—What do I do now?

An effective brand gives you a major edge in an increasingly competitive market. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #writingtips


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.