Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Power of Author Branding with Jenn Stark

First off, thank you so much to Tina for inviting me to be a part of Seekerville! I’ve been voraciously reading many of your past posts and have found the site to be an outstanding resource for anyone with a love of writing.

Today I’m here to talk about Author Branding, which is a real passion of mine. So, I’ll spend just a bit of time on the overview of what Branding is, then jump right into how you can make YOUR Author Brand work for you.

And for those of you who don’t know me, a quick caveat: While I get very excited about Branding, I want to emphasize that the best part of the Branding process is that it should be FUN. The only reason to have a Brand is to engage your audience, and since YOU are your most important audience to start, you need to be engaged from the beginning. So this is not an all-serious-all-the-time, get-your-pencils-and-notebooks-out-and-buckle-down kind of experience. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy the process!
So, what is a Personal Brand…and an Author Brand?

I define an individual's “Personal Brand” as a brief, memorable statement of yourself that identifies you to your audience. This can be a two-to-three word description, or a saying or slogan that presents you uniquely to the world. For those of you who don’t think you already have a Brand—I’m here to tell you that this is not the case! If you interact memorably with any audience, whether it’s your family, your business peers, your agent or editor or your readers, you have a Brand: it’s simply the two or three words that jump to their minds when they think of you.

Need an example? For those of you who watch “American Idol”, there was a certain performer a few weeks ago who auditioned in swimwear. If two words sprang to mind when you thought of this performer, bingo: You have her Brand. Now, we can spend a LOT of time arguing about whether or not this singer’s Brand choice was a smart one for her, but bottom line… if you’re watching the show at all, you probably remember this particular girl. Which means her Branding effort worked, at least to get her noticed.

For Authors and Writers, our Branding process doesn’t generally involve swimwear (although it could!) Instead, we Brand ourselves in two ways, with our:

Industry Brand (how we present ourselves to the publishing world, industry peers, and our readers) and our

Writing Brand (how we present our work to the publishing world, industry peers and our readers). Writing Brands usually answer the question, “So, what do you write?” and often include a slogan.

In both cases, you want to ensure that your Brand is positive, engaging and memorable.
For a writing-related example, let’s consider the Brand of fictional author Madeleine Midnight, whom I use in my classes. Madeleine writes Vampire Chick Lit, and she’s known to throughout the publishing industry as someone who presents herself in a sophisticated, elegant manner—and that she always gets the job done. So, what’s her Author Brand? Let’s break it down.

Based only on what I’ve said above, we can safely assume Madeleine’s Industry Brand (which is all about Madeleine as a person) might be “Sharp, Elegant Professional.” As for her Writing Brand (which is all about Madeleine’s work) we could go with “Vampire Chick-Lit” which is snappy on its own. Or, if Madeleine wanted to get a bit more intense, we could amp it up to: “Darkly Humorous, Stylish Fiction for the Vampire Hunter in All of Us”. EITHER approach works, it all depends on how Madeleine wants to convey herself to her audience. And as for Madeleine’s slogan, she has a fondness for: “Wine, Candlelight… and a Well Done Stake.”
So, to recap the Brands for Madeleine Midnight

Industry Brand: “Sharp, Elegant Professional” Writing Brand: “Vampire Chick-Lit” OR “Darkly Humorous, Stylish Fiction for the Vampire Hunter in All of Us”
Slogan: “Wine, Candlelight… And a Well-Done Stake.”

Get the idea? Now… Think about your own Brand, and consider ways you can make it really sparkle!
Making the Most of your Author Brand
Once you’ve created an Industry Brand and Writing Brand for yourself, how can you express it to your best advantage? The following is just a brief list of Branding Opportunities, broken down by Brand type:

Industry Brand

Your Personal Appearance/Demeanor at

  • Booksignings
  • Conferences or other Industry Social Events
  • Pitch Meetings with your Agent/Editor
  • Monthly Meetings with your chapter
  • Volunteer Activities

Your Online Demeanor in…

  • Blogs (I could spend HOURS on just this topic)
  • Online Yahoo! Groups
  • Online Classes
  • Your Website (via your author photo) or Blogsite
  • Your MySpace or other social networking page
Writing Brand
  • Your STORY (Your work is ALWAYS the most important part of your Writing Brand!)
  • Your Website
  • Your Pitch Materials (including your Blurb, your Query Letter, your Business Card if you have one, etc.)
  • Your Promo Materials (if you’re published)
  • Your MySpace/social networking page or Blogsite to the extent that it focuses on your Writing
  • Your In-Person Pitch—in other words, how well can you define and describe your story? This is part of your Writing Brand!
IMPORTANT: While the possibilities to promote your Brand (and yourself) can seem endless, they do not (and should not) become prohibitively expensive. And much of what you should do depends on where you are in the writing process.

For example, if you’re just starting the process of writing your first book—you don’t need a website. However, if you are actively marketing and promoting your work, a website can be very useful. This does not mean it must be EXPENSIVE, however. You can create your site yourself, or use a template provider, or seek the services of a web designer. You can even use a MySpace page to start if you choose. But in today’s wired world, some sort of web presence is becoming the norm, rather than the exception, for actively marketing writers.

When can your Author Brand come in handy?

Still on the fence about whether or not you want to take the time to create a standout Author Brand? In the past several months I’ve fielded questions on several Black-Belt Branding Situations… Here’s just one:

Situation X: What if I get a writing opportunities outside of my Brand, i.e., “Hey, how about dashing off a Vampire historical novella for me?”

In the publishing industry, the game is to stay published—with new work coming out on a consistent and meaningful basis. Therefore, it’s extraordinarily difficult to turn down writing opportunities even when they come out of left field. But what if you get an offer to do something that is completely off-Brand for you?

Generally speaking, it’s too facile to say “don’t do it—it’s not your Brand” without first exploring the possibility. There are of course some offers that are clean cut “no’s” – an erotica writer getting the chance to write inspirational fiction under the same name?? NO. But in just about every other case, your options are more flexible than you may realize. After all, you’re a professional writer—you’re paid to make new ideas work.
That said, it’s smart to make sure your Brand remains consistent in your new venture. Here’s how:

1. Consider your Brand first and foremost. What are the key elements of it? What makes you different or sets you apart? If you write gritty, detailed fiction with an edge of humor, can you do that as well within the dictates of the anthology or new writing opportunity?

2. Consider the writing opportunity next. Is this a good opportunity for you to work with other authors, bring in a new audience, meet new publishing professionals? Chances are, it is. But it is still an extension of your Brand, so consider the opportunity carefully. Generally speaking, you should not extend your Brand downward – for example, electing to do a self-published venture with a group of new writers, writing under the same pen name you use for your multi-published self. If the writing opportunity is a lateral move into a new genre with writers you respect OR if it’s a step up in either a new genre or your existing one, however, go after it.

This one seems obvious, but you may be surprised at the opportunities you’ll face that are downwardly mobile. Sometimes, these do make sense to do. For example, you may choose to work with writers who are not as far along as you to help them—and that is definitely a good karma decision. However, make sure that you are also spending significant time working on opportunities that will maintain and further your career, to keep things balanced.

3. If you make the preliminary decision to move forward, your next step is to consider how to incorporate the new work into your overall Brand/promotions. This means adapting/updating your site, potentially creating marketing materials, and highlighting the new project in your media kit. If you feel squidgy about this, like you’re not certain you *want* to incorporate this Brand extension, you may want to reconsider the project. You should be proud of all the work you do under your Brand name—even before you start writing word one.

4. If you’re still gung-ho about it after the first 3 steps, move forward with confidence and really make this fresh incarnation of your Brand work for you!

This is just one example, but bottom line: If you create an Author Brand that you love, it will not only help you present your work effectively—it can help you make decisions about your Writing Career that will have far-reaching impact on your work and success.
Questions, any Questions???

I thoroughly enjoy everything about Branding, so if you have any questions or would like additional information, ask away!


Jenn Stark brings a practical, accessible approach to Personal Branding to help authors at every level present themselves for maximum impact. A former vice president of marketing and communications with sixteen years' experience and a published freelance business writer, Jenn is currently the immediate past president of the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America, and has also served as the chapter's publicity director, promoting chapter and author events. She is an invited speaker and instructor on Personal Branding and public relations topics, and has worked with several authors one-on-one to help develop their Personal Brands and publicity materials. Her articles on Personal Branding have been featured in the newsletters and online loops of more than 30 writing chapters in the U.S., Canada and Australia. She can be reached at


Tina M. Russo said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jenn. I am thrilled you accepted our invitation to be our guest.

By the way guests of Seekerville, Jenn also happens to be a 2007 Golden Heart finalist.

Today we have an assortment of warm bagels, whipped cream cheeses, fruit bowls and hot java.

Jenn, tell us a bit about the road to becoming a branding guru. Your website is like and encyclopedia --I keep going back and keep finding more and more new information. You are very generous with your tips and techniques.

Cathy S. said...


Thanks for the fascinating information on branding.

I've studied this to an extent and am wondering if it is possible to have a brand that is more broad and still make it work.

Can a brand cross over to a writer's nonfiction and fiction work? Going out on a limb here, could it be something like XYZ author, Powerfully Positive Enthusiasm Unleashed.
Is it always tied to a genre?

I'm also interested in how branding relates to blogging. Could you expound on that a bit? Does it go beyond the name of the blog and include things like the "voice" the blog is in, maybe the graphics and other things too? For example, people want to get to know bloggers, but perhaps not too much emotions of the ups and downs of feelings should be shown?

Is being controversial good or bad?

Sorry for so many questions :)

Jenn Stark said...

Hello everyone!

A quick note to all--this might get fixed so if it looks good, ignore this bit.

However, to clarify one of the bulleted lists, the Branding Opportunities for Writing Brands (as opposed to Industry Brands) include:

--Your STORY (Your work is ALWAYS the most important part of your Writing Brand!)
--Your Website
--Your Pitch Materials (including your Blurb, your Query Letter, your Business Card if you have one, etc.)
--Your Promo Materials (if you’re published)
--Your MySpace/social networking page or Blogsite to the extent that it focuses on your Writing
--Your In-Person Pitch—in other words, how well can you define and describe your story? This is part of your Writing Brand!



Jenn Stark said...

Tina, thank you again for inviting me! :)

I first became interested in Branding as a corporate communications and marketing wonk, and developed an affinity for "reBranding" products or services that just weren't striking a chord with consumers. Personal Branding became a passion of mine about a decade ago, as I realized how MUCH we can influence others' perception of us, through adopting a few simple but consistent changes in our appearance, demeanor, life choices and style. I taught Personal Branding to sales professionals, financial services CEOs, and entrepreneurs--as well as (of course!) authors. Especially in today's tight market, developing a strong personal Brand is a terrific way to set yourself apart from other authors.

Thanks for your question, and I'm glad you enjoy my site! :)


Julie Lessman said...

WOW, Jenn, I would have to say that this is one of the most helpful blogs that I personally have had the pleasure of reading on Seekerville -- I guess because I am at a place where I am very curious about branding. So THANK YOU for the valuable information!

And thank you for explaining the difference between writing brand and slogan -- I had to admit that I was a bit muddled about those two, but you cleared it up. I am an edgy Inspirational romance writer, which I now know is my brand, according to your example. My slogan or tag line is "Passion With a Purpose," which I originally assumed was my brand, so thank you for educating me!

And I had to laugh at your example of not mixing brands, such as an erotic author writing Inspirational. My editor asked me if I could write Amish (since Amish stories are so incredibly popular right now), and I was thrown for a loop. I remember blinking once or twice as we sat face to face on a sofa in a hotel lobby, incredulous that someone who writes "edgy" romance would be asked to write squeaky-clean Amish stories. I simply stared at her wide-eyed and said, "I don't know -- is there such a thing as edgy Amish? Now I'm thinking that's one mixing of brands that might be a wee bit too dangerous for me!


lynnrush said...

Great post. Very helpful. This gives me some ideas.... **smile**

Jenn Stark said...

Cathy, these are GREAT questions!

The most powerful Brands start out very focused and then can be extended. Think Nike -- that brand started out with a fellow who made a new kind of running shoe by utilizing his wife's waffle iron. Nike shoes developed a cult-like following among runners, and the legend was born. Today, however, Nike is such a powerful brand that you could slap it on a keychain that has nothiing to do with sports--and it STILL will define you as a fitness fanatic. But it started off SMALL, became powerful with a core group of passionate people, and then expanded.

That said, I'm often asked about creating an "umbrella" brand that covers multi-genre fiction -- or, in your case, that covers both fiction and nonfiction. The short answer is: this is America, and you can do anything--seriously. You can. HOWEVER, to make a multi-genre Brand work, you need to find another hook that is powerful and distinctive enough to really set you apart -- and then your work must live up to the promise of this Brand. So, in your case of Powerfully Positive Enthusiasm Unleashed, your fiction and non-fiction needs to be seriously THE MOST powerfully positive, off-the-chain enthusiastic writing I've ever come across. If it is, you are off to the races. If it is not, you've got a bit of work to do before you can really "own" this Brand.

With most new authors, multi-genre branding is difficult, simply because editors and agents (and readers) want to be able to categorize you quickly and memorably. With multi-published authors, it is an easier transition, because you have a built-in following. As long as you hit on key elements of your work that appear in all genres, you are solid.

Does that make sense?

Branding and blogging is a topic that literally could take up days :) but I will try to be succinct in answering your questions!

The look and name of the blog is part of its Branding elements, no question--but a blog's biggest impact is in the tone and content of its posts. For authors, a blog is a tool for outreach to anyone who hits your site, whether that's readers, publishing professionals, industry peers, or your neighbor Bob.

Where blogs get dicey is when an author forgets that they are creating a public persona with this tool. The internet is forever--so whatever you blog about can be searched for pretty much the rest of time. The internet is also unkind -- sarcasm, irony, and innuendo that seem BRILLIANT in your head and even in conversation often don't translate well online.

And to your question of how much personal detail is too much? That is, to some extent, a matter of personal preference, but if I was counseling a client, I would say to go very light on the personal detail UNLESS it figures into your writing. If you write confessional women's fiction, then by all means include detailed accounts of your home life -- or if you're a humor writer, then absolutely share humorous anecdotes (that are not necessarily super personal, but give us a glimpse into your world). But don't post anything that you don't want included in someone's Brand perception of you.

And controversy absolutely 1000% drives traffic. It gets you noticed and remembered -- I mentioned the American Idol hopeful above... she was definitely controversial -- and noticed and remembered. HOWEVER -- controversy is a double-edged sword. So unless your Brand is one of being controversial, I would tread very lightly with it. If you want to make your name as an outspoken, controversial writer (and you might! it's certainly a viable approach for writers of
political satire, for example), then by all means, sally forth. Otherwise... I would personally steer clear.

I hope that helps! Sorry for the long response!


Jenn Stark said...


I had to laugh with your post--I'm sure there is such a thing as edgy Amish, but I would not have a clue where to begin! This definitely would be a situation of using your Brand to help guide your career decisions.

I'm glad my post was helpful!


Jenn Stark said...

Lynn, thanks for commenting--any time I can make someone smile in thinking about their work and their Brand, I feel like I'm doing my job. :)


Nancy said...

Jenn, this is another wonderful post, and you are the Mistress of Branding!

Taking your Branding class a few years ago was incredibly helpful, and, with your guidance, I came away with a brand that will work for nearly everything I plan to write. Beach Books with Bite! I still get great comments about it!

Nancy Haddock
La Vida Vampire
Last Vampire Standing

Tina M. Russo said...

Nancy, welcome to Seekerville. I love the titles of your books.

Jenn, tell us a little about what you write. Congrats on being a 2007 GH finalist (my class too). We have lots of GH finalists in Seekerville...Missy, Pam, me, Myra, Julie, Janet.

Missy Tippens said...

Jenn, thank you so much for being here today! I worked and worked and came up with my slogan. But after reading your great post, I've realized I haven't followed through on my blog and website. Mostly because I've just used templates available but need to bite the bullet and hire someone to design something for me.

Thanks for the reminder and all the great info!! I've got work to do. :)


Missy Tippens said...

I just thought of a question, too.

My slogan is Faith, Family and Finding Mr. Right. It reflects what my books are about. But I'm wondering about a tie in to my website and blog. If I use that slogan, should my website and blog focus more on faith and family (in addition to my books)? Does that slogan kind of become a theme?


Mary Connealy said...

I have come up with and discarded in written slogans to tack under my signature line... many times.

I just never come up with something I love.

I think of myself as a romantic comedy writers.

Mostly it's westerns so maybe:
Romantic Comedy with Cowboys.

I fool with that but never quite get something that doesn't make me flinch.

Slapstick Stetsons

Lasso and Laughter

I have written several books outside the western genre, but the comedy always comes along with the story...I can't seem to stop that.

But from now on it's almost strictly westerns so I guess I should emphasize that.

Romantic Comedy Round-up

Whacky Wild West Romance (shudder)

That brand...A Good so snappy and well done I envy that and I AM a writer. You'd think I could come up with something.

Awed by Odd

Laughing at Love

Love that Makes you Laugh

I keep hoping one of these days I'll get a lightning strike of something hysterical but in the meantime, I just slap my website under my name and leave it there.

Any thoughts? Anyone?

Sarcastic Love
Ironic Romance
Live, Love, Laugh

Jenn Stark said...

Nancy--hello to you as well! And to all, Nancy's books are every bit as delightful and intriguing as she is, so I encourage you to check them out! :)

Tina, thanks for the Golden Heart shoutout--it looks like I'm in great company! I write Dark, Romantic Urban Fantasy, and I'm just about to launch my revamped website that will mark a return to an all-paranormal focus for me. For anyone who includes contact links on this blog, I'll email you a link when the new site is up so you can see the look I created with my web designer Liz Bemis to showcase my Brand as an urban fantasy writer. :) It was a terrific experience, and I hope you enjoy the results!


Jenn Stark said...

Missy, hello!

Happily, there are no "must do's" in Branding--other than loving the Brand you've created. But incorporating your Brand and slogan into your site and blog is a wonderful way to really drive home what you are all about as a writer. With a slogan of "Faith, Family and Finding Mr. Right" (alliteration--LOVE IT for creating memorable, engaging slogans!) you absolutely could expand your blog focus to topics on Faith and Family to the extent that it shares a part of you that you want to make public. As a reader, I'd get to know you a bit better, and really connect with you -- and therefore, it's likely I'd connect with your writing as well.

So yes, a slogan can definitely serve as a theme for you -- that may not work for all authors, but in your case, I definitely see the possibilities there.

Thank you for your question! :)


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jenn. Thanks for the info packed post! I've been confused by the difference between brand and slogan. I'll ponder all your excellent points and see what I can come up with for both.


Mary Connealy said...

lighthearted love

wrangling wranglers (that sounds kinda wrong...kinda Brokeback if you know what I mean)

comedy with cattlemen

Cowboy comedy

oh, I know: Kowboy Komedy --How annoying is that? :)

Fun on the farm

Mary Connealy said...

humorous historicals

witty westerns

love that makes you laugh

Erica Vetsch said...

Fabulous information. I hadn't really thought through the differences between your writing brand and your industry brand.

Thanks to the Seekerville ladies for finding such informative, knowledgable, and entertaining guests.

Jenn Stark said...

Mary, don't give up! You are absolutely on the right path.

A lot depends on what type of romantic humor you write--is it slapstick or wry, does it overtake the romance or is the romance more important? In addition to "Cowboy Comedies", which was just posted, I also came up with "Rollicking Western Romance" -- and *importantly* if you don't like what someone else comes up with that is actually a good thing -- it helps you see what you DO and DON'T want in your Brand. Make sense?

Then comes the slogan. Sadly, most of the ones I come up with are slightly dirty :) but sit back and have fun with it! You could go with "Get back in the saddle with Mary Connealy" or "Romance worth shucking your boots for" or "I roped that steer for this?" ... yes, I know those are maybe NOT what you had in mind, lol, but loosen up your thinking to what makes you smile, and then hone it down to something that sizzles.

You could have a fairly straightforward Brand and an over the top slogan, or both could be funny. It's all up to you.

Enjoy the process, and thank you for your post!


Mary Connealy said...

Slogan and Brand are different.

Okay, yes, you said that didn't you.

I kind of like Rollicking. I'm trying to keep it short and that's three syllables.

Love that Spurs

Spurred by Love

Rollicking Western Romance is nice.

Maybe I should just go with that. My brain is a little overheated at this point and I've exhausted my online thesaurus.

Mary Connealy takes you for a wild west ride.

Romance that takes you for a ride.

Mary Connealy said...

Once you've lassoed your man, then what?

Men, you lasso 'em, hogtie 'em and then what?

Once you've put your brand on a man, then you're stuck with him for life.

Men, once branded twice shy

Men and women, and a love round-up.

By the way, today is my 32nd anniversary.

15 of the happiest years of my life.

Jill Nutter said...

Hi Jenn!
I saw that you were visiting so I came over to ask a question.
During our lovely snow storm I developed my first and only blog. I have to admit it took me forever to set it up, but I love it.

I know that it seems everyone is blogging. Is it worth it for those of us that are not published yet? Or should we just have fun?

And what are the best ways to incorporate my blog, website and facebook when I'm not yet published? Does it matter?

Tina M. Russo said...

Wow, Jill, great question.

I wonder about that at times also.

Then lets add Twitter etc, etc.

What is your input Jenn on those sites that offer to consolidate all your groups and social platforms for you?

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hi Jenn, what a thought provoking post.

I put 'Stories to Stir Your Heart' on the top of my blog as my slogan/tag line. I write romance but I cross genres from inspy to sweet secular. I've written contemporary and historical and am now writing suspense. So, Stories to Stir Your Heart seemed to be a nice umbrella.

But now to the hard part. I don't know how people actually see me. A lot of the Seekers have actually seen me at the ACFW conf but I have no idea what image they took away with them, or even if they remember me most as an umpubbed writer or a fan.

I have a blog presence but is it more for my writing or my book reviews?

Hey...maybe I should put a survey on my blog and ask what people think of me... no, my brothers would probably be the only ones to answer...

Thanks, Jenn.

Missy Tippens said...

Thank you so much, Jenn! I appreciate the input. I have a friend who's a graphic artist. I think maybe it's time to get her to design me something for my website and blog.

Thanks again for all the great info!

Missy Tippens said...

See, Mary, whatever you do is funny! Even brainstorming a slogan! You always make me laugh.

How about:
Mary Connealy...making you laugh

I actually really like Live, Love, Laugh
Or Romance that Makes you Laugh

And I like Jenn's Rollicking Western Romance. Or even just Rollicking Romance


Missy Tippens said...

OMGosh, Mary. I just saw your anniversary comment!!!

My hubby heard me cackling and wants to know if it's the first 15 or more recent 15. :)


Mary Connealy said...

My husband doesn't do Internet, so I'm safe having fun at his expense.

I hope!!!

Ruth and Lacey said...

Oh, man.

Jenn's got Mary thinking. We're in serious trouble here!

Jenn, this was a great post. You laid it out so succinctly for us that it seems obvious and why didn't the majority of us just 'see' this before?

Wonderful clarity. Thank you so much for stopping by and hanging out.

And Tina must really like you because she brought food. I mean, REAL food, like bagels. Fruit. Whipped cream cheese. Oh mylanta, she's puttin' on the dog for you, girlfriend.

I'm just getting started on recreating a website, so this post is a huge help in directing me how I should go. I like being funny, which often comes off as rude or sarcastic, so your caution is well taken. I'm taking that to heart as I plunge into cyberspace.

And super congrats on the '07 GH!!! That's awesome. From the sound of your new website, you're working to solidify your own brand and focus. So is your urban fantasy more of a Fifth Element style or Enchanted????

Let me just say I'm addicted to Enchanted. Not because of Patrick Dempsey, either, although I don't OBJECT to Patrick in any way, shape or form, but...

Giselle's character, the supporting cast and the NYC setting was wonderful. I keep searching for flaws from a writer's pov and can't find any. The whole thing just plain works for me.

So is your urban fantasy done in a futuristic vein or time travel or what???? Fill us in, give us bits and pieces. We're okay with you plugging here.

And hey, pass me a sun-dried tomato bagel, would you? With plain cream cheese, I think. I toted along a fresh batch of my famous rice pudding, thick and custardy. Perfect for an all-American winter's afternoon.

Dig in, guys. Whipped cream's alongside the cream cheese.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh mylanta, it's really me, not me and Lacey. God love her, she has know idea how often she gets credit (or blame) for my online fun!

Poor Lacey. Shh... We won't tell her.


Jenn Stark said...

Jill, thanks for your post and question--and congratulations on your blog!

Whether you are unpubbed or pubbed, a blog can be a great outreach tool--but one that should be managed wisely. Don't use all of your writing time with your blog!

That said, if you're going to have a blog, you should advertise it on your website/face book pages (and you should advertise your site/face book on your blog.) let your friends and peers know when you are blogging to get the word out.

By and large, however, I would not stress too much about getting massive readership on your blog if you are unpubbed unless and until you are using your blog as a forum in its own right. For instance, let's say you have a cause you are promoting via your blog--well then, you want readership, and so promoing your blog makes more sense. Otherwise, just blog regularly and keep it consistent with your Brand, and when readers find you with your first book, they'll enjoy getting to know you :).

One great way to build readership, of course, is to guest blog on other popular blogs (like... Seekerville!) on occasion, to drive traffic to your own private blog (or, eventually, to promo your books) :)

Hope this helps!

Jenn Stark said...

Tina, in the followup to Jill's question--I applaud ANY site that helps you consolidate social networking sites. Those can quickly get out of hand and--again, I can't stress enough--do NOT get bogged down in networking to the detriment of your writing time. I launched a myspace page that I subsequently completely ignored (sigh) because I just didn't want to focus on that until I had my next book ready to query. The moment I submit, though, I'll update it (and, actually, switch it over to my new look) and incorporate its maintenance into my regular schedule.

What consolidation sites have you seen out there, actually? I would love to check them out to form a recommendation for the future!


Jenn Stark said...


You raise an outstanding point--how do you know what your Brand really is? You know what you want (your Brand Intention) but how is it received (Brand Perception)?

The simple answer is--you ask. A website survey isn't as useful (to me) as choosing a variety of folks to go to your site, and asking for their input--these can be chapter members, critique partners, coworkers, friends, associates, you name it--anyone you trust to give you an honest answer. You'd be amazed what you can find out from a "focus group" like this.

Another exercise I've done in my all-day class: after about the mid-day point, i ask everyone to stand up and talk about themselves, one at a time. Then, I ask people to jot down 2-3 words about these folks, and we're on to the next person. At the end of the exercise, I collect the cards and consolidate the answers and hand them back to the group. People are AMAZED at how they project themselves, and the exercise really drives home the kind of impression you can give in the briefest of interactions.

You are thinking the right way in wanting to understand Brand perception and manage Brand awareness, so thank you very much for your post!


Jenn Stark said...

Ruthy, hello! I'm totally loving your rice pudding, and thanks, too, for Tina's amazing breakfast spread! Tina, if you'd like to stop by tomorrow with more food, I won't object!

And Ruthy, I can tell just from your post that your site MUST MUST MUST incorporate humor and a certain level of irreverance, or your computer might spontaneously combust. So I look forward to seeing it! :)

On my own writing, I'd say my work is not as funny, sweet or sly as Enchanted--but also not futuristic/heavily sci fi like Fifth Element. My latest book, 24 Hours to Midnight, is perhaps most like Constantine + daVinci Code, but i've also got a Vegas-set Tarot book (Black Jack) and a new dark, sensual series about a group of folks who spawned the vampire myth (but who aren't actually undead. or secretly bats, or fans of plasma shakes.) The first book in that series is Blood Oath. So in addition to being romantic, contemporary, dark, and urban -- my work definitely embraces magic (and, sometimes, knifes it in the back.) :)

Thanks for your question--and your post!


Tina M. Russo said...

It's called Grouply, Jenn.

Jill Nutter said...

Hey Jenn,
How'd you get so smart? I just love reading your posts. Thanks for the time. Also, for you and those of you hanging out in Seekerville, "How do you know you have a blog title that works? For instance, Jill's Journal just isn't that exciting and I know there's a bajillion of those out there in cyberspace. I want to experiment. So what's the best way to do that. No pressure. :)

Vince said...

Hi Jenn:

Thanks for your Great Post! You are right on target.

I have worked with branding, Unique Selling Propositions, and Positioning for decades. These are very powerful marketing concepts. I just want to point out, however, that power has a price.

Marketing people know that nothing kills a product faster than superior marketing – if that product is weak or inferior. The last thing a producer needs is for a lot of people to try a new product, remember the product’s name, not like it, and tell everyone else not to buy it, before the product can be improved.

I think the best possible marketing approach for a writer is to produce a superior product. The next best thing is to have such a wonderful last chapter that readers want to go right out and buy the author’s next book or backlist books. In short, make the last chapter as strong as the first chapter or even stronger. (This is marketing advice – not writing advice.)

Effective branding speeds up the process. It can bring success faster or it can make failure more permanent. Branding will not improve an author’s writing. Indeed, a comprehensive branding strategy might better wait until a writer finds herself as an author. It may be a cliché to say, “You only get one chance at a first impression” but there is a great deal of truth in this expression. As when considering a tattoo, don’t be too quick to brand yourself.

Do you make a distinction between branding efforts and simply engaging in marketing activities?



Jenn Stark said...

Thank you, Tina! This looks like a terrific tool for managing groups -- I would love a site with a "dashboard" look that gives you snapshots of all your pages, too--myspace, blog, twitter, facebook, etc. There's just so many networking sites out there, it's a challenge to keep up!

Jill -- One idea would be to tie your blog title to your writing genre or Brand, or a theme you use in your books that you want to emphasize in your blog, such as something like "Keeping The Faith", "FaithNotes" or, if you want to focus on history, "Remember When" -- these are three very fast ideas, but they give a reader a potential thought of "hey, I might want to check this out!" And once you have them, your content and tone will do the rest. :)


Kay Cassidy said...

Great blog, Jenn!

I think having a firm handle on our writing brand can be so helpful to us as authors. Not only does it serve as the guiding force behind our marketing efforts -- so we create a cohesive marketing campaign rather than a smattering of one-hit marketing activities -- but it also helps us stay on track in remembering why we do this. As you mentioned, keeping that writing brand in mind helps us ensure that every page we write (or rewrite) honors the promise we've made to our readers.

Jenn Stark said...

Kay--Thanks for your post! And you definitely hit on a huge key to Branding--that with your Brand, you are essentially making a promise to your readers, and every page of your book should both honor and fulfill that promise.

And for those of you not up on your Golden Heart winners, Kay was the 2008 GH winner for Young Adult, and the first book of her debut series, The Cinderella Society, comes out in Spring 2010!

Vince--I couldn’t agree more with your comment on needing a good product (which for authors, is their books) before developing and presenting a strong Brand. As I mention above, the most powerful Branding opportunity you have is your story. And it far and away surpasses any other Branding effort you can make. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for people who understand that! The readers of Seekerville are professional writers well on their way down the road to publication, so they definitely would agree with you as well.

Re your question on Marketing vs. Branding efforts, they are two distinct processes for Authors, just as they are in the world of general marketing. For instance, I may have 17 different initiatives in place to market a given book so that I can hit a list during my novel’s first week of release (which is marketing) but I also want to impress upon readers certain aspects about myself as a writer, my work, my subject matter, my tone, etc. that helps them identify with me as an important part of their lives—whether because I entertain them, make them feel good, educate them, or validate them. These are Branding efforts, and they can help build careers – and sustain careers for a lifetime!


Jill Nutter said...

Hi Jenn,
This is so much fun. Now I just have to figure out how to integrate faith, the Regency, mental illness and suspense all into one. Maybe I should just use the brand (I think of it as my brand) from my website which is, "Escape into the past . . . Find faith for the future. Not sure but I'm wondering if you can comment on the biggest mistake people make when they are searching for the best brand. And can brands change over time? And what about writers that write in more than one genre? I guess that's a need for different brands.

Jenn Stark said...

Jill, hello! For a blog title, I'd probably pick something that hits the KEY element you want to focus on in your blog, vs. trying to put all of your elements into one title. So go with the one that you feel will resonate the most with your readers!

And you have a few other questions...

1. Biggest Mistake -- not choosing a Brand you both LOVE and can OWN. In other words, if you choose a racy Brand because you think it'll help sell you, and you write a wishy-washy book... that's no good. AND if you choose a Brand you aren't willing to include in your sig line, on your site, on your business cards and even in your casual conversation with your tennis buddies... that's no good either. There are other challenges, sure, but these are the most basic. :)

2. Can Brands change over time?--"Yes" is the short answer, but it's a tricky business once you've sold and are actually in the public eye. So it's best to choose a Brand that you feel strongly about, that you want to write under for the "foreseeable future" -- understanding that, of course, things could change down the road. But since Brands gain traction with consistent use, it just makes sense to develop one you love and keep it.

3. Multi-genre Branding is alive and well, and different authors handle it different ways--I spend an entire day in my classes on this, but suffice to say that you can either Brand your "voice" over many genres, or create a Brand for each genre. It all depends on what you write, and what you're willing to spend resource wise on sustaining your Brand. :)


Tawny said...

Hey Jenn!! What a great post, its like a marvelous branding lesson all by itself. I love how you tie it all together and make such a complex seeming topic so easy to understand.

Jill Nutter said...

Thanks Jenn,
You've been a great help as always. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Hope to see you one of these days soon.

Marlena Fortune said...

This has been a fascinating post. I of course was born with a brand but this really has me thinking of expanding my 'mark'. Thank you, Ms. Stark.

Tina M. Russo said...

Jenn, thanks so much for being in Seekerville today and so generously sharing on branding!! Please visit us again, soon!!

Audra Harders said...

Jenn, thanks so much for your inspiring ideas! I tend to vacillate between Contemp, Hist and Suspense. When I finally sat down and thought about what came easist for me to write, the answer shouted Cowboy!

Now, after reading your blog, I'm comfortable with all the details surrounding my branding.

The part of about considering your presence made me sit up and take note. LOL! I can't say I really dress up to go to a writers meetings. Hmm, I guess I could tell them I write Cowboy Slob, LOL.

Really now, gotta work on that : )

Thanks again, Jenn. Very informative stuff!

Jenn Stark said...

Tawny--thank you for stopping by! I appreciate your kind comments. :)

Audra--Hooray on your Branding Brainstorm! If your Brand feels "right", that's more than half the battle. But I think I'd go with "Cowboy Casual" if you're ever asked about your style, lol. :)

Marlena--I love that thought of being born with a Brand. I'm willing to bet you are well on your way to Brand mastery!

And finally, thanks to all for your comments and questions. I had a wonderful time, and thoroughly enjoyed my day with you. Thanks again!


Pam Hillman said...

Mary said: I think of myself as a romantic comedy writers.

There's your problem, Mary: split personalities.

Pull yourself together girl!

Great blog, Ms. Jenn!

Debby Giusti said...

Stopping by late, but loved all the comments. Jenn, you're great!!! Much to learn. Thanks for sharing.

Vince said...

Hi Jenn:

Thanks for your response. You would be great to work with in a marketing department. I’ll check your website for more ideas.


Vince said...

Hi Julie:

I actually am intrigued by the ‘edgy Amish’ idea. I think it would work as long as the Amish were treated with respect. You might really think about it. I'd love to read it.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Sorry I'm so late, but did really enjoy the post and all the comments. I've been toying with the idea of branding for awhile. Your post helped me realize I truly do need to think on it. Thanks again.

And Tina. Thanks for the bagels and fruit.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Thank you for the discussion on branding.

We appreciate you spending the day with us in Seekerville, Jen!


Beth said...

Hey, Jenn! Great post *g* I definitely had a few Ah Ha moments reading it and even better, a few ideas about my own author brand :-)

Angela Breidenbach said...

This is very helpful. Thank you very much, Angie