Friday, June 17, 2011

To Brand or Not to Brand

Okay, I admit it, I'm not a conformist. I like to be in charge of my own destiny, to plot my own path, to make my own decisions even if it does go against the crowd. For example, I've been told to "brand" myself by sticking to one genre, but I digress. Let me explain. Writing for me isn't a day job and doesn't come close to paying the bills. It's a therapeutic gig, one that I enjoy and one where I write what I want when I want.

I've written a little bit of everything. My debut novel, Queen of Hearts, was a WWII romantic suspense. My second, Killing Time, was a contemporary romantic suspense. Mistaken Identity, this month's release, is a young adult romance. In October, a contemporary romance, This Time for Keeps, will release. When I sit down at the keyboard, I write whatever I'm in the mood to write. There's a certain sense of freedom in that and in knowing that I don't need to produce a certain number of novels to pay the bills.

If I'm feeling carefree, I write young adult. If I want something dark, I go heavy on the suspense. If I want heartwarming, I go for the romance. The only genre I've not written that I'd like to tackle is mystery. That's in the works. I just signed a contract for a young adult mystery series. Zoe Mack, my heroine, will debut in January with her first mystery, the Secret of the Love Letters. There will be two more next year, one in June and another in December.

Someone once asked me if I'd want to write full-time and my reply was that I wouldn’t. I'm lucky enough to have a day job that I love that pays the bills. Why would I want to worry about where the next plot is coming from or even the next royalty check? And sales numbers? I do everything I can to promote and then I don't worry about it anymore. I write for the sheer joy of placing words on the page, which is why I like to write what I want when I want. If I have to write something, that takes all the fun out of it. I'm loving writing as a hobby and wouldn't change a thing. It's the most fun I've ever had. After all, isn't that what a hobby should be?

K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance and romantic suspense. She's also an avid blogger and gives away several books per week on her blog at, most of which are signed by the authors. She's also the moderator of the popular facebook Christian Fiction Gathering group HERE
When not reading or writing, K. Dawn Byrd enjoys spending time with her husband of 16 years while walking their dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home and plotting the next story waiting to be told.
Find Dawn Online HERE:


Vince said...

Hi Dawn:

Branding is not about genre. It’s about what makes you unique. Many writers select a genre but they don’t have to.

With both ‘Dawn’ and “Byrd” in your name and with your spontaneous approach to writing, I would suggest something like this:

Writing as Free as the Wind


P.S. I think I did the first review of your first book.

Nancy Kimball said...

A girl after my own heart!
I really enjoy my day job and unless God was very clear I was to write full time, I wouldn't give it up. Writing is my part time job, but one I love dearly.

I learned in high school and college to be able to write what I had to, and do it reasonably well. But it's nothing, and I mean NOTHING like the story that comes to you and plays around in your head for days until you simply must write it. That's how my current WIP was for me.

I think it's wonderful for those authors who brand, and write within a specific genre. I like that consistency of knowing when their next title comes out, if I'll love it or not ahead of time.

But I think it's equally great to know there are others who don't. And if I ever had doubts that was okay, this blog post crushed them, along with discovering a fellow ACFW member of my local chapter, Janice Thompson, who writes, well, some of everything!

KC Frantzen said...


Jillian said...

I love that you write what you want based on your mood, Dawn. That appears to be rare in the publishing world. I agree, writing is more enjoyable when you write what you want to write, not what you have to write. I think it frees the mind to be more creative. You are a breath of fresh air!

Jackie said...

I'm impressed with the freedom you feel as a writer. And your success. Congratulations on your new book.

Audra Harders said...

Oh my, do I see a lack of coffee in the house? That little detail has now been taken care of, I'm sharing my urn of Southern Pecan.


Good morning, Dawn. I love your attitude toward writing. Why make what you love become sheer drudgery? I'm a big fan of my day job also. LOL, where else would I get my inspiration?

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, Dawn, I LOVE your attitude -- where do I sign up???

Like you, I don't have to pay the bills (thank God, or I'd starve!!), so initially I wrote what and how I wanted and although I REALLY enjoyed that, for me, the carefree attitude proved elusive. Pin it on being competitive if you will, but I found that sales numbers, contest wins and 5-star reviews so nearly strangled the joy from my writing that I actually contemplated quitting.

I am learning to let that go, and slowly the joy is coming back full force, but it wasn't pretty for a while, I can tell you that.

I totally agree that branding is about what makes you unique more than genre, and I will say right off the bat that I think you accomplished that with your intial peek-a-boo photo. In my opinion, that set you off from everyone else and gave you a mystery air that teased the readers -- GREAT JOB!! But I have to admit that it is fun to see the real you in a classic author pose -- you look NOTHING like I expected!! And, yes, you are very cute! :)

Thanks for being on Seekerville today -- it's always a pleasure!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dawn, welcome back! You're such a delightful maverick and I love that in a person.



That's my take on it. One of my fave authors, NY Times bestseller and multiple Rita finalist Karen White has written the gamut from fun contemp romance, historicals and fantasy/time travel to go along with her absolutely beautiful mainstream fiction.

And Kerrelyn Sparks wrote delightful historicals and when that furor calmed mad news and money with her "How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire" series.

Oh my stars, I'm SO not into branding, but I am into doing what it takes to establish a readership in your genre. I mean, that just makes good sense. But that doesn't have to hog-tie a writer, right?

And I love writing longer books, so venturing here and there isn't at all unusual for authors. Good writing is good writing, but it's also good advice to NEVER BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU.

Because that just makes sense.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dawn! Congratulations on your success!

In the variety of books you write, I'm sure there's something unique about your writing in all of them. Your voice/style, premises/themes, romance, something that's part of every story you tell. Find that and you'll have a brand, not a jail cell.

I brought fresh fruit and apple fritters--one of my favorite "bad for you" foods.


Whitney said...

I love this post because I like to write and read in nearly every genre. If you look in my documents folder and on the bookshelves, you'll see westerns, mystery, suspense, war dramas, contemporary, historical, romance, adventures, classics, YA, children's book, and even a little fantasy. lol. I admire writers who refuse to be branded when they have so much to offer it can't be contained in a labeled box.

Wonderful to meet you, Dawn, and I am very interested in your books. I'm adding your name to the "authors to read" list.


Karen Lange said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I've tossed similar thoughts about lately; trying my hand at different genres lately.

Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!

Ruthy - I like Kerrelyn Sparks' vampire series! I didn't 'discover' her until this series then found out she had some historical. Same with Lynsay Sands. I know a lot of readers (ok myself included a lot of times) get pretty mad when a favorite author changes (or in some of their terms 'turns on them' or betrays them'!) I remember Lori Foster doing that in a series midstream a few years ago with her Fighter series - threw in a time travel when the others were contemporary. Almost had a lynching I think!

I was thinking when I woke up too early this morning about Love Inspired. It's strang to me that the first one I read that I recall dealt with death was Ruthy's Winter's End. Seems like Tina's dealt with a life threatening illness as well..then my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and it seems every one I picked up dealt with some kind of cancer or death or illness!! One even had melanoma which is something my mom had over 15 yrs ago...I mean I was so frustrated I decided to read a Blaze title by one of my favorite authors in that line- Rhonda Nelson- thinking I'd get my mind off things. Sure it had a soldier joining the security group as a death bed promise to his mom but I thought that happened outside the story but NO! It started off with her dying from brain cancer. Of all things. I was in shock!

fast forward 3 months - now I'm seriously trying to stick with Weight Watchers and once again Love Inspired is 'stalking' me! Ruthy's Small Town Hearts had me drooling(and not just over the rich hero) then I pick up one last night by an author I've never heard of and it has a heroine cooking cherry white chocolate scones and just about everything imaginable if it includes cherries! I had to stop reading and go to bed (though being sleepy had more to do with it since I was liking the book pretty well!)

I think next time I see a trend in these books I'm gonna get scared unless heroines start winning the lotto!

oh- here's some of those cherry white chocolate scones and some of that fudge from Ruthy's (good thing it's virtual food 'cause ya'll can pretend I actually know how to cook the stuff!)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Dawn! I have this fear that I will end up writing books just because I have to, just because I'm contracted to write them, books I don't even like myself! But, more often, I fear that I will write books that I love but that nobody wants to publish! All I really want to do is write. And I want to get paid for it, and I don't want it to be a hobby! But I can understand your point of view as well. If I had a job I enjoyed (or even knew of a job I might enjoy besides writing) I would feel the same way you do. So keep having fun writing whatever you please!!! Whenever you please!!!

In the words of William Wallace, "Freedom!"

Okay, sorry. Those Braveheart lines will come out sometimes because it is my husband's favorite movie. Lucky for me he usually only watches it when I'm out of the house. THANK GOODNESS!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

But I agree about the branding thing 100%! Who wants to be pinned down to writing only one kind of book? Not me. I have two medieval YA romances, but I also like to write adult historical romances, and I don't want to be held to just one time period. I've written an 1880 Southern historical romance, and now I'm planning to write a Regency. I guess I must like research! LOL

Jan Drexler said...

I hope that when authors get "stuck" in any one genre (or time period for historicals) it's because they want to. Me? Just because I'm working on an Amish book right now doesn't mean that's all I want to write. There are too many great stories lying in wait!

And I'll be looking for your books on the shelves, Dawn.

Mary Connealy said...

Does anyone write vampire comedy? I see that as a possible genre for me someday.....

As far as branding. I have been branded to the point they darned near used a red hot iron. And I'm thrilled by that. Just thrilled.

I do love the attitude though, Dawn. To write what you want, I used to do that before I was pubished. And I honestly don't think of myself as a historical author or a western author. I think of myself as a romantic comedy author.

But the brand is a done deal and I love writing those slow talkin' cowboys. So I'm happy.

Mary Connealy said...

Let me add:
I least to some extent...that a reader who loves an author who writes historical romance isn't as likely to feel betrayed by the change in historical setting as she is if the author doesn't deliver the happily ever after.
HEA is the bottom line. I've been a faithful reader of one author who shall remain nameless, although I consider her to have drifted away from her genre, but she always delivered teh romance. Until about three books ago.
I knew I didn't like the book and I quit collecting them and I even quit re-reading the old ones, which I'd done many times. Re-reading beloved books is how I get to sleep at night. With no 'what's gonna happen next' to keep me up I can read with pleasure until I get drousy.
I thought at first it was because she was drifting away from the way she handled the suspense of her books that was making me dissatisfied, plus an unfortunate wandering into some political topics that she had definite views on. But then I realized her last two books had no happily ever after. They had a romantic thread which was mainly an excuse to get characters into bed, but no HEA.

That's the 'betrayal' I don't like. I want a romance. I read widely in all genres...within the realm of romance.

I make exceptions for that, too. Patricia Cornwell(I actually gave up on her when she entered a weird 'romance' zone), Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Fay Kellerman, Clive Cussler, Mary Higgins Clark. But mainly, always romance.

I know these authors listed above aren't writing a romance so my expectations are in good order when I pick one up.
So is you're a romance writer, WARN ME. Say no HEA on the back cover. Otherwise, if your apparent romance novel descends into a women's fiction and at the end, there is no true love, no HEA, I'm gonna be mad.

Virginia said...

This was great! I know we're not supposed to bite the hand that feeds us, but there has to be some balance between the writer's life and the business aspect. The 'net is FLOODED with how to brand yourself and how to market and how to push your books. And we do have to make sure people are buying since the days of being holed up in a writer's hut are gone. (Oh, for Walden Pond!!)
BUT I'm happy to see someone (several someones, actually) ackowledge the fact that creativity plays a part, and getting too wrapped up in the business side can strangle the joy of it all.
AS for genre, I love cross-over authors. Just this morning, I realized my daughter was reading 'The True Meaning of Smeckday' by Adam Rex, while my son was looking at 'Frankestein Makes a Sandwich', a picture book- by the same man. :) And I love Holly Black YA fiction, while my kids love the Spiderwick books.

Virginia said...

Mary, I laughed at the hot iron! And I had a favorite author who decided to write a Norse trilogy... It was bad, very bad. And now I own it. Because it was by my favorite guy and I loved his stuff. I guess that was the brand working??
But my son read them all and loved them, so maybe the ugly Norse fighting shouldn't have distracted me from the plot. :P

Mary Connealy said...

THere was a spell when I was writing long western romantic comedies, contemporary Heartsongs (45,000 words) and contemporary cozy mysteries at the same time.
I loved it.
I found it really energizing and it awakened my creative energy to jump genres like that.
I'd start a new book and it'd take me a while to drop into or out of the 'cowboy zone'.

Jan Drexler said...

Mary, you can jump out of the cowboy zone as long as you don't leave it forever!

Pepper said...

YAY! It's K.Dawn!!
Guys, you are going to LOVE this new teen mystery series. Dawn and I brainstormed about it this week and I'm SUPER excited about it. Move over Nancy Drew.

Now - as far as jobs go...
I LOVE my day job, but I'd love it even more if it happened on a part-time basis. Saavy? But, since part-time will not pay the bills, full-time is the life for me. :-) At least I like it, so that helps a lot.

And as you well know, Dawn...
I can't seem to make up my mind on genre either - so for now, I'm going to write where the muse tickles.
And love it.

And did someone say 'vampires'. Not that I'm interested or anything? ;-)

Pepper said...

Oh Mary,
I just had my 13 year old read an excerpt in book to make sure the humor worked.
He gave it the nod of approval.

As for vampire humor? The whole idea of animated corpses is pretty funny in itself...if we take it literally ;-)

Mary Connealy said...

The whole idea of animated corpses is a knee slapper for sure, Pepper.

(someone hold her while I get a net!)

Faye said...

K. Dawn, I'm so glad you have something so cool to do as a hobby! And that you take so much joy in your writing. God bless!

Pepper said...
Cold-natured, toothy, undead?

K. Dawn Byrd said...

I'm blown away by your comments and support. Thanks so much! I was afraid I'd get some negative comments because of my view on branding. An agent I spoke with a while back considered branding to be my genre, while others consider it to be my voice.

As far as I'm concerned, a good story is a good story and it doesn't matter how well you write, if you can't write a good story, I'm gonna put the book down. For example, I fell in love with James Patterson's work a few years ago. A couple of his romance novels made me cry and the suspense novels were great, but then something happened and I didn't much like his work. I've been told that he couldn't turn the books out fast enough and hired someone to write some of them for him. All of a sudden, the story was lacking. It wasn't what I expected from James Patterson, possibly because it wasn't James Patterson's work. I expected a good story and even if the writing wouldn't have been up to James Patterson's standard, I still would have loved the books if he could tell me a good story. Didn't happen and I haven't bought one since. Lisa Jackson is now my favorite secular suspense author.

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Yes, Pepper, we did have a lot of fun brainstorming! You should call more often. For those of you who don't know, I've signed a contract for a young adult mystery series. Zoe Mack's first mystery will debut in January. She's a lot like Nancy Drew, but more modern and will have a lot more romance in her life.

It's a good thing I write fast. I've not written a word and the first one is due September 1st. NaNoWriMo taught me to write a book in 30 days and that's been standard practice for me ever since.

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Pepper! Vampires? I'm gonna tell your mama!

Pepper said...

Shhh, Dawn.
It's Sage Taylor to you ;-) (pen name)
Then Mom will never know.

Cara Lynn James said...

Publishers find branding to be effective for their authors. They develop a particular readership and that makes sense. I've also heard writers get tired of writing in the genre they're known for much sooner than the readers do reading them. It only takes a few hours for a reader to finish a book, but it can take a writer forever.

K. Dawn Byrd said...

So well said, Cara Lynn! That's why I like to write what I want. I don't want it to feel like "work." I don't want to be mandated to sit down and write a sweet romance when I really want to write suspense. I've been busy studying for possibly the biggest test of my career and haven't had time to write. It's killing me. I want to write! I hope I never get to the point that it's drudgery and work.

Pam Hillman said...

Loved your blog, Dawn. So glad you're here in Seekerville today!

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Thanks, Pam! I have a lot of fun with the blog. I really enjoy promoting Christian fiction.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Dawn,
Sorry I'm late tonight. But in time to read your comment about writing a book in 30 days. WHEW! I'm impressed and amazed.

Really? Thirty days? Start to finish? Plotting, too?

I'd say if the editors buy, you can write whatever your heart desires!

And a lot of them, since you're that fast.

Thanks for being with us on Seekerville today.

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Thanks for having me, Debby. I write my first draft in 30 days, then I put it away for a couple of weeks and then I go back and edit. My first draft is usually around 50,000 words and when I finish, it's around 60,000-65,000. I like to read short books, so that's what I write. Nope. No, 100,000 word books for me.

Lucky for me, Desert Breeze has hired a good editing team and my books now go through at least two edits before release.

KC Frantzen said...

Hey Seekers,

Stopping in to say THANK YOU. Again!

With my Pam Debut Celebration Party winnings (B&N Gift Card), I will be the proud new owner of a book light soon. Never had one, thought it would be a treat and I'll think of y'all even more often than I do.

Thank you. (It's in LIME GREEN too!)

Did Pepper ever make it out of the net?

Pepper said...

I'm sitting in here with Ruthy. Seems she mentioned something about werewolves.

Mary Connealy said...

Pepper don't tell me you've considered changing your name? You've got one of the great pen names already.
Pepper Basham.
First name sound hot and spicy
Last name sound violent Bash 'em

You can't do better than that.

Pepper said...

But doesn't it go back to that 'branding' thing?
If I get published in one genre - let's say - romance first, I want to use my real name: Pepper Basham

But if I go toward a different genre (especially one which will cause my mother to wince every time she hears about the book - speculative) then I thought I'd try another.

You should know - Mrs. NEALY :-)

Kayleen said...

I work in a public middle school library. That has helped to push my children's books and help me see what kids like to read. I may not be writing romance now, but there is a season for everything so will look forward to that time if it occurs.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Thank you, K Dawn, for expressing my sentiments about writing. I write because I enjoy putting the words that have been running around in my head on paper.