Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Honing your Brand

by Danielle Jackson

At RWA National, in between wining and dining with you lovely ladies, I actually went to a few workshops--many of which were publicity, promotion and marketing focused. There was one constant idea that came up: your BRAND.

Now I'm not talking Cover Girl or Target or even Sourcebooks, Inc. YOU are your BRAND. Think about it this way--what's the one thing that stays the same in your books--even if you write a series? YOUR NAME. This is going to sound funny, but you are selling yourself along with these books. Readers like to know who's writing those books with shiny half naked men on the covers…

You should always think about how to market your brand—YOU! How do you want to represent yourself when your book is being promoted? There are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Brand Development and Placement

o Put your Name in front of the targeted audience

- Whether you write contemporary, paranormal or historical, there’s an audience somewhere that will read your book. Part of my job, and something I encourage EVER author to do is to find a target audience to focus on—once we’ve penetrated that market, we move into broader scopes and out-of-the-box ideas

2) Consistency

o It’s important, especially once you have a cover, to keep things consistent with your website and personal promotion materials. This was news to me—mainly because I know you all set up your own sites. Even once this is done, and you do have a cover, you should take a look at what is done and try to keep things similar.

o Now that most of you have covers, or an idea of what your new covers will look like, take a minute to think about how you can apply the look to your site. You still want your personal aesthetic to come through, but you also want a way for your readers to identify YOU with your work—hence using your name as a brand.

3) Have a Road Map and Strategies to Reach your Goal

o This sort of carries over with consistency—and something that all of you have started doing with this blog—you have a schedule of blogging and you all stick to it.

- On your personal blog, you should think about how often you want to blog—once a day? Once a week? Perhaps when you have a book currently on shelves you’ll update daily, but when things taper off, you’ll only blog weekly?

· This type of schedule will keep your readers aware of what to expect from you.
o Updating you website is also a part of this—make sure you update on a regular schedule as well. That way, your readers will know when to look for new reviews, or updates on your web tour schedule, or any other events that come up.

4) Remember your Publicist!!!!!!!!!!!

o This isn’t just a way for me to feel loved, hahaha—I like to know EVERYTHING that’s going on! Between the two of us (or 15+), a lot of scheduling will take place. So even if you set up a tiny guest blog or a q&a on a little blog, let me know about it!

- I pass information on to our Sales Department and they in turn go to their accounts. When they can go back to book buyers that one of you had a blog tour that lasted two months, that’s definitely a selling point.

- I also pass this info on to our Marketing Department that will create sell sheets and add the reviews to various web sources that feature reviews.

· There’s an entire company of people here at Sourcebooks and they all have a part in some way to the publication of your book and beyond!

- And of course, you never know—that review or reader comment might have struck you as scathing or God Awful, but I might find a way to make into a golden PR opportunity!

· You all of done the hardest part so far—getting published and I am proud to be a part of making your writing careers successful. Get out there and shamelessly self-promote!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for most of this stuff—I think I could devote a blog to each bullet I put up there. RWA National was a great source of information, and as I hope this blog shows, I’ve got a ton of ideas. You know how I say to email me with any questions, thoughts, suggestions, concerns? Please do so! I’ll do my best to be on the blog during the day in case you have questions in the comment section, but… well, you know—I have brands to publicize! Expect the majority of my blogs to be in this vein—along with round ups of the great guest blogs, interviews and of course, those AMAZING reviews that will be coming your way.



  1. Very helpful Danielle, but as always, I have more questions.

    If the brand is each of us, how does that translate into a website? Is it a photo? A theme?

    Should we all have tag lines? I do my own website, but have to admit to minus basic level of knowledge in terms of design and marketing. And how do you know what is working?

    I agree with you on the blog. My personal one is twice a week and if I am going to be away, I indicate when I will return. Most of my research on blogging indicates that at the most successful blogs readers get something each time they visit. They feel as if the blogger has gifted them with something they did not have before, something they needed, from fun to helpful information.

    I will certainly remember to let you know what is happening. Expect to be hearing lots from me very soon as I count down to October 1 and The Lady Flees Her Lord.

  2. Great post.
    I'm not a Casablanca author, but I'm a reader of the great Casablanca novels, will that allow me a question, or two?
    1. Are personal author blogs out? I'm seeing more group blogs based on themes, or authors that are friends.

    2. What is the value of a bullentin board where your characters meander through and chat and generally cause mayhem?

    3. How do you know if you're online marketing scheme, and dollars are bringing in new readers?

    And lastly, I would likely entertain the thought of murder if I could have a publicist like you. Believe me, ladies, I write for two different publishers that are considered 'big' in the romance world. I don't even know the publ. name, let alone how to contact them. I haven't heard boo from them, either. So, if Danielle is available to you, use her knowledge and approachability. You're so lucky, and I'm positively green with envy! lol!

  3. Danielle,
    Great post. You are so "with it" and as one of your authors, I'm so pleased to have such great access to you, and that you do understand our personal brands.
    Some of you may not know my day job is as a brand and marketing consultant - I've branded more than a hundred companies in all different fields - and many that are women-focused products and services. So to answer Michelle's question, you can certainly have a tagline that encompasses your writing overall, or if you just have one book out right now, you could just focus on the tagline for that particular novel.

    I've been using "a tale of love, longing and la dolce vita" on my materials as I'm marketing Dating da Vinci, and in my description of my writing, I typically use "humorous and heartfelt" as the type of writing I do. I personally got tired of blogging about the writing process and author things so I have started branding my malenalott.com blog as The Unexpected Gift, which is about finding joy in the everyday. It's identifiable to the women readers and it's a bigger "message" - at least this way I find one blessing/lesson each week, and can focus on a "writer" topic here at the Casa blog.

    I explain it to my clients like this: you need an umbrella brand that encompasses the big picture of who you are. Underneath that umbrella you have the tactics and various products and services that support the umbrella positioning. I select a color palette that emotes the right feel, fonts, tone, language and key message then get it to the target market as directly and as often as I can (frequency.)

    The umbrella isn't just a look/feel, but it's your Different/Better/Special. What is your unique sales proposition? It's a tough question, not just for companies, but for "people-brands" like ours.

    A key to finding your personal brand can come from reviews, too. Are there words that pop up over and over about your book, your writing?

    Look around the web for your favorite authors and see how they do it. Next on my marketing list is facebook, myspace and even changing the background of my Twitter page, so it will all tie into my novel and la dolce vita - the sweet life!!!
    Cheers and good luck.

  4. Wow great information, Danielle, and I also Malena adding her expertise.

  5. I MEANT to say:

    Wow great information, Danielle, and I also appreciate Malena for adding her expertise.

  6. Fantastic post, Danielle! And love the pin up picture too.

    Branding has become such a buzz word and so important nowadays and you've explained it so well for anyone who doesn't understand it.


  7. working on it...

    *she sends off another email to her web designer...

  8. Great post, Danielle, and thanks to Malena for the extra info. I do a lot of this type of stuff in my job, too, and the thing we emphasize is consistency in message and appearance.

    I was delighted to get the cover of my second book and to see my name in the same font and location as it was on LOS. Just something that simple helps to build a recognizable brand, especially since my books aren't related to each other.

    Thanks for all you're doing to help build our individual brands, Danielle. The by-product will be a thriving Sourcebooks Casablanca brand.

  9. Michele-
    The number one way to keep your brand consistent it to have your name similar on each book--and to continue that same font onto your website, something I can ask our production department about (font name, where it was purchased, if they can make a seperate file of it for your site use, etc.). This way readers identify the name easier.

    I don't know if taglines are necessary on every book--that might be an editorial question, but a personal tagline on your site might be nice to create.

    The best way to know it is working is when you notice your site getting more hits! This also coincides with books being in stores and reviews running on sites/blogs, but identifying your name with your book is the goal of brand marketing!


  10. Charlotte-

    1. At RWA, I heard both sides to the personal blog issue--some people said this is a must, some people said they are passe. I personally think blogs are a great way for interested readers to connect with the authors they love.

    2. Do you mean a forum of sorts? We've had a lot of fun on this blog when authors interview their characters! Linda Wisdom's bunny slippers, Fluff and Puff have their own MySpace Page and something of a devoted following! Bringing characters to "virtual life" is something innovative. It might take a while to catch on, but I know of many authors that use this tactic when promoting.

    3. This is a question that I am still doing reearch on. I haven't been able to really pin point "you need x amount of blog tour spots to generate $X in sales." I know a lot of it seems like a waste, especially on those sites that get no comments, or when you shell out a hella huge amount for business cards or book marks... but you have to decide what you want to focus on. Some authors will buy ads or a service like Author Buzz, others will get post cards and do a mailing.

    I think any way to get your name out in front of interested readers is the best thing you can do--and as soon as I calcualte a system, I'll let everyone know!

    And thank you for your kind words! Track your publicist down--they are there for a reason!

  11. Malena-

    Thanks for your added expertise! Everyone, Malena's advice is AWESOME--she's basically an expert in this field :)


  12. Thanks MM! I've got tons of ideas that I'm sure will continue to grow with your next book.

    Linda-- I know you are well aware of the whole brand marketing idea (you basically have it tattooed on your ankle). Thanks for the comments!


  13. Judi--

    hahaha, I can imagaine you will keep your web designer very busy over the next few months.

    You were at most of the workshops I went to, so we're in the same boat (pun intended) when it comes to promoting your brand in the Spring!


  14. Marie--

    I was also so excited about your name on the cover!! We're definitley going down the right path with your single titles, of which I hope will be many more!

    And you are so right on with the by-product being a really great and successful line. I hope Sourcebooks Casablanca will continue to expand into an identifiable name in romance, but one that is very diverse and represented well by its authors.


  15. LOL Danielle!

    Fluff & Puff thank you.


  16. Thank you for this valuable information - almost too much to absorb in one sitting. I know I'm going to have to come back to this one again and again. Just a sidenote here, how did you get my picture on your blog post there? I thought that all the negatives had been destroyed. (wink)

  17. Christina-

    There's much more to come after this! Glad to know that you'll be returning to think about some ideas for your book in the Spring :)

    I had to do some searching, but I found those destroyed negatives for this post hahaha


  18. Great post, Danielle! And Malena's added advice was much-appreciated. I have to admit, I got into this thinking all I would be doing was, you know, writing. Yeah, you all can roll on the floor laughing at me, because I was a complete idiot. *sigh* The marketing angle is one that I'm definitely feeling my way in the dark on, though I'm definitely learning a lot from watching what you do, Danielle! I think I need to hone my brand beyond what it feels like most of the time, which is "Kendra, the author who is still wearing her ten-year-old Tigger pajama pants when she writes.";-)

    Also, it appears that Christina and I are twins, because I was SURE that picture was of me!

    Great post!

  19. Thank you Danielle for this info (Malena and the others too). I am a NB who is definately feeling like a fish out of water, so all info really helps. Don't fret, Kendra, you aren't the only one feeling a bit like an idiot! :)

    My personal idea when I created my blog/website nearly a year ago now, was to have a place where the #1 goal was to present everything I could about my Saga/series. Next was to talk about me, as personally as I could without too much information, so that folks would feel as if they 'knew' me. In my case this largely stemmed from writing in the fan-fiction world. I already had a well established fan base, correspondants, and friends made via posting my chapters online. The transition to a personalized, informal setting was natural. Plus, it just goes with my personality! The next main thing was to educate and have fun with Regency facts. It was also natural to place it all on a page that gave the tone I wanted to convey, in my case soft pinky-rose with italic font, and pictures from the movie. I guess, from reading the tidbits here, I have done a fairly good job!

    I too, of course, get discouraged at times wondering why I put so much work into it when I have no clue whether it is benefiting me in the long run. But, we are in the digital/online age, so I think it essential to have some sort of web-based connection to the readers. Plus it can be loads of fun!

    This leads to one question, though: If 'branding' and connecting/consistency with our work is so important (and I think it is), shouldn't the design folks collaborate more with the authors? For instance, Marie mentioned her name being the same from book to book, but does this correlate with her website? Shouldn't it? The author knows their style and tone better than anyone, so shouldn't their input be sought? Just curious.

    I want to chime in on thanking Danielle for being so on top of things and face-to-face (so to speak). We are very fortunate. Even this NB knows that!!

  20. Danielle-
    Thanks so much. I am not one of your authors but my friend Linda Wisdom pointed me over here. Thank you so much for explaining Branding in such a way I understand it even more now than I ever did.