month we yakked about that branding thing, but we didn’t get through
all the info I wanted to before my editor said, “Enough words!” (She
didn’t really say that, but it makes things more
exciting, don’t you
Moving on . . .
This month we’ll:
• Explain how your brand is a promise you’ve made to the public
• Tell why it’s critical you know your brand before you get published
(and why some editors and agents disagree with this)
• How to keep from violating your brand—and how it can kill your career
if you do
Your Brand Is a Promise
If you’re known for writing
legal thrillers, you have promised readers when they pick up a book
with your name on it they’ll get a legal thriller.
If Stephen King comes out with a
sappy romance, uh, sorry, Steve ain’t going to be moving a lot of those
books. He will have broken his unspoken promise to deliver books that
make you keep the lights on at night. (Unless of course the wife turns
out to be an axe murderer.)
Think of it in restaurant terms.
Say you have a favorite steak house. Every time you go there you have a
tantalizing meal. Then one day you walk in and everything looks the
same—until you pick up the menu and realize they’re serving nothing but
Thai food. Now you might like Thai food, but you didn’t come to your
favorite steak house to get Thai food. They promised you steak and
they’ve just violated that promise. You might go back again, but you’ll
be wary. And if you walk in and find they’re now serving vegetarian
meals, you’ll probably be gone forever.
Can a steak house turn into a
Thai restaurant? Sure, but it’s expensive and they’ll probably loose 80
percent of their original customers.
Know Your Brand Now
This is why it’s important to
know what genre you want to write in and will be willing to write in
for a long time. I’ve heard some agents and editors say you really
don’t know your brand till you’ve written two or three books. Here’s
the problem: what happens if your first book breaks out big? Whatever
the genre of that first book is that’s what you’ll be stuck with.
Figure it out now.
Not to Violate Your Brand
longer being published) did a ranking of the top 100 movie stars of all
time about ten years back. Their pick for #1? Tom Cruise. But times
have changed, no?
With one move Tom violated his
promise to us and his career has never been the same. By getting on
that couch and jumping up and down like a bobblehead doll, he shattered
his brand as an intense, serious actor.
Now if Jim Carrey had made
footprints on Oprah’s couch, we’d all be laughing and saying, “Yep,
that’s Jim! That’s what he’s all about, crazy and weird.” But not Tom.
Your brand is more than the
books you write. It’s the clothes you wear, it’s how you speak, it’s
how you act, the pictures you post on FB and what you Tweet about. And
once you’re seen in a certain way by the public, it’s a huge risk to
take a hard left turn.
In other words, we need to think
ahead of time what readers’ perceptions of us are, and make sure
everything we do goes through that filter.
Gotta go check my Facebook page,
I don’t think that photo of me and Barney is still working.