#2: Marketing Yourself – What’s MY “brand”?

At whatever point you are in your writing, it’s time to consider what your brand is. But it’s not just a “buzzy” way to talk about your books; there is actually a logical application. I’ll use myself as an example:

When I started writing, I purposely went a different direction than the overcrowded sub-genres of Regency England or Scottish romances. I made my hero Norwegian, and set the first story in the Missouri Territory in 1819.

After writing a trilogy where that hero and heroine travel to Norway, I decided to make ALL my heroes members of the fictional Hansen family of Arendal, Norway. I’m setting my stories anywhere between the mid-1300s and the mid-1800s.

My brand was beginning to take shape.

Next came my tag line: “Norway is the new Scotland!” – a blatant reaction to the overabundance of kilted warriors. That phrase has gotten me some very positive attention! A smile at the least, and an explanation (and chance to pitch) quite often.

Here’s where the logic starts to kick in: I now have a starting point for every hero (and one heroine, so far) in my books; a thread that runs through all the stories. And – I look for opportunities to make mention of places or people that appeared in other books, to give my readers the sense that the characters are real. Connected. Then the reader becomes connected.

I had a vague realization that all of my main characters had some other things in common. When I became intentional about listing those things out, I found another logical tool for creating new stories! Here they are:

  • All of my heroes are 29-34 years old, the heroines 25-31.
  • All of my main characters have been through some life-altering event that shattered their lives.
  • None of my main characters are looking for relationships when they meet.
  • They all must risk further tragedy to grasp a chance for happiness.

Obviously, these aren’t the concerns of an ingénue during her first Season in Jane Austen’s London! My characters are concerned with much larger issues. So that’s become part of my brand, as well.

Someday, when readers pick up my novels, they’ll know these issues are built into the plots. Does that make you think of a “formula”?

Well, yes. Sort of. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Every plot and every location and every issue will be different in every book. But we live in a society where consumers don’t like surprises. If they order a skinny, no-foam latte with sugar-free caramel and whip, they know what it’s supposed to taste like. If it doesn’t, they get cranky.

The same goes for books. If you love one book by an author and you buy another, you want it to be similar in basic ways: voice, pacing, characterization, setting and believability, etc. You don’t want to read a quirky contemporary, then discover the next book is actually a dark, gothic paranormal, because that wasn’t what you were expecting.

Readers want to be able to trust your brand. If they can, they’ll keep reading.

So – look at your stories. Are there common threads in your plots? Your settings? Any character types that you like to write about? Can you figure out what you offer – or want to offer – consistently in your work? Start branding!

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6 Responses to “#2: Marketing Yourself – What’s MY “brand”?”


  1. 1 Paisley Kirkpatrick 03/11/2010 at 10:17 AM

    I love your blogs obviously as I am always leaving comments, Kris. And, I have always chuckled at your “Norway is the new Scotland” and now I know why you say it. I guess I have been branding myself all along without realizing it. I love all things Scottish, except haggis. 🙂 Instead of taking my readers to Scotland, I bring my hunks to the gold rush era in California because that is where I live and the living history is beyond my dreams. I have a made up town and past characters walk in and out of my stories. My stories have been referred to as “sweet westerns” even though I protest the tag. My friends say I don’t know mean and can’t write it. Guess I can live with that. 😉

    And, you are right about readers expecting the same kind of stories. When one of my favorite actors changed role type, I was so disappointed because it wasn’t how I pictured him and the movie ended up being a bust. See your point!

  2. 2 Donna Goode 03/11/2010 at 4:02 PM

    Hi, Kris,
    I’ve told you before how valuable I’ve found these posts and I want to say it again. I picked a tagline: Real stories have no endings and I realize now how appropriate it is for my books. My last two finished manuscripts are sequels to the first one and the fourth one will be a sequel as well. I love the concept of telling a love story to its very end…and beyond. Thank you so much for your wonderful articles. Please keep them coming!

  3. 4 kristualla 03/11/2010 at 5:36 PM

    Thanks, guys! All the advice about branding is so vague… I’m sifting through and trying to make sense of it. But we all know that we have expectations of authors we read, and so our readers will as well.

    Sometimes it takes writing a few manuscripts before the light goes on – because I think we write similar elements whether we mean to or not!

    So, I guess we better be in LOVE with our own “bent”! Because – with luck – we’ll be bending that way for YEARS!

    Kris 🙂

  4. 5 Rebecca 03/14/2010 at 9:21 AM

    Excellent post, Kris. I love your brand… it’s what got me into following your blog. 🙂 I gave you a “my favorites” award on my blog this week, for this post. Just wanted to say “great post”! 🙂

  5. 6 kristualla 03/16/2010 at 6:08 PM

    THANKS, Rebecca! 🙂 x 10


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