If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Building a Brand Name

Authors create brands through their names. The association of the name to an expectation, its subject matter and writing style, in readers’ minds creates the brand. When I see the name Sue Grafton, I expect a female PI protagonist, who lives a solitary life, solves her cases, and the stories ends with an epilogue—it’s the “Sue Grafton” brand.

Authors switch names to differentiate their writing by genre or subgenre. For example, Alice Alfonsi writes mystery under the name Cleo Coyle. She also writes a paranormal series under the name Alice Kimberly. Readers know what kind of book they are buying when they see each name.

Personally, I don’t like authors to change names. If I like their writing, I want to read them. If I don’t like the subject matter, it doesn’t matter what pseudonym they use. I love Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, not so much his one-off books, but at least I can find those books and will try them since I know his name. His books are always well written even if I’m not as attracted to his protagonists or like the various topics as much as I do his “Rebus” novels. I find the change of names like a tiresome shell game.

I’ve used my pseudonym, E. B. Davis, for all my work. But I write different subgenres: cozy mysteries, romantic mystery, paranormal romantic mystery, and generic mystery. Even though I personally don’t like the name game, I wondered if I should establish a new name for each of my writing subgenres for business reasons since it is a common practice in publishing.

After reading Jacqueline Seewald’s blog, “Author Expressions" about authors building a brand, I read many of the interesting comments that other authors wrote expressing their opinions about Ms. Seewald’s blog. Nancy Cohen’s response made me stop in my tracks. I loved her answer, or her agent’s answer, which, having obtained her permission, I’ll share with you.
"I asked my agent when I sold my latest futuristic romance if I should take a pseudonym to distinguish them from my Bad Hair Day mysteries, and he said no because I've already established my name. So that's a different viewpoint. Based on reader comments, I understand that my brand, whatever I write, includes a fast-paced story with mystery, romance, and humor. So I branded, not my series, but myself as an author on my website when I had it redesigned. I identified myself as a Florida author and that's my theme. It's also where many of my books (except the sci fi) are set."
After reading her response, I experienced an “Ah-ha,” and then a “Duh” moment when I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that concept. Most authors create pseudonyms to fit the genre they are writing, not by setting because most authors’ settings vary. After I’d written my first two novels and quite a few short stories, I noticed that most of my work is set at the beach. Yes, it was another “Ah-ha”/ “Duh” moment, because I’m so focused on one piece of work at any given time, I hadn’t considered my writing as a body of work. Using the concept Ms. Cohen presented, I realized that my one pseudonym associated with my setting rather than to the subgenre in which I’m working could establish my brand.

There are authors who write books that people like to read on the beach, as in, “a good beach read.” But doing so doesn’t make the writers “beach authors.” If a writer’s setting is nearly always the beach, that’s a beach author, and a brand. People who like the beach are likely to buy books that are set at the beach, and if the summer’s crowds are an indication, there are many beach readers. As a beach bum and a writer, being a beach writer is fine by me.

What’s your brand? How will you define yourself as a writer?

11 comments:

Warren Bull said...

Steven King talks about the importance of establishing a "brand." I have mixed feelings about it. I write about all time periods and many points of view: male and female, young and old, various ethnic backgrounds. I also write humor, cozy and noir. Maybe I need to find a brand. How 'bout Bull's 57?

Pauline Alldred said...

Authors have been successful with branding but sometimes they experience problems when they want to write differently. I've heard well-known authors say they want to write about a different character but readers want the familiar character.

With branding, a person lives up to expectations but he/she might not want to exceed the expectation.

So, I have mixed feelings about brands but then I don't always shop brands in the grocery store.

Gail M Baugniet said...

I took the advice of Kristen Lamb in her book We Are Not Alone to use my full name on everything and to have all my web sites reflect a similar theme. I had already chosen a "Pepper" background in yellow on my blog for my protagonist Pepper Bibeau, and continued the yellow theme on my other sites.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Your post struck a chord with me! I just sold two adult mysteries to two different epublishers. I'm multi-published as a children's book author, and wonderef if I should take a pseudonym. I decided to keep my name. I'm glad to see others think this was a good decision.
Marilyn

E. B. Davis said...

LOL, Warren--even if it is applicable, it's taken.

My problem is that I like to read many different genres. If I like an author's writing, than I don't really care what they are writing and would rather follow the writer's career. Even if I decide not to read the book, I will normally look up the author and take a look at their new releases.

I once thought two of my author's had died (another two have actually-Elaine Flynn and Anne George). Turned out they started to write under different names. I hope they understand that by establishing a brand under a new name, they lost an established reader.

One book at a time, and yet if the writer is one I know, I'll at least give their books more consideration than an author I don't know.

sort said...

Of course it depends on how the author feels, but for me it's very particular. I write medieval mysteries so any other medieval type book I write will have that built-in audience for the "Jeri Westerson" brand. But if I chose to write romances, I feel that I would use a pen name, as I do for my gay mystery series (under the name Haley Walsh). Why is branding important in this case? Because if someone picks up a "Jeri Westerson" and expects a medieval mystery and gets instead a contemporary gay mystery, I don't want anyone spitting their coffee across their laps, or worse, throwing the book across the room. Branding is important in some cases because of the readers' expectations.

Kaye George said...

Yes, I've noticed a lot of beaches in your stuff, E.B. I think that's an excellent idea!

Pauline Alldred said...

And thinking about beaches makes people happy. The sea and beach look good on covers. Throw in a few scantily clad bodies and your book advertises itself. Make sure you pick it up in book stores and accidentally replace it facing out with the beach scene showing.

E. B. Davis said...

I can understand what Jeri is saying, although most people do read the blurb on the back of the book.

Katy Munger, one of my favorites, wrote straight mystery (PI) then changed to paranormal mystery using the name Chaz McGee. Katy got a lot of good press, so I couldn't understand why she just stopped writing. Of course she didn't, but I had no objection to Katy writing paranormal.

If I can read a book, I can read the jacket. Took me quite a while to find Katy again!

Thanks for thinking of that Pauline. I'm thinking that I'll lobby for the cover showing that beach scene, when (if!) I get published.

Polly said...

I'm with Jeri. I write erotic romance under another name. That's a whole different ball game with an entirely different readership. I wouldn't want that name to cross into my more mainstream novels--if they're ever published.

Layla Stabile said...

I fully support these endeavors by enterprising writers to build their names as a brand. It's been fairly common for sometime now, especially by those who build their prescence on the net. Totally modern and very wise. This would take a motley crew for one to pull this off, and quite a few input from professionals in the marketing field since this would take more than just a mere blog post, or a 'build it and they will come' sort of deal. It's about making names big and putting them out there.

Layla @ Sacramento Marketing Labs