Commit & Connect

At its most basic – and powerful – your brand is an expression of your core essence. Whether you’re an individual or a multi-national company, you express yourself best through the words you speak, and the messages you want to share.

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Refine Your Message

“Does anyone have any questions for my answers?” – Henry Kissinger

Knowing your message—or talking points—is a critical element to successfully expressing your Brand on a consistent basis. Think of expert witnesses at a trial, or celebrities on a press junket. They are coached intensely by their team to hit certain key points… and to not say anything else that might contradict or undermine those points.

While with any luck your life is more like a press junket than a jury trial, you have talking points as well.

These talking points could be your “elevator pitch” for your most recent book or work project, they could be your statement of who you are and why you’re at a given event, or they could be a brief list of your qualifications and most recent successes. Whatever your talking points, working out your message in advance will help you be ready for any situation… and will keep you on point no matter who you meet or what they ask.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Consider the event/conversation/meeting you’re attending. Why are you going? What’s your goal?
  2. What’s your role as it pertains to this event/conversation/meeting? Why were YOU the one chosen to attend? In other words “I’m an expert witness at a jury trial because I know more about this subject than most of my peers.” or “I decided to attend this conference because I’m a professional, and professionals network and learn about their craft.”)
  3. If you could leave the other attendees of the event with three key items to remember, what would those be? Just bullet points are fine.

Now, as you consider the conversations or presentations you have at your upcoming events, start creating answers, comments, statements or suggestions that include the key points you’ve outlined above. Try to make a goal of including one or more of your key message points in every conversation.

Commit. Connect. Create

If you’ve worked with me or taken one of my classes (or simply stood next to me for too long), you know that, for me, comprehensive Branding goes beyond packaging (how you look, your marketing materials) and directly to the heart of who you are. Your Brand takes into consideration everything you do and everything you are.

Even for companies, the most successful brands are not about a terrific logo and slick marketing materials (although those can certainly help!). They’re about the emotion behind such materials, the spirit of the company itself, the essence and experience that you want your clients/customers to encode into their very DNA.

 

An Example for Authors

In my work with authors, I frequently encounter a resistance to branding because of the cost. But branding isn’t just about a million bookmarks and posters. There’s a lot you can do before you even get to that stuff.

I consider author Branding to be simply this: How you identify yourself and your work both to the industry and to your readers. And to effectively present (or market) your Brand, you need to consider the following six areas:

  • Your PRODUCT, or the work itself (the most important part of anyone’s Brand!)
  • Your PRICE, or whether your books are mass market, e-book, trade paperback or hardback; and how you price yourself within those categories
  • Your POSITIONING, or what makes your work different from everyone else’s in your genre
  • Your PLACEMENT, or where your books may be found (online, booksellers, etc.), and – then, but only then, you get to the external elements
  • Your PACKAGING, or your books’ covers, your appearance and demeanor (if you make any personal appearances) and your website and social media graphics, and
  • Your PROMOTION, or “all the stuff you create to promote yourself and your writing”

Authors tend to place the most focus on Packaging and Promotion, but a successful Brand Marketing effort will include all elements of a Brand for maximum impact.

Again, Brand Marketing does NOT need to be an overwhelming subject for authors. It really isn’t about how many bookmarks you have or whether or not your website features the latest video trailer technology. Effective Brand Marketing is within reach of EVERY author, from the first-time-writer to the multi-published, beloved romance icon.

First, write a great book

No, really. The most important part of anyone’s Brand is the actual product he or she is selling, or in the case of authors, their books. If you don’t have a solid book, you will not have breakout success—so take the time to put forth your best possible work before getting caught up in all of the distractions of marketing.

Second, consider your publisher and format

Authors of romance have the opportunity to sell their books to publishers of almost every shape and description—large or small, print or e-book. While any publisher can add value to the writing process, you are both subconsciously and literally setting a price for your book by your choice of publisher. That price (and the contract you negotiated) can and should impact your Branding process.

For example, if you sell to an e-book publisher with a strong online following, does it make sense to prepare for in-person book signings? Probably not. However, if you sell to a traditional print publishing house and know several booksellers in the area who would hand-sell your book with a little advance notice, then taking the time to set up book signings would be well worth your time.

Third, decide what makes you different

It’s very tempting to skip this step. You want to get on to the fun part of designing marketing materials, not think about your industry peers and how you and your work might stand out. But positioning yourself is critical for you to ensure your Branding efforts are effective. You’re not “just” a writer of romance… your romance is unique because it is—what? Amazingly funny? Packed with thrills? Dark and edgy? I urge you to take the time to come up with what makes you and your work fresh and new, particularly if you’re a new writer or if you’re trying to break through to the next level of publication. It is time and effort well spent.

Fourth, package yourself (and your work!) for success

This applies on two levels. First off, there’s your personal appearance—which is necessary for in-person book signings and meetings with your industry peers and publishing professionals. Please note that even if they don’t want to, people do draw conclusions about you based on your appearance and your demeanor. So if you write serious literary fiction and you show up wearing day-glo spandex and stilettos, there will be a bit of a disconnect for your readers. And if you write tender, soulful romance but snarl and snap at every turn, that will also be off-putting (as well as slightly alarming). Being a public figure is not always easy, but accept that you are one as an author, and be prepared!

**Note, does this mean that if you don’t “fit” the role of the type of books you write, that you shouldn’t be seen in public? Absolutely not! But just be prepared for your readers to blink rapidly when they meet you, and have a plan to resolve their surprise however you prefer.**

Your marketing materials are another method of “packaging” yourself—your website, business cards, stationery, and, yes, giveaway items are all part of your overall package. If you are published or are actively marketing your work, take the time to create a truly professional-looking website and online presence. It does not have to be elaborate, but it should be appealing, easy to read and genre-appropriate. The same holds true for your marketing materials—it is not worth your time to create materials that don’t present you professionally, so spend your money and resources wisely in this arena.

Fifth, pay attention to where (and how!) your books are sold

This is another area that is tempting to overlook, but the placement of your books can help determine how well they are sold. So find out where your books will be available—and when. Consider innovative marketing ideas to get your books placed in unique venues—especially if your book lends itself to a particular tie in (such as Harlequin’s NASCAR®-themed book series). Help your editor sell your book to the sales department by suggesting marketing hooks and ideas to make your work memorable. When it comes to helping ensure your books are as marketable as possible, consider it part of your Brand duty to be an active participant in your own success.

And Sixth…finally!… Promote your work with distinction

Yes, absolutely: promotional materials can be a part of a successful sales plan for any author. Bookmarks that have a unique hook or design, and “useful” items such as mini-calendars, pens, lanyards, clips and magnets do have a shelf life, and can absolutely boost name recognition. But here as in all areas of Branding, make your promotional materials stand out. Chances are, you’re spending part of your advance money to purchase these items, so make sure they will carry their weight. They absolutely must contain your identity—your name, book title, and/or website address—and they should ideally be as unique as you can make them, and relevant to your specific Writing Brand.

Creating a positive, memorable author Brand can be a rewarding process for an author—because it allows you to clearly articulate who you are, what you write, and why your books are worth the attention of a reader. So take the time to create a Brand you truly love—and watch your readers fall in love with it, too.