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Sell Yourself the Right Way

November 23, 2010

Since it is open topic this week, I wanted to talk about author brands. It has become a sort of obsession of mine as of late as I try to update my website, blog, and other sites to reflect my ‘brand’.

Now, what is an author brand you ask? Well, to me it is the image that you present to your readers, agents, and fellow writers about who you are as a writer. Key point there. Now myself personally, I would rather have my website full of skulls and barbed wire. However, that doesn’t really show my author brand as a fantasy writer does it?

So, part of creating your own author brand is to really think about what you write. What genre or what type of feelings do your stories present? If you write in multiple genres, how could you show the feel of all the genres at the same time?

This part can be a little difficult, especially if you write multiple genres under the same name. However, many people recoomend, and I agree, that if you write multiple genres, you should have a different pen name for each genre. For me that also means having a website for each name, each with the right theme.

Too much work you say? Well, think of it like this. I write High Fantasy right? My website reflects this with a marvelous fantasy theme to it. But I do have some ideas for sci-fi stories. Now, my High Fantasy readers and fans will know that my name on a book means High Fantasy. But if they pick it up and find out it’s sci-fi they will be a bit dissapointed and probably feel a little misled. Sure, many fans read multiple genres. But, if they expect a certain thing from you and you change it on them, they still might feel a little jilted about it. So, consider your fans and your reader base when writing in multiple genres – and thus choosing an image or feel for your site and/or blog.

Pen names are important to a writer’s brand also. My real name as you know is Anastasia V. Pergakis. I went by the pen name Harley D. Palmer for years! But, when I really became serious about getting published, I had to sit down and think what name to use. A friend of mine told me that my real name would look awesome on a fantasy cover and I agreed. So, began the process to change everything in  “Harley’s” name to “Anastasia”. Will I ever use Harley again? Of course! I plan to use it later when I start to write in genres other than high fantasy. At that time, I will create another brand name and slogan to go with those stories.

And that is point here people. Create an image, a feel, and a name that all goes together. Put out there a “slogan” of a sort that people will remember and recognize. It’s all about getting people to remember you and find you when they want. If they put your name into a google search, they should find YOU (the way you are on the cover of your book) all over the place. Website, blog, twitter, facebook, whatever.

For my blog, I went with a theme and layout that fit with me as a person rather than my writings. This is because that blog will be used as a central point for every thing I do under any name. So, I chose a theme that will cover all topics I ever decide to talk about. Some might tell me that my blog should match my website, or match the “fantasy” brand. However, since on my blog I talk about more than just my fantasy works, I don’t think including the blog into my ‘image’ would fit very well. Others might feel differently and wouldn’t do this the way I did. That’s fine too. The main point here is to create your brand however you see fit – but just do it.

So I challenge you to sit down and really think about your ‘brand’ if you haven’t already. Think about the future and where you want to be and how you want people to see and remember you.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2010 7:51 am

    A great topic. I have thought about it a little bit but need to work more on my own branding, especially since I’m one of those that write in very different genres. I’m pretty much set on Dawn Embers being the general fantasy name (though I want it for the mutant series, which I’m still not 100 percent sure if it’s more sci-fi or fantasy). I know that readers can expect certain things from all my novels though, and will use part of that in building my brand.

    They mentioned branding on a tv show recently called The Arrangement, which is a floral arranging competition. The last 4 contestants had to make a design involving their names in order to be like a living business card that showed off their personal style and brand. Interesting to see in different contexts and how they relate to writing brands too.

    • November 23, 2010 4:16 pm

      That’s great that you found a common theme among all your writings Dawn. It’s great also that you can gain inspiration and information from a seemingly unrelated businesses and topics. Your brand is exactly like a business card that tells everyone who you are.

  2. November 23, 2010 10:28 am

    It is a good idea to consider branding consistently with blogs, websites, business cards, facebook pages, photos on social media, and titles. Confusing the visitor will not add to your following as much as a clearly defined message or theme.
    Happy writing!
    Cheers, Lisa

    • November 23, 2010 4:17 pm

      Thanks for commenting! You’re right, confusing your visitors and fans to your sites could potentially make you lose followers. It is great to have a common theme or feel among all of them so you are easily found around the net.

  3. November 23, 2010 11:21 am

    Well done, Ana! I have to disagree with one point though – branding with different genres depends on the genre. High Fantasy and Sci-fi usually occupy the same section of the book store – thus they can share the same name. Even Romance and Urban Fantasy can share the same name.

    It’s more for when you do completely different work with perhaps an unrelated readership you need to re-brand. Like High-Fantasy and Mystery. Or Erotica and Young Adult. Or switch from Fiction to Non-Fiction.

    Fantasy of all kind – whether it be in the form of Contemporary, High, Urban, Paranormal, Steampunk, Space Opera, or Sci-fi can all be safely branded together. Although not all readers will swap from one to the other, you will find many that do.

    Don’t worry about a theme on your website reflecting what you write – have it reflect a professional appearance that tells readers a bit about you and that you’re serious in your craft. Blogs – they are for fun, I agree you can do anything you’d like there.

    You can create a lot of extra work for yourself by micro-branding. And it’s not always needed. When you’re starting out it can be very hard to manage more than one name.

    Take me for example. I’ve focused on one – I write fantasy with strong erotic elements. It’s not too much of a stretch for my readers to see me writing pure erotica, so I kept the same brand. And I’m currently published in two ebook erotica anthologies, with a third coming out next month and a print edition as well.

    But I also write non-fiction under another name and Middle Grade under yet another. Both of those pen names are largely under-developed right now. I need to build the brand I’m publishing right now the most, and the rest will come with time.

    • November 23, 2010 4:22 pm

      I wanted my site to reflect what I wrote and that was what I was trying to say in the post I guess. However a person decides to brand thimself, it’s simply they need to be consistant I think. Like you said, not many authors would micro-brand themselves between different types of fantasy and/or sci-fi. I used that as an example only because I will be in the future. You’re right, most authors don’t use different pen names or brands unless the switch drastically from one genre to another. For me, since my sci-fi will not have the same feel as my fantasy, (aka they will be a bit more graphic in violence and such), I didn’t want to have the same name attached.

      But that’s me. Not everyone would or should do that. We both agree that branding is important, in fact you were the one that made me start to think of the importance.

  4. November 23, 2010 1:24 pm

    Hmmm, I can’t really fit myself into a brand. I’d have to think about it, since I do a lot of blogging, and ficion of multi-genres..I can I can fit myself into the brand called chaos.

    • November 23, 2010 4:23 pm

      Chaos is a great brand L.A.! My blog’s original design, since the name of my blog is Labotomy of a Writer had a sort of chaos theme to it. I have since changed it, but I’m all for chaos! It serves a great purpose sometimes. Just make sure you mix it with some order, otherwise your fans will get lost too! Thanks for commenting!

  5. November 23, 2010 6:30 pm

    Great blog, Harl–eh, I mean Anastasia. Argh, now I have to change all my stuff from Harley D. Palmer to Anastasia V. Pergakis.

    Anyway, I’m glad you brought up this subject as I have never really thought of a brand name. As you know from my WDC account, I write science fiction, horror, suspense, drama, etc, but all under my own name (actually Gregory Marshall Smith since blogging for “Gregory Smith” will get you about 100 authors).

    I guess if I radically go off the reservation, I will have to consider a brand name. And I know what you’re thinking — “If”?

    But, seriously, what, in your opinion, would necessitate a pen name? Does it need to just be a genre change, even though sci-fi, fantasy and horror are practically lumped together? Is it, like C.J. (can’t believe I’m using C.J. as an example) said, when you switch from fiction to non-fiction?

    Any hard, steadfast rules?

    • November 23, 2010 7:04 pm

      I don’t think there any full steadfast rules. It’s to the discrestion of the author. Like I said in a reply to CJ’s comment, one can micro-brand between fantasy/sci-fi and horror like you said. Some don’t though, like CJ’s example of only changing for huge leaps like from erotica to YA or fiction to non-fiction. It’s up to the individual author how they want to plan and manage their career.

      From what I’ve learned, the main point with your author brand (or brands) is to make sure it’s all consistant. For me, Anastasia V. Pergaksis as my brand, is a high fantasy author. Thus I try to make all my social/networking types of sites reflect this in some way – I also use the same photo of myself. When I start writing sci-fi I will use a pen name for those stories and so I will create another brand, with a new theme and new photo of myself. It’ll still be me, yes, but I’ll use a different picture in a different pose so that it’s different than the other.

      I personally decided to use a different name for the sci-fi works because they are still different from my fantasy. They will be more violent and dark, very graphic types of works and I don’t want to associate the same name with that sort of darker theme. But, that’s my personal choice and not everyone would do the same.

      So, the only steadfast rule is to be consistant. Decide what works for you and how you want to present yourself to your readers and then stick to it.

  6. November 25, 2010 12:09 am

    Well done, Anastasia. What a great topic! I think you really got a bunch of us thinking with that one. My first reaction to what you had written was one of disagreement. Actually, my first thought was [expletive deleted], that’s too much work! So my second reaction wasto disagree; however, I then recalled the day I walked into my local bookseller and quickly snatched up Patricia Cornwell’s latest novel, only to take it home and find out that it wasn’t a Kay Scarpetta story. When I realized that she had wondered off of the reservation and had written something else, I took it right back to the store. So, most definitely you have a point. I do have other stories within me that are more traditional Christian tearjerker things, and I don’t think my tough, horror-lovin readers are going to be too thrilled with that, so I had better figure out how I’m going to handle that.
    There’s so much to consider, isn’t there? My “official” author’s photo is the one with me sporting a beard. I was sick recently and skipped shaving for two days. The next day that I felt better, I shaved. My wife asked me if I was going to grow the beard this Christmas and I responded with a resounding: “Hell no!” When she asked me why, I explained that I had to look at that damn beard every single day! 😉

    • November 25, 2010 3:05 am

      There is a lot to consider James. But it’s all for the readers. If not for them, we couldn’t do this full time or even part time could we? I hope I didn’t stress you out over this or anything LOL but I’m glad I could make you at least think about it.

      Oh and by the way — I absolutely LOVE the beard. My vote = grow it back and keep it. 🙂

      • November 27, 2010 10:53 am

        I agree – the beard is sex-say! Although, you’re still handsome without it Jimmy. You are lucky to be able to sport both looks and pull them off well.

        But as far as Greg – I’m digging the newer TV/movie-set look from the side bar pictures on our site over the old one he has on his WP account. The shaved head is a good look.

  7. November 27, 2010 12:51 pm

    Good job, Anastasia,

    I’ve heard it said both ways. I’d follow as the advice of some multi-pubbed authors. Judith Krentz said it practically ruined her career when she changed her pen name and her genres, twice. It cost her a lot of readers. They didn’t know how to find her. Her voice was darker, but not really different. But her stories were similar, just with different characters and worlds.

    But if the two are completely different, well I can see it. She was doing romantic suspense and then went into the horror and paranormal, dark vampire stuff and it messed with her historicals, which had been her bread and butter.

    I’ve also talked to some authors who are bored with what they are selling. But their advice to me: don’t mess with success. Once you have it, keep it, and learn to love it. Changing looks, formats, where people can find you, managing multiple pen names has got to be dizzying and I think only works for a few. A very talented few, and you may have what it takes.

    But I have to say, if you can successfully write in all those genres, it’s a nice problem to have. Most people can’t.

  8. November 27, 2010 12:52 pm

    Man! You ladies are buttering me up for the slaughter, aren’t you?!? C.J., the only way I’m growing the beard back is if it will help me with next year’s Wicked Writers evaluation… *waiting for a response* Would it be like extra credit? I’d offer to wash your car, but I don’t even wash my own. 🙂

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