The very first they teach you in author school…oh no! Wait! There is no author school. Okay, if there was an author school, the very first thing they would teach you about becoming successful in the world of publishing is to brand yourself.
Ouch! Am I the only one who thinks of this?
The basic tenet of branding is to set a certain expectation and to deliver it consistently. The end goal (in publishing) is to achieve “auto buy” status from readers. Readers auto-buy when they know what they are getting every time. The problem with branding, however, is that it’s very much like Hollywood type-casting. Once you become associated with one particular “Band” which can be a genre or even a particular kind of character, it can be nearly impossible to break back out of that mold.
I think branding is easiest for authors who plot. Their process is systematic. They set out consciously to write a certain kind of book and then write that book. But what about those of us whose inspiration is more random and subconscious? That’s where the challenge lies.
I began my writing career eight years ago. The idea for my first book was utterly random, springing from nowhere. Then the characters began appearing in my dreams. This was when I knew I had to write. When I finished my debut novel fourteen months later, I was terrified. Because the process was utterly out of my control, I feared that this phenomenon would never happen again. Thankfully, I was wrong as I just finished my twenty-second book. I have learned much over the past eight years. I have become a much better writer and a faster writer. (We all do with time and practice) but my inspiration still comes to me in the same way. It’s still random and subconscious.
A while back I set out to “consciously” write a certain kind of book, and discovered the process was absolutely painful. I had originally proposed a story that was very much alive inside me, but the publisher (after the contract was already signed) decided this particular book didn’t fit their marketing strategy for my four book series, so they asked me to come up with something else. Not wanting to lose my book deal, I proposed a story that I thought they would like better. Everything was great until I actually sat down to write it! Almost every day that I worked on that book I felt as if I had to dig every single word out of my brain. Although I somehow managed to finish it, the process was absolutely grueling and no fun at all. In the end, I felt the book was good but I knew it wasn’t my very best.
Lesson learned, always follow my muse.
This leads to the personal problem I have with “branding”. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy, but I need to write what I am inspired to write whether it be cowboys or Vikings or wicked Georgian rogues. I don’t want to be kept in a box. Having said that, the next six months are huge for me as I have nine releases planned that span several sub-genres. I just wrote my very first medieval/Viking romance (BRETON WOLFE written to help launch Kathryn Le Veques’s De Wolfe Pack Kindle world). It was supposed to have been a standalone novella but now I have an entire series planned, THE WOLVES OF BRITTANY.
I am also involved in four multi-author anthologies over the next few months. The first, RING IN A COWBOY is a contemporary set, the second, ONCE UPON A TRUE LOVE’S KISS contains my first Regency romance, the third, PASSIONATE PROMISES is a wonderful collaboration of authors from this blog, and the fourth, SEVEN NIGHTS OF SIN, is a HOT historical set. These releases are in December, January, February and March, respectively.
January 18th marks the launch of my highly anticipated HOTEL RODEO SERIES that begins with HELL ON HEELS. I would categorize this series as sexy romantic comedy. It’s smart, super sexy and so very much fun!
Given my rebellious nature, branding is a huge challenge for me, so rather than focusing on a particular genre, I have decided I just need to brand me and who I am as a writer. I may write different eras and a variety of characters, but the one thing readers can always count on is a smart, sexy romance.
So where do I go from here? Wherever my maverick muse decides to take me!