Confident Reads (7): Cecilia Gray Talks Branding

Hello everyone! Confident Reads is a way to open communication between readers and indie authors.  This  is to help readers feel confident in the books they spend their money on, and for authors to feel confident in the book they publish.  You can find this feature each week (Wednesdays except in September when it will be Tuesdays) discussing a different subject regarding indie books and authors.

Today I have Cecilia Gray on the blog to talk about branding.  Awhile back we touched on this when talking about covers.  Yes, we want an attractive cover, but what does the cover tell us about what’s inside the book?

 Let’s welcome Cecilia to the blog!

Branding for Indie Writers        
Being a writer is easy. Or if not easy, at least it feels natural.
Being a business? Not so much. Unfortunately one of the realities of indie publishing is not only being responsible for your own editing, covers, and promotion, but also your brand.
A quick detour to the internet for those who are asking what brand is.
“name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or serves as distinct from those of other sellers.” (thanks Wikipedia)
Your brand is identified by:
(1)  Your name
(2)  Your writing voice
(3)  Your covers
(4)  Your retailers
(5)  Your promotional efforts, social media, fan emails, and anything you say or do and how
you say or do it.
In other words: everything.
Let’s do a quick case study with the USA network, famous for its catchphrase Characters Welcome and original series like:

USA today has a legal thriller, a spy thriller, and a medical thriller. Just like any other network. But note how specific the USA brand is: character-driven, sexy, summer fun.
It’s apparent in the writing, the plots, the relationships, the conflicts and even the settings. Burn Notice is about an international spy, but nearly every episode takes place in Miami. Royal Pains is about emergency medicine – but you never see the inside of an emergency room since the doctor is on-call to rich, seaside locations. USA has reflected this brand in its advertising by focusing on light colors, rounded soft fonts, and characters whose expressions are never menacing.
Contrast the images above to a legal, spy, and medical thriller at a competing Fox/FX networks which, correspondingly, have darker stories with grittier settings and more intense characters.

Let’s go back to books.
Putting out a first indie book is exciting. It’s sometimes a story that’s been rejected and that is finally seeing the light of day. You’ve had it edited. You’ve gotten the perfect cover. You’ve written back copy sure to inspire anyone to snatch it up.
Take a pause.
What is your brand, and does the writing, the copy and the cover reflect this brand? Will you be able to put out future work and future covers while maintaining a consistent promise to your readers of what you offer?
But Cecilia, everything I write is different and brilliant!
Yes. And no.
Even award-winning Neil Gaiman, who is ubiquitously brilliant and writes across multiple genres, formats and audiences maintains a brand. While his fans continue to be surprised by his work, they’re not surprised to find it is clever, dark and dripping with mythology.
My brand is specifically lighthearted and romantic without any explicit sexual contact. This is true whether I’m writing young-adult contemporary (The Jane Austen Academy series), historical romance (The Gentlemen Next Door series) or paranormal romance (The Fallen Idols series).

Covers across all the series are candy colored, illustrative, and sweet. They maintain a similar color palette. Fonts are soft, bubbly, or cursive.
You don’t have to crack open the cover to know what I’m all about and to decide whether you want a piece of it.

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  1. I really enjoyed this guest post and I think it is so true. Whether most of us will admit it or not, we judge books by their cover, whether it is unconscious or on a conscious level.

    And as a side not, I watch two of the three USA shows talked about above LOL! And both are excellent shows to watch. 😉

    This week I have had the pleasuere of reading Flight by Alyssa Rose Ivy and Transcend by Christina Fonseca, both have beautiful covers and both were really great indie reads.

  2. I am loving this feature Candace, it’s awesome! I think this particular post has a much broader application outside of just books as well, as I’m a small business owner and have to constantly beware of my brand and what I’m communicating to clients with that brand image. Consistency is really important in my opinion (not necessarily visually – same fonts, colors etc, but consistency in the feel of the brand), and to be consistent you have to know who you are as a writer/designer/business owner. Having a clear understanding of branding is key to that I think!

  3. Great post! It really gets at the heart of one of the critical factors for success as an indie author. Despite my extensive marketing background, I still struggle with branding myself at times. It’s kind of like self promotion, just a little uncomfortable until you find your niche.

    Branding takes a lot of careful consideration because in this age of technology it’s easy to take an unwanted detour that will stick with you and potentially tarnish your brand and that of indie writers everywhere. (Think: authors behaving badly).

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