Sunday, January 31, 2010

Author branding

The issue of branding has bothered me for a bit. As someone who enjoys reading a variety of genres, I also enjoy writing them. Straight contemporary, contemporary/urban fantasy, dark fantasy/paranormal, historical, speculative… you get the idea.

So when I saw James Patterson’s TV commercial for his latest (and for Patterson, the term “latest” has a time stamp) release, Witch and Wizard, it made me wonder. This was outside his usual thriller arena. Thriller not being one of the genres I usually read, Patterson’s been off my radar. Until his TV commercials began appearing awhile back. The one below made many chuckle.

Although I also came across this YA offering on YouTube, which plays more like a movie trailer:

Also definitely outside the Patterson “brand.” Or so I thought. A New York Times article indicated he writes everything from “science fiction, fantasy, romance, “women’s weepies,” graphic novels, Christmas-themed books” to nonfiction. Interesting, because Patterson also talks about creating a brand.

According to the article, he writes in longhand and yet managed to put out 45 books. How? He has a stable of authors writing for him. Fellow Popculturediva Kayla Perrin wrote an excellent blog about it.

So I suppose this should put my mind at ease about not having a “brand.”
Wrong. It still bothers me.

I’ve seen authors who write under various names to separate out the various genres they write in. Not for me. Having too many pen names would confuse the hell out of me, so I can imagine how readers would feel. And what’s the point? They’d know anyway, presumably.

Maybe having a brand isn’t so important after all. But having a great tag line that encompasses it all would be great. Something that speaks to the heart of my writing without pigeonholing me into one corner. (I get claustrophobic that way.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is it important for readers to be able to identify a writer by a brand or tag? Or should your byline carry the weight on its own, despite the fact it could be written in any number of genres? Or is that why book covers are so damn important?


Trent Kinsey said...


I'll admit, I'm the first person to tell someone "Just write." And let the reader enjoy your stories regardless of what genre. Right now I'm wroking on a story that's not horror in the least and horror is my comfort zone...but when the muse speaks you listen and write without question.

With that said, I'll admit that though I'm working on what is in all actuallity a love story, I'll leave that under the Trent Kinsey name. But if I started writing stories that are extremely dark or if I actually delve into erotica, I will most likely use a pen name because I want my Trent Kinsey name to mean what I write under that name.

Cate Masters said...

Oh yeah - "Go with your gut" is my mantra. Great to hear you're experimenting outside your comfort zone - looking forward to the result. I don't think horror and romance and mutually exclusive, btw. Ha!

Emma Lai said...

I could care less about taglines. I do care about author name though. However, it just means I expect the same great writing no matter what the genre.

As for pen names, I plan on putting all my romance, even erotica, under one name and if I'm lucky enough to publish sci-fi/fantasy or YA, I'll put that under another name.

Cate Masters said...

Interesting. I'm glad the author name carries more weight than anything.
YA is very hot right now, Emma! Hope to see you in that arena, under whatever name you choose. :)

Alice Audrey said...

I'm also struggling with the branding thing. I write a lot of romance with suspense elements but not the suspense feel, historical romance with a strong historical feel but a few suspense elements, and "sweet" that tiptoes right on the edge of vulgar. How the heck do I brand that?

Cate Masters said...

You have common elements, Audrey - maybe something that will weave them together?