November 14th, 2016

Creating an Author Brand When You Write Multiple Genres

June Stevens Westerfield

Creating a brand that represents you as an author and reflects your writing as a whole is hard enough when you write in just one genre.  Often, when an author writes books in just one series, their author brand gets tied inextricably with their series brand.  That isn’t ideal, but it isn’t necessarily a problem either.  But what happens if the author starts writing a completely different series or even a standalone novel?  What’s more, what if the new novel is in a completely different genre?  It stands completely outside of the author’s known brand.  The author now has two choices, either change their brand or use a pseudonym.

I was once on the ‘pseudonyms for different genres’ bandwagon.  But that was over a decade ago.  As the digital age has matured and social media has become a necessary part of an author’s platform, the ease of keeping up more than one author name has become more difficult.   It entails maintaining websites, blog posts, newsletters and active social media accounts for each pen name.  That is both expensive and time consuming.  If you write within several subgenres, maintaining your pseudonyms would be unmanageable, and it would leave little time for writing. 

The best option is creating an author brand that can encompass all that you write, and what you may write in the future.  In short, you want to brand yourself as an author, not your genre.   I’ve worked with several clients to create author brands that can represent their work as a whole.

The first step is figuring out what exactly does all of your work have in common?  Do they have a common audience, common themes, etc?  I always ask my clients to list at least three things all their books have in common.   At first most of them say “nothing, they are all different.”  But when pressed, they can usually find many more common traits than just three. 

Next is to pick one of those common threads, or even all three, to come up with a tagline to represent you as an author.  Not all authors choose to use taglines, and ultimately you may choose not to either, but choosing one can help you decide what direction you want to go with the visual aspects of your brand, such as colors, fonts, and logos. 

CASE STUDY: LAURA DRAKE

The best way to illustrate is to walk you through the re-branding process I went through with Laura Drake.  Laura writes both romance and women’s fiction.   In her mind, they are very, very different and on her website she was using two different taglines and branding images for them and had them separated into different sections of her website.  That was a little confusing for the reader, and made it confusing for Laura when it came time to promote her books. 

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   lauradrake_wf

When Laura came to me to consult on her branding, I asked her to list three things that all her books had in common.  She balked at first, saying they were very different.  That’s a normal reaction, we like to think every series, every genre is unique.  But we are humans and our styles don’t change just because we write different genres. 

As a reader and fan of Laura’s work I had the advantage of being able to suggest a few things, and once the ball was rolling, Laura jumped in, a little more at ease.

We determined that all her books feature strong women at turning points in their lives, the stories focus on those women’s relationships (whether romantic or interpersonal), and they all take place in small towns or communities. 

We then took her two existing taglines, and decided that one of them was already perfect to represent all her work:

Ordinary women on the edge of extraordinary change  

Once she simplified her author brand, it made it possible for her to focus on the individual brands for her series.  She created lovely images with the book covers of each series, and then listed her series titles (with each book title popping up when the mouse passes over) in her menu bar.  This makes it easier for fans of a particular book who may not know the series title (or genre) to find what they are looking for.  It also brings the focus back on her books, and not the genres. 

Finally, she pulled it all together with the black and creamy gold color scheme of her website and her very simple initial logo in the top corner.  It’s sleek and elegant, just like her writing.

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Click on the photo to view the site.

Laura’s case was actually pretty simple.  But what if you write is wildly different genres, such as paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and nonfiction?

It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.  How do I know?  My first “multiple genre client” was myself.  I started out in contemporary romance, then added paranormal/urban fantasy.  Then recently put out some non-fiction.

The three things my books have in common: 1. My audience is women, of all ages. (even though I do have male readers)  2. I write strong female characters (even my non-fiction is about women’s strengths) 3. I focus on relationships and emotions

My tagline represents everything I ever want to write, no matter the genre, even non-fiction: Damsels Not in Distress.  But, my brand also represents me as a person, at least the public part of me.

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I chose the color scheme of hot pink and dark grey because they are my favorite colors and they pop with the tagline.  Everything about my brand kind of screams.  And that is perfect for me.  I have purple hair and I’m kind of in your face.  My brand is brash and bold.

To make it even better, there is no shortage of awesome images out there that I can use to make “Damsels Not in Distress” promotional images.  And it’s okay if they are all different, it’s even better that way, because my damsels are all very different. 

beachgirls bigstock-multi-ethnic-hippie-friends-in-69965890woman-on-pier

The thing to remember when thinking about branding is that everything your readers see says something about you.  So, you need to think about more than just the words in your stories.  Who is the “you” you want the public to see, to get to know, not just through reading your books, but through your website and your social media.  That is the person you are branding. 

What do you think, WITS readers? Are you rethinking your brand? Any questions for June?

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Hey all, June is offering WITS readers a special!

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About ABEFB_AVATAR-300x300

Author Branding Essentials is dedicated to offering comprehensive author centric branding and design services at competitive prices.  As an Author, your name is your brand. Building your Author Brand is key to success. Many agents encourage authors to begin building that brand long before they are published. At Author Branding Essentials we understand the unique criteria it takes to build an author brand, versus another type of business.  We can help you decide on the best options for your author brand and help you implement them. 

52 comments to Creating an Author Brand When You Write Multiple Genres

  • I love my new website SO much, June. I didn’t know what I wanted, but you helped me capture it perfectly! Guys, June is a whiz. Just saying.

  • Sherry

    I write YA but everything from romance to historical to science fiction and June really helped me come up with an all-inclusive brand. It’s been a life saver being able to market my overall brand rather than just one genre or series.

  • I thought I was going to write mysteries, but my first publications were romance short stories with a new epublisher and they said I needed a website and blog. I still liked the idea of mysteries, so I came up with a tagline, Romance With a Twist of Mystery, which I figured might give me some leeway with romantic suspense. When I did publish a mystery series, I started referring to all my books as “Mysteries With Relationships” but didn’t change my overall brand. Too much invested in the logo design and brand recognition, although I’m in the midst of updating my website.

    • Terry, I like your “Romance with a twist” tagline. It works both with your log (the heart twisting around the knife) but also I love how you reversed the “s” in twist in the header image. While I agree your website can use updating, that’s normal. I’m an advocate of updats every 3-6 months (just making sure everything is up to date) and complete design overhauls every 3-5 years (if you do the regular updates, then you probably can put off the overhaul to 5 years.) I feel like this might be a post for next year. LOL.

      • Thanks – the heart/dagger logo and the backwards “s” came as a gift from my daughter who hired a graphic artist to design it for me for my birthday a number of years back. I get positive comments on it whenever I hand out a business card.

  • The timing for this is perfect! I’m in the midst of a change and have been struggling with taglines and images, etc. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this information! I’be been thinking about it lately as I consider a slight genre change for my next novel. Now I’m off to fully inspect Laura Drake’s website.

    • Ella, I took the liberty of looking at your website, and while I could suggest some things to make it pop a little better, your visual looks solid. Though you could add a tagline, your Header with your name in that font and color are great, and instead of making a drastic change, I would recommend just BUILDING on that. 🙂

  • I found this very interesting. I write in different genres and even different forms. Both Books and Screenplays. I intend to keep doing this. Of course. How could I stop? But I do need a definitive website. I haven’t had one for years now. Not since way back in the early days of the internet when my first books were released by small on-line publishers. Thank you so much.

    • Yes, a solid website is always very good. And it would not be hard at all to brand both types of writing under one brand. It is, after all, all about your author name.
      I encourage you to take a look at our services, we can take the hassle out of it all, AND pull your current blog over (I see you have a wordpress.com blog) so that you don’t lose posts.

  • This is a struggle for me. I write women’s fiction, but I also write nonfiction (organic lifving, resuce dogs, parenting, writing) and my latest project is memoir. My most popular blog is about the dogs we foster. So basically, I’m all over the place. I’ve tried to have all of it on my website and tried to use the same avatar and book cover banner pic on facebook, twitter, google+, tumblr, etc. I’ve been well aware that me as a writer is my brand, but this is inspiring me to doodle wth some tag lines, etc. an dbe more intentional and inclusive. Something to consider in all my copius spare time. HA. Maybe this will be my holiday project.

    • I understand your struggles. I write romantic fiction in various genres, and non-fiction centering around body positivity, AND non-fiction for writers. It can be a struggle. But if you really think about it… they probably link better than you think. 🙂

  • June!
    I couldn’t agree more. In the digital age especially, YOU are your brand, not your genre. It’s important to create an author brand that is broad enough to encompass wherever your imagination may take your career. After a full career in marketing and branding, even writing a book about it, I still struggled with this question when I added romance to my women’s fiction career (and I wrote a nonfiction business book before that!). Ultimately, I decided I had to be me. I’m happy with the choice and it was nice to read this post for confirmation!
    Thanks!
    Kaira

    • It can be very hard, even when you are highly educated in the area, to brand and market for yourself. Because you are always second guessing. Plus, there are unique aspects to promoting authors and books that are a bit different, so I can see why you struggled with it at first. But I tell you, your simple logo is PERFECTION. I love your site.

  • Margie Lawson

    Smart, smart, smart post!

    Kudos to June and WITS!

    I love Laura’s website too. Impressive and memorable.

  • Fae Rowen

    Thanks for clarifying and showing examples, June. Years ago people used to ask me the theme of my books. I never wrote with a theme in mind (math major, me) but when pressed for an answer I had to say, “Love conquers all.” Cliche, but that really is what my books are about. In the midst of death and destruction across space!

    And I should mention that after Laura’s glowing recommendation, I’m working with June on my author brand and logo. Just filling out her questionnaire really helped me define my own thoughts!

    • A lot of this is what I’ve been working with you on. Since you write across age groups, it’s similar to different genres, branding wise. It can really be hard to step outside ourselves and see our work from a reader’s point of view. (Which is where I come in!) Often all I do is help the author ask themselves the right questions!

  • I write children, YA, and adult. Not sure how to brand that.

    • One of the few times when I do advocate using a psuedonym is when you write both children’s and adult books. If your YA is older teen and your adult stuff is non-erotic, then it would not be a problem keeping them together. Sherry Ficklin does that (Her adult books were under a pen name, but she will be re-branding them). If you want to be able to brand them so that everyone knows they are YOU, but want to keep them slightly separate, you could write your children’s books under a psuedonym, but still use your name, such as: Andrea Renee Smith WRITING AS A.R. Smith. You can still keep it all on the same website, and use the same basic branding. Jennifer L. Arementrout does this with her J. Lynn psuedonym. Jayne Ann Krentz has also pulled her psuedonyms in under one website (thought she still has individual branding).

  • June, I get twisted because I don’t just need to market two type of books I need to market books along with a service. I write women’s fiction with romantic elements – sort of a humorous chick lit voice. My personal blog is More Cowbell and I tend to do most writing things with humor hits.

    I also do blogs, websites and various types of social media marketing and online content for small businesses. I have a website that I’ve never built out because I DON’T KNOW HOW to make it encompass all the things. Do you have thoughts on this?

    • You can’t always brand EVERYTHING in one. While I’ve been working hard to pull all of my writing under one brand, my branding & website design business IS separate, and has to be. Though they do somewhat overlap. I cross promote my business stuff on my author page, but never vice-versa. That said, I don’t promote my fiction on my business site, however I do put my experience as an author in my bio on my business site because it is a big part of what makes me a “expert” in what I do. If you have a business that offers services you definitely SHOULD have separate branding and separate websites.

      The only services I would include with an author website is if you offer speaking engagements on your particular topic, or on writing.

    • THAT SAID… if your services ARE WRITING… then you brand your name, and on your website (which should be integrated with your blog) You have a “freelance writing services” page, outlining your content offerings. THAT is definitely ok. A clean, simple logo could easily work well to brand you all together. Perhaps even a stylized cowbell.

      • My tag line is “Open the door…to great content.” I did the “open the door” so I could use it across the board: ..to laughter, ..to great stories, etc.

        • Oh dear, now I’m seeing an open door with stars coming out. (There’s a freebie consult for you, lol!)

            • BEAUTIFUL! Then you HAVE IT. All you need to do is pull it all together. Build on that logo. The only suggestion I’d have is try to find ONE WORD OR PHRASE that would work for both aspects of your writing. What can you use instead of “content” or “stories” so that you don’t have to switch it out, so that you consolidate your brand. Perhaps the most simple and obvious is the way to go: “Open the door to great writing…” It’s a little “on the nose” but that’s what you are selling. Whether it’s your fiction or marketing content, you are selling your writing.

            • Jenny, you sneaky little thing! I had no idea you’d done that! I love it! it’s professional, yet lighthearted, like you!

              The only thing I’d change, as June said, is ‘content’. We writers know what that is, and some professionals will know, but I think it will sail over reader’s heads.

              And I agree, ‘stories’ is a bit spot on…Hmmmm. Will have to think about this.

              • I’m glad you like it! And that site isn’t necessarily for readers at this point. I’ll likely convert my JennyHansenAuthor site for that when the books are out.

                • Jenny I want to suggest that when you do, go ahead and pull your Cowbell blog over into it. Having one spot that is solidly branded is not only easier for YOU, but also for your readers. Because your blog is through wordpress.com, it should be a super easy transition.. Also, I want to point out that “after the books are out” is a little late. Starting your author platform should begin at least 3-6 months before books are published. Of course you already have a foundation to build on… but if you wait until they are out to get set up, well, for one, it will overwhelm you. I won’t go into the rest of that… but it’s in my Author Platform book. 🙂

    • Okay, this is horrible, because as often happens…. my brain is going CAAARAAAZY with ideas. LOL.

  • Great article. Thanks! I’m thinking about changing up my brand a little more. Thanks for the great advice!

  • Thank you, June! Laura Drake told me about you when I told her I loved her new web site and asked why she changed out the image of a woman at a barbed wire fence for the woman with a sparkler. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own brand since I write both paranormal romance and contemporary romance. She highly recommended I contact you. You’ll be hearing from me!

    • Wonderful! I’m currently giving WITS readers 25% off if you book between now and the end of the year (work may take place later, as I can only do so many projects a month, but if you reserve your place and get on the books now, you get 25% off!)

  • Anne-Marie McArdle

    I’ll kept this in mind. Thanks for the advice. Anne-Marie

  • Thank you for this! I’m switching from paranormal romance to suspense and do NOT want to start over with a new pen name and re-branding. Right off the bat, I know all my books have a southern, rural setting, and have a strong suspense element. As far as the third, a writer friend mentioned that the theme of all my books seems to be about women coming to terms with their past in order to move forward in their lives. Must think of a way to smooth these together!

    • I’m thinking dark colors would work well for you (that’s not always the case). If you can’t mesh them all together, then focus on ONE of those aspects. The reason we look (AT LEAST) three things your books have in common isn’t necessarily to blend them all into the brand (though it’s great if you can). It is to give you options. Try picking the one you think would most appeal to a new reader. (My opinion would be to focus on the suspense elements. that is most likely what your readers will come for… they’ll stay for everything else!)

  • I suggested simply using “writing” because she wants to encompass both her fiction and her marketing content writing under one brand. It’s simple, but I think it works.

  • […] Karen Myers explains how to design and use business cards to market your books, while June Stevens Westerfield shows how to create an author brand when you write in multiple genres. […]

  • […] Creating an Author Brand When You Write Multiple Genres […]

  • I shared this with a comment about all the different things I write, even if not all published yet, and wondered what my brand would be and realized I already had a brand, the title of my blog page “Words Are My Life!” Yes, I added that to the comment and included the URL.

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