Monday, December 14, 2009
Branding (not the cow kind)
Growing up in a rural, farming community, my definition of a brand included a hot iron and a cow's backside. Granted, this may have more to do with cowboy movies than reality--I'm not sure I've ever seen a cow being branded in real life. Thank goodness. Sure I dehorned, immunized, wrangled and medicated my fair share of bovines in my brief and never realized (but very exciting) journey to becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine, but I never participated in the act of branding one of my four-legged friends. I think if they could, they would thank me for that small act of grace.
Funny thing is, in my two years working as a ranch hand on a dairy, I never gave branding a second thought. And now, as a veteran wife, mother of two, and fledgling novelist, the concept of branding is something I wrestle with on a regular basis. Of course, my definition has changed a bit.
So what is branding? I found this excellent (and concise) definition at BusinessDictionary.com: Branding is the... "Entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product (good or service--books, in my case) in the consumers' mind, through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers."
There are lots of words in that definition that jump out at me: unique, consistent, significant and differentiated presence, loyal customers. The more I write, and the more I deal with publishers, agents, and other industry professionals, the more I'm starting to understand that if I hope to do this gig long-term, I need to figure out just exactly who I am and what I write. What makes my books unique? What about my writing will help me create a significant and differentiated presence in the vast (and ever-growing) publishing market?
According to R.R. Bowker's publishing statistics, there were 407,000 books published in 2007. That's a significant year to me because it is the year that my first book, After the Leaves Fall, was released. My sweet, little debut is lost somewhere amid that overwhelming mass of books. Think about it. How many books do you read in a year? I manage probably one a week. That's 52 books a year--only a miniscule fraction of all that was available in 2007. And more books just keep coming and coming and coming...
Okay, I do have a point to all this musing, but it's going to take me a couple of days to flesh it all out. In the meantime, I want to leave you with some questions to mull over.
If you are a writer: What is unique, different, or attractive about your writing? What sets you apart? If you had to write a one or two-line branding statement, what would it be?
If you're a reader: Do you notice different "brands" in books? What brands are you drawn to? Do you think that creating a brand is a good idea? Or does it limit authors and create cookie-cutter books?
Join the conversation! I can't wait to hear what you have to say.