Creating A Successful Brand

Monday 28 October 2019

How important is it to brand yourself as a writer?

Let’s think about some of the wildly successful writers out there and whether branding has helped them.

When I think big bands, I think of Stephen King. He’s billed as a horror writer but he does write across genres and has used a pen name in the past to separate his books. Although he’s been branded as a horror writer, he has room to move within this because his stories all have a darkness to them.

When I think of Neil Gaiman, I think of fantasy.

When I think of JK Rowling, I think children’s fantasy and crime.

Wait… why is it okay for JK to break the rules? Are there any rules?

The short answer is no. Write what you like. The longer answer is no, BUT! 

If you want people to instantly recognise what you do and what you’re about, it’s best to brand yourself. If customers/clients have to think too much about what it is you are offering, the sale could be lost.

JK Rowling writes crime under a pseudonym. 

The Casual Vacancy wasn’t well received by a lot of older Potter fans, and so writing crime under a pen name was a good idea. Pick up something from Robert Galbraith and instantly know it is not a children’s fantasy. If Rowling’s next crime novel has ‘by JK Rowling’ on the front cover, readers might get confused. 

Is this about criminal wizards? Is Voldemort back and running a muggle crime syndicate? 

To be fair, because JK is who she is, this would probably work in her favour but for us mere mortals, it’s likely to work against us.

Is there a difference between the screen and books when it comes to branding?

Well, let’s see…

Many directors/filmmakers are branded.

Tim Burton conjures up visions of twisted, dark fantasy stories.

Jordan Peele and Alfred Hitchcock make us think of certain types of horror.

What about screenwriters?

Screenwriters are a little different because consumers don’t tend to know who they are, unless they do something epic like ‘screw up’ storylines or upset fan expectations, and then EVERYONE knows who they are.

Quentin Tarantino is a screenwriter that most non-writers will know because he’s also an actor and director. His work has a definite theme. 

Blood-thirsty action movies with tons of dialogue, isn’t as neat as ‘action movie’ on its own, but we do have an idea of what we will get if we go see one of his movies because he has branded himself. 

If he suddenly started writing for children, viewers would expect action — less blood and not as much dialogue but still, someone would be kicking ass in his movie. 

I can’t imagine fluffy bunnies and sparkly kittens would feature, unless they were evil and destructive in some way.

Someone possibly not so well-known by the public but is known in British screenwriting circles, is Sally Wainwright. To quote Dee Chilton, Sally’s work is, ‘Drama told with warmth and levity’. 

If Sally suddenly put out a graphic horror show, it might give audiences a shock but since the public don’t really know who she is or what she usually writes; she could do such a thing and ‘get away with it’.

Screenwriting can be about showing your range and versatility or it can be about building a branded portfolio (in the early days, it’s preferable to do the brand thing, so people know exactly what you’re about) but for a novelist it’s about building a loyal readership and I’ve noticed branded authors achieve this more often than those who write across genres.

Any tips on branding?

I can only tell you what I have learned so far. 

I enjoy writing for children but I soon realised that dark fiction for adults and cutesy picture books do not give readers a clear message as to what kind of writer I am. 

They need to know what they’re going to get. It can be a wildly different story each time BUT writers have a better chance of earning a living if they brand themselves.

I have decided to write dark fiction for all ages but I’m thinking of using a pen name for my younger audience — to take branding myself that little bit further and reassure readers of what they can expect.

  • Having a brand or theme is important. 
  • Think about your brand. What does your writing represent and what are you about? What’s special about your work and how can you accurately put that across? 
  • People make quick decisions in this industry, having a brand can help they know what you're about/what you create/what to expect. 
  • Don’t give them any reason to be confused about you or your work. 

*** For more info on building a platform & brand across social media, check out Olivia's article HERE on how she built Into The Script ***

Emma Pullar is a bestselling and award-winning writer of dark fiction and children’s books. She also dabbles in screenwriting.

You can find Emma on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or lurking in the shadows, spying on people in the name of inspiration and creativity.

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