Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - What's Your Brand?

This Wednesday at The Pink Heart Society SuperRomance author Kay Stockham talks to us about the topic of branding... do you know what yours would be?

When trying to come up with a topic for Writers Wednesday I considered blogging about everything from branding to writer’s block to my writing routine. I decided to stick with branding since it’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to since the start of my career three years ago when I sold to Harlequin Superromance.

As writers, we’re all different. No two authors will ever tell the same story exactly the same way. But that’s a gift, not a problem. How else would we have generations of stories to read? If not for that ability, we would’ve run out of reading material long ago.
But in the world of cyberspace, instant gratification and the media’s role in keeping us informed, the question has now become how do we market ourselves as being different than every other author out there? How will a reader know what kind of books you write?
Don’t know the answer? You’re not alone. As a new author I discovered it wasn’t easy to figure out your identity in the romance world. While trolling the net, the words sexy, sensual and the like are very abundant. But what do they mean? Romances as a whole are sexy and sensual. But do those words best describe your writing, or could they be more descriptive?
I found my brand after my first book was released in 2005, and I’ve worked at incorporating it into my promotional materials ever since. How did I find it? I let my readers and reviewers tell me.
I've learned about marketing the practical way: I've taken courses, attended workshops, and have helped companies market themselves effectively. And, yes, I've successfully sold ten books, which is a marketing education in and of itself.

I’ve also studied the romance community with all the due diligence of a stalker targeting her mark, and I see something happening. I see a huge divide slowly emerging in the genre market. Why is that important? Because it means now more than ever, authors have a need for identity in a market overtaken by two extremes. There have been letters in the Romance Writers Report, letters to the editor in RT. Some readers say they love the erotic stories on the shelves, some want more Christian fiction. Two polar opposites. But what does it all mean?
It means those who fall between are more likely to be overlooked unless we make ourselves known. When you don’t write explicit sex, and you don’t write inspirational fiction, where and how do you identify yourself to the readers? If you haven’t figured it out already, don’t delay. It’s my opinion that you’re going to need that special brand to stay afloat and help readers find you.
My stories for Superromance are highly emotional, family-oriented dramas. They’re gritty with real life experiences, full of painfully revealing moments with which every person can identify. They’re also the very type of stories I love to read and to tell. I’ve written about breast cancer, Shaken Baby Syndrome, paralysis, abandonment and single parenthood. But the stories? They’re all about the romance. The feelings. The act of falling in love and how freakishly frightening it can be to give your heart to someone you’re not sure you can trust.
Big deal, right? Isn’t that what most of the contemporary market is all about? Yes…and no. It’s about all the above and so much more because we have to individualize our writing, make it special in some way. Find our niche. If you write sex well, there’s your niche. If you write emotion, by all means, capitalize on it because emotional writing isn’t easy. Christian fiction? Find a verse from the Bible that speaks to you, one that gives you and your readers focus.
My stories come straight from my heart with all the love and dedication I give my family and fellow man. Thus in 2005 when reviewers and readers continually quoted my Waldenbooks Bestselling release Montana Secrets as being ‘emotional,’ ‘heart-warming,’ and ‘unforgettable,’ I chose those three words as my brand and added my own, “Romance from my heart to yours.” Why? Because that’s what it is. It’s why I write and I mean every word of it. I feel as if I’ve been placed on this earth for a God-given purpose. And I’ve been blessed to have the proof that my writing touches my readers’ lives because of the wonderful letters they send me telling me so. My characters are flawed but faithful, like myself, struggling to live a good life and make God proud.

What about you? What is your brand or identifier? How do you describe your writing? What’s been said about it? A lot of authors can say their writing is sexy or funny but what is sexy or funny? Think of words that bring an instant physical reaction.

Take my three descriptives: Emotional might mean tearful or powerful, perhaps painful. Heart-warming is that tender, fist-around-the-heart feeling we all want or get sometimes. Unforgettable… Have you forgotten your first kiss? Giving birth? Every reader has something simply unforgettable in their lives. They identify with it, sometimes the moment the word is used. You want your brand to bring an instant reaction to the readers’ mind.
So let’s talk. I’d love to hear your brands. Don’t have one? Let’s brainstorm. I’ll choose a winner from those who post and they’ll win a beautiful heart ornament in my favorite color—red. After all, the ornament is yet another example of romance from my heart to yours.
Grab your copy of ANOTHER MAN’S BABY, the first book of five in The Tulanes of Tennessee series, and play along with my Launch Party Scavenger Hunt! Want a sneak peek at the story? Check out my website at and view the book trailer. Contest details are on my Contest page. Enjoy!


  1. Thanks for a very insightful post Kay. I'm not at the stage of having to brand myself for readers (although I hope I will be one day) but your post makes so much sense. It's like tag-line on a fave brand of chocolate or something, right?

  2. Great post, Kay! And I definitely agree with your Branding recommendations--the best brands come naturally, representing both you as an author and your work. Kudos on a distinctive logo for your marketing materials as well!


  3. It's a shame that the romance genre is being divided, but I think the division goes further than erotic vs. Christian. We now have clever/contemporary (sometimes called chick lit), funny paranormal, scary/sexy paranormal, historical, historical/erotic, literary romance, Western romance, romantic suspence, dark romantic suspense -- the list goes on and on. Which just reinforces the need for branding. I'm not published in this genre so no need for branding yet, but anyone who has a book they want to see face out on the shelves of a bookstore should take your recommendations to heart or they are likely to get lost in the crowd.

  4. Kay,
    When redesigned my web site, I decided I needed to brand myself. I'd tried writing hot, but that didn't work out. My published novels were contemporary stories with single moms, kids, and both were set on horse farms. So I choose Home, Hearth, and Horses as my brand. Everything I write doesn't have a horse in it, but I try! Like you, I want to write an emotional story with a happily ever after ending.

    Check out my web site at and see if my brand works.

  5. Kay, great post! I'm not sure if I've branded myself, but I've tried. My web site screams western (maybe a bit too much) and I use the line "Romance in the Wild West." I'm not so sure it's unique, but it best describes what I write. My stories always have a romance that's both sensual and emotional, but I also have a tendency to include elements that might be found in a straight western historical. I figure, as long as everyone can immediately recognize that I write Western Historical romance, then I'm on the right track. :o)

  6. Oh dear, Kay, I'm afraid I haven't given any thought to this at all. I like the sound of - fresh, emotional, feel-good.
    Fresh - as writers we all want our voices and stories to be fresh
    Emotional - because this is romance and emotion should be key
    Feel-good - because the HEA is what makes romance so darn satisfying to read

    But this has slipped off the fingers so easily that I fear I may be plagiarising it from somewhere. Shall have to go away and ponder this some more.

  7. Okay, I am going to play Devil's Avocate here. And yes, I do know about branding and the need to create a monopoly. But I would argue that an author's brand is the indivdual author's name. It is not necessarly the strap line. I would agree that it is important to think about what you are giving to a reader and why you think that reader will return to you. Why is that reader going to remember you and be on the look out for your books? It is not because you say that you write books from your heart to their but because because they get such a buzz from reading your books.
    Branding is all about the whole reader experinece and is far more than a logo. It is the whole package and no amount of branding or clever slogans will make a reader return to an author is she has not got the satisfaction that she desires. And ultimately that comes down to content rather than strap or tag lines. Also if you too narrowly define, you risk limiting yourself and that unique subset of readers -- those who get your books.
    The whole point of PR is about building readership but it needs to be those readers who derive satisfaction from your books and your voice. The product is the BOOK, rather than the author and the last page/the feeling that the reader gets when they finish your book is what will send them off to buy more of your books. If your books do not speak to that reader then they won't. Or if they are just so-so.
    In other words, sometimes, branding and expending energy on branding is self-delusional when there are other factors at work. And a great shop window will come nothing if you do not have a quality product to sell.

  8. Hi Kay

    This was a fascinating post, but I have to say I think I'm more in Michelle's camp.

    Branding is like marketing right, and I'm always a bit wary of marketing departments who try to boil down a product's best features into a few words. I also think this is a very American concept (correct me if I'm wrong Brit authors!) that you have to 'stand out' in the marketplace. I also think, in a funny way, it is a little patronising to readers - that they can't pick out the authors and genres they like themselves.

    I know I'm probably being naive but if you have a distinctive voice that really connects with the reader isn't that your brand right there? I know that's exactly how I buy my romances. If I find an author I love (Nora, SEP, Jennifer Crusie, etc) I'll buy everything they write - sure the back cover blurb might get me to buy the first one, but if the book then doesn't engage me I won't be buying any more of that author's work.

    And who would be looking on an author's website except readers that have already bought their books? So all the branding in the world isn't going to make a difference if they didn't like your book and if they loved it, same goes really.

    Surely an author's brand is their name and their voice and that's all they need. I know you're talking about those authors who aren't quite as huge in the marketplace as Nora and her ilk, but in a funny way, I still believe that it's the product itself that makes you stand out, not the marketing.

    Cheers Heidi

  9. Ooooohhh LOOK KAY - you started a DEBATE! We LOVE those!!!

    Now I'm gonna sit on the fence in some ways here. Bear with me while I explain. When it comes down to it I agree that anyone finding me online will find me cos they've read a book and enjoyed it - or need an email addy to complain to ;) - so I do agree that your name is your brand FOR READERS.

    Also I tend to think of everything in terms of WWGD - What would Google do? (there's a book coming out looking into this and I'm SOOOOOO gonna get it!) Google as we all know rose pretty much outta nowhere, fought its way through a crowd and became a market leader. Now doesn't that sound like the kind of thing everyone would like to do??? Yes. So three things - it's their NAME and the catchy way they have it branded that got it known (that multi-coloured lettering is synonimous with them) - BACKED UP BY what it does and THEN *marketed* through ads and the like...

    In category/series romance I think we do it slightly differently in that the MARKETING we leave to the company we're published by in order to get the reader to pick us up and we then BACK UP the reason why they should find us again with good writing and our NAME then becomes what they look for (hopefully)...

    HOWEVER we will at some point probably enter into the *professional* end of it with conferences and agents and branching into different areas/publishers etc. So we do have to have something that is easily recognisable with our name. I've done this on a slightly lesser scale than Kay by having a header that is used on my website/blog/bookmarks/business cards/letter heads etc. And I think this is similar to having a company branding. I AM my own business after all. So therefore I need a professional image to deal with professionals. And as I'm the only Irish writer writing series romance set in Ireland my company image/branding is simple. Trish Wylie - Irish Romance Author. I am what it says on the tin ;) HOWEVER were I ever to branch into a different area of romance - paranormal/chick-lit/sci-fi or whatever I would have to look at that *company branding* to see what makes me even more individual...

    So I get why its done and I have to say I think Kay's is LOVELY and something your readers will LOVE as a keepsake. But when it comes to series/category romance I do think the fact your readers find that in your books is what will bring them back again and again and again...

    Also from a Google pov I think its interesting to do a search on your name to see how they've abbreviated what they consider to be the most pertinent points...I come up top of a search of my name (theres an artist and a film person with the same name) and they abbreviate me to Trish Wylie - Romance author and then take one or two lines from the main page - Harlequin... copyright... maybe a line from a review... and if we're not happy with the way they picked those up then it might be worth looking at the online *branding* we have to make the most of it...


  10. "It's like tag-line on a fave brand of chocolate or something, right?"

    Rachel, you're exactly right! You want something that, when people hear it, they picture you, your books, your name, something in their head. Think of the store Target. Do you see the big bullseye in your head? That's a brand and great marketing on their part.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Great blog post, Kay. I'm not an author so I guess my branding would have to be just being a mom, a wife, and part-time employee! LOL

    I do think somebody not familiar with your work would want to try it after reading your blog. Your emotions came across very clearly, just like your books. It makes me want to go back and reread some of yours!

  12. Ah, a debate! :) The good news is... I'm like Trish in that I'm on the fence. LOL

    Michelle, you made a wonderful point in saying that an author's brand is her voice and her book. That is by far, first and foremost. I do know of authors who've marketed themselves all over the place--but only have one book to show for it because they've been branding, not writing. So this is a very valid point and one that should be taken seriously by those reading today's post.

    However, :) Trish also made a fabulous point with her Google example. Once you have something to market (better yet, several manuscripts to market), you want people to notice you and your product. You also want the attention of editors, agents etc. When asked, "What do you write?" If you say "Romance" you've lost a great opportunity to stand out in a sea of romance authors.

    My bookmarks have my entire brand. Emotional, heartwarming, unforgettable...Romance from my heart to yours. Combined with short quotes from reviewers, it gives the reader something to grasp onto and identify with. The photo of the bag pictured is one I carry to conferences, workshops and when I'm traveling. It's a conversation piece that draws questions. For the introvert in me who has trouble striking up conversations with total strangers, this works well.

    I think branding takes time and builds slowly off a foundation. The stabilizing foundation on the bottom, however, is always THE BOOK, like Michelle said. Without a strong voice that will draw readers back for more, you have no need to market yourself.

    Kay - apparently going to be sitting on the fence all day! ;)

  13. Lisa, welcome! Don't sell yourself short. THE hardest job in the world is being a mom and raising children to be healthy, happy adults. When I fill out forms and it lists occupation, I never put writer/author but homemaker. That's first and foremost my career.

    Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll read my stories and let me know what you think. You can email me through my website.


  14. Great blog topic, Kay!
    I've never tried to brand myself. Interesting concept! Honestly, I'd have no idea, especially since I like to mix it up a lot. LOL

    You've given everyone quite a lot to think about.

    Have a terrific day!


  15. Am I allowed to say I *wish* we didn't have to bother??? The whole 'promotion' area is the bit I most dislike about this crazy job of mine.

  16. Treethyme, you made a very good point. There are a lot of different subgenres out there. My post focused on letters recently in the RWR and RT, as well as recent discussion in the forums online, about the sex/no sex discussion. I've actually had reviewers comment to me privately about how nice it was to have a break from the super-sexy books because they get tired of reading page after page of graphic sex. (Note to readers: I do include love scenes in my stories, but they're not the focus of the books.)

    I read a little bit of everything. Historical, paranormal, contemporary etc. I love the variety romance brings to the market. But, again, it's also why we need to stand out in a crowd.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  17. Lori, thanks for stopping by! And you do have a brand. You write edge-of-your-seat contemporaries with sensual alpha-males. I should know after reading all your books! :)


  18. Well, debates are far more fun than everyone agreeing. :) And it is worthwhile to have a debate, rather than just accepting a holy grail, or indeed one solution fits all.

    I would point out that Google is in a different market. And the reason why they succeeded as a search engine is because they did a more reliable job, and then they got the right contacts, plus offered the services to keep people coming back.

    Books are not search engines. You do need to think of Point of Sale. And what makes marketing sense to you? How much is self-delusion and how much works, and how do you actually quantify it.
    Because you can not always tell with PR, you might think xyz is working when actually it is simply feeding your ego and what is really working is the fact that you managed to touch people's hearts with your writing.

    It also depends on what you are doing. For example, do you need bookmarks/magnets/cuddly toys to sell books? Not necessarily. It can depend on your target market. How are you reaching them?
    How are you letting them know that you have another book out, for example? A bookmark, a newletter, both? A press release?
    Not everything works for every author.
    And self promotion does not work if the shop front is empty. Or if it takes away from the core business -- namely the quality writing.
    And with category which has a world wide distribution, does the slogan play the same everywhere? Can slogans really narrow you?
    For example when I was writing my Romans, I was very tempted with the strap line of sandals, swords and sex. However, that only describes the Romans. Okay with Vikings, I do swords and sex. But once I get to the Regency/Victorian era, I left with sex and there is more to my writing than that. And if I use too generic of terms, I end up sounding like every other historical romance author.

  19. Natasha, I'll be honest. Marketing is my LEAST favorite part of this job. But, it's also a necessary evil. Authors who have a strong web presence, and the ability to market themselves in fresh, original ways statistically sell better than those who don't.

    I'm not an outgoing person and marketing is very hard for me. But thanks to the help of people with marketing experience, I've learned what I'm capable of doing on my own without a publicist etc. There are a lot of editors and agents out there who are now requesting a 'marketing plan' along with an author's manuscript. Two friends recently had to pull promotional packets together for two separate agents, because the agents wanted to know what they had in mind to promote themselves.

    I don't like it either, but in a world where marketing images are absolutely everywhere, it's a necessary evil.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  20. OK Can I just have a fan girl moment cos LORI FOSTER WAS HERE!!!!!!!

    The reason I took up writing in the first place...


    As for Google Michelle yes - it is a very different thing but as a sweeping generalization of an example for the uninitiated it gives and idea. And the very fact that as a search engine it was what it DELIVERED kind of made the point ;)

    And I agree WHOLE-HEARTEDLY that spending too much time on worrying about marketing/branding et all DEFINITELY DOES detract from the writing time - without which NONE OF US would even be here!!! And on that note...

    Trish slinking back to revisions cave...

  21. Michelle, I think it's up to the individual author to decide how much is enough, too much, etc. No one knows that but the person themselves. I agree wholly that without books to market, marketing does nothing and to continue promoting IS self-delusional, but I also think in today's world category authors can't rely solely on their publisher. Superromance puts out six books every month. I love my Super sisters but in a economical slump when less books are being bought, I also want my book to be the one that gets purchased. That requires doing things a little differently sometimes.


  22. I'm not near the point where I'd have to brand my writing but I think ironic or humorous would have to be in the description. And warm. My stories center around love given freely. In all forms. But I guess all romance stories are about that. Wow, this branding thing is hard. Take Care Kay.


  23. Great blog, Kay! Food for thought for all romance writers!

    Have a great day, and stay dry if you can!

  24. Kay - thank you. Your brand for me is interesting, and flattering! I'll take it. ;-)

    Trish - hi ya! What a great way to start my rainy Wednesday. Thank you.

    Lots of food for thought in this blog - but now I need to go write my book. LOL

    Hugs to all,


  25. LOL Lori, glad you took a moment to stop back by. :) I love your books, so keep doing what you're doing!

    Laurie and Margaret, hey, chickies! So good to see you.

    Margaret, sounds like you're well on your way to developing your brand identity. You've already narrowed it down.

    Jan, you've done a great job with your site! Congratulations. I love my home state of Kentucky, and your descriptives brings out warm fuzzies. ;)

    One more thing to consider about your 'brand'. Names are hard to remember and if your brand *is* memorable, a reader can do a search for your brand and find you, rather than wonder who that author was they'd like to have read but can't because they can't remember you name or how it was spelled. An awful lot of people refer to me as Stockholm rather than Stockham. When I search for "romance from my heart to yours," my name pops up first and foremost. If that sticks in their mind, they don't have to know how to spell my name and that's a good thing.


  26. Kay,

    Wow, what a fun and fascinating topic! As a reader, I have never read a book based on tag lines/branding, so I long held the belief they weren't important. As a writer trying to get my work published, however, I have changed my mind.

    One of my books is erotic and I find when I mention this, I typically recieve strong reactions, often negative. The belief that erotic fiction is somehow bad for America's youth is commonplace. I cringe when I hear this, my work is meant for adults. I believe it is empowering for women and enhances their relationships. My books do not contain the common taboo subjects and my characters explore their sexuality in healthy ways.

    So, my branding needs to relay this message and I am toying with two possible tag lines, "Awaken the Erotic in You" and "Good Girl Erotica". Since you're having a little contest, I thought I'd offer up my ideas and hope for some feedback.

    You could also check out the branding in my new book trailer. Of course, it's over 18.

  27. This is a great topic! I'm another fence sitter, and I'm also new, but I have maybe a teensy other thing to point out in my limited experience.

    First of all I agree the books have to come first. A good book is what's going to keep readers coming back and what prompts them to tell others about your books. There is NO substitute for quality.

    That being said, as Trish said, we are our own business. And I actually like having something identifiable to use when I'm promoting ME. Because the truth of the matter is, I don't promote just one book. I also promote ME. My tag line is simple...Emotional, Feel-Good Romance. (I'm smiling at Michelle D, by the way). I have a graphic thanks to my webdesigner, of apple blossoms and two favourites.

    I sometimes do promotional items, not in huge volume, but I do magnets and bookmarks, and I have business cards. By far the most valuable is the business card because they are easy to take with you and I have had several times when someone has asked for my e-mail or web address (on the card!) or if I could write down the title of my current/last/next book. I whip out a business card and it's great. It has my "logo" on it.

    In a market inundated with books and writers, sometimes it's helpful to have an people know what they're getting. I know I've picked up new authors based on the fact that I've seen their name...through savvy marketing. So I have one, but the bottom line is still putting out a quality product to build my readership.

    My 2 cents.

  28. Kay, wonderful blog and interesting topic. I'm hearing more and more about branding and it does seem to be a popular concept.

    I love your brand/logo. It's very eye catching.

    I wonder what people would say about the book signings we put on? Hmm. That might be scary. Maybe I better not brand myself. (smile)

  29. Jacquie, that's a tough one. I like both, but when I read the words, I get a sexy, cartoon image that could be a LOT of fun with the second one. I picture a sweet-faced gal dressed in a power suit, but beneath the starched shirt is a boostier (sp??) and the heels are to die for. Just a thought...

    Donna, welcome! I love you identifier. Very classy, very elegant. Great job. Feel-good romance is one I wish I would've thought of! :)

    I ran and took a quick shower etc, but my thoughts were here with you all and this topic. Anyway, what I came up with was the fact that marketing can be huge production-scale like Target, but for normal people like us, it can be very subtle and still be very powerful. Studies show it takes a consumer at least seven times to remember a name. So, the more your name or your brand is out there, whether on on books, websites, bookmarks, bags etc., the more likely they are to remember you and pick up your book when they see it on the shelves. Anything that can do that is a good thing.


  30. Deb, thanks for stopping by! So good to 'see' you again. ;)


  31. Great post. I just bought your book Another Mans baby and I am so excited to start it.

  32. Great points, Kay! I wish I could pinpoint my brand a bit better, but I seem to write all over the map. Or is that a total cop out? Your tagline is great and the Tulanes' stories look wonderful. Good luck with the series and thanks for the tips!

  33. Great points, Kay! I wish I could pinpoint my brand a bit better, but I seem to write all over the map. Or is that a total cop out? Your tagline is great and the Tulanes' stories look wonderful. Good luck with the series and thanks for the tips!

  34. Adding to my comment (hit submit too early)... Once a reader picks up a book, once they read it, the quality has to be there. Craft, the ability for the reader to identify with the characters and enjoy the story is huge and that will bring them back for more.

    No tagline or gimmick has ever made me buy a book, either. But I have picked up books because of seeing the promotional efforts of the author and wanted to know more.

    Rebekah, thanks for picking up AMB! Drop me a line and let me know what you think when you've read it.


  35. Kay --
    If you google Kay Stockholm, the first thing that comes up is Kay Stockham.

    There are several types of marketing/PR campaigns -- global, national, regional, and local. The place where an individual authors' PR can make a difference is on the local or community level. This has been been proven to be the case in several studies. As the internet is divided into communities, you can argue that an author's PR can make a difference on a community level.
    And while certain things may have an impact on a local level, they may not have an impact on a wider regional or national level. What are the margins and how many more readers will you gain? What is the outlay? What is the return? Simply throwing more money at things is not always the answer.

    Branding is only one part of PR. In category, you are already branded to a certain extent by the series you write for. Hence why Romance authors' tag lines can start to look alike. If an author's tag line is the same as another's are you branding?

    Not everything will work for every author. And if you are trying a number of different things, you do need to keep accurate records of what you have been doing and when.

    But ultimately the thing that has been proven to work the best is Word of Mouth.

  36. Hi Kay, I, also never gave branding a thought. Since I write heartwarming (I hope) romance as well as mystery romance, how does one differentiate. Do I have two brands? Or do I use the same for both? Mystery, Lust, & Love is something I like to use for my mysteries but obviously, it wouldn’t work for the Sweetheart type romances. So do I have to come up with another for those?

  37. Kay--I love your logo and tagline! I was instantly jealous. And I so agree with what you said about wanting to stand out when you are part of a category series line.

    As a reader, when I am picking new authors, I have certain hooks that draw me in. The South is one of them. Another is law enforcement and firefighters. Another is deeply emotional stories of survivors (that's you :> ) So, if I've seen a tag, online or anywhere, associating an author's with one of my personal hooks---Jane Doe, Sizzling Southern Romance---I'm going to pick up the book because I happen to love sizzling southern romance. I'm going to try to remember the author's name. I think branding is very important for this reason. You don't have to be married to that brand forever, but you can carve out a niche for now.

    Within the Superromance line, we have so many different flavors, so to speak, and I do think a brand is important. When people see my name, they'll probably think rural, western, humor, hometowns. Great. That's what I'm aiming at. My next book happens to be a cop book, so the brand won't carry over entirely, with the exception of the humor and hometown hero aspect.

    To me, the brand is what you say when people ask, "What do you write?"


  38. Oh, and ofcourse I meant "associate and authors NAME with one of my personal hooks". It's going to be one of those kind of days....:)

  39. Kay that is a beautiful brand. Lots of good information to put away for the future when I am ready to brand myself :)

  40. Well, I'm not currently an author, though I would love to be one day, I just can't seem to focus or relegate the time right now. If or when I do, my brand would probably be something like "love in the stacks" because I work at a library and am just as much in love with books as I am with being in love. If I didn't work at a library, I would probably be at a bookstore or books and more type of store.
    I do think that it is good for authors to have a brand or tagline of some kind. Readers can be in a hurry and they are usually looking for certain things that interest them. Also, it helps me, working in the library system, to point patrons to the books that I feel suit their reading habits.
    Your brand is lovely by the way, very attractive and pleasing to the eye, along with the sweet saying.

  41. Just for fun - here are the branding tags for the phs editors and a couple of our regular columnists.

    Ally Blake - fun, fresh and flirty romance

    Nicola Marsh - Sexy, Sassy, Seductive romance

    Jenna Bayley-Burke - Romance without limits

    Trish Wylie - Irish Romance author

    Donna Alward - Emotional, Feel-Good Romance

    Kate Walker - Intensely sensual romance with heart!

    Annie West - Emotion, excitement, passion

    And even authors who are HUGE have branding lines...take Debbie Macomber's: Wherever you are, Debbie takes you HOME.

    What do I see when I read these branding lines? Not so much about where the story is set, but a lot about the tone...and what kind of read I'm going to get.

    Creating a branding tag doesn't cost anything, but you can get mileage out of it with your online promotion. I do find as well that when I make up promo items - and again, I don't do this often - I would rather use my brand than promote a specific book. Especially with series romance, the book comes and is gone within a month, and you've really wasted your money if, for example, you have 1000 bookmarks for a book that's not even on the shelves anymore. I'd much rather have something to hand out that doesn't go out with my latest release.

  42. Hi Kay,
    I liked your post. And glad to see you survive our "blizzard".
    As you may know, I haven't got as far as to show anyone anything yet, so I don't really know my branding. But I'll keep your thoughts in mind.
    Gotta go. Doing laundry...yuck.

  43. Kay--hmm, interesting discussion. I wish I could add some kind of intelligent opinion but since I haven't given branding a thought (perhaps I should!) I can only sit on the fence, too. I think I'm a little wary of branding myself because I don't want to be known for one single thing. I like to jump around (I think it may drive my agent a little nuts) and I wouldn't want to get stuck in one place in readers' minds. You know? I could be way off base but...that's where I am right now.

  44. Hi Kay,

    I don't have a "brand." But I do think it's a good idea.

    Here's why: if I'm doing online promotion including blogging, commenting on other blogs, etc., I'll have a link back to my site. If someone checks my site on a whim, I want them to know where they are and what I'm about. A brand is a quick way to orient people. (This is a web site design question as much as it is a marketing question.)

    People who follow link to my site are not reading my books (yet!) but they are reading my writing. I have a chance to seduce them over to the dark side. (The dark side being people who buy my books like my mom! And my granny! ;-) )

    I'm not going to buy a book based on promo items (pens, etc.) and I'm not likely to subscribe to an author newsletter. I have looked up several authors and bought their books because I liked the writing, excerpts, and persona I saw on their web sites.

    Cool conversation,

  45. Hi Kay! Great post!

    I'm glad that you allowed your readers to help you define your brand. I think a lot of authors would categorize their stories the way they wish them to be viewed but not necessarily capture the essence from a reader's perspective.

    I'd say I don't know the brand of most of my favorite authors. I know how I would describe their stories based on having read them myself. I would give a look at another author who compared their stories to one of my favorites or who was recommended as being in the same vein as a favorite, looking for that same feeling.

    Author branding is kind of like TV commercials. At the moment when one sees it, you think "this is for me" (or not). But if someone asks you later what the main theme of the commercial was, you probably don't remember.

  46. Kay -
    One of my jobs on the side is with a direct sales company, and I've been to more than a few lectures on branding, and the importance of branding.

    As a writer, I don't have to deal with this yet (hopefully soon), so I can only speak as a reader. As a reader, I like the feeling of getting to know the author and I think the branding does that to a certain extent. And if I feel like I know and like the writer, I'm more likely to pick that book up. Isn't that exactly what you're trying to accomplish with things like forums and blogs?

    For anyone who has Another Man's Baby sitting on the TBR pile, you won't be disappointed. It's a great story with fun characters. Have a great day and a Happy Easter, Kay.


  47. I'm one of those readers that will buy a new author or someone I'm not familiar with, because of a tag/brand. I love family dramas and life based in the South. I hate nothing more than to spend hard-earned money on a book that has a vague back cover blurb and have it turn out to be something I wouldn't normally buy or read. So for me...tags and brands can make a difference when I'm looking to spend money outside of my normal author auto-buys. After's what made me fall in love with Kay Stockham's heartwarming stories.

    But another thing to think a writer I feel it is important to stand out in a competitve market. If getting my name out there in various ways will influence my sales...I'm game. After all - the expense can be written off. Certain major bookstores are experimenting with less shelf space for books to place them face-out to increase sales, standing out as an author can become a major issue in sales. I have certain authors that are auto-buys, but I get the urge to branch out and if I can catch someone's eye as a new author...I have the opportunity to become someone else's auto-buy!

  48. Hi, all,

    Sorry for going MIA. I had to get to the grocery for Sunday's EB gig since the kiddos get out of school early today, and the flooded roads were a nightmare. Be careful out there. The potential for hydroplaning is horrendous.

    Roseanne, I think most people do if the styles are so very different. Is there a commonality among both styles of books?

    Jeannie, very good point about being able to answer that whole, "What do you write?" question. If you can give them a concise answer that depicts the tone (Love that, Donna, thank you!), you'll go far in giving the reader a clear picture of what kind of story you tell. Thanks for stopping by!

    ddurance, love the logo. This is my opinion only (so take or ignore as you like :) ) but I think you need to tweak it a bit to showcase exactly what kind of romance you write. I love the imagery, though. Your logo could be a woman or couple surrounded by towering books, with your brand above the woman/couple and your website beneath. Good job!

    Donna mentioned Debbie Macomber's brand, which I love. There's a reason why so many people equate 'home' with home is where the heart is. Debbie's "No matter where you are...Debbie takes you home" is absolutely perfect for her style of writing, and gives you a warm, welcoming feeling.

    Vanessa, I survived the blizzard easily enough (only got about five inches) but the flooding is a pain. We're on high ground so we're safe, but traveling is dangerous. Thanks for stopping by!

    This long. Better post this and come back for more.


  49. Hey Kay!

    Your "three" words fit your stories perfectly!!

    Great post and not only food for thought for writers but readers too.

    Why does the genre need to split. It shouldn't because there will always be a reader for everything that is available out there. I know myself, like others, don't read just one flavor of romance. I read almost all of it. And I enjoy that because in todays books, I am able to transport myself to whatever world I am reading at the moment. I have so many more flavors to choose from. The erotic and non-erotic romances should not be divided but should stand as one in the genre they represent. I don't know of anyone who reads "only" erotic or reads "only" can't you would get bored with it.

    As my granddaddy used to say "There is an *** for every seat!"

    Hopping off my soapbox...LOL

    Great post and Keep writing your FABULOUS tales for me :-)

    Billie Jo

  50. Kim, your jumping around could actually be part of your brand. Something along the lines of "never the same, always a good read (this isn't a good example but you get the drift). Make your variety of writing work for you.

    LOL Ellen, you always crack me up! Yes, that instant visual when your site is pulled up? It leaves a lasting impression of whether the reader wants to continue reading or if they don't like what they see. First impressions are important. :)

    Patricia, very well said. Branding is indeed a reflection of your writing (or should be). You might not remember the details of the book a few years later, but you'll probably remember that the author writes ??? (emotional, comedy, horror etc)

    Tasha, thanks so much for the compliment on AMB! Much appreciated. Happy Easter to you, too. Yes, blogs, websites etc are yet another way we advertise ourselves, just like our brands.

    Chelle, I'd forgotten about the bookstore report that came out this week. Great point. If they're downsizing their stock to feature more face-out books, how will an author stand out then? In a sea of colorful covers, what will make a reader search for one particular author? Name recognition, tone etc are definitely factors. Thanks for mentioning that.


  51. Hi, Billie Jo! Most romance readers do read a little of everything. I know I do. Branding isn't a matter of writing one extreme or the other, it's a matter of giving the reader a catch phrase or tone or image of your work so that when they see your book, hear your name etc, it stands out. :O) Thanks for stopping by!


  52. Oh Kay,

    I am so sorry hon. I just intermingled three conversations into my response to you. UGH I swear I should not be allowed out of my rubber room most times.

    I am sorry hon. If it is any consolation, the other two conversations I was having at the same time gave me a "what are you talking about" response. I put my response to you in theirs...OY

    Huggles and going back to my nice padded room to cause no more trouble :-)

    Billie Jo

  53. I have to step out for Parent/Teacher conferences but I'll be back!


  54. Hi, Kay. Great post and very insightful. It's hard to identify one's author brand. Part of it may be self-consciousness. But to succeed, you have to get out there and promote yourself. Congratulations, Kay, and best wishes for continued writing success!

  55. And the winner is...

    Lisa F.!!!

    Lisa, please email me via my website and send your shipping information.

    Thank you, ladies! I had a great time chatting with you today.


  56. Hi Kay,

    Great posting and I love your logo and tagline! When I sold a little over a year about I created the following:

    "Embrace romance . . . happily ever after guaranteed!"

    I use it everywhere!