Branding Questionnaire

Yet again I’m thinking about branding. Initially I was very resistant to the idea that an author should have a brand. “What if I want to do something different?” I thought. “If I brand myself as a historical author, what will become of me if I want to write fantasy, or mystery, or Gothic historical mystery fantasy with a touch of action/adventure? Because I know I’m likely to want to do all of that stuff.”

But at the same time, I felt continually compelled to protest against the fact that publishers have this tendency to put my books in the ‘erotic’ or ‘sizzling’ or ‘sensual’ category. What gets my goat there is that I feel it’s false advertising. People are buying the books hoping for delicious sexiness, and they’re getting battles at sea and the occasional stolen kiss. If that happened to me, I’d feel cheated, and I don’t want my readers to feel cheated.

So, what happened recently is that my resistance to false advertising met up with my understanding of branding, folded it up a bit and shook it out into an entirely different shape. I suddenly understood that branding is not a way of limiting what you do at all. It’s a way of discovering what you do and describing it accurately, so that the people who are interested in that kind of thing can find it, and the people who are not interested in it can avoid it and thereby save themselves money and disappointment.

Apologies to everyone if you all knew that already, and I’m the only one for whom it had ever been a mystery.

As a result of this, I’m now trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes me unique as an author. I can’t brand myself as a ‘historical’ author, because I also do fantasy, and I can’t brand myself as a ‘fantasy’ author because I also do historical. But there must be something about the way I do both of those genres which unites them both – something which is my way of dealing with them, my way of seeing. And that is my brand – the limitation that is placed upon me entirely by virtue of me being myself. If I could just put my finger on it.

Which is where we come to the questionnaire part. I can’t help feeling that this is a terrible imposition on anyone who reads this blog, but on the other hand I would really love to know the answer to some of these things. So I’ll compromise by putting it out here for anyone to answer any part of if they want to – and obviously not to bother if they don’t.

Questionaire

How would you describe my genre of work?
With each of my books, what do you expect from the story?
How do you usually feel after reading one of my books?
If you were describing my books to a friend, how would you describe them?
Ultimately, why do you keep reading my books?
If you had to compare my books to another author’s, who would you say I’m
similar to and why?

Are there any elements, themes or genres you are hoping to see from me soon?

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Brie
9 years ago

Funny that you mention the erotic label because I keep seeing m/m books labeled as erotic and when I read the book I wonder if I it’s me and I don’t know what erotic means or if they have been mislabeled because the sex scenes are nothing out of the ordinary. I guess one of the reasons has to be prejudice because the fact that two guys are having sex is perceived as kinky and erotic regardless of how graphic the scene is, whereas a guy and a woman having sex is normal and romantic.

When it comes to branding I think is more about the writing than the genre. One of my favorite authors is Meljean Brook, she writes PNR and just recently she started writing Steampunk. But when I think about her books I think about great world building, fantastic characters and unexpected endings, I don’t think of her in terms of the genre she writes in. The same applies to you, when I first read your books what stood out first wasn’t so much the setting but the writing style, I found it unique and very compelling, in fact, I think is one of those styles that you can easily identify when reading the book even if you open it blindly without reading the title or the author.
I know by now that when I read one of your books I should expect good balance between plot and romance, adventure, action, mild sex scenes (erotic?! seriously?!) and a particular writing style that I can’t really describe, it reminds me a bit of Harper Fox’s writing because both have a very evocative and almost sleepy (but not boring!) quality, but they are not the same at all. It’s hard to compare because you have a very unique style, but that’s probably the closest I can get.

Hope this helps!

BTW, I didn’t know you wrote fantasy! I have some catching up to do 😉

HJ
HJ
9 years ago

Given that you do not write just one type of book, perhaps – rather than thinking about branding yourself, as an author – you should think about branding *each* of your books. Your sentence about branding being “a way of discovering what you do and describing it accurately” could be recast to refer to your work rather than to you, and still be spot on: ensuring that “the people who are interested in that kind of thing can find it, and the people who are not interested in it can avoid it”.

In fact, you might achieve the opposite of that if you try to be all things to all men. For example, I don’t like fantasy and so avoid fantasy books. I know that you write some fantasy so I take care to check which type of book each one you publish is, so that I can buy the other books! I would be upset and annoyed if I bought a book and subsequently discovered it was fantasy, so the appropriate labelling is key for me.

Some authors who write more than one genre, or more than one type of book within the same genre, use different names for each type of book. When this is done secretly, this might have the effect of diluting the author’s brand. However, it could have the opposite effect if she is successful within one of her niches. Some authors are quite open about it, and their readers know that it is a device to assist them – L.A. Witt, for example.

In summary, I would be careful to avoid confusing readers and potential readers by trying to present one united brand to cover your varied output. You might feel that since it is you who writes all the books, some essential element must shine through them all. That is probably so, but it is the case that some of your readers (like me!) will never know because they have an aversion (however unreasonable) to one particular type of book.

All that said, I’ll try to answer your questions, while answering them *only* about your m/m books.

How would you describe my genre of work? – I have limited it to m/m, and I would say that it is romance as well. I think that you are best known for your “age of sail” m/m romances, so probably (if I had to decide on a genre) it would be romance, subset m/m and/or subset historical (more often than not).

With each of my books, what do you expect from the story? – I expect it to be considered, much better written than the average, well-crafted. I also expect it to be well-researched and accurate.

How do you usually feel after reading one of my books? – Pleased and thoughtful! Wanting to know more about the characters. Wishing them well.

If you were describing my books to a friend, how would you describe them? – As a more serious and long-lasting experience than often in the genre of romance / m/m romance, and therefore more enjoyable. Real characters experiencing real life as it was.

Ultimately, why do you keep reading my books? – For the quality of the writing and the depth of the characterisation.

If you had to compare my books to another author’s, who would you say I’m
Similar to and why? – I don’t know if I can. One thinks immediately of others who write in that period, but that isn’t sufficient.

Are there any elements, themes or genres you are hoping to see from me soon? – No! Frustrating as it may be for someone who is creative, I like what you do and want you to keep on doing it. Selfishly, I wish you spent the time and effort which you expend on fantasy (wasted on me) on “straight” (!?) books…

Hope this is all of some help!

HJ
HJ
9 years ago

I haven’t read The Wages of Sin so can’t comment on that. I just don’t care for the paranormal in any time period! The nearest I can come to it is the sort of thing which happens in Elizabeth Goudge (The Little White Horse) or in Harper Fox’s story Winter Knights (which I read without realising it was going to have anything of the sort in it).

I’m only joking about your concentrating on historicals! (It’s so difficult to get the tone over when dashing off a comment.) You must do what you want to do!

I’m sorry I can’t idenitfy thing that unifies both – though I suspect from reading your historicals that it may be an ability to create a world which is entirely complete and credible, and which functions so as to give your story a sound basis. You certainly do that in your historicals (just because they’re based on well-researched fact doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary to re-create the world for the reader) and I understand that it is necessary to do that in fantasy too.

HJ
HJ
9 years ago

Sorry, just realised that the first para of my last comment isn’t clear. What I meant is that what happens in those two stories is fine as far as I’m concerned, but anything more fantastical is not (for me).

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