*** WINNERS! Thanks to everyone who visited and left a comment on Aimee Duffy's post - she's now drawn the winners and they are... Nana wins a copy of 'The Monster of Fame' and Christy wins the Amazon voucher. Aimee will be in touch - any problems let me know!! Thanks again everyone and wishing you many sales Aimee ***
Now back to branding.....
I recently read a very thought provoking post, on the Kowloon by Night blog (which many of you may read), about the importance of author branding. It got me thinking (as all provoking posts should do).
The post was quite long, you can read it here, but in a nutshell it was talking about not spreading yourself too thinly, publishing too many books - diluting your author brand. Now, I do want to say upfront that I agree with a lot of what Adrien says, but I still have some random musings of my own to add to the pot.....
In the perfect world, we writers will all get snapped up by an agent (optional) and one of the big publishers (necessary). The story we have sweated blood over will be published, met with critical acclaim and soar straight to the top of every bestseller list. In some cases this happens, think JK Rowling, EL James, Nora Roberts, Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins etc. (sorry if I missed anyone fundamentally important - there are many more, and yes the latter two names probably show my age!). In the real world this might not actually happen (yes, note the optimistic might).
Okay, in the real world and today's changing market....After much toil we might not get an agent, but we do find a publisher (eventually). Said publisher might be relatively small, may operate outside of our country of residence and be offering initially e-publication only. Printing books costs money, lots of money, but e-publishing doesn't - so the publisher can afford to take a risk on a debut author (or one with previously moderate sales). The publisher still has to make an investment in terms of editing, cover art, marketing etc. and so will only publish books they expect to get at least a small return on.
So, the book is launched on the unsuspecting public. The debut author waits with bated breath. Whilst the book is free (often done on amazon initially to boost it up the rankings - a cheap way of making it visible, the only cost is in lost sales revenue) it does indeed shoot up the rankings. Yay!! Then the book switches to list price. It gradually drifts down the rankings. Not so yay! There are some good reviews and some bad reviews (often if a book is free everyone grabs it without even questioning the genre, gets one they hate or consider too short for the price - nothing - and so write a bad review. That's life!). The bad reviews may or not be damaging - though I do go with the 'all publicity is good publicity' train of thought.
Needless to say, the book which has been promoted via a small blog tour, requested reviews, FB etc. now gradually sinks out of the public eye. Why? Not because it is bad - just because there are so many books out there. The e-book isn't visible on shelves in the supermarket, or book shops, it is just one more entry on a massive online list. The only way people will find it is if
1) It is in the top 100, or 2) There is a lot of publicity about it to get it into the top 100!
So without a big publicity/marketing machine behind a book (which only the big publishers can provide) it is unlikely to sell in the thousands. The author brings another book out, similar sales ensue. A few of the readers of the first book grab the second, a few new readers that found the second book go and buy the first. The author now has two books on that massive list, and if one of them is in the top 100 it might help sales of the other. Continue Ad Infinitum ....
Do I have a point here? I know of many (and it need to be said here that they are good, proficient writers who know their craft), authors who turn out a lot of books a year, a mix of novel length and shorts that in themselves add to the marketing mix. They might write 4, 5, 10 a year and they make a living out of it. And enjoy it. I know a lot of writers who write as a hobby, not expecting to make money. They write one or two books a year and spend the money on a night out. And they are happy too.
Best-selling (and I'm talking real best-selling here) authors have a huge publicity machine behind them, they have a big following and one book a year for them is the optimum (or one series). Readers are waiting for it, will rush out and buy on release day (or pre-release order). This will guarantee it will go straight to the top of every list and be visible to all the potential new readers. Self perpetuating. Huge success.
It must be said though that there are some hugely successful authors, such as Nora Roberts, who don't follow this rule - they are prolific and successful! (Although some prolific authors do write under pseudonyms to allow them to publish more books a year without saturating the market and diluting their brand.)
Not everyone is going to be a best selling author (logically!). You may, as a writer, want to keep perfecting your craft until you have a contract with one of the big publishers - in which case the way you will be branded and your expected output will be carefully controlled. Or you may just want to write, self publish or go to a smaller publisher, and know that you need a backlist, and know that you will need to be fairly prolific if you want to make a living out of your writing.
I hugely respect Adrien, and love his editor tips on twitter (@smoulderingsea if you aren't following him why not?) and he has a valid point, a lot of valid points. Author branding is important, I write under two names because of this, but I think each person, as an individual, needs to consider what type of author they are, and what type of branding suits their style. We're all unique, we all have different needs in life. I'd love to be a hugely successful author - and I'd love to be able to concentrate on one book a year with guaranteed sales. I'm not.
If you've not read the post I would recommend it - think about it, question what you're doing and where you stand in the debate. Because knowing your brand is important - and then you can work out what you want to do with it! And that might well mean investing the time in two author brands!
Quality is important, being true to yourself is important, not over committing and burning out is important. And the rest? In the words of the great Sir Humphrey, in Yes, Prime Minister 'You might say that, but I couldn't possibly comment' (apologies to all those outside the UK who haven't got the foggiest what I'm talking about!)
There are only a few certainties about being an author - there is no guarantee of success and it's hard work, but fun. So, there are a few of my thoughts (from very limited experience of the industry I should add) where do you stand?