Branding, by Sandra D. Bricker & Book Giveaway!

For more than a
decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen
craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal
assistant and publicist to some of daytime television’s hottest stars. When her
mom became ill in Florida, Sandie left L.A. and screenwriting behind. With 15
books now in print and 5 more slated for publication through 2013, Sandie has
carved out a niche for herself as a best-selling and award-winning author of
laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.
NR: To be entered in a drawing for Always the Designer Never the Bride,
leave a comment for Sandra. U.S. residents only, please.
The topic of BRANDING has been a hot-button
issue among writers lately, and I recently assembled a group of industry
professionals to discuss it for a blog I wanted to put together. Before my
writing days, I was a publicist for actors, and I had to deal with the issue of
typecasting on a pretty regular basis.
But around the time that Always
the Baker Never the Bride
was released by Abingdon Press, branding entered
my radar for the first time as an author. My dream of writing suspense was
shoved to the sideline by a successful string of romantic comedies from
Summerside and Abingdon Press.
During my chats on the subject, author
Jenny B. Jones commented that one of the down sides of branding, for her, has
been that readers aren’t totally aware that she writes anything EXCEPT YA, even though she clearly does.
“I’ve seen bloggers mention one of my women’s rom-coms and call it a YA,” she
explained.
Agent Tamela Hancock Murray believes
that, once an author becomes established, readers look for certain types of
books from that author and could be disappointed when they find they’ve bought
something else entirely. She uses music as the comparison. “If you are a fan of
a dance music group, wouldn’t you be disappointed by a recording featuring
nothing but ballads?
No matter how good the ballads are,
they are still slow grooves and not the upbeat tunes you were expecting. In my
view, giving readers what they expect from you, but still keeping stories
fresh, is the best path.”
Jeane and Tyson Wynn, longtime
publicists for the Christian market, chimed in with their perspective. “It’s a
waste of effort and lost opportunity,” Jeane says, “if authors don’t use the
cheap and, in most cases, free tools available to them to reinforce their
brand.” Through modern tools such as social media, she expounds, authors can
“regularly engage their fans, which constantly goes to establishing their
brand.”
Barbara Cameron, an author known in
recent months for top-of-the-line Amish fiction, hopes that – branding aside –
she has established herself as “a good writer, not just a good Amish writer.”
And I’ve had the same hopes, especially in the beginning of my career when I
had my eye on writing suspense rather than romantic comedy.
However, once the Another Emma Rae Creation series took
off, I’ve found that my readers pick up my books with the specific expectation
of a healthy dose of humor. The thought of letting them down is what inspired
my quest for professional insights on the topic of branding.
One of the things I’ve learned is
that branding is a bit of a familiarization technique for an author to
effectively “make friends” with readers. Jeane Wynn cites the example of tag
lines, such as mine: Author of
Laugh-Out-Loud Fiction for the Inspirational Market.
“Brandilyn Collins is known by her Seatbelt
Suspense
,” Jeane explains, “and Terri Blackstock writes Up All Night fiction,
so even though they both write suspense, the branding really enables both of
those suspense authors to carry their own identity.” So fans of previous books
provide a built-in market for new books, and there are always opportunities to
try to expand within your brand.

With all the talk of platform these days,” Jeane’s husband and business
partner, Tyson Wynn, adds, “it’s always a plus to take an existing potential
market to a publisher when hoping they’ll publish your book. Branding can help
to build that platform, which certainly is no guarantee of a publishing
success, but it can help decision-makers as they decide whose book they want to
take a chance on.”

As I’ve to make a definitive decision
on the impact of branding on my future directions as a writer, I can’t help
remembering an actor I used to know in Los Angeles. He left the steady
paycheck and sort of stratosphere kind of notoriety of the soap opera he was
on, and ended up coming back a year or two later.

When I asked him about it, he said
that no one wanted to see him for anything other than that character he’d made
famous. Meg Ryan had the same challenge when she branched out of the cute
little romantic comedy heroines she made famous.
So for any writer considering their
next move, I do caution you to think about branding as you look into the
bigger, more far-reaching picture of your ultimate career path. A little
analysis now can go a long way in building a writing career on solid ground
rather than hindsight-seeking, shifting sand.

 Always the Designer, Never the Bride

How many dresses can a designer design before
she finally designs her own?
Audrey Regan spent years establishing herself as
a wedding dress designer and to date, she’s been roped into creating dresses
for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to “Just say
no!” and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!
Audrey arrives in Atlanta to perform all of her
maid-of-honor duties and the festivities make her question whether there’s a
prince of her own anywhere in her future. Enter the groom’s brother and best
man. J.R. Hunt couldn’t be any more different from Prince Charming is he rode
in on a Harley Davidson. Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!