Good morning and welcome to Crafting Your Career. Our guest today is CJ Lyons. I first became aware of CJ through RWA’s Kiss of Death chapter. I would see her name when she answered medical related questions that were posted by other members. I saw her name a lot! And it wasn’t necessarily for the medical questions. CJ had such a presence that when her first book came out, I bought it. How could I not? I’d never met her and yet, I felt like I knew her. Talk about marketing!
With that said, CJ is here to teach us how to build a brand. Take it away, CJ.
A brand is a subliminal promise to your readers–that any book written under this author’s name will promise this type of emotional experience.
The first step to finding your brand is to examine what you’ve already written. Ask yourself why these stories grabbed you? Why you wanted to write them in the first place, what you were trying to say with them.
For example, even though I love to cross genres from women’s fiction to suspense to thrillers to romance, every book I write has a theme central to my life: they’re all about making a difference, trying to change the world.
For me, once I realized this fact, the tagline came easily: No One is Immune to Danger
Note that this is an emotional concept, not a promise of specifics. I did this on purpose because I knew up front that I didn’t want to get locked into writing only medical thrillers. But it works with medical thrillers, woman’s fiction, romantic suspense, mainstream thrillers, etc. And it reminds the reader that I’m a physician–which is part of my platform or unique selling proposition.
If this all seems very confusing to you, there’s a book I found very helpful called Primal Branding. Instead of talking marketing mumbo-jumbo it discusses brands as ways to tell stories, so it was very intuitive.
Also, be sure to talk to your editor and agent or your critique partners. Who do they see as your target audience? What label will be on your books? Where will they be shelved in the bookstores? What do they see you writing and selling successfully in the future?
All these questions will tell you how people who know your work see your brand, even if they don’t use those words–but they might, just ask them!
What you want to know is: what primal emotion does your writing trigger in your audience? Laughter? Fear? Romance?
From there, you’ll know the central theme of your work—the goal is to inspire that same feeling on a subliminal level with your branding.
A brand is more than a central theme, more than a tag line, it also includes visual images that evoke the same emotion.
When you design your site/blog use the images and colors and words that apply to your brand. For instance, part of my brand image is that I’m a doctor, so I use medical imagery. I also use the color red a lot–again, creating an emotional response.
One thing that I wanted on my site was to evoke a response that it was fresh, dynamic, and different than other suspense writers’ sites. Subconsciously this tells a casual viewer that here is a writer who’s different than others, willing to take chances, and whose books are also fresh and different.
I checked out as many websites as I could. Many I fell in love with–but they didn’t fit my brand and the emotional response I was aiming for.
So instead of a dark background (which 99.9% of mystery, thriller, and suspense writers have) I went with a light background. I tried to make the site have a lot of movement, a feeling of high-energy—just like my books. You can see the results at http://www.cjlyons.net
Other things to decide as you build your brand:
–to blog or not?
Base your decisions on your brand as well as where your strengths lie.
As a doctor, teaching is a natural part of my life, and teachers are noted for making a difference, so volunteering to teach workshops, give keynotes, etc, was an easy fit for my brand. I’ve also included a lot of articles on my website—free, my way to give back to my readers and writing friends.
If this didn’t come naturally to me and fit my brand, I might have passed on some of these opportunities and spent my time and energy doing something else–like maybe blogging (which doesn’t come easy to me so I focus on guest blogging which is more like teaching).
Also, when choosing promotional items, make sure they fit your brand or reflect it by creating a similar emotional response.
Even your cover art should reflect your brand. Although this can be difficult since most authors don’t have a lot of input into their cover.
I was lucky–the covers Berkley did for LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS , and URGENT CARE reflect my brand perfectly. They use real-life photos with hand-picked models–not stock art. They’re crisp and fresh and energetic. Perfect for my marketing platform of “real-life doctor writes stories as real as it gets.”
I decided that any marketing I did would use these fantastic covers as much as possible.
So my business cards–have my cover art. My bookmarks (I like them to sign if someone doesn’t want to buy a book and to give out at conferences) have the cover art and review quotes. The covers are on every page of the website. And the one promo item I paid for, to use for contests, charity auctions, and other give-aways, was a t-shirt featuring the cover art.
These all fit my brand and create an impression.
I did not buy: pens, bath salts, magnets, stress balls, etc, etc, etc. Why? Other than pens they don’t reflect the brand (well, maybe the stress balls could <g>) and for about the same price I could get the t-shirts. Again, you need to decide what fits your brand, not just buy something because it’s cute, cheap or some other author has one….
Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, keep your own brand–that subliminal, emotional statement that you want to make through your writing–firmly in mind.
Once you find your brand and start to use it, it’s amazing what will fall into place!
So, let’s have some fun. Tell me a little about your books (not just one book—a brand should encompass your writing career) and what you want to accomplish with them. What primal emotion are you aiming for?
I’ll try to look into my crystal ball and see if we can brainstorm some potential branding ideas for you!
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of both of my current releases: LIFELINES and WARNING SIGNS.
Hopefully you all will be on the lookout for my next book, URGENT CARE, when it comes out October 27th. It’s a dark, edgy, fast-paced thriller where no one is immune to danger, so it fits my brand perfectly!!!
Thanks for reading!
Thank you, CJ! To our readers, let’s take CJ up on her offer and ask her some branding questions. We’d love to hear from you.
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker.
Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a “breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller” from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. Her second novel, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, was due out October, 2009. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to www.cjlyons.net
- Unified Theory of Branding
- Pinch Points and Turning Points, Oh My!
- Brand: The Little Black Dress of Marketing
- Your Author Brand – How to Make the Most of It with Oliver Rhodes
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for Nov 29-Dec 3: CJ Lyons, Nathalie Gray, Angie Fox, Sally MacKenzie & Kate Douglas