Posted On April 22, 2010 by Print This Post

Brand: The Little Black Dress of Marketing

Good morning and welcome to the first installment of our series on branding.  We all hear about branding, but how many of us sit back and wonder what the term means? If you are one of those people, you are in luck because Jeannie Ruesch of Will Design for Chocolate is here with a great lecture on this topic.

Here’s Jeannie! 

Coca Cola.  Kleenex. McDonald’s.  Nike.


Each one of these companies has a brand you recognize, one you identify and have an opinion about.  (In some cases, not a good one.)  In these terms, recognizing the brand is simple because it’s already been established and because you’ve formed an opinion about it.  And every time you interact with that brand, your opinion furthers or diverts, based on what you get from it.

Where Does It Come From?

 Branding has been around a long time, probably longer than you think.  In fact, one of the earliest mentions of branding comes from Ancient Roman times.  Firmalampen, or “factory lamps,” were one of the first mass-produced goods in Roman times.  They were oil lamps made of molded terracotta clay and signed on the bottom with the name of the factory that made them.  Without even knowing what one was, they were given a brand.

These lamps were decorated with images of gladiators, animals, gods and more.  Fortis was the most successful of these brands in the first and second centuries AD.  In fact, so successful that its stamp was copied and reproduced throughout the empire.  

The name Fortis likely doesn’t connote much more than a casual historical reference to you, but how about when I mention that some articles called Fortis the “Gucci” or “Armani” of ancient oil lamps?  That probably helps you assign a context, a value to them, based on the fact that Gucci and Armani are brands you know.  Brands you have formed an opinion on.

Fortis, like any other company name, became something more than a name.  The name itself became equated with a value, a reputation and a decided opinion (on the part of the customer) about quality.

What is a brand?

Let’s talk Little Black Dresses.  You know exactly the ones I’m talking about – every woman in the world has one in her closet, every man in the world thinks one thing when they hear that phrase: Sexy.  The little black dress has a reputation, it definitely arouses emotions, and we know exactly what we’ll get when we wear it.

It has a brand.  It doesn’t matter what name is on the label, it doesn’t matter who is wearing it (or since we’re romance writers, who is taking it off…)

When women put on that little black dress, they are saying “I feel strong, I feel sexy and I feel ready to take on the world.”  In fact, Barbie recently released their “Barbie Basics: The Little Black Dress” line to celebrate what the little black dress means to women.  The little black dress promises every woman that she’ll feel sexy, sassy and ready to take on the world.  We know the LBD meets this promise because we’ve worn them.  And we choose to wear that dress when that’s the image we want to convey.

A brand is a combination of elements:  a value, a reputation and a decision about quality.   A brand is everything you extend outward and is only truly complete when someone forms an opinion about what you’ve offered. 

Your Brand is Your Promise.  It is also their Perception.

In order to fully establish your brand in a reader’s mind, you have to remember what you are asking for: their trust.  You are asking them to trust you with their money and time, and if they trust you, you are promising to deliver a certain experience. 

The final experience comes from your book – so writing a damn good story is paramount. But most of the time, you’ve put yourself out there before they ever read a page.  From the design of your website to the tone of your book trailer to the smile on your face at a book signing, your readers are forming their opinions about who and what you are.

Do’s And Don’ts in Building Your Brand

It’s important to remember that brand can be good or bad. It is something you only have partial control over, because the final factors are in the opinions of human beings.  There are things you can do well, or badly, to form that opinion.

Building Your Branding

An easy way to look at the elements of branding is to think back to that Little Black Dress.  The dress itself is a starting point.  It’s basic and it’s black.  Yet, every woman who wears the LBD looks uniquely herself, because of the differences she layers on top of it.  Some stay simple, some dress it up with flashy jewelry.  They wear their hair up or down. These are all steps to building a “look.”  Building your brand requires the same steps.  Your writing is the basic black dress – you are naked without it.  The dress makes the outfit, and your writing makes your brand.  But all the other stuff gives hints about the personality within.    

Your LBD (the Writer’s Voice)

Your writing voice– and voice, for the most basic definition, is the personality of your writing.  As a writer, you need to know what that is before you ever start the process of building a brand.  Are you funny? Serious? Fast paced? Emotional? This isn’t about genre, this is about personality.  Read your work with an honest eye and jot down a list of words that come to mind. As many as you can.  All the written elements of your branding should match your tone, so the more specific you can be, the better.

Some time ago, I watched a book video that I loved.  It was truly funny and engaging, and when I finished, I knew exactly what sort of book I would get from the author. I expected the personality of the book video would match the writing.  It didn’t.  It was a let down.  The trust I’d extended to the author was shaken. Uncertainty has become a part of her brand—from my opinion– because I don’t know what to expect.  One could argue that the book trailer did its job, because I bought the book.  But trust is tenuous, with any relationship.   Imagine if you were on a date with your reader and you promised to call… then you don’t meet the promise.  How many times can you do that before they give up?

The style of your marketing efforts should match the personality of your books.  Drill down to the most important elements of your style and every word in your marketing efforts, every design, the colors, etc, should match accordingly.  Part of building this trust is answering the question men hate most: Where is this relationship going?   Your readers need to know what they’ll get.

The Jewelry (Genre)

Having an effective brand doesn’t mean sticking to one genre, but it is a decision you have to make before you start accessorizing.  There’s a lot of work involved in building your brand – time investment and money, so you need to consider your career goals and long term plans.  Do you love your genre and don’t ever want to write something else?   Do you love them all and want to try everything?  Either one is workable; you just need to plan accordingly. 

If writing one genre is all you want to do, then absolutely make that promise to your readers.  If you plan to venture out, you don’t want to build your brand around the paranormal series about vampires.  The minute you stop writing paranormal and switch to romantic comedy, you’ve begun to lose a vital part of your brand.  

However, if from the beginning, you know that you’re a multi-genre writer, you can accommodate this with all the accessories: design of your website, your bookmarks, your tagline, ads, and any other reader-facing element – all of these can be focused more on the elements of your writing personality. For instance, you can be a funny, quirky writer who happens to write historicals, paranormals and romantic comedy.  The personality becomes the brand, not the genre.  

If ever in doubt about your branding decisions, ask yourself this question: Does this meet my promise to my readers?

The Shoes (Your Website)

I am likely prejudiced here, but I sort of think of your website as the Manolo Blahniks of your outfit.  It’s likely the one thing you spent the most of your marketing budget on, it’s unique and it makes a statement.

But is that statement the right one?

Imagine if you are a writer who hates dogs and adores cats.  Every one of your books features cats.  But your website, for some ungodly reason, has a dog on it.  This is a really obvious example, but the point is that every website is that obvious to the person who arrives looking for clues to who you are. They want to know what to expect, and the design you wrap yourself in is the first clue. If they see a dog, they’ll assume you like dogs.

Look closely at the design elements on your website.  Are you a light-hearted historical writer with a website done in dark, gothic colors?  Or do you write on-the-edge contemporary suspense, but your website is almost cartoonish or sweet?  We go back to the question at hand: Does this meet my promise to my readers?

All of your marketing elements, from the website to your business cards to promo items, should meet the promise.  If you’re uncertain of how to match visual aspects to your style, look at books that are similar.  Look at the covers – they are the best visual study to help you understand what your readers will learn to expect by whatever design factors are in your marketing.  The book covers have trained readers well.  And if all else fails you, that’s what the professionals are for. J

The Handbag (Or Everything else)

The handbag carries all the elements of keeping up to date, freshening yourself up throughout the night, showing your identity, and staying connected.  These are all important elements of your brand as well. 

Every where you go, you are an advocate for your brand.  Every post on facebook, every conversation in loops, and every tweet.  Networking is a part of building your brand.  The best way to network is to make friends.  The best way to make enemies is to network badly.

People remember you for how you make THEM feel.  It’s true in every relationship, and it’s definitely true with readers. How you make them feel, from beginning to end, is the end game of your brand.   T. Scott Gross of Microbranding says: “Brands are defined by the customer. They exist as a feeling that extends beyond the product itself.”

The little black dress you put on makes you feel sexy and powerful.  But without someone to see you and appreciate it, what good would it do?

Should You Choose To Accept…

Your Marketing Assignment for the day:  Imagine you’re writing a personals ad on — What would you write?  What would you tell them about you (the author, the writer, the style) that would make them write back?  What promise would you make?


RU Crew, here’s your chance to ask a marketing professional all those burning branding questions.  Go to it!

Special thanks to Jeannie for being here.  Jeannie will be back with another post on May 20, so mark your calendars. Join us tomorrow when Margie Lawson will be here discussing jealousy among writers. 

Jeannie’s Bio: It was a Saturday afternoon when Jeannie Ruesch gave up her illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader (after seeing the made for TV movie).  That day, she sat to write her very first story and when she was finished, she knew that pen ..or rather, pencil and collegiate-lined paper was the path for her.  She was six.  She finished her first two books in 7th grade—handwritten on 150 legal size pages and complete with hearts dotting the I’s, of course.

As an adult, however, she discovered the need to…well, pay for things.  In her words, she “paid a lot of money to go to school, get a degree and go beg for work.”  She began her career in marketing and design and continues to this day, with her graphic design and marketing business, Will Design for Chocolate.  She considers herself fortunate that her passion of writing and her other love go hand in hand so nicely.

 In 2008, she sold her first completed novel (as an adult and written on a computer this time) to The Wild Rose Press– a historical romance that has been a labor of love from the start.  “It’s been through four or five revisions, including one complete scrap-it-and-start-over, and has been a wonderful tool for learning how to be a better writer.”

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write.

Now with a few more tools in her author’s tool belt, her first published book, and a drawer full of emergency chocolate, she has a lot more stories to tell.  She lives in Northern California with her husband (who is likely tired of having his brain picked on the ‘male perspective’), their son and her brother, who she thanks every day (since he cooks and she hates to.)

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37 Responses to “Brand: The Little Black Dress of Marketing”

  1. Hey Jeannie,

    Great post!!! Regarding web sites, how do you brand a historical author who writes in two or more sub-genres (Regency, Victorian, Georgian) plus each book might have a mystery or element of suspense.


    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | April 22, 2010, 5:40 am
    • Hi Tracey! Thanks so much for having me here!

      If your genres are all historical, you’ve got an easier road ahead of you. Branding for a voice is often more complex simply because of the imagery choices you can and can’t use.

      A lot of this is also perception, which — when figuring out how to brand yourself — is just as important as the reality. What I mean by perception is what PEOPLE think when they see certain things.

      If you see an old castle on a website (sort of like this one: ), most people think Scottish. Especially in the world of romance writing, we’ve been well trained by the covers as to what keys to look for. Castles. Women in flowing dresses. Paranormals have a specific look. Contemps do (it’s part of what so identified a book as chick lit…when it was hot, it was terrific. But as soon as chick lit faded, any cover that resembled the style was thrust into that category.)

      But in the case of your question, to brand a historical author, you still need to figure out exactly what sort of voice you have — are you emotional, serious, funny, light-hearted. There are basic historical elements, imagery that be used with any historical site, but the overall picture comes together depending on the personality you want to convey. So what’s the personality? 🙂

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 12:17 pm
  2. Great post, Jeannie. I love your analogy of the little black dress. Can you give suggestions on the types of things unpubbed authors should have on their websites?


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 22, 2010, 7:08 am
    • Hi Adrienne!

      Unpubbed authors need to make the same decision before branding that a published or contracted author — do I include a genre as part of my brand or do I want to branch out? IMO, an unpublished author has a more difficult task, because you don’t want to shut doors based on a strong genre-focused site.

      As for content, keep it simple and professional — About you, your books, links to other author sites and publishers, a blog only if you think you can (and want to) keep up with it, and a resources page can always be good. The focus of a website for an unpublished author is really to say, I’m here, I’m serious about what I do and I’m a part of the writing community.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 12:22 pm
  3. Terrific post! Meg Cabot is a perfect example of someone who embodies her brand in her public self, from her videos to her tweets. Elizabeth Hoyt, who writes fabulous and fun to read historicals, has guest blogged on Magical Musings several times, and she always uses the fun historical voice that it’s in her books. Another person who knows her public voice. I’ll remember this.

    Posted by Edie | April 22, 2010, 7:55 am
    • Hi Edie — Meg Cabot is a perfect example of pure brand from beginning to end. She’s got it down.

      Another one is Jenny Crusie. I attended a workshop she gave last year, and she was exactly as I would have imagined her to be — funny, entertaining and engaging, just like her books, just like every aspect of her brand.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 12:23 pm
  4. Morning Jeannie!

    Great article. I too would like to know what an un-pubbed author should put on her site. I have a blog that I feel carries my voice =) and gives the reader a true impression of how crazy…err…humorous I am….but have never started a website as I can’t think of a thing to put on it!

    Thanks for being here today!


    Posted by Carrie | April 22, 2010, 8:28 am
    • Hi Carrie! The things above I mentioned in Adrienne’s question answer what to put on your site for an unpubbed author. But to help you decide exactly what you want to put, you need to think of the audience intended to see it and work back from there.

      As an unpubbed author, your efforts are likely going to agents, editors, other writers… so you’re essentially branding your personality at this point. (Which is likely also extended into your voice.) But consider your audience. What will they want to see? What won’t they want to see?

      Look at different elements that add a layer or two to your voice. For instance, I have one client ( whose books have food in the title. Her series is called Mystery a la Mode – and her books have ice cream flavors. So her website has recipes, and for a branding tool, we created recipe cards with her book info on one side and a fun recipe on the other.

      Even as an unpubbed author, you can look for elements like that. I’m going to challenge what you wrote — you crossed out crazy and put humorous. But I’ll bet crazy is more appropriate, so go with it. 🙂 Lots of people can brand humor…but what about your crazy humor is different? And how does it fit into your writing? From the graphic and font choice on your blog, I’m assuming you write contemporary romantic comedy. Would that be right?

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 12:34 pm
      • Exactly right! (sorry, been stuck at work all day!) It’s almost border-line slapstick romance….physical humor and yes, craziness. =) Janet Evanovich wanna-be…lol….What makes me different? Currently cats are in all of my books, dogs in a few, a tarantula in another (but we don’t need to talk about him), I use a lot of physical action, and yes, lots of smart ass remarks. =)

        All I can picture is Marlin Perkins in a Wild Kingdom gone …more wild, standing there with a butterfly net and an iguana on his head.

        *dashing off to read the fab info in the other posts!*


        Posted by Carrie | April 22, 2010, 5:15 pm
        • Hey, tarantulas are cool. I used to hang with the one in science class wayyyyyy back in high school.)

          I’m not sure who Marlin Perkins is, but I DO know who Jim Carrey is. And I’m seeing shades of Ace Ventura here. 🙂 (Which was, despite the craziness of the movie, a love story.)

          If animals and slapstick are a part of your voice, then you should wholeheartedly embrace them in your brand. And to further cement, why animals? What emotional connection does that give you? What do they mean to you?

          Truthfully, your style sounds exactly like vaudeville. So your writing is a modern day vaudeville style, where anything goes and you always, as the old tag line said, “leave ’em with a smile…” ?? Are we getting closer?

          Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 5:34 pm
          • *lying back on my therapists couch*….lol….yes you are right…..leave ’em with a smile. I like that. Marlin Perkins used to host Wild Kingdom, and Marlin would be always explaining how big the alligator’s teeth were, while his son Jim was struggling for his life in the swamp behind him, wrestling said alligator, trying to get him to show his teeth. It’s an old, OLD show…=)
            Animals have always been a big part of my life, and they can be so darn funny. I currently have 7 cats, and they each have such different personalities. I couldn’t imagine not having a pet. Unconditional love, non-judgmental, friendship, fur on every article of clothing. =) I can’t imagine NOT having a pet in any book I wrote. Even if it were a tarantula.
            leave ’em with a smile, or a stomach ache from having laughed so hard. =)


            Posted by Carrie | April 22, 2010, 6:06 pm
          • Animals should definitely be a part of your branding, then, IMO… My only other suggestion would be to watch the usage of what could be construed as “chick lit” type of branding– the font choice on your blog and the “smart-ass” wording could give a chick lit vibe. Since that (I don’t think) is what you write, I’d be careful there. And if ever in doubt, look at covers from chick lit books — the fonts choices, the cartoonish elements, the ‘smart-ass’ heroines… it’s a pretty strongly defined genre.

            Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 23, 2010, 1:21 pm
  5. Jeannie

    I love the post. I understand about branding. I just don’t know how to brand myself. Since I’m still unpublished (with a novel), I’ve kinda let this slip by. But one of these days, I know I’ll have to address it.

    Any tips to consider, besides your author theme…because I hate themes, would be appreciated.

    Posted by Beth Caudill | April 22, 2010, 9:48 am
    • Hi Beth,

      So let’s ask some questions and see where we get.

      First, what do you write? Specific genre and do you plan to write others? If so, what?

      Second, what authors out today would your work be similar to? What element is similar? This isn’t a time to be humble — be honest.

      Third, write five to ten adjectives that describe your writing voice, your writing personality. If a genre is an integral part of that and it’s one you plan to stick with, include it. Otherwise, be more general.

      Now, pull out from your writing similarities. For example, are your heros tall, dark and handsome? Do you love obscure settings? If you don’t have enough of your own samples to draw from, look at books you WISH you had written…what are the similarities in those? Often times, you’ll start to see what compells and draws you as a reader and it’s likely the same things that draw you in as an author.

      Last, think about who is reading your books? Knowing your audience is an integral part of building a solid brand. What do they like? What would draw them to your work? Who else do they read? Study the brands of those authors, look for similarities in feeling, imagery, colors, etc.

      Any answers you want to share here, I’m happy to work further with you on. 🙂

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 3:14 pm
      • I write fantasy and paranormal romance. I do both and hope to do more in those two genres.

        Don’t know who I write like….but I know who I love to read: Janny Wurts (high and epic fantasy) – All works – Great World building and political intrigue. Anne Bishop (Dark Fantasy) – Black Jewels series – World Building and Characters and Nalini Singh (Paranormal Romance) – Psy/Changeling series – Overall Great Storytelling.

        I like world building. Some people have said they can tell my voice even in blog posts, but I have no clue what my voice is.

        Some of my problem may be that I only have short stories completed. I’m not sure that there is the same audience as would read novels.

        Posted by Beth Caudill | April 22, 2010, 6:25 pm
        • So…if people have said they can tell your voice even in blog posts, have you asked for some adjectives? 🙂 Ask your CPs, ask anyone who reads your work if you aren’t sure.

          Or, make a list of likely adjective suspects and do the whole “answer, don’t think” method of checking yes/no. Apply words like funny, intense, serious, fast-paced, descriptive, methodical, light, dark, clean, edgy, disturbing, scary, heartwarming, powerful… and whatever other adjectives you can brainstorm. See what fits…you’ll begin to get an idea of your style and from there, your brand will come easier.

          The audience for short stories versus novels could be different. They could be looking for the quick hits specifically. But I’d still look for an emotional similarity either in your message, your characters or what you connect with in each story.

          Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 24, 2010, 4:31 pm
  6. Jeannie,

    Tons of great info here! I’m going to re-read this, so I can absorb more of it.

    I really liked having the “personality” be the brand, since I do like to write in more than one subgenre, and was wondering how to accomplish that.

    And I loved the line about “Where is this relationship headed?” LOL That really does help narrow the focus when thinking of this topic.

    Posted by Donna Cummings | April 22, 2010, 10:33 am
    • Hello Donna! Thanks for stopping in.

      It’s absolutely a question to ask: Where is this relationship headed? Remember that relationships are a two-way street. And like with any relationship, there comes a time when “the talk” needs to happen. For writers, this is when you figure out your brand.

      Where is this going? What do you want from each other? You want something from them — you want them to buy your books, to invest their time and money in you, and hopefully put you on the “automatic buy” list because they trust in you and believe in you.

      But they want something from you, too — and you have to consider as much, if not more. What do they need and what are they getting from you that fills that need?

      You said you write in more than one subgenre — are they drastically different? For example, romantic historicals versus gritty no-romance suspense? If that’s the case, it might be a cause for using a pen name.

      However, historical romance, contemporary, paranormal — depending on the voice and personality in each of your books–can be branded under one umbrella. There is likely a common thread.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 3:21 pm
  7. Jeannie,

    This is a fantastic article. I just finished up with two on-line workshops involving building your brand. A member of WC has been trying to educate us on branding for years. I even had her on my show to talk about it and still didn’t get it.

    A couple of days before the end of one of the workshop A wonderful designer created some fantastic bookmarks for me and it hit me about branding.

    I haven’t totally gotten it yet but I know I want sophisticated and pretty for one with a hint of softness. I’m going to print out and keep rereading your article because every time I thought I had the ral idea behind branding during the workshop I found out that I still didn’t have it. So once again, thanks, Jeannie, for a very timely article.

    Ladies, you rock.

    Posted by Dyanne Davis | April 22, 2010, 10:40 am
    • Hi Dyanne!

      I really think that brand is such a difficult concept for writers and authors in particular because it’s very personal. You have to really dig in and focus on your writing style and yourself, and if you’re anything like me, you hate talking about yourself. LOL

      In your comments, I loved the adjectives you used: sophisticated, pretty, a hint of softness. How can you apply that to your characters? Are there elements of those things in your heroines perhaps? Go deeper…where does that softness come from? What is it? Sophisticated – what does that mean to you? What are five things you can think of off the top of your head that make you think “pretty” ?

      In January, I attended a workshop with Donald Maass, who is amazing, as always. He talked about how to set the scene in the character’s eyes. Not just describing what is physically around the person, but what it means to the character himself. For instance, the trees could be sparse because winter is dogging at their heels — descriptive, but how could you attach that to a character’s emotion?

      The same is true of branding. Words like sophisticated, pretty and soft are wonderful choices — and they all mean something personal to us. So what do they mean to you? Dig deeper until you get to an emotional connection. Writing is profoundly emotional –those emotions you write with are a tremendous part of your voice and what makes it uniquely yours.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 3:31 pm
    • Jeannie,

      The adjectives I chose were because of my my new bookmarks. That’s what they are. LOL This is really going to take some time. But what with the workshops and your article I think I’m creeping up on what I’m supposed to be doing

      Posted by DYANNE DAVIS | April 22, 2010, 5:35 pm
  8. Okay, folks, I have to run out for a few hours – but I will be back after the lunch hour to answer the rest of the questions. 🙂 See you then! Ask away!

    Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 12:36 pm
  9. To tell the truth, I’ve always been a little scared of branding. I don’t want to get pigeon holed into always having to write the same sort of book. But after reading your post I feel much better.


    Posted by Wendy Marcus | April 22, 2010, 12:47 pm
    • Hi Wendy!

      You aren’t the first to say that, and it’s an understandable fear. That probably means that you’re focusing more on genre in your thoughts about brand, and you don’t have to do that.

      There are authors out there who write in multiple genres and it doesn’t matter, their readers are loyal no matter what. Where they are successful is when they remain true to the core promise of their writing style. If your brand is kick-ass heroines and alpha dog heros, you can write them in any genre. That’s a solid promise you can make to your readers. However, the minute you change those core elements, you’ve abandoned your promise to your readers. That’s what brand is built on — the core promise, not the genre.

      To give an example, one of my favorite all-time historical romance authors branched out into contemporary books. I bought them without thought, because they were hers, and I wasn’t disappointed. One element that I loved about her historicals was the fairy-tale like quality to them. I knew to expect that from her, and when the contemporaries came around, they had very much the same feel to them. However, at some point, her books began to shift a little… when suspense became the Next Big Thing, her books veered into that realm, and most of the fairy-tale quality that I adored disappeared. I still read her books, but they weren’t my favorites. What made me loyal to her was the fulfilled expectation of the fairy-tale story… it didn’t matter what genre she wrote in. That style, that voice was still there. When it began to change, my relationship with her began to change. I no longer bought her books without reading the summary first, because the original promise had been lost.

      So think about your characters and any similarities in them, as well. Your writing brand can come from a number of places that have nothing to do with a specific kind of book.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 3:41 pm
  10. Jeannie,

    Since you’re coming back after lunch to answer more questions, I have one. Should an author try to brand more than one pseudonym or try and tie them together? Thanks

    Posted by Dyanne Davis | April 22, 2010, 2:15 pm
    • Hey Dyanne,

      Your question is making me think. LOL In truth, because it’s a tough question to answer and it’s not something that I can just say, “this is correct” and it will work for everyone.

      Deciding on whether or not to brand two names together or separately largely depends on the names, the style of writing, the audience and what they are getting from each relationship and whether or not there is a cross-over.

      When Nora Roberts started writing as JD Robb, the publisher ignored the fact that she was the author. She’d already made a name as Nora, but there was no mention whatsoever of her in the JD Robb book marketing. The stories were different and they wanted them to stand on their own and build their own audience. And I wonder if it’s partially because romance novels do get a reputation unto themselves (undeserved or not, it’s there)…and so often readers of other genres, like mystery, might not be inclined to read a “romance author trying her hand at mystery.” So JD Robb stood on her own… and slowly built up her own readership.

      It really is a case-by-case choice. There needs to be a compelling reason to do either – brand together or separately. One that depends on voice, audience, imagery — all of it matters. And choosing whether or not to combine brands, you have to look at the potential for diluting the individual name, as well.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 22, 2010, 5:40 pm
  11. Hi Jeannie!

    I’m a newbie writer and I’ve been thinking about setting up a blog and the thought terrifies me. 😯

    I’ve visited a lot of other unpubbed author’s blogs and noticed some authors list their contest wins on their sites. Should an author list all of their wins/finals/placements on their site or should it be limited to just wins and finals? While I understand winning and finaling is a big deal, does listing all or too many scream “contest junkie”?

    Also, in your opinion, how much personal information is too much? I’ve seen author sites with photos of the family, blogs about their daily life, some of which doesn’t pertain to writing at all.

    Lots of great info here! Thanks!

    Posted by Jen | April 22, 2010, 7:01 pm
    • Hi Jen, welcome! Don’t let the idea of a blog or website scare you. 🙂 However, before you start a blog, try guest spotting on one. See how you like it. Or consider what sort of blog you’ll have. Personal ones are tough to build an audience for…and that’s the other element to consider. It can take a long time to build up an audience, so you’d have to be patient on that front.

      As far as wins/finals go, I think wins are definitely worth putting up. Placing in the top 3 or 4 is worth putting up, as well. As far as “contest junkie” — I couldn’t say, because that would likely be in the eye of the beholder. Remembering who your audience is, as an unpublished author, is important — consider what every bit of information you put up there is telling the agents, editors and other writers. I would wonder if seeing 10-15 contest mentions for a manuscript could make the writer seem stuck on that one WIP, rather than setting it aside and moving forward. But again, eye of the beholder so I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer.

      And for personal opinion on personal information — your website is part of your business. And while YOU are your business, it’s sort of like the You you present at job interviews. The professional version, who yes, has a personal life, too. Everyone has other aspects of life and be true to who you are, but be wary of sharing the kitchen sink. And no matter what you post, always be aware of the tone, of the message you are sending.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 23, 2010, 11:14 am
  12. Wonderful post! I love the analogy between the author brand and the little black dress and the choice of accessories, etc. Thanks for sharing your insights. I’ll definitely be taking a look at my website soon with your thoughts in mind.


    Posted by Victoria Gray | April 22, 2010, 8:14 pm
  13. Jeannie, Great post and GREAT comments. I’m sort of a transition and beginning to think I’ll always be in some kind of change. My first book has been compared to a Hallmark movie. Good in it’s what I wanted. But since that one, the last three are entirely different. So– looks like I’m going to go the multi genre route.

    My web site was done in the beginning so the design reflects the first sweet story and I was agonizing over if I even have a brand. After reading your post and the comments I understand it all so much better.

    Off to redesign a web site.
    Thanks for the information and motivation

    Posted by Lavada Dee | April 24, 2010, 12:46 pm
    • Hi, Lavada! (Waving at my blogmate. 🙂 Thanks for coming by.

      You’ve definitely go the ‘mult-genre’ thing in your books!

      I’ll make this statement: EVERYONE has a brand.

      Sometimes it seems impossible to figure out what that is, so a good way to start is by looking at what’s important to you in your writing:

      Do you write a certain type of character often (back to the kick-ass heroine possibility, alpha male, etc..)?
      Do your stories have themes?
      Do your characters learn similar lessons?
      What emotions are you intentionally hoping to pull from your readers?
      Why do you write different genres? What do YOU get from them?

      I read a post by Ray Rhamey on Writer Unboxed ( about staying true. He’s written a huge variety of genres, from western, to thriller to satire to vampire to… well, he’s probably written it. And in his post, he says maybe “exploration is his way.” I’m pretty sure there’s a brand in that statement somewhere…

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | April 24, 2010, 4:18 pm


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  3. […] me. I read a great article on branding by Jeannie Ruesch on Romance University (and you can read it here) and thought hard about the image I want to convey to my readers. I didn’t want something […]

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  4. […] Audience:  Writers and Authors  | Published: Romance […]

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