Posted On March 7, 2012 by Print This Post

Branding for Sissies, by Allie Pleiter

Please help me welcome Allie Pleiter back to RU. Allie’s going to walk us through the process she took to become a branding believer. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Allie’s newest release–Falling for the Fireman.

Good morning, Allie!

I hated branding.

There, I said it.  Proclaimed my distaste for the latest writing buzzword, that thing everyone’s looking for in new, established, and aspiring authors.  Branding.  To me there wasn’t much difference between this branding/platform stuff and the form of branding that involves searing cow backsides with a hot iron.  “I’m nobody’s cattle,” I told myself. “ I don’t do fads.”  I didn’t read Harry Potter until the third book came out and I still haven’t seen the last Twilight movie or been on the Atkins diet.

After the fifth branding workshop landed in my face, I relented that it might be worth looking into.  Even for an eclectic, multi-faceted, entrepreneur-type writer like myself.  Truth be told, I feared being boxed in.  Forced to do one thing–in the “do only one thing but do it better than anyone else” school of thought–when that’s never been who I am.

Ah, but there’s the key.  Once I recognized that true branding involves figuring out who I am, what my passions are and why they stretch across these many things I do, well, then things got interesting.  Maybe, just maybe, if I could figure out the basic essence of my creative persona, then I might find focus.  I might not be temped by the next shiny thing that came along but make a goal-minded business decision instead.  I could figure out why fans of one book might like another, or why women who heard me speak on parenting might pick up one of my novels after the presentation.  Simply put, my brand isn’t that far from my artistic essence.  My mission statement.  My core values.  This was a process I could get behind.

Having been a consultant in a former life, I hired someone to walk me through the process.  She asked lots of good questions and I talked a lot off the top of my head and with as much honesty as I could stand.  Then she would compile what she was hearing, formulate some language and concepts, and I’d respond both on the phone and in writing.  Essentially, we kicked around a lot of ideas based on a lot of diverse input.  Here are some of the things I did:

  • asked four people who knew me well to list 10 positive descriptive words about me
  • read the reviews of three writers I wanted to be like and looked for common strengths
  •  listed TV and film characters I adore and looked for common attributes
  • collected positive reviews and reader letters and hunted for common themes

I did lots more, but it wasn’t long before a common element emerged: adventure.

My reaction was immediate.  It hit me with a charge of energy that everything I did touched on the concept of adventure.  Not the far away go-on-safari-in-darkest-Africa adventure, but the adventure of everyday life, of the things right in front of your face, of launching from where you are.  My skin actually tingled when we finally hit on “The Adventure starts right where you are.”  THAT’s me.  That’s what I stand for, the lesson I hope to teach, the energy that gets me up before the coffeemaker’s on.

With my core concept firmly in mind, I could wander across all the elements of my career–parenting non fiction, inspirational fiction, speaking, my DestiKNITions knitting and travel blog, just about anything I did–and see the adventure tie-in.  Suddenly, I could visualize the hub holding all the wheel spokes together.  Planning, working, speaking, even plotting books became a function of asking “where’s the adventure?”

I’d found my focus, and I hadn’t pigeonholed my varied muse one bit.  Voila!

Being a highly visual person, the next step for me was to see what that brand looked like.  I knew from my earlier pondering that because my career is so diverse, a graphic unity would help pull things together in a cohesive whole. Googling “adventure” and hitting the “images” button was a start, but needed to go farther.

Here are some of the things I did:

  • made a  list of the strongest words we’d gathered so far in the process
  • made a list of twenty verbs that felt like adventure to me
  • brainstormed all the objects that said “adventure” to me and others I polled
  • I walked into a fabric store and selected three fabrics that appealed to me

This, along with my earlier discoveries, gave the graphics designer I hired a whole lot to work with.  When she hit on the concept of a compass, we all knew we were onto something.  After all, a compass implies adventure in many directions but also journey and movement toward a goal, all kinds of good stuff that made my blood sing.  Thus, the  Allie Pleiter logo was born.  Everything I do now bears this mark, or elements of it.  It’s literally my brand, and my eyes light up every time I see it because it speaks to the very core of who I am and the mark I want to leave on the world.

It even makes marketing easier. I’m no longer introducing you to Allie Pleiter (which feels a bit big-headed even for an ego my size). I’m introducing you to the adventure that starts right where you are–and I get wildly, unreasonably excited about that.

Branding?  Absolutely.  But it goes so much deeper, and that’s the wonder of it.  If you’re leery of the whole branding buzz, try to reframe it the way I did and watch what happens. Or if you chapter or conference is looking for a speaker on branding…well, you know how much I love a good adventure!

***

What do you think about Allie’s beautiful new logo? Have you come across any other authors who have branded themselves well? Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Allie’s newest release–Falling for the Fireman.

On Friday, author Tracy Sumner joins us to explain her wacky editing process and how authors need to find the way that works best for them. And not apologize about their method to producing a clean manuscript! 

***

FALLING FOR THE FIREMAN
Harlequin Love Inspired February 2012
ISBN #978-0-373-87725-6

Back Cover Teaser:
There’s something achingly familiar about the look in fire marshal Chad Owens’s eyes. Widowed mom Jeannie Nelworth knows firsthand what it is: loss, hurt and yes—bitterness. Ever since the fire that changed their lives, Jeannie’s young son has borne that same look, pushing everyone away. So she’s grateful when Chad tries to get through to the boy with the help of his trusty fire station dog.

But the man who’s all about safety and prevention keeps himself protected—from loving and losing again. Seems as if Jeannie will have to add his kind, guarded heart to her rebuilding efforts.

Excerpt:

Jeannie Nelworth had the faucet handle in a death grip.  It wasn’t that the women’s bathroom of The Stew Pot restaurant was a tense place, she just hadn’t expected her nerve to go out from under her quite so completely tonight.  Somewhere between picking up name tags and the Merchant Association’s first agenda item, she’d had to bolt into the ladies room to pull herself together.  She found the bright red wallpaper amusing before, but now it felt loud and suffocating.

Abby Reed was predictably right behind her.  A best friend can usually see through faked calm, and Abby was as intuitive as they come.

“I’m okay,” Jeannie lied the moment Abby pushed into the tiny room.

“You are not okay.”  Abby reached behind and threw the door’s small deadbolt Jeannie had forgotten to latch. “I told Mary Hunnington not to ask you about postponing tonight’s presentation, that you’d say ‘go ahead’ when you shouldn’t have.”

“I like being at these dinners,” Jeanie forced a cheery tone, pulling her hand off the fixture to fuss with her long brown hair that didn’t need fussing.  It was true; normally, she did enjoy the monthly gathering of businesspeople in town.  The many shopkeepers, hotel owners, and restauranteurs that made up Gordon Falls were her family.  Even the tourists were part of her life here.  That’s why her sweet shop was loved…before.

“Besides,” she continued, “Nicky’d never forgive me for ruining his monthly video-game sleepover.  Much as it kills me, that eighth-grade tornado loves a night away from his mom.”

Abby sighed and gave her the look half the other merchants had.  She knew her colleagues cared for her, only now their warm but pitying looks made her feel simultaneously welcome and on display.  “Really, there isn’t a soul here who would have blamed you if you missed this one.  You’re the last person who needs to hear tips on holiday lighting and fire safety.”

Why bother waiting?  Another thirty days wouldn’t change the fact that her candy store and home had burned down a few weeks ago.  “If I stayed home, what would that solve?”  To stay home was admitting defeat, and Jeannie liked to think of herself as the kind of woman who gave no quarter to tragedies like that.  “Okay, it’s hard” she admitted, but even those three words felt too big, “but God is bigger than a burned building.”

“It’s not just a building, it was your home.  And the home you had with Nicky.  The home you had with Henry, God rest his soul.  God is big, but that’s huge.”

 * * *

Bio:

An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction.  The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework.  Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois.  The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, fourteen novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing.  Visit her website at www.alliepleiter.com or her knitting blog at www.DestiKNITions.blogspot.com

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Discussion

29 Responses to “Branding for Sissies, by Allie Pleiter”

  1. Hi Allie,

    Welcome back to RU! I love your new logo. Would you mind sharing with our readers what consultant you used to help you nail down your brand? Did she also design your logo?

    Thanks, Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 7, 2012, 5:07 am
  2. Allie – That logo rocks! So beautiful? Want to share the name of your talented graphic designer?

    I didn’t understand branding until I read Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone” and talked to my buddy Jennifer Fusco (she is a branding genius!)

    No matter what I write, it’s very sexy so I wanted to go with that as my overall theme – what the reader can expect when they pick up my book. So, we brainstormed and came up with: “Sizzling Romance. Burning Up the Sheets . . . one page at a time.” Now, I have my guide when I’m out and about. It does make it so much easier – you are right!

    But, I think I need to get a cool logo . . . ; )

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | March 7, 2012, 6:41 am
  3. Morning Allie!

    I’ve taken a few branding classes, but I really like how you came about with your brand…even if I’m not sure I’d like to ask people to come up with descriptive words about me! =)I love your new logo, excellent colors!

    thanks for posting with us today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | March 7, 2012, 8:21 am
    • I think the process will differ with every author, because the element that “charges up” a writer will be different for everyone. Your brand should work internally for you as well as externally for your readers, because that authentic nature will come through when it does. Readers will recognize a paint job, but they’ll respond to a real connection.

      Posted by Allie Pleiter | March 7, 2012, 10:59 am
  4. Thanks so much! I worked with Tiffany Colter (http://writingcareercoach.com/) and my graphics designer was Sara Roney at SonRise Studio (http://sunrisestudiosonline.com/).

    Posted by Allie Pleiter | March 7, 2012, 8:22 am
  5. Oh, Allie –

    This was the perfect post for me to read this morning. My husband and I are working on a project and have been talking about branding/names/logos, etc.

    Your description of your branding process has reminded me that all my work carries a strand of who I am. Keeping that in mind will make seeing my work as a whole that much easier.

    I have to say I’m jealous of the logo – we’ve been kicking around an “adventure” theme for our newest project as well :-).

    Thanks so much!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 7, 2012, 8:40 am
  6. I love your new logo/brand – just so clever and inspiring.

    Posted by Alison | March 7, 2012, 9:21 am
  7. “I’m nobody’s cattle” – love it!

    I will admit, branding confuses me. I’ve read up on it a lot and now I’m more confused than ever, particularly when it comes to websites.

    I followed advice and set up a website early on in my writing career. At that time I was writing mainly contemporary romance. I still do, but I also write paranormals and romantic suspense.

    If I ever sell one of my stories, I plan to revamp the website to reflect whatever story I’ll be promoting. In the meantime, by necessity, it’s just about me.

    Some of the branding workshops I’ve attended say that’s a huge mistake, that it should be all about the writing. It’s difficult for an unpubbed author to do that.

    I do feel it’s a good idea to have a website in advance, because it means if I ever do sell I’ve already made a headstart on marketing and have a small following to build on.

    I do sort of feel it IS about the author as well as the writing. It’s a different world these days, and readers do make judgments based on our behavior online. Potential readers will form opinions about me before I ever have a book to promote.

    I’m still struggling with this. Is the author the brand, or are their books the brand? Even with published authors, that can be tricky because some authors write in multiple genres, each with a different “character” or brand.

    And for an unpublished author trying to create an online presence before ever selling a book?

    The Magic 8 Ball says: Reply hazy, try again.

    I guess I’ll just keep plodding on as I am, and come back to this if I ever have a book to promote.

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | March 7, 2012, 9:41 am
    • I think branding is about the CAREER. I’m eclectic by nature. Therefore, one of the things I needed my brand to do was to tie together the diverse things I knew I’d continue to do. Other writers who know what they want to pursue can have a more focused brand. Adventure is diverse by nature, which is why it works for me but might not for a dedicated mystery writer. I personally don’t think an author can have multiple brands…or at least it would be very hard to do it and keep a true authenticity. The only exception I’d make is if they wrote under different names–but even then it would take a tremendous amount of attention and energy to keep those distinct brands up and running at the same time.

      Posted by Allie Pleiter | March 7, 2012, 9:51 am
  8. Hi Allie. Great tips on branding. Your logo looks terrific!

    As for other authors who do a good job of branding, I think C.J. Lyons has done a fantastic job.

    Thanks for being here, Allie.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | March 7, 2012, 9:45 am
  9. Hello Everyone!

    I just happened to be stopping by, and noticed your comments on the logo. :) I did Allie’s logos for her, and had a blast doing it. It makes me so happy to know how much everyone likes it! :)

    Please feel free to check out my work and let me know what you think! My husband and I both work from home providing Photography, Graphic Design, Web Design, and SEO for our clients, and would be honored to serve you too. :)

    http://www.SunriseStudiosOnline.com and the facebook page: http://facebook.com/sunrisestudiosonline Give me a call if you have any questions!

    Thanks, Sara

    Posted by Sara Roney | March 7, 2012, 12:52 pm
  10. Hi Allie,

    I happened to visit your website the other day when I was putting in the author links on the windy city site, and I have to say I literally went, ‘Wow! How did she do that?’

    Now I know. So much thought and wisdom went into it. Thanks for sharing your process with us!

    Sonali

    Posted by Sonali Dev | March 7, 2012, 1:19 pm
  11. Hi Allie!

    I love your logo, and your website. The simplicity of the design really packs a punch. You’re a prolific author and yet, there’s not a single book cover on the home page. Amazing.

    You’re fortunate that you found someone like Sara who was able to translate your vision into something beautiful.

    Thanks for joining us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | March 7, 2012, 3:33 pm
    • You’ve hit on an important point, Jennifer. The goal of my website is to introduce a reader to something else. If you come looking for a specific book, you can find it, but you’ll learn about the other things I do along the way. If you come looking for the DestiKNITions blog, you’ll discover my books with knitting characters while you are there. If you come looking for a speaker, you’ll find books. So yes, you won’t immediately see a book, hopefully you’ll see a career.

      Posted by Allie Pleiter | March 7, 2012, 8:23 pm
  12. Gorgeous logo!! And thanks for some great ideas on branding.

    Posted by Jamie | March 7, 2012, 6:45 pm
  13. Allie and all–thanks so much much for the great discussion on branding today. Learned so much!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 7, 2012, 8:57 pm
  14. As a relatively new to the writing scene, I never thought about this! Thank you for sharing your experience so eloquently as well as giving your readers something to think about.

    Posted by Kelly Wolf | March 8, 2012, 10:21 am
  15. Love the new logo, Allie! You are such an inspiration!

    Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | March 8, 2012, 4:45 pm
  16. And the winner of FALLING FOR THE FIREMAN is Kelly Wolf! Congrats, Kelly–I’ll be in contact with you.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 8, 2012, 8:47 pm
  17. I’ve been trying to understand branding for over a year. Unable to grasp the concept of branding until reading your post, I am grateful. And for the first time believe that it is do-able. Your system is logical, makes sense, and does not limit. Congratulations, not only on your own success, but in the great presentaiton of a “how to” for the rest of us. Like another poster here, I hesitate to aks for 10 positive things about me from those I know. Gulp. But I’ll swallow hard and give it a try!

    Posted by Marion Spicher | March 12, 2012, 6:11 pm
  18. I’m coming in late to this post, but boy was this helpful! Allie, your logo is gorgeous and I love what you said in another comment “people will see a career.” That’s soooo true!

    I started branding under another nom de pixel with erotic romance, when branding was basically a tagline with an alliterative tricolon in it. I went for a while after that actively avoiding branding because while the brand sort of worked, I’m all over the map with what I *want* to and *do* write…and do (I’m no knitter, but I have a crochet hook and I’m not afraid to use it, LOL!)

    Thanks for giving me something to think about regarding branding. I think I can approach it this way and not feel fenced in.

    Posted by Athena Grayson | March 17, 2012, 2:35 pm
  19. Your post clarified the underpinnings of branding better than anyone has been able to do before. Thanks for sharing. Instead of shaking my head, I can roll up my sleeves!
    Now if I could just get one of those “round-tuits.” Grin.

    Posted by Marion Spicher | March 20, 2012, 2:33 pm

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