Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trying Something New vs. Branding

blog76 This is a subject I haven’t worked out for myself yet, but I’ve been thinking about it.

There are definitely some authors that, when you say their name, you get an image of a particular kind of book.

Stephen King.

Nora Roberts.

J.K. Rowling.

To a much lesser degree (and I think this mainly refers to genre writers), you have midlist authors who get associated with a particular genre and writing style. If the author has done their job promoting themselves and their books and creating a brand, then the reader is probably going to make an association.

Just among the websites and blogs that I visit, I definitely know who writes what—who writes YA, romance, mystery, steampunk, fantasy, SF.

And there’s a reason for that. It’s usually what the writer likes to read and what they’re good at writing.

Right now I have 2 cozy mystery series and am working on developing a possible third. They’re all set in the South and are humorous.

Not only do I enjoy writing these kinds of books, but they’re easy for me to write. They come completely naturally to me.

But what if you’re trying something completely different?

If you’ve worked on your branding and you have a particular following that knows you write a particular way and then suddenly you switch to a different genre and style, then you could possibly end up with some readers who aren’t happy.

Readers who were expecting one thing and got something else. Especially if you built a brand around it.

While I wouldn’t let my branding stop me from trying something new, I’d approach the marketing carefully, I think.

Yes, you’d want to carry some readers over with you, especially if you’d built up a nice reader base.

But not at the risk of alienating some of those readers by not being truthful about the change of genre.

Pros of pseudonyms in this situation: There won’t be a book buyer perception that limits your scope—they won’t think of you as someone who writes something completely different.

You won’t upset readers who might expect one thing and get another.

You can develop a name but still tie in your other (real) name with marketing. It would be easy enough to put something on your blog page, web page, and social media that says something like “Check Out John Smith’s New Fantasy Series—Written Under his Aaron Felder Pen Name.”

Cons of pseudonyms in this situation:

To some degree, you’re starting over with your reader base. For someone walking through the bookstore and taking a book off the shelf, they’re not going to know you. So you’ll be promoting and building up a whole new name. In a new genre.

Although you can promote your other name through your real name, you’ll still have to do many things twice—promote both names at once and in different genre communities. Maybe not twice as much work if you’ve got a lot of that basic social media structure in place and know how to quickly build it up, but a lot of extra work. So far, since I’ve stayed in the same genre, I haven’t run into any problems promoting both my names online…tied together. But Riley Adams is about to have a Facebook presence really soon.

What do you think? Do you see author branding as something that possibly has a creative downside for a writer?

And a programming note--tomorrow= Twitterific!