In the past, I have done humorous posts, because I love to laugh and hope to give others one as well. But this month, I’m taking a serious topic – and it’s aimed entirely at authors, though blog sites might also want to take note.
What is a brand? According to the Small Business Encyclopedia on Entrepreneur (1), branding is: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
For an author, there is one major item they need to look at as their brand. Their name. Everything else: series, book titles, genres, is massively secondary. Their name is their brand. It takes massive amounts of money to create the marketing behind a brand. When a large company wants to ‘re-brand’ themselves, they spend millions of dollars to educate the public in as little time as possible that ‘this’ is who they are now.
Most authors don’t have millions of dollars to educate the public. Most of us don’t have dollars at all to spend on such an extensive ad campaign. Which is why we should protect our brand. That brand is who we are. People learn that name and have an association. Such as Thianna Durston is an author of M/M Romance. This is a direct association. Hopefully, the word ‘good’ or even ‘great’ can be added, but that is a purely subjective adjective as per what the reader actually enjoys reading.
So what happens if, as an author, you give someone control over your brand? YOU LOSE YOUR BRAND. Lose it. Entirely. You are no longer you. If you tie your brand to a specific publisher or agent, you had better have an airtight way to get out of it if needed. Why? Because as you grow, your writing will grow and in time you will hopefully want to fluff those wings and go out to different pastures. But, if you have lost your brand, you will have to start all over again building a new brand with a new name.
I am well aware of this conundrum in a different way. I used to publish all my works, both M/M which I started out with and M/F under Thianna D. Even though I started with M/M, the M/M audience didn’t pay me much mind, seeing me as an M/F author. So I changed that a year ago. I separated out all my M/M under Thianna Durston. Of course, those books that were already under contract with a publisher haven’t been changed and languish in Thianna D-land. And I can tell you, it has taken close to a year to truly get the name Thianna Durston out there.
But if you sell your brand – your IDENTITY – to someone else, you are asking to have this happen to you in a major way. And believe me, that someone else DOES NOT have your best interest at heart. They have their own. It doesn’t mean they have any ill will toward you, but they have reasons for wanting that name and they will not necessarily combine with what you need or want in the future.
Do you really want to build up a brand, get people to know it, and then have to leave it behind and start all over again? No, you don’t. You brand is intellectual property. According to Entrepreneur (2), Intellectual Property is defined as: The ownership of ideas. Unlike tangible assets to your business such as computers or your office, intellectual property is a collection of ideas and concepts.
I can hear some of you saying “but I love this publisher and want to stay with them, so what does it matter?”
Well, first of all, you feel that way now –but in a couple of years, who knows? But also, let’s say you love and continue to love that publisher, but while you have the market that publisher pulls, you want even more readers. So you see a submission call from another publisher in your genre. It sounds perfect and it’s big and will draw in new readers. Only… you can’t use YOUR NAME because you DON’T OWN it. At that point, you are SOL. You could write it under a new pseudonym, but it won’t matter, will it? Because nobody will associate that new name with your old one. And it will take months if not years to develop an audience under that new name.
And some publishers wave all sorts of perceived pluses at you if you sign an exclusive contract. Do not be deceived by the now. That is like how the stock market is. All they look at is at the next quarter. They don’t look 2-5 years down the line. Look at your writing life 2-5 years down the line. Try to see things long term. A few perks now… or freedom later? What kind of choice are you making?
So keep your brand in your own hands. DO NOT allow a publisher, agent, or any other company or individual besides you to own your brand. Your brand is you. And if you aren’t you… who are you?