What's In A Brand?

I've come across this word recently among writers. Branding. What does it mean for us? We're not, after all, a can of tuna needing a brand on grocery store shelves.

If you were to read a book without a cover and a title, or the author's name, would you know who wrote it? If you were to come across a single page of words, would you know where it came from?

Branding is unavoidably linked to Voice. Yikes, you say. Here we go again, talking about the undefinable, elusive, water-in-a-colander VOICE. Because it's true--if you read other writers' blogs, you're bound to find a post or two on Voice. You can find a good article on this subject here by Joyce Alton. Also here. And if that's not enough to whet or kill your appetite, here's one more.

So, you ask, are we really discussing Branding or Voice?

From The Write Angle's post asserted that Voice is no longer limited to the manuscript. The query letter has to have voice. And it's true--I've seen a few queries that are impeccably clean and follow the 3-paragraph rule, but are sadly lacking voice and therefore, become sterile. Flat. Unappealing. Then you have those jaw-dropping rule-breakers who get away with it because their BRAND, their VOICE showed through and caught the agent's attention.

I'd like to add to this and ask: Since our mss and query letters have to have Voice, does this mean our synopses should too? I'll let you mull on that one.

Back to our BRAND....

With all kinds of social media at our fingertips, getting our brand out there is easier than ever. The question is: What is YOUR brand? How do you portray yourself? How do you deliver your tuna goodness to the masses? If they see a page of your writing, will they recognize it as yours?

Think about it the next time you're shopping your ms.

From Creative Tools


Jessica Bell said...

To be honest, I don't think I've ever written a post on voice. And I've actually never tried to get one either. The more I think about what I 'need' as an author, the more I fail. Sometimes I think it's just best to be who you are inside and it'll all come naturally.

Anonymous said...

Oh I don't want to be tuna. I'd rather be something fancy like marinated artichoke hearts or mango chutney.

But I'm pretty sure my brand is "Crazypants". Or maybe, "Girl, Ridiculous."

cherie said...

@Jessica: You hit it right on the spot! An author's VOICE is who s/he is INSIDE! How you write reflects this. So many people forget that they already have voice, and it's their own. Hmm, maybe I should have a follow-up post on this tomorrow. Thanks for the idea!

@My favorite Green Woman: You have voice, girl, and you own it! I don't think you ever have to worry about this. I'd recognize your voice from miles away. =)

Jenny Phresh said...

You've also been following shopping carts around town?!

cherie said...

@Jenny: I learned from the Master. ;D

Anonymous said...

Ok its much too early to provoke my brain to think. ;)

hmmm I think this is a good question to ask ourselves. I think writing human interest articles helps solidify my voice, at least that's the hope.

And I think the key here is not to create this facade of what we think readers/agents want because if not done well it does come across as fake or trying too hard. I think its best to just be ourselves and present the best possible version of ourselves online. Which requires us to put a bit of our soul out there and THAT maybe a challenge to those who are more of the introvert.

cherie said...

Another great point, Sophie! No fakeys, the real deal is what delivers. People will know and notice who's real and who's not. =) I like this phrase: the best possible version of ourselves. We are multi-dimensional, after all. Let's put our best self out there.

Kalen O'Donnell said...

Excellent post and topic cherie! It's funny, but I've actually been composing my own post on brand for later this week, as its been something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I agree with all your thoughts but mine take a slightly different bent as I am disturbingly BENT so I do not think I will plagiarize you! Though you are quite plagiarizing worthy!

cherie said...

@Kalen: Oh good! I want to see your take on this. And *blush* on being "plagiarizing-worthy". I thought that was only for the likes of Stephen King...not that I ever tried to plagiarize anyone. O.o


Anonymous said...

I think of branding as this: make your work recognizable to your readers. Otherwise, without branding, you are just starting over with every book. Readers like to know what expect. None of Emily Giffin's readers want to pick up a book and it is a thriller.

cherie said...

@Rebecca: Another great comment! Consistency is important, so your readers know what to expect. Thanks for sharing your insight, and thanks for following too. =)

The Red Angel said...

Sometimes I struggle with Voice, as I want all my different novels to have a unique "Voice," but at the same time I still want to be discernible to my audience. It's an important concept, and I'm glad you touched base with it in this post!



Angela V. Cook said...

Oh, good post! The "voice" is one of the reasons I had so much fun writing my YA ms. I was able to put my attitude and sarcasm to good use (which is always fun ;o)

Voice in a query letter is a little more tricky. If it's done well, it's awesome, but if it's not done well, the query becomes cringe worthy (I've read both).

As for writing a synopsis? From everything I've ever read, it's supposed to be clean and to the point (just the facts, ma'am). I think a little voice would be okay though. Something to give it a little kick ;o)

Again, great post, chica!

T.S. Welti said...

Every writer has their own voice, whether they know it or not. It is, of course, best when your voice is natural. No matter what, our own personalities and voice will always be writhing just beneath the skin of our words.

I think the trick is to make sure that our online personas (and our writing) has a distinct voice while still representing us in an honest fashion.

Anita said...

I think that our voice should come through in the synopsis, but sparingly. Give little tidbits to tantalize. ;)

Great post, miss sparkly. And I'm posting my meme tomorrow, although I have no idea how I can follow all the rest of you because you've ROCKED it. :)

Jeana said...

Good insight. I think that my voice is seriously lacking in my query.

Scott Niven said...

After reading this, I think I'm going to keep myself awake tonight wondering what is my brand. I've worked hard to build a following on Twitter, Blogger, and Facebook, but currently, I don't really have a brand. I've have 3 short story collections, and the style and voice of those stories is uniquely me, but I really need to figure out what my true voice is. I'm writing my first novel right now, so hopefully the journey of writing it will help me with my branding.


Liz Fichera said...

Excellent post! Voice and brand are definitely linked.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Great post Cherie! New follower:) I just stumbled across you from Sarah Fine's blog and am so glad I did. Brand is one of those elusive concepts that seems to encompass so much. . .your writing, your blog, your persona. Tricky stuff but I think you did an excellent job of navigating it:)

cherie said...

Whew! Hi everyone and sorry I haven't been here. The Monday holiday threw me off and I've been wrestling with the laundry basket/s ever since....

Anyway, thank you for all your insightful comments!

@TRA: Ah, yes, we want our mss to have unique voices without appearing as if we have multiple personality disorders, yes? Tricky business.

@Angela: There are always extremes, no? A query can be absolutely voice-less and sterile, or it can go the other way and be totally nauseating. Balance, again, comes into play. ;)

@T.S.: Absolutely. Every writer has their own individual voice, except not everyone's aware of it, or at least they have a harder time pinpointing what IT is. And honesty rules...in life as it is in the way we portray ourselves.

@Anita: I agree with you on synopses having just a bit of voice for flavor. If we can do it in our queries, we can do it in our synopses, yes?

@Jeana: Hm. I think it was Elana Johnson, who once gave this advice/query exercise: write your query as if your mc is telling it. Then change it to 3rd person, and with some tweaking, you should have a query that has Voice. It's worth a try, right?

@Scott: Hey, sorry. Didn't mean to make my readers lose sleep over this. ;)

When I visit blogs and read posts and stories written, 80% of the time I can see the blogger/writer's voice and recognize it. Yours is one of them.

@Liz: Yup, your Voice IS your Brand. =)

@Lindsay: Hello and thanks for the follow! I appreciate it. Btw, I love Sarah's blog--so informative. You are right: Branding really does encompass not just the writing, or the book, but the whole persona. Thanks again for stopping by. =)

Carissa Elg said...

Another great post! Branding is so important-- both in use of an author's voice (Which is why it's helpful to be you and not the persona you THINK others want from you. Not just in the case of writing like JK Rowling, but even in the case of pen names, etc. It's hard to pretend to be someone you're not and it will show.) -- but also in how you brand your cover art. I think the author needs to be personally involved in the art design (even if not an artist) because it will reflect their voice and enhance their brand.

Thanks again for another awesome post!

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