Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ask PZM Jan 2012 "Brand"

Before I introduce the first ASK PZM article for 2012, I'd like to extend a warm thank you to all my followers. For quite a while now I've tried to send you a personal message expressing my gratitude. If there's a way, I'll find it eventually. In the meantime, please know that I'm very grateful for your support for this blog. It has been a source of comfort every single day.

Now for your reading pleasure, here's Phyllis's answer to the follow question:

Q: How do I position my books to stand out in the marketplace? What does it mean to have a distinctive brand?

This is a great question, and before I answer it I’d like to step back and clarify something about book marketing.

First, you have to be sure that your book (or ebook) makes it very clear what the book is about. For example, I recently read the front and back copy of a physical book and still did not know whether it was fiction or nonfiction.

Your book is not for everyone. It is for the people who would be interested in your fiction or nonfiction book. Therefore you must make this instantly clear.

(I titled my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel” to make it immediately clear that the book was a novel and not nonfiction.)

And, second, there are the considerations of whether the book cover (even for an ebook) is effective, whether the book’s title and your author name can be easily read on an online thumbnail photo, whether the price of the book is in line with the marketplace, etc.

Now, to answer this question, we’re going to assume that all these preliminary steps have been adequately covered. Also, we will understand that, whether traditionally published or self-published, you must do most of the marketing yourself if you want to stand out in the marketplace.

This brings us to the subject of a brand.

A fiction author’s distinctive brand might be always writing about abused women who find the strength to escape their situations.

Or a fiction author’s brand might be always writing novels that deal with a specific location or time period or family saga.

This is the spine of your fiction author projects on which you hang your marketing activities for your books.

Let’s take the example of fictional stories about abused women:

You can delve into the nonfiction world of this important topic in order to connect with potential readers for your fiction books.

For example, you could do a search with keywords on Twitter to find real-time conversations about this topic and join in the conversation. Of course, your Twitter bio would include the information of why you are interested in this topic and how your novels are meant to empower women in similar situations. And your Twitter bio link would be to your book author website or to the specific Amazon page where your book is sold.

Although you are a fiction writer and not a nonfiction writer on this topic, you may carve out a reputation for yourself. People may say about you: “She writes novels empowering abused women.” This is the brand you have worked to create.
What if your books have no common thread – nothing you can use to establish a distinctive brand?

In this case you might create a brand around your participation in online social media groups – maybe you are known for giving helpful writing advice to new authors – or around your blog that deals with various writing subjects or around any aspect of your personality or writing whose image can be consistently presented over time.
To be clear, a brand is usually not based on your name. It is based on something about you or your writing that promotes a consistent image over time regardless of what you are writing.

And, of course, you can have more than one brand. Just remember that each brand takes time to develop and needs continual nurturing.

Before you protest that you have no idea what brand you can create/develop for yourself, stop and think about what makes you or your writing unique. Then consider how you can emphasize this aspect in your marketing activities.

Let’s discuss this in the comments section below.

© 2011 Miller Mosaic LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company Miller Mosaic LLC, which works with clients including book authors to effectively use social media, blogging and WordPress websites.

She is also the author of fiction and nonfiction books and has a new website at about her books and her online volunteer activities (which are part of her author brand).


  1. Q: How do I position my books to stand out in the marketplace?

    A: Simple. Hide all of the other books beyond yours!

    ...Oh, that's not how it works? Drat! Sorry, I guess I'm feeling a little ornary today. Great post, ladies!

  2. Ornery or not, your strategy could work. I have only one question. Where would I hide the other books? Okay, two questions. If I get caught, what do I say?

    Hope your new year is off to a great start, Carrie.

  3. Good points here, Phyllis! As novelists the brand we establish is often based on something that excites us, because that's usually what we like to write about... whether it's an era, a subject, a group of characters, or a setting.

    I wonder, though... if there is no common thread in what we write, is our writing going to be marketable, regardless of how good the writing itself may be? It's difficult to build a readership across the lines of multiple genres, and agents and publishers tend to avoid taking on those books and authors because of that risk. I suppose the exception might be publishing different genres under different pseudonyms, but I wouldn't think that's a good choice for new authors.

  4. Hmm...

    We'll work on hiding the other books. As for the explanation... well, "The Butler did it."


  5. I'm a new follower & was so thrilled at the topic of your blog today as I've been struggling with the "brand" concept myself. For instance, I've been flopping back & forth to keeping the title of my blog my name or changing it to Writing Under the Juniper Tree. I don't know if that'd confuse people b/c probably not many people know what the Juniper Tree is, but I still think it sounds cool:)

  6. Great post about an essential topic! I read each word carefully and couldn't agree more. I'd like to add, tho, that price is part of one's brand. I don't think a 99 cent book enhances anything except Amazon's bottom line (as they get 70%).

    And Happy New Year, Joylene. May it be extra special!!

  7. Another great article from Phyllis and Joylene! :) Thank you! I'm only starting to grasp the concept of an author brand, and it's so important, especially now that we authors can actively communicate with the community we sell our books to! Personally, I detest "spammy" authors and will never buy their books. That's why marketing smart is better than marketing hard (or rather, spamming hard). :D

  8. Hi Joylene and Phyllis .. great article and yes - I've been wondering about 'my brand' .. especially as people keep say "publish" .. when I can establish that umbrella name - then I shall be happy and ready to branch out. My blog is so eclectic - but I'm fortunate that people seem to enjoy it ..

    Great read .. thank you - and have wonderful New Year's ahead. Cheers Hilary

    PS the word verification has come up with an interesting 'name' - sounds as though it comes from Canada .. or North America - it is: Sawaequa

  9. Great responses, everyone. I'm not able to get computer time, so I'm just stopping by to say I miss you all and I'll be at a computer by Wednesday. Stay safe.

  10. Gave you a shout-out on my post today.

  11. Hilary described her blog as eclectic, and that pretty well describes my writing, as well. Although it would be ideal to be associated with a specific "brand" or topic of writing, narrowing one's work down so it fits into a certain niche may be more problematic. Even so, I enjoyed the post, and it has definitely given me some good food for thought. (Not fattening, either.) BTW, I'm here because of Kittie's shout-out.

  12. Very helpful post and I was thrilled to realize that I know what one of my brands is! Thank you for the information. :)

  13. I've gotten so far behind on my blogging and following blogs, and missed this wonderful post.

    Thank you for sharing. Hope to have another book out before long, and I've got to take marketing more seriously.

    Happy New Year!

  14. Hi Joylene, I linked over here from Kittie's shout-out post. This is a great interview, and so timely for me as I prep my second novel for self-pub. I agree particularly with what PZM said re: "whether traditionally published or self-published, you must do most of the marketing yourself if you want to stand out in the marketplace." Been there; done that. Several years ago, I landed an agent who landed a division of Penguin. (This was for a short, sassy satiric gift book that I'd co-written with a neighbor-friend.) Despite the traditional avenues, the book -- published in 05 -- tanked. Part of the reason is that my co-author-friend and I had NO IDEA that we'd be responsible for marketing. Though my first novel, self-pubbed in 08, hasn't exactly taken off, it's done a helluva lot better than the Penguin publication. So... there you go!

  15. Yep, msrketing certainly isn't a quick and easy thing to do.

    Great post.

  16. I want to thank everyone who added comments to this discussion, and I also want to apologize for not responding sooner.

    I moved the same day that this post came out and had to wait a week for Internet access. Then I've been playing catch up the last few days. (And the unpacked boxes surround my computer!)

    It is more difficult to establish one's brand when an author has different interests.

    That's why I'm more and more convinced that an author website built on one's own name with different sections (and even different domain names for each section) is the way to go.

    If you work on establishing a reputation as being a good writer with good information or stories (fiction) to share, I do think this reputation can attract the specific people for the different topics on which you write.

    P.S. I yet again have had an author-to-be tell me that he will start establishing his reputation when he finishes his novel.

    Thanks to social media, the time to start establishing your reputation is as soon as possible. Do so now if you haven't already -- even if you are not yet sure about your brand. You can develop your brand as you go.

  17. Hi Phyllis .. glad the move went off happily - it's always a turmoil for a while.

    Thanks for that interesting aspect about my name being the brand, and everything else following on - makes total sense.

    Good luck in your new home - cheers to you all -Hilary

  18. Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading Phyllis's January post, a post she wrote during a major move. Bravo to you, Phyllis. Looking forward to next month's.


Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come in and sit for while. We will talk about writing. We will share our dreams. Then I will serve tea and cookies. Home made and Gluten Free.