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It all starts with the brand values...

Whether you're an established author, or a fledgling writer just venturing out into the world of publishing, you've probably been told that you need a 'brand.'

Isn't it enough that you've put your heart and soul into developing interesting characters and a compelling plot? Now you have to be a marketer as well?

You're an intelligent member of society, surrounded by brands, many of which you have already formed your own opinions about. But creating your own brand, just sounds like a costly waste of time?

If this sounds familiar, let's stop for a moment and take a breath.

Over the coming weeks my team and I will be blogging about all of the various aspects of marketing that you need to understand. Hopefully, we'll give you enough information that you can choose to do it yourself, but we'll always be on hand just in case you need a little help.

So let's start with branding...

A brand is basically a reputation; a gentlemen's agreement or a handshake, from the days when these things really meant something. Wealthy families had coats of arms and traders or merchants had their 'merchant's mark', originally a downward strike with their initials either side. The need for a merchant's mark came from the times when it took ships months or years to sail around the world with cargo and communication was a long process. The merchant's mark was burnt into the boxes so that the buyer knew that the goods were from a reputable source.

In this day and age when we think of 'brands' we tend to think of the picture or namestyle, but this isn't a brand, it's a corporate image.

The 'brand' is a living, breathing experience of doing business with a company in many different locations and using many different forms of communication methods. So every time you go into MacDonalds you should 'experience' the same style of customer service and food (whether you like the food is irrelevant, so long as it's consistent!). If you then decide to ring Macdonalds to ask about the ingredients in your food, the way they answer the telephone should be as breezy and efficient as the person who serves you at the counter. It is the experience that builds reputation and therefore the brand.

So what does this all mean to an author, sat at their laptop in Swindon?

As an author that writes in a single genre this is relatively straight forward. If you were to google Alfred Hitchcock what sort of stories would you expect to read? Would you expect sex and violence? Would that sex and violence be gratuitous? If you were to google Charles Dickens what would you expect? Jacqueline Wilson? Roahl Dahl?

When people respond to brands it's because they know what to expect, they only feel annoyed if their expectations aren't met e.g. a Jacqueline Wilson story about violent gangs in North London. Imagine buying a lovely pink, sparkly book for your daughter or neice only to discover that she's had her head in something that Quentin Tarantino would be proud of!

So your first job is to decide what sort of books you write, what can the reader or (perhaps more importantly) the person who buys the book expect from your stories? Do your stories always have a moral or educational aspect? Are your shocking spy thrillers elegant i.e. James Bond; or gritty i.e. Cracker?

How do other people describe your work? Exciting; emotional; meaningful?

Do you have a particular writing style? Fast-paced; lively, nonsense?

Make a list of all the words you associate with your writing style, give yourself some time to ponder on those words and check back in next week with how to use them to develop your brand.

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