by Artemis Greenleaf
A long time ago, people started burning marks into the skin of their cattle to show ownership. John Maverick was famous, or perhaps infamous, for not branding his animals. He said it was because he thought the practice was cruel. Others said it was because it enabled him to scoop any extra, unbranded cattle into his herd.
So how about you, gentle reader? Are you sporting a brand, or are you a maverick?
Like any other choice in the world, there are pros and cons to each side. On the one hand, being a maverick is freeing. You write whatever you want, however you want. You have one handle. One marketing identity. If people search for your name on the interwebs, they find all of your stuff, bam! just like that. Easy, peasy lemon squeezy. And that’s probably fine if your work is all in similar genres. Maybe you have a police procedural, a political thriller, and a spy novel. There’s probably a lot of overlap between those audiences.
But what happens if you have written a heart-meltingly cute easy reader with butterflies and kittens. Everybody with children younger than six LOVES it. Congratulations! Now that you’ve had that success, maybe you want to write something different. Something like…Bigfoot erotica. What? Yes, that’s a thing. Look it up.
Jane Doe loved your kitten book, so she recommends you to her friend Mary. Mary searches for your books on her favorite e-tailer. Kitten Love comes up. So does Big, Big, Bigfoot. Oh, my. Now Mary starts to wonder if Kitten Love is appropriate for children, after all. Conversely, Jane Public loved-loved-loved Big, Big Bigfoot. She searches your name on Amazon to see what other books you wrote, and – voila! – up pops Kitten Love. Knowing how kinky you got with Bigfoot, she might be afraid you’re doing something highly inappropriate with kittens, and she backs quickly away from the page and pretends she doesn’t know you when her friends ask for book recommendations.
What’s a genre-hopping author to do? Have different brands. Maybe you write children’s books under the Susie Q. Sunshine brand, erotica in the name Ben Dover, and taut thrillers with the nom de plume of C.I. Anderson. Your divergent audiences sort themselves. It might be a little more work to market multiple brands, but your readers will know what to expect from each one. That’s the same reason people stop at chain restaurants when they’re travelling. The chain may not be the best restaurant in town, but they know what they’re in for.
What’s your experience with author branding? Let us know in the comments!