This post, by Elizabeth Barone, originally appeared on her site on 3/24/13.
It took me about a year to figure out how to brand myself as an author. This was after I decided to be a professional novelist. Before I figured it out, I worried about it almost all the time. After all, I used to work with non-profits and small businesses to create their web presence—a form of branding.
I couldn’t figure out how to translate those principles to my own company. It just didn’t work. For example, a company has a mission statement and a logo. While I have a few reasons for writing and morals when it comes to being a writer selling a product, I couldn’t convince myself to put an official mission statement on my website. That just seemed silly! In the same vein, it seemed weird to develop a logo for myself.
Meanwhile, I read articles about choosing a genre and establishing yourself as an author of a niche. “How can I pick one genre when they’re all so fun?” I would wonder, staring at the screen. Picking one seemed more committal than a manwhore getting married. What if I wanted to write romance down the road? What if I decided horror was really my thing? I couldn’t very well keep changing genres.
The only thing I had going for me was a website: elizabethbarone.net. While I really would have preferred the .com, I made this place my home base for my books, news, and blog not long after deciding to work toward being a full-time author. I did very little to brand it, other than experiment with WordPress themes, and play with headers in Photoshop.
Then I stumbled upon an interview Joanna Penn did with CJ Lyons, who calls her books “thrillers with heart.” I liked the term immediately because it not only perfectly described her books, but gave her room to write in all genres. If she wanted to, she could even write horror under that term, as long as there was some heart in it. That got my wheels turning and then branding made sense to me. I didn’t have to pick a genre. I could write “drama with grit”:
stories powered by strong, intricate characters who are plagued by realistic problems and situations.