Jenn Stark

Changing Your Brand – Should You Do It?

For writers, the grass can often seem greener on the other side of the genre fence. Maybe you’ve been toiling away at your Regencies… but you hear that Paranormal Romance is hot, and you think, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a paranormal!” Or, perhaps you’ve been making good sales on your contemporaries, but you long to sink your teeth into a sweeping historical.

Making the jump to writing a new type of book, however, requires more than just firing up your word processor and playing different music on your iPod. You have your audience to consider – an audience that can include your readers, your agent, your editor and your publicist.

Now, before anyone emails me with examples of authors who write all sorts of different books under a single brand name, please note: I am not saying it can’t be done. I am saying that it is difficult to do well and consistently over long periods of time. If you want to duplicate the career of a successful author who does maintain a single brand for all of her (differing) work, study her closely: does she write all of her books for one publisher with a “built-in” audience? Does she maintain a heavy release schedule for the “off-brand” books, or does she focus primarily on her “on-brand” books? Is there a huge difference between the genres she writes most frequently, or are they fairly similar in tone and style?

As you consider making a switch in the style and focus of your writing, use this handy scoring system to determine what impact – if any! – that switch could have on your current Writing Brand.

How long have you had your current Writing Brand?

If you have only recently begun marketing your work, or if you haven’t begun marketing it at all, this is the best possible time for you to consider changing your brand. However, if you have made sales and have established an audience for your work, then you need to weigh your proposed change carefully. Your Writing Brand is important to your audience. It’s how they identify you, how they relate to your work, and it represents what you and your writing mean to them.

To give proper credit to the impact of your current brand, assign it a point value:

How much of a change is your new Brand from your current Brand?

If you are looking to make a shift from writing vampire romance to werewolf romance, but still wish to maintain an overall paranormal influence in your writing, your brand change is admittedly fairly slight. Of greater potential concern is a brand shift between two very different genres – such as moving from light historicals to gritty romantic suspense. How does your change rank?

How focused will you be on the new Brand vs. your current Brand?

What’s your writing future look like? Will you ever write books like the ones you wrote before making a brand change? Or are you committed to your new writing focus?

Tally up your scores! Based upon where you rank, below are some steps you can take to make your brand transition smooth—both for you, and for your readers!

3-10: Only slight branding changes needed

With a modest change in your writing focus, or if you are fairly early in your career, you can maintain your current authorial name, website and marketing materials. You may want to consider updating your look to better reflect the expanded focus of your writing, so that your readers know what to expect!

11-20: Possible candidate for a new Writing Brand—if not, then major changes and/or publicity needed

This is a grey area. You could get away with updating your marketing materials, doing some publicity around your new Writing Brand, and hoping that your readers will “get it” when you shift between brand styles. My advice, however, would be to create a new Writing Brand for yourself: this means a new pen name, new website, new marketing materials, new look. Go ahead and link to your new site from your current site—or creatively feature both brands on a single site—and promote the heck out of both brands!

21-30: Congratulations on the Brand New You!

No question about it—it’s time for a different brand. Like Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb, or Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor, you are writing different stories on a grand scale, and you owe it to yourself and your readers to differentiate yourself accordingly. Again, plan on cross promoting yourself to leverage your current audience base. Check out authors with multiple robust brands and see how they present them