Monday, February 02, 2009

Where Do Brands Come From?

Yesterday I found (and read) Advertisements For Yourself by Jill Priluck through Blog of a Bookslut. It deals with the subject of whether or not authors can and should become brands. Then this morning I got on the treadmill and what did I find on the bookrack but last fall's SCBWI Bulletin, which I'd been pretending wasn't there while I read other stuff. It included an article called BRANDING--To Be Part of the Herd? by Tim Myers.

So, I've been thinking about branding these last twenty-four hours.

I started reading about branding probably last year. Usually I would see it in relation to bestselling authors. The idea was that they had become "brand names" in the sense that they had a large following of readers who were such fans that they would buy anything the authors wrote just because they wrote it. These buyers associated the authors' names with a certain type of writing that they liked, just as other buyers associate names with a certain type of detergent or food they like.

Thus, if you can somehow make yourself a brand name, you'll then have a following that supports your new books. But how can an author do that?

Priluck says, "Traditional branding—a mix of ads, media appearances, and book tours-is dying." But when discussing James Patterson, whose name frequently comes up in book branding articles, she says of his books that they are "practically encoded with unifying, Patterson DNA—from the title to the packaging to the hook and hanging cliffhanger." Isn't that something totally different from advertising?

Is branding something that has to be in the writing, which can then be advertised?

Myers in his Bulletin article suggests that branding is simply a distinctive style that makes someone recognizable, giving Tomie de Paola and Bob Dylan as examples. Branding, therefore, could occur naturally for such people. And once it did, it could then be marketed.

I wonder if today's brand writers aren't similar to your old-time cult writers, who had small followings that could be counted on to buy books and turn out for readings. A brand writer's fan base is a lot larger and has more money, of course. And is more mainstream. And a brand writer gets a lot more publicity. And while cult fans probably enjoyed their status as the lonely few who understood their favorite authors, brand fans may enjoy being part of a large, excited group turning out on publication day.

But except for all that, they're kind of related.

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