When you’re building the world of your plot, you have to wear many hats. You have to see the future in several different iterations, you have to be a number of different characters, and you have to identify consequences sometimes even before you figure out the actions that will bring them. In short, you’ve got a lot of balls in the air. And now I’m going to set them on fire. When you’re building your world as an author, you also have to think not only in terms of your story, but in terms of your career strategy.
Like it or not, as soon as you put a story out there, people will color their perceptions of you with that story. This can be to your advantage–if you love writing romantic suspenses set on the Maine coast, you have yourself a nice little brand just waiting for you to stamp your fingerprints all over. If you, like me, have a love for stories as varied and wildly different as romantic comedies, dystopian sci-fi, and epic fantasy…you may have a bit more work ahead of you. Oh, and your balls are on fire.
Follow The Leaders
Even in this early renaissance of indie publishing and the opening of doors and the newfound freedoms of authors unchained by a monopolization on distribution by a cartel of select publishers, a pattern of success has already emerged. And it’s a pretty simple one, when you get right down to it. A number of books, priced at the right price point, well-written, and which can be connected, will get you discovered and net you readers and sales. It ain’t rocket science–consistent delivery of product with a consistent level of quality, priced at what the market will bear for it, will net you a degree of commercial success. You can apply it to widgets, cars, umbrellas, and stories. Now, stories are not interchangeable, say, with umbrellas–all umbrellas are meant to be held over one’s head to protect one from the elements. But stories aren’t interchangeable to a specific function like umbrellas are (with the exception of, say, the lace parasol that will not keep you dry in the rain, or the clear vinyl umbrella that will not shade you from a hot sunny day), so naturally, you’ll have a wider range of variables in terms of cost to produce versus profit, audience, consumer expectation, and what constitutes success. But the basic model is there–if you build it, they will come. And if you keep building what they first came for, they’ll keep coming.
But what do you do if you built it, they came, and now you want to build something completely different?
Bad Brander! No Donut!
I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with that. If your world as an author is bigger than romantic suspense or historical erotica or whatever sub-genres pull your strings, then it is what it is, and sometimes you gotta go with it. But understand that your measures of success will be different, and your journey up the mountain will be off the beaten path. The marketing and social media experts will tell you to build a brand, and the easiest way to do that is around a specific style of story or sub-genre.
But the smart ones will also tell you it’s not “bad branding” to wander further afield than one sub-genre. The smart ones will tell you that if your brand isn’t a sub-genre, then you have to be better and smarter at identifying what, exactly, your brand really is. And for the record, it may not come easy, and you may not be able to do it alone.
You Tease! Two Ways To Coax Your Brand From You
So if you can’t identify your own brand, or if you’re coming up with lame ideas that wouldn’t sell a kid a box of sugary cereal, it’s time for you to think outside that cereal box.
- Ask your friends and family – no one knows you like they do, and chances are, they’ll see things about you that you may not have even considered (and maybe some things you don’t want to consider, LOL)
- Ask your readers, critique partners, betas and editors – They know you best through your writing, but they don’t come with the assumptions you went into your writing career with. Those assumptions may be holdovers from years or decades ago, electric fences hidden in the tall grass that have limited you for so long that you don’t even know they’re still there, fencing you into one point of view.
I write about quirky people finding their own crazy paths to happily ever after. At least, that’s what I’ve come up with so far. My short contemporary romantic comedy, Forever Material, is about a Dating Diva who keeps breaking her own rules when it comes to Mr. Wrong and Mr. Right.
She’s absolutely sure he’s not the marrying kind…
He’s absolutely sure she’s right…
But he’s still going to prove her wrong.