Tuesday, 1 December 2009

WHAT BRAND ARE YOU?

Our guest today is Cari Quinn. Please welcome her!

While my first love is writing, my day job is as a graphic designer and proofreader at a newspaper. Having worked in graphic design for almost a decade, I'm used to seeing what works - and what doesn't - on the page. Clarity and brevity are essential, and most importantly, a design piece is only as good as it reproduces.

But this doesn't apply to writers, right? Not so. Your brand is a visual interpretation of you and your product.

What color scheme have you chosen for your webpage and/or blog? Is it mirrored in your bookmarks, business cards and any other promotional materials? Perhaps not, but if you carry through your theme, the more recognizable your name becomes. Preferably, this theme works with your tagline and with your product. Maybe you write all over the map (as I do) or maybe you have two main genres in which you write. In those cases, generic is best, but perhaps there are design elements you can pick up that apply to both and would work well on your webpage and bookmarks, for example. An easy one...do you write paranormal romance featuring werewolves and vampires? A three-quarter moon in the night sky might be the perfect element to evoke the reaction you're hoping to create in your reader. In my opinion, simpler is best. You're trying to create a feeling, not bombard the senses. Just as a lipstick imprint on an envelope is sexy and romantic, it's also clean and basic. That's what you're looking for. That snap of instant recognition that, if you're lucky, will become something your readers instantly associate with you.

That's also where your tagline comes in. Do you have one? A tagline encapsulates your work in one or two sentences and lets your reader know what to expect when they pick up your story. When I started writing a few years ago, my tagline was "Because love - and sex - can be funny." I chose this because everything I write seems to have a thread of humor running through it. As I went along, I realized that tagline didn't work for me anymore, because I was branching out. Yes, my stories still usually have a humorous element (or so I hope!) but I'm also writing darker pieces now, such as Urban Fantasy. So I went back to the drawing board and came up with "What's more dangerous than falling in love?" I'm a romance writer, and by putting that word "dangerous" in my tagline, hopefully the reader gets the impression that there may be darker aspects to my writing. Even when I write straight contemporary, that tagline works.

Being succinct is key. Think what you would want someone to say about your work, and see if you can tie that into your tagline. If you're really creative (and we all are, or we wouldn't be writers), look for ways to tie your tagline into the branding of your website and promotional materials. You write paranormal and cozy mysteries? Have that slice of moon on the top of your webpage? Maybe add a gleaming silver knife with one drop of blood to represent the mysterious side of your writing persona. And perhaps your tagline is, "Sexy romance filled with things that go bump in the night." Okay, not great, but it's just an example for you to use as a springboard for your own ideas.

I also think having a logo is important. YOU are your own company. And the more places that people see your specific logo and tagline, always represented in the same way, the more often that becomes imprinted on a reader's mind. Recognition is your best friend as an author. If Sally Jane is sitting home looking for a spicy book to download and she remembers seeing your splashy, unique logo on a blog somewhere, you may just be the one whose books she searches out to read. In this time of self-promotion, it's vital you give yourself every opportunity to succeed. In case any of you stop by my blog, I don't have a new logo up yet. ;) But I will soon!

One last word about branding and creating a mood with your promotional materials. As I mentioned earlier, a design is only as good as it reproduces, which is why blogs that are dark in color with red or white type rarely work well. Anything that is hard to read gives your potential reader a reason to bypass your page - something you do not want. True, there are sites like Readability which can translate most blogs/webpages into something easy on the eyes, but most people don't want to go through that extra step. Keep your design elements to the tops and sides of your pages and leave the areas where you type as clean as possible. And be brief, as brief as you can while still getting your message across. I love to read, but when I see a blog that's a page long or more, I cruise on by. At best, I hit the highlights. Which brings me to another point. Try to break long passages into sections, with bullets that make it easy to skim. Anything that encourages your reader to stay awhile is a very good thing!

Thank you for reading! I'll be around to answer any questions or comments. I'm considering doing a series of posts on this subject on my own blog, so please stay tuned!

My latest release is Full Disclosure from The Wild Rose Press Wilder Roses. It hot and erotic! I talk about how I blasted through my comfort zone and started writng erotic fiction on Kaye Manro's Blog in November. If you're interested check out the link.



Thanks to Lindsay for inviting me to blog today!
Cari Quinn
My Blog

15 comments:

Kaye Manro said...

Hi Cari! Welcome to Lindsay's Romantics! You have some great ideas here that we all need to think or rethink about.

I really like my tag-- 'Romantic Adventures Laced With Sensual Pleasure'-- but I wonder if I should have different ones for the different genres I write? I tried for a catch all. But lately I'm doing a series of Sci-fi romance and maybe I need something different for those stories. What do you think?

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Cari! A huge welcome to the pink blog, Lindsay's Romantics!

This is a fantastic blog and it really got me thinking. Thank you so much for guesting here today!

All the very best with your latest release, FULL DISCLOSURE. If you wish to blog about that, with an excerpt, you are more than welcome.

Danielle Thorne said...

Great points. I find the idea to have a personal logo very interesting--especially since most authors are under a publisher that has a logo. I'd be very interested in seeing yours and getting an idea of what you mean. At best, would a personal photo do the job? One author that this reminds me of is Miss Mae of the Sweet/Suspense genre. She has interesting book covers and interesting avatars (for lack of a better word) that she uses as a logo of sorts. Makes lots of sense for online writers.
And me--I find I try to keep a trio of the same colors on all my books, blogs, and website. The colors of the sea at sunset. There's always a little seawater in my fiction.

Great post!

Savanna Kougar said...

Cari, good info and congrats on your latest release.

I do think taglines can give the reader a 'sense' of an author's books.

~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ does describe what I write.

Linda Acaster said...

A thought-provoking post, Cari. It's got me thinking as I have a blog to produce in the near future. What exactly am I? Good question!! At the moment I am my book's cover, but that won't last.

Regards, Linda

LK Hunsaker said...

Cari, great tips. My books always include highlighted nature scenes and a 'laid-back' feel so my website is blue & greens with nature photos.

My tagline: Literary Romance with an Artsy Twist

It describes what I do, although recently I've seen a lot of taglines with "twist" in them so I may need to update that a touch.

Cari Quinn said...

Hi everyone! Lindsay and Kaye, thanks so much for having me here.

I've started fiddling with my logo - basically just picked a distinctive font and used my tagline. I wanted to use some sort of artwork to tie both together, and that's my sticking point, because my first choice, a stylized heart, is a bit overused. ;) But once I figure out something I like, I'll be able to use it on my blog, website, and eventually business cards and bookmarks. My eventual choice will be up on my blog once I finally settle on one.

I really like all the taglines posted here! I write across genres and wanted something that could be applicable to all aspects of my work, but Kaye's got a good point. Sometimes you want to highlight what makes your work in a particular genre different, similar to how some authors switch pen names based on genre. It's completely up to you.

And as Danielle mentioned, it's terrific if you can find a theme to identify you and your work. The same color scheme, an avatar, anything that makes you stand out a bit from the crowd.

I'm planning to do a series of occasional blog posts on this topic, so please keep checking my blog if you're interested.

Great comments everyone! Thanks! :)

Linda Banche said...

Here's Linda, late to the party, as always. Cari, thanks for the great information. I write Regencies, and my color scheme is pink and white, with a rose on my website. My tag line is "Regency romance--most with humor, some with fantasy, and occasionally a paranormal". I think it needs some work.

April Vine said...

Hi Lindsay and Cari
Oh, what a wonderful constructive post, Cari. Thank you for sharing this. I do have a tagline which I’ve used somewhat in the shadows. I think I need to initiate it in a better way. I’ll definitely be checking for more about this.
Still gushing about FD – it’s fabulous – smart and oh, so hot!!!

J.A. Saare said...

Marvelous blog, Cari! ;) Full of great ideas.

Marianne gave me my tag (or helped create it) along with a banner on my book tour. It has since been transferred over to my alter-ego, so I probably need a new one soon.

<3

Keena Kincaid said...

Great post! Like most people who do marketing communications for the day job, I am lousy at marketing myself. So thanks for the timely reminder to market myself.

StephB said...

Hi Cari, it's nice to have you hear at Lindsay's Romantics! I love your topic today. Those are things I haven't really considered but I will now. Attention to detail, even the little things, help.

Smiles
Steph

Lynne Roberts said...

Great ideas! Ack! I need a tagline. : ) Now I'm off to check my color scheme.

Thanks,

~Lynne

Kaye Manro said...

I so enjoyed helping you get this blog post up, Cari! I think it's so helpful. I can't wait to see more info from you on this subject. Glad you posted it here!

Tara said...

Ahhh, there's my amazing CP. I'm not entirely sure how many blog sites just exploded with new inquiries, or the ones that are searching out new backgrounds...but I think there's QUITE a few.

;)

Way to go woman!
I'm so glad you came over here and talked about brand. I think it's REALLY important to have that tagline.

Now if only I could figure mine out. I'm like you--too many different genres in my head!

GREAT POST!