Author Branding (When You Write Multiple Genres)
Author branding is simple when you write only one kind of book. Romance authors tend towards similar brand expressions, and science fiction authors towards others. But what about those of us who like to experiment in different genres? If your leanings range from Regency romances to arcane horror, you might have a hard time knowing exactly which look you want to project.
Indie authors aren’t alone in this debate. Any number of established and well-known writers have intentionally worked to expand their horizons and test out new waters with their writing. The question of author branding comes around and is met with two main solutions: pen names/alternate brands and personal brands.
Option 1: Pen names
If you’ve already established yourself as an authority writer in one genre, switching to something different poses a challenge. You don’t want to misrepresent yourself to old fans and readers, but you do want to make yourself available to new readers who might not have enjoyed your familiar genre.
That’s the dilemma that children’s fantasy author J. K. Rowling found herself in when she decided to branch off into literature for adults. Rowling eventually decided to publish her adult novels under the pen name Robert Galbraith and start a different brand entirely to market herself to new readers.
This option comes with a lot of upkeep and the assumption that few, if any, of your old readers would be interested in your new writing. It also limits what you can produce according to how many pen names you have active and what you expect to get from them. Logistically, you have to remember to market multiple pen names, possibly host multiple author sites and manage multiple social media pages.
But splitting your brand with a pen name is also a great way to avoid confusion among fans and give you the freedom to write for a new audience entirely--no strings attached.
Remember that you also have flexibility with this option. Author Joanna Penn sticks to one pen name for her non-fiction books and a different one for her fiction, but she markets them and sells them on her same site and uses the same social media. She’s honest about writing different styles and allows readers to choose which they want to dive into. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
Option 2: Personal branding
The other option is to brand yourself as an author, separate from your genres. If you use a similar writing style across a broad variety of projects and genres, you can keep everything under one name and present yourself as a multifaceted author.
One solid example of this is Neil Gaiman, who has written graphic novels, screenplays, adult fiction, picture books, poetry, and more, all over a broad span of genres more or less in the fantasy corner. Gaiman could have presented everything under a separate name, but he has focused more on branding his own name and creating a distinct aura for the style and quality of work he creates.
Personal branding works best if you produce work in a wide variety of genres, not simply two or three distinct lines. It allows readers to discover you in one niche and follow you across others, but it also implies a strong continuity across your work and expectations that will span it. The challenge lies in distinguishing your works and being very clear in how they differ, which can be frustrating for people who enjoy switching to entirely different styles.
Overall, personal branding is a more secure way to write for many authors and a great method to win more readers to your pages.
Tips when designing a personal brand
If you choose to build a personal brand that will cover multiple genres, take the time to make sure you get it right. Here are some quick tips:
1. Sit down with a slip of paper and brainstorm.
What words do you think of when you picture yourself as a successful author? How do you imagine others describing your books in reviews or interviews? Write down anything that applies either to you or to your writing and settle on two or three words that you can devote yourself to. Keep those words in mind as you develop your brand.
2. Research other multi-genre authors you know of.
What techniques do they use? How do they differentiate their work, and what do they keep in common throughout? In the example of Neil Gaiman earlier, he has employed similar artists throughout his career that have given his work a memorable aesthetic. His vastly different formats speak for themselves in many respects--but Gaiman also frequently talks about his current work and process in his blog.
3. Consider what your readership will look like.
What crossover will you have, and how well will your work appeal to multiple simultaneous fandoms? Somewhere in the middle of your writing, you can find a style and a voice that is more authentically yours than a style you project, and better able to reach a wider variety of readers. This is a great place to start.
How do you brand yourself to multiple groups of readers? Please share in the comments below or join my Facebook group for further discussion.