Wednesday, August 6, 2014


 by Janis Patterson
If there is a buzzword in marketing your books, it is currently ‘branding.’ Being a Texas girl the first thing I think of when I hear this is hot iron on cow buttock, but this, I assure you is different. Think soap powder. Or soft drinks. Or hamburgers. Instant identifiability.

I’m not sure, though, that I like being marketed with the same underlying techniques as a hamburger or soap powder. I’m a human being, with all my quirks, eccentricities and foibles, not a one-note product. I believe that people should be interested in the whole package, not just in ‘murder mystery’ or ‘sweet romance’ or whatever.

But that isn’t the way the world works. Most teaders may be mildly interested in the fact that you raise orchids or live on an island or don’t care for rhubarb, but they won’t be interested in you at all if they can’t find you, and that’s where the pundits say branding comes in. Usually readers who want a cozy mystery with cats will give short shrift to a writer who does glasses-melting erotica, and vice-versa, no matter who wrote it. They look for the names that are associated with what they want. Branding.

Those of us who write in multiple genres may be shooting ourselves in the foot by doing so. I write everything from traditional Regency romance to psychological horror to cozy mystery to contemporary romantic adventure to children’s. You’d think there’d be some crossover, but not from what I’ve heard from my readers. They seem to want more of the same, the same being whatever their particular niche is. I’ve even been chastised by a reader for ‘wasting my time’ by working on one genre when she wanted more of another.

I think such narrow focus is sad, but that’s their problem, not mine. If they don’t want to buy my books, it’s their loss. Variety is the spice of life. I cannot imagine writing in only one genre, just as I cannot imagine writing a gazillion books in one series with the same characters and locations. Joy to those to do it and do it well and to their readers too, but I’d die of boredom. So – I guess I’ll never be a rich and famous writer, because I cannot stand to be bored. I have been told I become dangerous when I’m bored.

And I still think branding is for cows.

UPDATE : Since my last column my publishing binge has been going according to plan. THE FAIR AMAZON, a traditional Regency romance, was released on 15 July and is doing well.
More exciting – at least to me – is THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, a new contemporary romantic adventure suspense released on 30 July. This is a special book to me, mainly because years ago I worked in Jerusalem on a film for over three months, and some of the adventures the heroine of this book has actually happened to me in real life. (And no, I’m not saying which!)


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've written in many genres too, but I seem to have settled down with mysteries now.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janis,

Like you, I write in a variety of genres. I also find that fans of one won't cross over to another which is frustrating.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

I have a friend who is pub'd with one of the big-big five. She desperately wanted to write in a different genre, but the publisher refused. She thought, what the heck, with 9 books in a series, she'd just 'go for it' and write new book in a different genre. Not only did the book not get contracted, the publisher dropped her. I enjoy being a multi-genre authors; and my fans don't seem to mind. Great post.

Josh Lanyon said...

I don't think branding is really about genre. It's what the reader can expect to find in your work REGARDLESS of the genre. :-)

That can work against you, I guess, if the reader doesn't care for your type of writing. I've seen non-fan comments such as "Everything Josh Lanyon writes is the same." The flip side of that are the many, many more comments that say things like, "Josh Lanyon can always be relied on for fully-dimensional characters, engrossing plots, etc."

And in fact, I've worked hard to establish that particular branding. :-)

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm with you on that. I can't stick to one genre, although I do mix them up a little. I sometimes include a bit of suspense in a romance and vice versa. Makes it all more fun!