Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shop for the Perfect Brand with Guest Blogger: Nina Croft

Win a copy of Break Out and chat with
author Nina Croft
today at the Book Boost!

Nina's back at the Boost to discuss market branding and here's what she had to say...

There’s a lot of pressure on authors to market their work online, and a big part of that is developing an author brand.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

For an author that’s really developing a distinctive personality that identifies you to potential readers. They’ll be able to look at your author name and immediately think – I love the things he/she writes – I want to read that (or of course the opposite – you can’t please everyone!) It’s in essence a promise to the reader, that if you buy the book, you know exactly what you are going to get.

I recently attended a webinar on branding, the aim being to come up with a tagline – a short (less than ten word) statement that identifies my author ‘brand.’

It turns out that I’m difficult.

My problem is that I write in different genres, or at least in different sub-genres. I’ve always believed that you should write the sort of things you love to read, but that doesn’t narrow the field much for me. I read just about everything, romance, science fiction, historical, paranormal, thrillers—if it’s been written—I’ll try it. So it’s hardly unexpected that I have a tendency to mix up the genres in my own stories.

All my stories do have a strong element of romance, but otherwise they span a range of genres: paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and I’ve recently just completed a thriller. And even within individual books, I have a tendency to mix up the genres. This is especially true of my recent release, Break Out, book 1 in the Blood Hunter series. Break Out is essentially a space opera—an adventure story based in the future. But it also has a vampire hero and a whole load of romance.

But it’s not only a matter of genre but also a matter of voice – the sort of tone you expect when you buy a book. My stories range from dark to humorous depending on how I’m feeling when the story springs to life.

And I’m supposed to be able to encapsulate my essence in ten words.

One way around this is to use different pen names for the different genres you write, and develop a different brand for each. Much as Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb. If you pick up a Nora Roberts you know you’re going to get romance. Pick up a J.D. Robb and you expect a futuristic suspense.

On the webinar, someone suggested I adopt a different pen names for each subgenre I write, and I was like – nooooo! I can’t cope with more names (I confuse easily!)

But I like to think that readers aren’t so easily confused. Also, like the rest of the publishing industry, I think readers are changing their attitudes and are willing to try different things more readily. These days, it’s so easy to get information about a particular book, and usually even possible to read a sample chapter for free online (you can read the first three chapters of Break Out for free on the Entangled site). So it’s possible to make a decision based on something other than author branding.

So what do you think – how important is author branding? Should authors stick to one recognizable genre? Do you like to know what you’re getting or are you willing to do a little research?

Oh, and if anyone can describe me in less than ten words (but remember you’re supposed to be persuading people to buy my books!) please go ahead.

A Note from the Book Boost: I love to create taglines. My author tagline is "Romance So Good, It Should Be Illegal". I, too, write many genres but they all usually have some sort of legal or law enforcement character in them because of my work and degree in Criminal Justice. Hence the tagline above. Perhaps you need one that is more general like Michelle Pillow's "Author of All Things Romance"! Good luck with your search for the perfect brand.


The year is 3048, Earth is no longer habitable, and man has fled to the stars where they’ve discovered the secret of immortality—Meridian.

Unfortunately, the radioactive mineral is exorbitantly expensive and only available to a select few. A new class comprised of the super rich and immortal soon evolves. The Collective, as they’re called, rule the universe.

Two thousand year old Ricardo Sanchez, vampire and rogue pilot of the space cruiser, El Cazador, can’t resist two things: gorgeous women and impossible jobs. When beautiful Skylar Rossaria approaches him to break a prisoner out of the Collective’s maximum security prison on Trakis One, Rico jumps at the chance. Being hunted by the Collective has never been so dangerous–or so fun!


“You might want to change your mind about that reward,” Tannis murmured from beside him. “This one looks like she might fight back.”

“I don’t mind a good fight,” Rico drawled. “As long as I win.”

He swung his chair around and followed the line of her sight, his gaze settling on the tall figure in the doorway. He wouldn’t have recognized her if he hadn’t known what to look for.

The silver dress was gone and a black jumpsuit now hugged her tall, toned body. She walked with the lithe grace of a predator, one hand resting on the pistol at her thigh. The long, blond hair, which had done a lot to soften her features, was also gone. In its place was a severely short, almost military cut that emphasized the sharp cheekbones, and the large, almost beaky nose. Her dark blue eyes were the same though, as was the wide, red mouth. He dropped his gaze. There was no disguising the lush curve of those breasts either, and his body tightened at the sight.

She’d come to a halt in front of them, and he raised his eyes from her breasts to her face to find her frowning at him.

“Skylar,” he said, kicking out a chair and patting the seat. “Take a seat.”

She regarded him suspiciously for a moment and then sat.

“Quite a disguise you had there.”

“Part of my training,” she replied.

“Your rebel training?”

She nodded.

“Tell me. Why were you with the rebels? You seem a little too…” He studied her, trying to think of the correct word. Normal maybe, but he had an idea that Skylar was far from normal.

“Human?” She supplied for him.

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JoAnne Kenrick said...

Nina, I'm so there with you -- writing across romance sub-genres, both light and dark. How am I supposed to brand myself? There's one thing they all have in common -- and thus my author branding was made.
Romance with a Brit n Aussie flavor.
So perhaps there is one thing that ties all your work together and you've yet to see it? One thing you could try is to make lists of different words that describe each book you've got under your belt. Compare the lists, i bet you see some similarities :) GOOD LUCK!

Rebecca said...

I agree. It's difficult to pigeonhole something so diverse. Still, people want a label. I like JoAnne's suggestion. Might try that myself.

Enjoyed the excerpt from your book. Sounds like it would be a fun read!

rrgreene (at)

Rayka Mennen said...

Great post Nina. I've struggled with this since I have written romantic suspense and paranormal romance. I kept the same pen name. Now I am writing in a completely different genre and decided to adopt a different pen name for that work but oh my, it's confusing as heck. Author taglines? I think they have some value but I'd love to see what readers think? Does the name eventually become synonymous with the genre or do readers really pay attention to the author tag line?

Theresa Meyers said...

Part of the problem is that you are trying to brand your stories and not you as an author.

See, no matter what you write, no matter the genre, there's going to be a core thread you wrap your stories around as a storyteller. THAT's what you want to brand upon, because then, no matter what you write, it'll fit. It'll connect with the reader.

Look back over your stories. Do you always write about characters trying to seek justice? Then maybe your brand has more to do with Justice has a Price. Are your characters looking for a new home? Maybe it's as simple as You Can't Go Home Again.

Most brand cores are almost cliche. But that's OK! Things become cliche because they speak to a vast majority of people. So should your brand.

Sorry, could go on at length about this all day because I've taught many a seminar on it...suffice to say, your author brand is about you, your writing, the lens through which you view the world. It's not just a tagline (which is that nifty little phrase you use on your website, on bookmarks, ads, etc.) The tagline should stem from your author brand.

Make it any easier?

Rosalie Lario said...

I don't know if writers should stick with one genre, but I definitely think branding is something to consider. I've got some contemporary romances floating around in my brain. I think once I've established my career, I may have fans willing to follow. But for now I've got plenty to write about in the paranormal realm!

Nina Croft said...

Thanks JoAnne - it's great to know I'm not alone. And I'll definitely start on those lists!

Nina Croft said...

Rebecca - I agree about the label - people like some idea of what they're getting! Good luck with the lists!

Laurie said...

I will not pretend to know the In's and Out's of this process, you are streets ahead of me on this area to begin with.

I agree that you have set yourself quite a task if you are looking for just one 'Lable' for your work.

From the samples that I have had the pleasure to read so far, you have a talent to create characters and plot lines that captivate your readers in equal measure across all of your chosen sub-genres, and that is no mean feat.

I think JoAnne has pinned a possible answer for you and if Romance is the big thread that runs through all of your books, then perhapse that is the main brand to go with.

That said, why should you be pidgeon-holed into the 'Norm' when you could coin a new Brand for others to join.

As the characters that I have come across appear to span the evolutionary scale, why not combine the two.

Evolutionary Romance Writer springs to mind.

Just a thought but whatever you settle on, it needs to sit comfortably on your shoulders; you will be carrying it for many years to come.

Blessings and best wishes :-)) x

Nina Croft said...

Hi Rayka - I'm so with you on the pen name, I can hardly cope with one. I've actually written a thriller which I'm thinking will have to have to come under a different name, but I'm fighting the idea. Maybe I'll stick a vampire in there instead!

Debora said...

Gosh, Nina, I feel for you! I'm still trying to figure mine out...
Theresa seems to have the best idea, I think I need to take her workshop.

Nina Croft said...

Hi Theresa - I did a search on google when I was writing this - and came up with your stuff right at the top. I plan on spending some serious time going through it (as soon as I've caught up with my edits).

The core thread idea is great, and my stories do tend to have similar themes - accepting what you are, and a sort of - Take what you want and pay for it. So I'll maybe play around with these.

Nina Croft said...

Hi Rosalie - on the genres - I think it maybe comes down to how focused are you on a career as opposed to just writing. I think I've been quite self-indulgent so far and just written what I want - maybe I need to focus!
But I do think some of your readers will follow you to a new genre. I read just about everything and I'm sure there's loads of readers out there like me.

Nina Croft said...

Aw thanks for the lovely comments, Laurie - and I love the 'Evolutionary romance writer' especially as I still definitely feel I'm evolving as a writer. Maybe give it a few more years (or maybe decades) and I'll settle down and fit some nice pigeon-hole.

Nina Croft said...

Hi deb, thanks for popping in - and have a go at googling Theresa - I found loads of useful stuff!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, interesting discussion. Thought Theresa was spot-on on her description of brand!

Cate Lord said...

I think author branding is important, but admit I struggle with the concept myself. :) I think it's terrific that your stories span a range of genres; you clearly have a limitless imagination and a cooperative muse (unlike mine, sometimes! LOL). Congrats, Nina, on the release of BREAK OUT. It sounds like a great story.

Aubrie said...

I think it's great you write in different sub genres, I do, too!

Nina Croft said...

Hi Jennifer - thanks for popping in - and yes - Theresa is spot on!

Cate - I'm not sure about the cooperative - doesn't seem that way most of the time!

I think it's great as well, Aubrie - most of the time!

Melanie Card said...

Great post, Nina. I struggle with the branding thing, too. But I like Theresa's way of looking at it.

Lisa Kessler said...

Great post Nina!!!!

I found the tagline exercise really tough too, but in the end I think I was making it more complicated than it had to be! LOL

Congratulations on the succes of Break Out!!! I'm so happy for you!!!

Lisa :)

Debby said...

It must be so tough to some up with ideas that sell your books. I have a terrible time coming up with things. debby236 at gmail dot com

Judith Leger said...

Hi Nina! I feel your pain. I have problems with that exact thing too. I love Therea's suggestion. So if I were to brand my books they would be love reincarnated. Never really thought about it that way before.

Kit Donner said...

Gosh Nina, you're so talented to be able to write in so many genres! My brain is only good for the present or the past! Good luck with Break Out- it sounds fantastic! As for my brand, I haven't quite figured out who I am just yet. I'm still inventing myself.

Nina Croft said...

Thanks Melanie!

Lisa - I think we do tend to complicate things - when I've caught up with everything (which might not happen any time soon) I'm going to clear my mind and have a go a simplifying everything.

Me too, Debby!

Judith - it's great to know I'm not alone. And I love the idea of love reincarnated (and it just so happens I have a couple of stories...)

Hi Kit - thanks for stopping by - and I suspect we never stop inventing ourselves - I hope not anyway!

Harper said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, Nina! I have a start in historical but keep dreaming up so many other stories. Do you follow your energy bursts or dig down in the trenches where you've got your start and build it up a bit?

So much to think about. Congrats on all the success with Break Out. Well deserved!

Jen B. said...

I have entered at other sites to win a copy of Break Out. It's on my wish list. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

Cynthia Selwyn said...

Nina Croft: Good, eclectic books.

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Great post Nina!!!!