When you think of a brand, what comes to  mind? Coca-Cola, Nike, or Apple, perhaps? A brand is a name that, when you hear it, you immediately know what kind of product it is. The more trusted and well known of a product it is, the stronger the brand has become.

As writers, we can also be branded. Brands, in part, help others perceive us as experts for what we write. Why’s this so important?

Branding helps us build trust  in our readers. If you’re a mystery writer, you want to develop that brand in a unique way so your readers know exactly what to expect from you,  and so they trust you to deliver a particular style of mystery every time. By doing so, you will create a loyal following.

Think about what would happen if you popped opened a new can of Coke on Monday, and it tasted differently than it did last Friday. Thursday you opened a new can, and it was different still. You’d suddenly stop trusting the brand because it wasn’t consistently delivering. Remember the “new” Coke in the ’90s? That proved to be a disastrous move by Coca-Cola, nearly wrecking the brand they’d spent decades  solidifying. People didn’t want “new.” They wanted Coke to taste like it had since their childhood.

You may not be ready for branding yet. That’s okay. Better to  do it right the first time then have to change your brand or redefine it down the road.

To learn more about branding, I recommend checking out Blogging Bistro for an expertise viewpoint of the topic.

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If you’ve been in the writing world for any length of time or have even attended one writers’ conference, you have heard that you MUST have a niche. Then, once you find your niche, you MUST brand yourself. Ouch!! That sounds painful!

The truth is, there’s a lot of truth to that. You want to be known as the guy who writes for the youth market about aliens who take teens to their planets temporarily so when they return to Earth they appreciate their parents more, or the gal who writes humor stories for single moms so they don’t go insane and do something to their children they might regret later.

It’s good to be specific so you can begin to build your brand, and therefore your platform, and therefore sell your books. But wait…

What if you’re new to writing and you have no idea what you want to do? Or, what if, you always have a million ideas floating through your mind of things to write about–and they cover a thousand different topics? Should you only go with those topics that fit your niche?

In today’s tough writing market, my opinion is no. I think it’s good for writers to occasionally step out of the box they’ve created for themselves (or their agent or publisher has created for them) and try something new. I’m not saying totally re-create yourself as a writer, but if you’ve only done fiction for 20 years, why not write a how-to book, or nonfiction articles? Unless you’re one of the few writers who is actually making a decent living solely from your writing, it’s good to be flexible.

Today’s economy is a great excuse to go a different route. There are many markets waiting to be conquered! And with the advent of new technologies affecting the writing industry as well as so many new online options, I encourage you to jump out of the box you’re in, close the lid for a while, and go searching for some new boxes. It may just open up a whole new writing career!

If you happen to be in central Florida the first week of March 2010, stop by the Florida Writer’s Conference where I will be teaching on this very topic: Off the Beaten Path Markets. In this workshop, we’ll discuss some markets you may have never considered or possibly don’t even know about. We’ll also look at how you can transition your current niche into other areas that capitalize on your strengths. And, we’ll learn from each other what has and has not worked in the  attempt to venture into new markets. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Hope to see you there!