Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do You Know Your Brand?

Saturday, at my book signing at Bread of Life Christian Bookstore in Greenville, Ohio, a reader came up and asked if I am a Christian Writer? I said, “I am a Christian. That flows through everything I write and do.” He said he has a pastor friend who writes and doesn’t want to be identified as a “Christian Writer” – just a writer. I wondered how that could possibly work for him.

Who your readers know you to be, is your “brand.” Even the font on your book titles and your name on the covers of each books, are part of your brand. Readers begin to recognize you in a variety of ways.

If you write a book about an in-depth study of the New Testament book of John, certainly readers should recognize you as a Christian writer. If you are writing a seven-book series, whose central character gets home from Afghanistan only to lose his job and family, who sinks into depression and then relies on the strength of friends, family and church community, you are still true to your brand. Maybe, you have started writing an unlimited series about super heroes who use their powers for good, to save the world from the evil forces that have risen from the underbelly of the world. Perhaps they fly through the air or tunnel underground by the sheer strength of their fingernails, that’s all good, if their morals are true and pure.

What if you also write YA books on the Adventures of Slush Bucket, the Avenging Vampire, who is only interested in satisfying the appetites of his own perverted self, and those round him must suffer their own loses when they are near him?  Now, you have a real problem with your brand. If there is some redeeming quality that can be found in the vampire stories, if you must write them, at least use a penname. If the saving-grace of the blood-sucker books is only the royalty check, you may want to rethink that series. There is always someone who will write the long missives that tarnish the soul. That may not be for you. Or, assign that writing to an alter-ego and, at the very least, help them discover some goodness in the stories.

Your brand should be creatively dependable. When a reader buys one of your books, they should be able to trust you to not betray them. Decide who you are and then write from that voice. Use as much humor as you can, as much drama and adventure as you can create, and as much inspiration as you can draw on.

Once, when I had disappointed my sixth-grade teacher, she asked me, “Who do you think you are?” I made it my task, at the age of eleven, to be able to answer that question if I were ever asked again. “I am a child of the Living God, a sister and follower of his son Jesus Christ, a wife and mother, an author and psychologist.” It would be impossible for me to write anything beyond the bounds of who I know myself to be.

When I was asked to write a short story to be included in the Christmases Past collection with editor, Anne Baxter Campbell, I didn’t have to think long. HHP is a Christian Publisher and Anne is a Christian author. I knew I would fit right it. My story, Christmas Feathers, will appear on Amazon as a stand-alone short story very soon and will then be combined in the collection toward the holidays.

When you know who you are, you will know your brand. Your brand will not confine you. It will liberate you to claim your voice and speak for the God you believe in, in all the stories that come to mind. Or, you will write about the gods you cling to. Which will it be?

Copyright Doris Gaines Rapp 2014

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