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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Branding—Even BEFORE You Sell! By Terry Spear

Are you an expert at anything? Scuba diver? Snorkler? (Hey, you don’t have to be an expert, but if you’ve done it, you can write about it!) Ghost Buster? (Even if you only see the ghosts and don’t bust them!) Lawyer? Been in the military? Hired a Private Eye?

So this sounds more like writing what you know. But actually, if you can sell an editor or agent on how you know what you’re talking about, that will give you somewhat of a boost in believability, even if you write about the unbelievable!

And that gets into branding—even before you sell. Here we go.

I write Highland romances. I have researched my Scottish background and have the perfect Highland story of love that knew no bounds. It did not have a happily ever after—Duke’s daughter runs off with commoner MacNeill, they end up in Prince Edward Island after having been married for about 6-7 years, and she dies due to the harsh conditions, leaving behind a baby girl and two young boys and the commoner MacNeill she loved.

But I LOVED the Highland struggles, yes, romanticized, because I crave happily ever afters!

So the MacNeills in my stories have happily ever afters, whether they are wolves in contemporary times as in A Howl for a Highlander, or in Medieval times, the new release: Highland Rake. What have they in common? Beside the MacNeill name? Most have some kind of paranormal aspect.

For the Highland part, I had to go to Scotland and visited seven castles and in the latest Highland wolf book, A Highland Werewolf Wedding, I actually used one of the castle ruins as the setting for the heroine. It was my favorite of the castles I visited, isolated on the Irish Sea, bitterly cold on the outside, yet within the walls of the castle inner bailey, it felt warm and I was at home. When I was at the other castles, I was a visitor. But at the first, I was home. So using the memories of that visit, and some of what I learned from tour guides at other castles, I wrote the book.

But I also use the concepts I’ve learned while studying about Highland life in my Highland Medievals. While we took pictures of some Highland cows sitting out in a field underneath a bunch of trees beside a river, no farmhouse anywhere in sight, no other buildings anywhere, just hills and trees and solitude, I heard Celtic music playing. It reminded me of a movie where the band is playing orchestral music to add to the ambience of the setting. When I reached the fence to get a closer view of the Highland cows, the music stopped. After taking the pictures, I mentioned to my two girlfriends about the beautiful music. Neither had heard it.

I haven’t listened to Celtic music in a couple of years, though I have tons of CDs, and never heard any Celtic music while we were there, except for that one time while we were in the middle of nowhere and the Celtic music played. I’ve had other ghostly experiences also.

So in Highland Rake, I have two ghosts who nearly stole the show. The heroine is the sister of one, the hero, the brother of the other. The heroine has seen ghosts all her life, but back then, she might have been considered a witch. Even today, many don’t believe in the paranormal, but back then, it was hazardous to one’s health.

I have branded myself as a writer of Highland stories, most of which have some paranormal aspect.

What about the wolves? I’ve researched them and try to base my werewolves off real wolves. Some of that means visiting wolf reserves and taking pictures, studying their behavior, talking with caretakers who can give more information that might not be generally known. Some of this I don’t include in my stories, as it won’t fit. Some I do. And some I just share on blogs with my readers.

Now I’m also writing about jaguar shifters. Again, it’s important to me to create a fantastical creature that’s based on something real, so I’m going to a big cat reserve in Texas in a couple of weeks, and visited the local Waco zoo and the Omaha zoo recently and took pictures of jaguars. Neither zoo had wolves. But I took a video and several pictures of wolves at a park in Omaha.

I share these pictures with fans on my blogs, and it helps to brand me. I’ve had an interview in a wolf magazine, and written several articles on wolves. Again, these help to brand me.

Why is branding important? If you look for a certain product and like it, a brand helps you to locate it easily. I LOVE reading Highland romances. When I go to the store, if the cover has plaid or Highlander on it, I buy it!!! So see? That’s branding and it helps to identify a product for a particular audience. With my wolf books, same thing. They have wolves on them. And of course the obligatory shirtless hunk!!!

Jaguar shifters, same thing.

Why is branding important BEFORE you sell? Let’s say you’re a scuba diver. You’ve been all over the world scuba diving. You write about a hero who salvages treasures from the ocean’s depths. And the heroine takes him out on her boat. She’s also a scuba diver. Your blog shows pictures of treasures hauled out of the deep. You blog about what you’ve seen on your excursions. You know something about it, and that gives you credibility.

Your website could have an ocean theme. A newsletter, same thing. You’ve branded yourself.

So how can you brand yourself so that agents and editors who might take a look at your sites to see how well you promote yourself see something that convinces them you are a viable risk?

If you’re a mystery writer/romantic suspense writer—I’d have a tape lined out body on my sites! Anything that will give a visual idea of what you do. Ghost writer? A hauntingly interesting picture. Vampire writer, fangs!

Do editors and agents look to see what you’re doing that might help sell them on you? Absolutely!

So your goal for the New Year, if you don’t already do this, is to brand yourself.

“But wait!” you say. “I write a million different genres.”

So do I! But pick one to really sell yourself. And then you can make separate pages for different genres. I have a collection of contemporary humorous wedding stories—Marriage in the Works, Vampire adult romance stories, YA paranormal romances, Historical romance, werewolf and jaguar shifter stories, and novellas. Periodically, I’ll blog all about vampires—and that includes my YA vampire stories and adult vampire stories. Then I’ll do one on pure fantasy. I brand by collecting like-stories and using a theme that works for them.

Branding can be a lot of fun! And it can help fans of your kind of work find you!

So if you brand, what do you do? If you don’t, give me some ideas of what you could do!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality."

About the Author

USA Today bestselling and an award-winning author of urban fantasy and medieval romantic suspense, Terry Spear also writes true stories for adult and young adult audiences. She’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has an MBA from Monmouth University. She also creates award-winning teddy bears, Wilde & Woolly Bears, personalized that have found homes all over the world. When she’s not writing or making bears, she’s teaching online writing courses or gardening. Her family has roots in the Highlands of Scotland where her love of all things Scottish came into being. Originally from California, she’s lived in eight states and now resides in the heart of Texas. She is the author of the Heart of the Wolf series and the Heart of the Jaguar series, plus numerous other paranormal romance and historical romance novels. For more information, please visit www.terryspear.com, or follow her on Twitter, @TerrySpear. She is also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/terry.spear .


Vonda Sinclair said...

Awesome post, Terry! I love your advice about branding. I've tried to brand myself as a Scottish romance author. :) We had a great time at those castles, didn't we!?!

Terry Spear said...

We did, Vonda! I have to go back with you!!! Now that I have an even better camera! :) And the time to do it!

J.D. Faver said...

Thanks for the great advice. I'm trying.

Angela Adams said...

Thanks, Terry. I'm trying to put some pictures up on my site.

Terry Spear said...

Thanks, JD! It took me time before I figured out to do this. :) I was writing all over the place. But when someone asked about my wolf series--I base the werewolves on real wolves, and wanted to know if I'd been to any wolf reserves, that made me think that it was important to really brand myself. :) And it's loads of fun!

Super, Angela!! That's definitely the way to go. Readers want to see something about you. Not just about your books. So it helps to share your love of whatever it is you're writing, in some other way than just, here are my books. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Thanks, Terry! I'm setting up a new blog so your branding advice is topical. Since my stories are also Scottish inspired, I hope to use a castle theme. The castle where some of the characters in both my Highland fantasy time travel and paranormal were born. :)

Terry Spear said...

That is a great idea, Dawn! If I wasn't writing about wolves so much, I'd have a castle theme too! Love them! That's sounds fantastic!