Photo copyright Susan J. Bruce. All rights reserved.
The author platform. Do these words fill you with confidence?
Do you say ‘I know who I am as an author and I know who I want to reach? I know what my brand is?'
Or do you think, ‘Eerk!’
Earlier this year I realised that as I belonged to the
second category, I really should do something about it. So I enrolled in Iola
Goulton’s appropriately titled course, Kick-start your Author
Platform Marketing Challenge. The first few days were fun and I was
filled with a sense of purpose. They led me to rethink my author name (that’s
another story for another time) and gave me confidence that I was going to
succeed. I would make a good website. I would build a social media platform
around my brand as an author.
But then we came to the question of genre.
We were given an exercise where we had to identify our genre
and find websites of authors who write the same kind of books. The idea was to
see what website elements (images, fonts, etc.) are consistent with our genre. If
we write romance we want the reader to get a romancey vibe when they visit our
website or look for us on social media. If we are a science fiction aficionado we
might depict spaceships soaring through nebulae, boldly going where no one has
gone before. It makes sense. People should see our name and associate it with
our brand so they can know if they will like the kind of books we write.
But what if we don’t write in just one genre?
I know. All the publishers and marketing gurus have crashed
to the floor in a dead faint at my words. It makes absolute marketing sense to
write in one genre, at least initially. But what if our writing doesn’t fit this
What if we are a ‘genre butterfly’? What if we flutter from
genre to genre like a butterfly flits from flower to flower, collecting all
kinds of nectar as it goes on its way.
Our group discussions showed that I was not the only one
with this particular affliction, but that didn’t solve our problem. How do we
develop an author brand if our writing doesn’t naturally fit one genre?
It must be possible.
Tim Winton comes to mind as a brilliant proponent of literary fiction: stories that are generally
more serious and have deep artistic merit. Then there is general fiction. General fiction tends to be more accessible than
literary fiction. Some general fiction authors are, I suspect, latent genre
butterflies. They gather nectar from different genres and meld it into a new
story. The success of a huge number of general fiction authors means that those
of us who like variety need not despair. And then there are age-defined
categories like YA and children’s literature, which can contain multiple genres.
But what if we like to write different types of genre fiction? What if we want to write
a cozy mystery followed by a science fiction novel and a love story between two
dragons? Can we do that and build our brand as an author? What do we do?There are several options:
eclectic nature. Write what we like, when we like. The catch is that we will
probably find it hard to build a brand and to sell books unless we are so
prolific that we quickly build up a backlist of several books in each genre.
genre blender. You like three different genres? Mix ‘em together! I
recently read Kerry Nietz’s, Amish
Vampires in Space. This science fiction author blended Amish fiction,
science fiction and Christian fiction together with vampire fiction to create an
excellent space opera with great characters. In his case, merging genres made for
excellent marketing. It led me (and many others) to read the book and because I liked it, I
bought the sequel (which was great too).
a unique brand of our own. Genre is a handy way of categorising our writing
but it isn’t the only way. We can look at the heart of what we write, find the
common themes and build our brand around those themes.
I wish I wrote contemporary romance or cozy mysteries set in
a bookstore. Branding would be simpler. But just because branding isn’t simple
it doesn’t mean it’s not doable. I’ve chosen to take the third route above. Just
about all of my stories, short or long, have themes of overcoming. Many have
strong romantic elements, or themes of belonging, and are set in an environment of adventure or danger.
Nearly all my work contains animals. Some stories contain deep issues. After a
lot of thought I developed my working tagline: Stories of the human spirit – and sometimes other species. If I can
write stories that fulfil that promise to the reader, and promote my books
accordingly, I’ll be doing well. And should my writing evolve and take on a
more speculative bent, I can always change it to Stories of the human spirit – and sometimes alien species J.
My name is Susan J. Bruce and I’m a genre butterfly. How
Go on. Confess in the comments. You know you want to! How do you approach branding as an author?
Susan J. Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her
childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s
grown up she does the same kinds of things. Sue works part time as a
veterinarian, writes stories filled with themes of overcoming, adventure and belonging,
and loves to paint animals. Sue won the Short section of
the inaugural Stories of Life writing
competition and her stories and poems have appeared in
various anthologies includingTales of the Upper Room, Something in the Blood:
Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite and Glimpses of Light. Her
e-book Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story is available
on Amazon.com. You can check out Sue’s animal art on Facebook.
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