Monday, July 20, 2015

Author Branding #blog #RomFantasy

Branding is a term used with great frequency when talking about promotion. Promotion is the make-it-or-break it aspect for authors and good promotion means the difference between building a solid following or wallowing in obscurity. Branding myself is a daunting task, especially as a new writer with a small catalog. I write in multiple genres, I have published a romance and an erotica title. I do have a series of erotic shorts being published this year, my first with a publisher, in this case Eirelander Publishing’s erotic division, Wicked Lass Press. There’s also a horror novel in the works. My upcoming projects range from paranormal romance to fantasy. Therefore, how do I brand myself?

I portray myself as a romance writer on social media now, but that may have to change as I release future works. I am struggling with a way to tie my myriad interests as a writer together into a cohesive image, a brand, to present to the world. It is not going well and has done nothing but make me question what the image of a romance or erotica writer entails. (If anyone has any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them!)

I could discuss at length the misogyny that exists in the publishing world, how romance and erotica writers, being predominantly female, are regarded as not being ‘real’ authors. The unfairness of such thoughts weighs heavily on me. I do my utmost to write plausible and well-constructed plots. I love my characters, I nurture them, develop them and strive to make them as real as possible. I consider myself an author, why would I not? A writer’s merit should be based on their work. The notion that a book cannot be good simply because it has a romantic plot is unfair. More than that, it is erroneous. I take offense to the thought that romance writers are not real authors.

Then… I took a lengthy look at the offerings on Amazon. Erotica is not what is once was, is it? Long gone are the days of romantic stories with descriptive sex scenes. There is a multitude of “one-handed” offerings and a large percentage of them are cringe-worthy. Some are downright violent and unnecessarily crude. Perhaps I am getting older, maybe wiser, but I do not want to be a part of this trend. Yes, I write lengthy and in-depth sex scenes but what I see in the marketplace truly frightens me. Hordes of books with people meeting and immediately indulging in rough BDSM, not to mention unprotected sex, and those are some milder examples of the horrid acts I have seen in erotica offerings.

The sex scenes I write have acts true to my characters and work to further my plot and develop my characters. Yes, they go into more depth than may be required but I like sex. I like writing sex scenes. I do not think there is anything wrong with sex scenes. I merely despise how some authors utilize them. Erotica has pushed past the titillation aspect into an area I feel is potentially dangerous–and I do not want to be associated with it. Which leads us back to the topic of branding.

Refusing to brand myself as an erotica writer makes sense to my moral standards. Being wary of branding myself as only a romance writer may cut off avenues I wish to explore with future books. What is a new author to do in a world over-saturated with writers struggling to make a name for themselves?

Perhaps it is time for authors like myself not to assign or accept labels. Why can I not write in multiple genres? Why do I feel like I must pick one and stick to it in order to ‘brand’ myself. I am not a product. I am a person. Basic marketing teaches us to treat everything like products, but in a world that already places too much emphasis on material goods, on the notion of having to label everything and having everything fit into a certain ideal, I feel like an outcast. I am not naïve enough to believe I am special, or that I stand out from the crowd, but perhaps the notion of having to change for the crowd is an outdated and unnecessary one.

Maybe it is foolhardy not to label myself, to not conform and pick a path. Perhaps I should choose to be a romance author, a horror author, or a fantasy author. The world may not allow me to be what I want to be. It may grind me down and eventually force me to choose a concise label for myself. However, I am nothing if not stubborn. If I listened to those who wanted to put me in places I ‘belonged,’ I would not be writing this now. Foolhardy as it may be, I have decided to eschew the notion of branding myself and continue to do my own thing.

Why can I not have a group of readers who love my romances, another who adore my horrors and yet another who are patiently awaiting my next fantasy novel? Is this a utopian idea? Is this a fantasy with no possibility of coming to fruition? Perhaps it is. Maybe society is incapable of tolerating those who do not sport labels. My decision may very well result in me never having followers or fans. My twitter account may never break the five-thousand-follower mark and people may take me off their Facebook newsfeeds. Good. I do not want followers. I want readers. I am not a celebrity. I am an author.


Denysé Bridger said...

Very interesting and thoughtful post, Cynthia. I think this is a dilemma virtually all authors face at one time or another, if not constantly. Hugs, D

Fiona McGier said...

I consider my books to be erotic romance, but some are hotter than others. I could say romance, but that runs the gamut from the kind of 1-handed reads you talked about, to sweet, in which the doors are closed once the heroine and hero enter the bedroom. I want my potential readers to know there will be sex scenes, but I do put on my website info that lets them know which books have more sex than others. The characters let me know how much eroticism will be required in their romances, so it varies from book to book.

I think as a new author, you just need to concentrate on building a body of work that readers can choose from. Some authors use different names when they write in certain genres. But if there are sex scenes in all of them, (ie, you're not marketing to the YA audience in some of them, adults in others), then I think using one name is fine. My hope is that if the book is well-written, the readers will find it.

Tina Donahue said...

Welcome to SNSD, Cynthia! :) Great post.

I write in numerous genres. Don't want to limit myself to any one thing.

My branding is heat with heart which to me means romance with depth. My stories aren't just about two people getting together and getting it on. The plots are about what drove these people together in the first place. In my works, I've explored white slavery, domestic abuse, parental abuse, cyber crime, wealth inequality, drugs, you name it. That's what makes the stories interesting to me.

I won a Book of the Year award at a French review site for Sensual Stranger. I didn't even know the book was up for the award until it won. The reviewer wrote (paraphrasing here), that unlike many erotic novels, you could take all of the sex out of Sensual Stranger and there was still an amazing story.

That's what I'm striving more. Maybe it's mainstream erotic. That's what I like to read.

jean hart stewart said...

Excellent post. I write in different genres, but don't know what to say except I am a romance author. Have experimented with erotica, but would rather not go on with that genre. All my books are sexy, but I don't want to be labeled solely an erotica writer. Nor for my historicals alone. Maybe I'm just an author. Period.

Michelle Roth said...

Thematically speaking, there was a time when I didn't want to write mystery and I didn't want to write paranormal. I was stuck on the idea of just writing contemporary. Now I'm writing (and enjoying writing) those things more often than not.

Other than a shameless plug for my own work (wink wink) I'm also trying to say that labels change endlessly. One day I was a contemporary erotic romance author and now I'm a paranormal mystery contemporary erotic romance author. That just sounds silly, right?

I agree. I'm just an author. :)