Under the post on Writing in different genres, we had a lively discussion on brand. I had more to say that would have made too long a comment, so instead I wrote an article on tips for discovering your writer's brand, which originally appeared on Suite101.
Tips for Discovering a Writer’s Unique Niche in the Market
A writer’s own particular brand can be hard to discover, but here are a few tips for helping to brainstorm your own unique writing brand.
These days, publishing houses often want to see how a writer’s “brand” sets them apart from the thousands of other manuscripts they receive.
It’s become more difficult to become published by traditional publishers, and a writer’s unique brand is often what raises them to the top of the slush pile.
But it’s equally difficult for a writer to determine what their brand is. Here are a few tips.
Read Extensively, Not Just in Your Own Genre.
With the lines between genres becoming blurred, it’s important to be well-versed in what’s already being published in the genre(s) you write in as well as in other genres.
If you already know what’s being published, you can determine:
(a) how your brand can be similar to what is already being published
(b) what is not being published so that you can ensure your brand is unique.
This research is crucial for unpublished writers. If a writer doesn’t know the current market, they can’t expect to wow an editor who is very well-versed in what’s on the shelves.
Look at Trends in Your Completed Manuscripts.
Look at genre and other marketable elements.
Do you write with humor across genres? Do you tend to combine certain genre elements (for example, paranormal and crime mystery, or high-octane action and contemporary romance)? Do you write kick-butt heroines? Do you write military heroes? Do you write in a particular exotic setting or career?
Remember to look at concrete elements. More abstract things like “issues” tend to be poor brand determiners.
Things like “adoption issues” or “grief issues” or “redemption” are not good brand determiners. They are not concrete.
But “suspense novels always involving young children” or “compelling women’s fiction novels always involving extremely dysfunctional families” can be good brand elements.
Notice the differences. “Young children” and “dysfunctional families” are character trends, which are more concrete brand elements than “issues.”
Brainstorm About What You’d Be Happy Writing.
If you can’t find obvious trends in the manuscripts already written, then look at your ideas for future manuscripts.
Are there genres you’d like to dabble in? Plot or character elements you’d like to explore?
Brainstorm and list the books you’d like to write.
Then prioritize them into the top novels that resonate most strongly with you.
Then look at the character, plot, and genre trends of those novels. What do you tend to like to write about?
Make Your Brand Unique.
This is the hardest part of discovering your brand, but it’s also most important.
Once you figure out what you like to write or tend to write, and once you’ve done research into what’s already being published, how can you tweak your writing so that your brand is unique enough to make an editor sit up and take notice?
Brainstorm ways to present your brand in only a few words—6-8—that will encompass exactly what you write and how it’s different from anything else being published.
Here’s my brand: Contemporary Christian romances with Asian American heroines. It’s specific, and I’ve done my research—there are no other authors writing my brand.
Some authors write historical romances with Asian heroines, although none of them write only Asian heroines. There are also some authors who write contemporary romances with overseas Asian heroines, but not Asian American heroines, and again, none of them write only Asian heroines.
Find a way to present your own brand that shows you’re unique from anyone else being published, and an editor will not only know that you’ve done your homework, but will see that you’re different from any other manuscript.