The winners of the VW#5 giveaway are:
Goodie Bag: Big T
Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, (ikkinlala, also let me know which CD you'd like for your MusicWish) and I'll get these prizes out to you.
I. There Can Be Only One
"The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect's mind." --The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
This is a story some of you have heard before, but it bears repeating. About twelve years ago I read an interesting article in the newspaper about a marine biologist. There was a photo of the gentleman standing next to his Jeep, which had a license plate that read SEADOC. I don't usually care for the vanity-type license plate, but that one struck me as pretty cool.
A few days later I was taking a shower and thinking about a new title for my latest novel, a SF medical adventure. The working title, Border FreeClinic, was just not that exciting, and I wanted a stronger, conceptual title for the proposal I was sending out. I began running through the story's keywords: doctor, adventure, future, outer space, aliens, etc. I thought of Star Wars and Star Trek, two very powerful SF brands. And then I remembered the marine biologist's license plate, everything crystallized, and I jumped out of the shower. I grabbed a pencil and wrote one word on a piece of scrap paper and ran out, waving it over my head.
"This is it," I told him, "is it. This is the one."
He looked at it, handed it back to me, and said, "Sounds great. You're dripping shampoo all over the floor."
The word? StarDoc.
I was right about it, too. StarDoc became my first published novel, and to date the StarDoc series has been my most enduring success, with eight novels dating all the way back to 2000, still in print. Did the series brand do all that? Nope. Most of the blame goes to my readership, who kept the faith even when they were told by the publisher that the series was over. Did my brand help sell books? Probably no more than Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Frank Herbert's Dune, or Terry Pratchett's Discworld did for their series.
But there's also the 6th Law of Marketing according to Ries & Trout, The Law of Exclusivity: "Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect's mind." And StarDoc is mine -- I coined it, I own it.
Since StarDoc ruined my shower, I've been slightly obsessed with creating one-word brands as series names (Darkyn), titles (Evermore), and even my online handle (for a writer with eight different pseudonyms, trust me, PBW was a Godsend.) The beauty of a strong one-word brand is that it's easier for the reader to remember than the two-word, the three-word, and so on.
If you are interested in longer brands, you don't have to search for the one-word brand. I would try to keep it as short as possible, though. Do you know why telephone numbers in the U.S. are seven digits in length (minus the area code?) According to George Miller, author of The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information, that's the max capacity of the human short-term memory.
II. To Brand or Not to Brand
If a writer views branding as strictly a marketing tool, the realm of sales people and copywriters, then they're probably going to have problems coming up with an effective brand for themselves or their work. This is a shame in my opinion, because of all the people in the industry, I think writers have the most talent and resources needed to create a great brand.
Another thing: this brand isn't going to belong to the sales people, the marketing people, or the copywriter. It's going to belong to the writer, and the writer's work. I don't know about you guys, but I like to be in control or at least seriously involved in anything that's going to be slapped on my work.
We writers are the masters of using words creatively. All the thought and care a writer puts into naming a protagonist or describing a setting or composing a killer line of dialogue is virtually indistinguishable from the effort required to create a great brand. Also, who knows the story better than the person who wrote it? Yet there are still writers out there who considering branding about as much fun as writing a synopsis.
I got over my dread of writing a synopsis by practicing writing them for other author's books. So why don't we try the same thing with brands?
III. Practice Branding
"[Words are] like sheepdogs herding ideas." -- Dr. Daniel Dennett
Since I'm doing this online, and I've already embarrassed a couple of colleagues, let's create a brand for an imaginary author. For this we'll need to put together a pseudonym, a novel title, a title of his web site, and a series title.
First, I'll take a name and words at random from the phone book and the dictionary, so we have something to work with:
Author: Peter C. Lawrence
Book Concept Keywords: Carry, Drive, Hiatus, Machine, Metal
This guy already sounds like a crime fiction author to me, so that's what we'll make him.
1. Pseudonym --
Baby Name book authors like Bruce Lansky suggest parents make a list of names they like and then by process of elimination from least- to most-liked determine what to name their newborn. The same method works great for creating a pseudonym. For Peter, however, I'm going to work off the name he already has and rearrange it (for the sake of the exercise, we'll assume his middle name is Charles.)
Peter C. Lawrence
P. Charles Lawrence
Looking over the list, I like Pete Lawrence best; it sounds like an author but isn't too stiff. P.C. Lawrence is my second choice, a bit more formal, probably more suitable for an older writer. P.C. used to be the abbreviation for police constable in the UK, if I remember correctly. Has a bit of a literary feel to it as well.
2. Book Title
Here's a novel premise using the random keywords: an ex-con courier transporting (drive) a package to a client at a holiday (hiatus) resort accidentally discovers he's carrying (carry) printing plates (machine, metal) stolen from the U.S. Mint -- a crime for which he's already been framed.
It already sounds a bit too much like the plot from the movie The Transporter, but since it's an imaginary book, we'll let that slide. What have we got to work with here: an ex-con, transporting stolen goods, counterfeiting, a holiday resort, framed for a crime he didn't commit. The two keywords that jump out at me are Drive and Machine. Some initial title ideas: Driven, The Money Maker, Greed Machine (okay, that one's a little silly.)
Since I think our writer's a Yank, and he's going to be marketing to an American audience, let's go with The Money Maker by Pete Lawrence. The Money Maker as a title ties in with the ex-con's job (obviously, he's doing this to make some money), the counterfeiting client (he's not going to use the plates as doorstops), and the plates he's transporting (printing plates make money.) Hopefully it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, too, and makes a bunch of money for Pete.
3. Web Site Title
You can always name a web site or a blog after the writer, i.e. Pete Lawrence. But I like interesting site titles, and I think Pete's Law would be a good name for our imaginary writer. He could take that, riff off Murphy's Law and make it an ongoing theme, i.e. Pete's Law of Bounceless Checking: never insult the agent's assistant who mails out your royalty checks.
If our imaginary author goes out under the alternative pseudonym P.C. Lawrence, I'd do some research and see how I could tie in P.C. with crime fiction to title the web site, maybe The P.C.'s Report or something along those lines.
So now we have Pete's Law, the official web site of Pete Lawrence, author of The Money Maker.
4. Series Title
The Money Maker will be the first book in a novel series, so we need to name that, too. I'd probably go for a brand that identifies the element common to all the books -- most likely the name of protagonist, our framed ex-con courier, as this is pretty traditional branding in the crime fic genre.
We know our protag is a patsy (someone set up to be the scapegoat or fall guy) and his story is likely going to be a quest for justice. For those reasons I'd name him Patrick Justus, which also associates itself well with the author's name, Pete Lawrence (if this protag is recurring, Justus for All would make a pretty decent web site or blog name, too.)
Now we have the whole package: The Money Maker, a Patrick Justus novel, by Pete Lawrence.
5. The Brand
As an author, Pete Lawrence has some decent material to work with now to create a brand. If I were him, I'd run with the protag's surname Justus. Justice is a key storytelling element in any crime fiction, and while no one can own the word, by using the protag's surname as a brand Pete has the next best thing.
As I mentioned before, Justus for All would make a great web site title. Just Us would work, too, maybe as a companion title for a blog. For a simpler brand, Pete can drop Patrick out of the series title and go out with The Money Maker, a Justus novel.
From here the marketing pretty much writes itself: Pete can send out a newsletter, Justus for Readers. He can do a release campaign with the theme of Looking for Some Justus? For promotional items, he can write up some killer tag lines based on famous quotations about justice, i.e.:
Justus is truth in action
Whoever fights, whoever falls, Justus conquers evermore
Without Justus courage is weak
I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as Justus
IV. What Doesn't Work as a Brand
"The Law of Perception: Marketing is not a battle of products, it's a battle of perceptions." --The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
It's important to test a brand on other people before you run with it. What you think is terrific and memorable could be ho-hum and dull to everyone else. I don't recommend going public on the internet with a brand because of the constant pilfering that goes on, and if you have a really great brand you don't want to toss it around until you get it in print. However you should test it out on family, close friends, and trusted colleagues to get their reaction to it.
You don't want your brand to become a joke (unless you write comedy, in which case, you're probably shooting for that) so don't go too overboard with puns, alliteration or strange spellings. Also make sure your brand isn't too similar to another brand that's already established on the market (and some paranoid authors actually do trademark their brands, so something that is identical could end up in a court battle.) The simplest way to check this is to do an internet search for your brand word(s). Don't ever "borrow" a brand word or idea from another writer, a reader, or anyone, either, without first obtaining their expressed written permission.
I like to do serious market research before I commit to a brand, because I always want something that fits in but stands out. Recently I researched all the series brands being used in a particular genre, and made a list. Some of them were pretty good, but most were too long and/or utterly forgettable. I noticed a couple of keywords that were being used over and over by different authors, which made their series sound interchangeable. I made note of those words as a "Don't Use" checklist, which helped me when I did coin the new brand for my series.
Look for brand flaws like difficult or unusual spelling (something like Vempyhray would be tough to remember), too generic (The Dark Vampire isn't going to be particularly memorable in a market glutted with dark vampires), or too long/confusing (if it's anything like The Midnight Desire of the Nosferatu Women of the Lost Templars Crusade Camp Followers, dump it.) Definitely say your brand name out loud a few times, or you might end up like the author whose brand name that when said out loud sounds like the joke we used to play on the clueless lady who made announcements over the P.A. system in high school.
Whatever brand you decide on, discuss it with your editor and agent. Both work with author brands on a regular basis, know what's out there on the market, and can provide some valuable feedback on whether you've come up with a winner, or you need to head back to the drawing board.
Some related links on branding:
Martin Jelsema's article, Creating a Unique Brand Name
Steve Strauss's article on creating a memorable brand, Grow a biz in tough times: 6 tips
John Williams article Image & Branding ~ Creating Sales Tools That Build Your Brand
Today's LB&LI giveaways are:
1) A signed set of all the StarDoc novels published to date, including Omega Games, my August 5th release
2) a goodie bag which will include unsigned copies of:
Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi (hardcover)
Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs
Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
Creepin' edited by Monica Jackson, with stories by L.A. Banks, Donna Hill, Monica Jackson, J.M. Jeffries and Janice Sims
Always a Knight by Wayne Jordan
Meet Phoenix by Marcia King-Gamble
At Risk by Alison Kent
Unleashed by Kristopher Reisz
Through the Veil by Shiloh Walker
plus signed copies of my novels Evermore and Twilight Fall, as well as some other surprises.
If you'd like to win one of these two giveaways, comment on this workshop before noon EST tomorrow, August 3, 2008. I will draw two names from everyone who participates and send one winner the goodie bag and the other the signed set of StarDoc novels. Everyone who participates in the giveaways this week will also be automatically entered in my grand prize drawing on August 5, 2008 for a brand new AlphaSmart Neo. All LB&LI giveaways are open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.
Other LB&LI Workshop Links -- new links are being added every day, so keep checking the list for new workshops (due to different time zones, some of these will go live later in the day)
Worldbuilding with a Wiki by Sandra Barret -- Architecting your world using a free wiki.
Brainstorming by Jove Belle -- A discussion on brainstorming.
E-Courtesy by Joely Sue Burkhart -- Simple ways to protect yourself with courtesy on the internet.
The Anatomy Of Sex Scenes by Jaci Burton -- Writing sex can sometimes be the most uncomfortable part of writing the book. But it doesn't have to be. A few key pointers that may help charge up your sex scenes and drag the writer out of their 'discomfort' zone.
Creating Great Beginnings - the Why and How by Sherryl Clark -- If your beginning works, the rest will follow. We're going to look at why it's crucial, what is the contract with the reader, Dos and Don'ts (and why/why not), story questions vs hooks, situating the reader, and writing backwards. I'll also invite readers to send in their first 200 words for feedback.
Look for the Music--assess your prose by LJ Cohen -- a week of workshops using poetry and poetic techniques useful for novelists (tune in each day this week as LJ presents different poetic tools with examples of how to use them in your own writing.)
Gender Differences for Writers by Cheryl Corbin -- Male and female body language, speech and thinking differences.
Research for Writers by Bianca D'Arc -- a librarian/writer's view of where to find the best information and strategies for how to use it.
Marketing on a Budget by Moondancer Drake -- How to make the most of marketing your book on a limited budget.
Writing Effective Description by Karen Duvall -- a week of workshops on how to write vivid description using all the senses, covering one for each day of the week.
WRITING PROCESS: Conceive, Develop, Write by Jamal W. Hankins -- An overview of my writing progress from story concept to actually writing a story.
The Voices in Your Head by Alison Kent -- When discussing "voice," where and how do character voices fit in?Also: All Authors Should Be Wordsmiths
Voulez vous écrire avec moi, ce soir? (Working with foreign languages in your writing) by Kristi -- A technical discussion of features you can use to make non-English text read correctly in your writing. Mainly focused on features in Microsoft Word, with a few resources that can be used regardless of platform.
Everyone has to Edit by Belinda Kroll -- Five steps to edit: putting the first draft away, being brutally honest, showing not telling, telling not showing, and focusing on those nitty gritty details.
Balancing Motherhood and Writing by Dawn Montgomery, Kim Knox, and Michelle Hasker -- How to write a 1000 words in the zen of toddler meltdowns. Motherhood is a full time job and holding a family together is only half the battle. How do you find *your* time to write without losing your mind?
Self-Editing by Emma Wayne Porter -- The things your editor secretly wishes you'd do before submitting, and how to survive Track Changes afterward. Checklists and Stupid Word Tricks included.
Not Going to Frisco Workshop by Joan Reeves aka Sling Words -- Writing Biz Reality
Hitting the Wall by Larkin Rose -- tips on overcoming writer's block.
Cover Art: From Form to Finish by Mandy M. Roth -- Tips and tricks for filling out your cover art forms, the steps and stages a cover goes through, the finished product and a walkthrough on using your cover to make your own static banner ad.
Editing 101 by Darlene Ryyan -- how to tackle re-writes without getting stuck.
When Only the Right Word Will Do by Shannon Stacey -- Using word choices to add humor, help you show instead of tell, strengthen your voice and heighten characterization in deep POV in your second draft.
Hey Fatty (Or Does Your Character Need That Flaw) by Amie Stuart -- I’ll be blogging about Characterization, flaws and motivation all week, using TV, movies, books and my own writing for examples.
Astronomy for Writers: Look to the Sky
by Suelder -- Navigating by the Stars, Rising and Setting - the Sun, Moon and Stars, Constant as the North Star, Instruments: Astrolabe, etc. (the fourth in a five-part workshop series on basic astronomy and how to think about it from a writer's perspective.)
Time Management by Charlene Teglia -- the third in Charlene's workshops this week on the business of the business.
Short Stories & Novellas- Workshop Day II - Characterization by Shiloh Walker -- the second in a series on writing short stories and novellas.
VOICE: The Magic Behind The Words by Sasha White -- Advice to help you discover and strengthen your personal voice and style, and show you the way to the magic behind the words.
Workshop is in 5 sections. A new section each day this week.