Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reader Expectations

A while back there was a post on the Pink Heart Society about branding, and boy was there a great discussion about it. Some people think branding is a waste of time, others are really into it, and there are some who acknowledge it but don't give it that much power. I tend to be in that camp. I KNOW there is a marketing element, and I do promote, etc. but my job is to write books.

The thing about branding in my opinion is that it's all about reader expectation. If you look at branding in general, it's about providing a certain type of product to a certain kind of consumer. I write books. When a reader picks up one of my books, he or she automatically has an expectation of what that book will be like. When they see my branding, they will have an idea of what they are getting. So someone looking for the kind of book I write will perhaps buy one of my books because of the type of read, and not because I'm the author. Once I lure that reader in, hopefully the writing will please them enough that they come back for more.

Some of that "branding" is done for me. I write for Harlequin, so you know you're getting a short romance. I write for the Romance line, so you also know you're getting an emotional, non-explicit read. I do not like to call them sweet reads. I have had readers describe my books as having tenderness and sweetness in them, but they've also called them gritty and gutsy. They are however always with an emotional core and always on the lighter side of sexual explicitness. My readers know that even if my characters do have sex, it will not be described in detail. And I think we'll leave that topic for another post, because I have some thoughts on that as well.

So what happens if suddenly I didn't write for Romance anymore? What would change? Would my branding stay the same?

And this is the interesting part, for me. I think branding should be tied less to CONTENT and more to VOICE and STYLE. If I write short contemporary romance, or if I moved to writing historical romance, or I decided to write single title women's fiction, my writing would still be MINE. There would be things about it that would never be changed. There would be parts of my writing VOICE that would, one would hope, keep my readers with me even if I crossed subgenres.

I know that no matter WHAT I write, I will always have emotional romances that make you feel good at the end. And so that has become MY branding...on my website, and my siglines, on my promo items. Emotional, Feel-Good Romance. It might not be a marketing breakthrough, but it is ME. That is what my readers will expect and it is, I hope, what I deliver. I know I strive to at any rate.

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