Branded: Questions for an author

Branded: Questions for an author

Posted on May 6 by Kristin Butcher
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I recently read an article about branding -- you know, the process of identifying a product, assessing its characteristics and value, and then developing a logo, slogan, and sales plan to get it out there to the public.

We're all familiar with name brands, though perhaps not so aware of the psychological effect clever marketing of said brands can have on us. After all, we've been exposed to advertising for a long time. We're pretty much immune and desensitized.

Oh, yeah? Consider Nike, a multinational corporation which sells -- primarily, though not exclusively -- athletic footwear. We are all familiar with the Nike swish and the slogan -- Just do it. The spokespeople are generally successful athletes. You remember Michael Jordan, right? And whether you realize it or not, all those elements link the Nike brand with the personal attributes of drive, confidence, and success -- values most consumers of athletic footwear aspire to. We may know we're being played, but we happily go along, because it feels good, and besides, you never know -- the Nike attitude could be contagious.

Branding is nothing new, and I normally wouldn't bother reading about it, except that this particular article was directed straight at writers. It expressed the notion that we wordsmiths need to develop brands for our books.

The resistance wall in my head immediately went up. How could I possibly develop a brand for my work? It would mean finding a common thread throughout my writing. I've published 23 books, and they're all different -- the protagonists are different ages and genders, their backgrounds are different, the settings are different, the themes are different, and so on.

Clearly the mastermind behind the article had anticipated my skepticism and had astutely included a multi-step method for assessing my writing brand. I was still dubious, but it couldn't hurt to answer the questions.

 

1. What three things do I hope to impart to readers through my books?

I wanted my books to be a vehicle of reflection, through which my readers might see themselves.

I wanted to empower my readers. I wanted them to come away believing they could do great things.

I wanted my books to help them make sense of the world -- emotionally and socially, so that they could more readily find how they fit.

 

2. What values do my books embody?

Open-minded outlook

A genuine belief in the goodness of people and life

Compassion, rational thought, and determination

 

3. What mood do my books reflect?

Empathy

Humour

Optimism

 

4. Who are my books aimed at?

Midstream kids and teens in the formative phase of growing up

 

5. What message did I hope my readers took away from my books?

I won't lead them astray. I want them to have faith.

I want them to see the benefit of taking the high road and being able to live with themselves.

I want them to feel exhilarated and optimistic about life's possibilities.

 

So my books do contain common elements after all, though I couldn't have said what they were before I answered the questions. I now understand why reviewers often refer to my novels as 'gentle', and I shall no longer take offence. When I write, I don't consciously set out to achieve any of the common attributes my books apparently contain. I am merely trying to write an entertaining story. How I would take these values and turn them into a brand, I haven't yet worked out, but I may look to Norman Rockwell for inspiration, since he also saw the world --not so much as it is -- but as it could be.

Kristin Butcher

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Kristin Butcher

Kristin Butcher is the author of twenty books for children. She has been shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award, the CLA Children's Book of the Year, the Red Cedar Award, the IODE Violet Downey Book Award, and the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award, among others. Kristin lives in Campbell River, British Columbia.