How drab does that sound? Certainly not the most exciting part of the publishing industry, yet one of the most important when aiming for longevity. The idea is that authors in today’s market needs to develop a ‘brand’ or recognisable identity, in order for readers to know what to expect from their next book. Agents and publishers tend to encourage authors (at least initially) to write consistently within one genre in order to develop such a following. Rachelle Gardner, an American literary agent, has been speaking about this concept over on her blog. She says the following:
This is a marketing issue, first and foremost. If you want to publish books, attract a loyal readership, and have long-term success as an author, then you’ll need to pick a genre, do it well, and keep doing it over and over. Simple as that. All the arguing in the world and all the talent in the world is not going to change this reality.
This sounds easy enough, unless you’re like me (as I know many are). My reading interests vary widely between humour and quite dark tales, and likewise, so does my writing. Branding is something I’m going to have to consider very carefully if I get to the publication stage, choosing between fantasy, humour or straight fiction. However illustration (in Australia) seems to be the opposite. I’ve been advised that because it’s such a small market, in order to develop a career you need to be a jack-of-all-trades. In other words – be able to illustrate anything from non-fiction to fiction and have multiple styles to draw from.
Of course, as with any good rule there are always exceptions. As soon as an author becomes successful or wins a coveted award they can play around more within genres and age ranges, as Michael Bauer does. Illustrators seem to go the opposite way – when they’re in demand they can develop a strong style that then becomes their brand, such as Pamela Allen. If I could develop an illustration brand, it would certainly be ink, collage and watercolour.
So, what’s you brand?