Author Branding: Rituals, Pagans and Conferences…Oh My!


There isn’t much to say about rituals other than they are repeated meaningful interactions you have with your readers. It starts with the promise you made to your readers when you published your first book, since that is generally the first introduction your readers have into your world.

It used to be the author ritual consisted of a few media interactions during release, a book tour, book signings and then disappears to write the next bestseller. Today’s author can’t afford to shut down and shut off.

Meanwhile, Bob is heading “down the hall” to his writing office where there is no Internet. The difference is he’s not shutting down for months on end. He knows the new rituals of the digital author have to be fulfilled pretty much on a daily basis, but the most important ritual for the author is still CONTENT: the book.

You can look at the Area 51 as a ritual. Why? Because Bob’s readers are chomping at the bit to get the next installment. We constantly get emails asking if there will be more in this series (as well as other series). Of course, Bob responded with Nightstalkers (and oh boy is this one good!)

All this branding stuff I’m throwing out here is very important to long-term success, but nothing is more important than writing the book. You don’t create rituals and relationships with readers without a book. You can’t create a brand without a product: the book.


Or Non-believers. Pagans come in various sizes and shapes. Pagans are often your competition, so not necessarily an adversary, but simply another product. Coke versus Pepsi. The Buffalo Sabres versus Boston Bruins. Nora Roberts versus Jen Talty. Okay, the last one is a stretch, but you get the point.

The reason why Pagans of this variety are important is they help define who we are. 7-Up became the un-cola. Wendy’s asked “where’s the beef?” and Taco Bell told us to “think outside the bun.” But first you have to figure out who your non-believers are and then you can focus on those who might be believers. People who have to have their Starbucks every morning are not the same personality type as those who drink instant coffee. People who prefer to read Stephen King are probably not going to enjoy a Jen Talty romantic suspense novel…ah, but perhaps a Nora Roberts fan might.

Defining what you are not is just as important as defining what you are.

Once you do that you can learn to take with a grain of salt someone who hates your book for the simple reason it wasn’t their brand of coffee. They are not your readership and therefore the repeated meaningful ritual will not actually be repeated and that’s okay, focus on where those rituals will be repeated.

Conferences…on my…

I’m heading to the Romance Writer’s of America New England Chapter Conference; Let Your Imagination Take Flight where I will be presenting a workshop on how to get the most out of your conference experience and tips on pitching. This was the very first conference I ever attended and I believe it was the very first time Bob and I meet. Well, I had heard him speak before, but this was the first time I had a conversation with him, so I find it very fitting that I’m giving this workshop at this conference.  I also just registered for BEA in June and Bob and I have already begun our planning for what my goals will be at this conference. Planning is key to making a conference more than a success, but an experience.

Conferences are important rituals to the writer’s life because they put us with a group of people who actually understand.

I’m also really looking forward to this conference because my good friend Dena De Paulo’s debut novella Painted with Pleasure is a finalist in the Bean Pot Readers Contest. The only negative is Dena is making me wear a Tiara. Don’t ask. But I’m so excited for her. This being her first book and all. Validation is important, whether we want to admit it or not and I’m honored to be there for one of the nicest women I have ever met.

Write It Forward

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in Author Branding and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Years ago, Holly Lisle was asked why she helped aspiring authors become published as they would become her competition. She gave a really great answer: “No. I’m my own competition. If I can write better books, I’ll sell better. If I can help you write better books, you’ll sell better. But the people who buy your books won’t stop buying my books because of you. They’ll buy both.”

    Competition in the publishing world is different from competition for other products. If I buy coke, I’m not going to buy pepsi. If I buy a Toyota, I’m not going to buy a Ford. But if I buy Bob Mayer, I’m still going to buy Clive Cussler. And if I buy Jen Talty, I’m still going to buy Nora Roberts.

    Yes, you want to differentiate yourself, but other authors are not your competition. In fact, what gets me to try a new author is line like “if you liked *one of my favorite authors* then you’ll love *new author*.”

    • I have to admit I too was a bit taken aback by the pagan section of this blog, but I also know Jen has experience in this area. Then I read Diana’s comment and it got me to thinking. I used to feel there really wasn’t competition between authors. Well, except the time Avon gave Fabio a three book deal years ago and I got a rejection from them. He took my damn deal.

      The reason we felt a lack of competition was the distribution business model.

      That is no longer true for eBooks. Discoverability is the key. And because of that, unfortunately, there IS competition between authors. There is only one Daily Deal for Kindle and Nook. Only five titles go into Nook First each cycle. Much as we might not like it, that is the new reality. While I don’t feel it is overt, I do feel it. We have to deal in reality in publishing to succeed. The decision makers at Amazon and PubIt and Kobo are deluged with authors who want discoverability. To think that isn’t a form of competition is kind of naive and unrealistic. At Cool Gus publishing we have succeeded because we’ve always dealt in reality, distasteful as it might be at times.

      However, Jen is going to NEC to present and I am currently in Phoenix where I will be presenting for four hours this afternoon on Write It Forward, giving away my knowledge. Jena and I wrote The ShelfLess book giving hard-earned lessons in digital publishing. So while we do see the reality, we still believe helping other writers is an integral part of what we do.

      Given my Special Operations background, let me say: At least we’re not shooting at each other. That’s real competition.

    • There is a slight difference between what I am referring to as a pagan and good old healthy competition. Here’s the thing, the consumer has only so many disposable dollars and they have to make decisions on how they spend it. I was at a conference this weekend where someone said she buys herself a gift card to Amazon each month. When the money on that card runs out, she can’t buy any more books, so she has to choose based on how much she wants one author if the books is priced higher over perhaps 3 books that are priced lower. Does that make her part of your “pagan” group. Not necessarily. However, I think its naive to say there is no competition in publishing or that it is different.

      With that said, I don’t believe that writers don’t want to see their fellow authors fail, because we are a very supportive group. We want our fellow authors to succeed and we cheer them on every step of the way. We don’t look at the writer sitting next to us as our competition, but we must remember that the consumer has only so much disposable income and we are all vying for the consumer to spend those dollars on our books. That alone makes us the competition.

      There are other ways we have competition. We have contents and awards and there are only so many spots at the top of any bestseller lists. There is the discoverabilty issue, which Bob mentioned, which is huge. I want my book to be in the top pages of any search on Amazon. Being on the top 10 is even better. Having one of my covers featured somewhere would be awesome, but there are only so many spots, just like there were only so many shelves in the bookstore and only so many books that were going to be racked at the front of the store.

      While a “pagan” in many cases is the competition our pagans are often those people who simply don’t like our books and we’d be naive to think that everyone is going to like our books.

  2. Establishing brand loyalty is a key to success, but books aren’t necessarily exclusive. And brand loyalty varies. Someone might use an iPhone and have a PC. Starbucks customers might drink lattes during the week and Folgers on Sundays. I drive a Toyota, but my next car might be a Honda. Most of us have only one car, cell phone, computer, etc., but we don’t eat at just one restaurant or buy books by just one author. What we want to guarantee is that a reader enjoys our books so much that they’re dedicated enough to buy the next one when it comes out.

    Part of the definition of brand is that it’s what distinguishes us from the competition (one paranormal romance author might write kick-ass fight scenes; another cracks you up; another breaks your heart and puts it back together again; another writes scenes so steamy they make you blush, etc.). What you have to do is find your voice, your strength, and focus on that when you write. Anyone with ambition is competitive–whatever industry they work in. So I’m all for acknowledging it, but not dwelling.

    And Jen, every girl should have a friend who forces them to wear a tiara. :)

  3. Everyone is a critic! And that is why I love your line, “It wasn’t their brand of coffee.” I’m hanging on to that one and pulling it out when I need it.
    Thank you for a great post.

  4. Jen, You have to admit… the tiaras were kinda of awesome. :) Thanks for being there tonight for my big win. Yes, it’s validation, but really cool validation. I’m an award winning author now.

    • Yes, the tiaras were kind of awesome, even more awesome you wore yous into the first rest area on the way home….and not only is Dena an award winning author, she is now multi-pubished as she was offered a contract for her second book on the spot at the conference during her pitch session. Way to go Dena!

  5. Good luck for your presentation at the conference Jen! I’m following this series on branding with keen interest. So do I take it, the ‘rituals’ part of branding would be having a blog, or guest blogging, or a website or facebook page, when you’re pre-published? And those plus author talks, signings etc when you’re published?
    Yvette Carol

  6. I was at a conference this weekend and there were lots of discussions about books and authors. One of the most interesting conversations is always which craft books are the best. Authors recommending one book while someone is suggesting another one saying “yeah, that one was okay, but this was the book changed my writing and got me to the next level.”

    Pagan and non-believe perhaps are harsh words, but the reality is that we are all competing for the readers hard earned cash and their ability to create word of mouth, because no matter what I say or anyone says about marketing, getting readers talking about your book is the best marketing (besides the book) that an author can have.

  7. It was great meeting you in person at con this weekend, Jen! You’re a fireball.

    It’s my feeling that more than dollars we are competing for time. I have 150 books on my kindle, what are the chances that I’ll ever read them all? If I don’t read them I won’t discover new authors who I can’t live without. And there’s the rub. I’m more than willing to devote my time (and money) to authors I love, but discovering new authors is difficult because it takes time to read a book.

  8. Ya’ll keep me learning.

  1. Pingback: Right Reader, Writing Process, and Jesus | Kathy Holmes, Author

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