Tag Archives: writing process

Branding Or Authorial Signature?


Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilI may not leave the house much, but I do chat with colleagues and other editors. Today’s lesson comes from one of those discussions.

She had joking posted something like “All my characters ride bicycles. Is that my branding?”

And… a lot of authors said yes. That was her branding.

Which of course meant I had to chime in. “That’s an authorial signature, not branding.”

In the course of a private discussion, we wondered how many authors really know the difference between authorial signature and branding. Because the two are very very different.

In the most basic terms, branding is what you do so the reader thinks about you. You say to me “Lorelei James” and I think “Hot, steamy cowboys.” You say to me “CJ Lyons” and I think “Medical thrillers set in an alternate Pittsburgh.”

That’s branding. It’s associating the writer with the broad, overall picture of what they do. I have a client whose brand is clean, wholesome romance. One whose brand is dark paranormal. Branding is how to help a reader find a writer’s books.

Then… what’s an authorial signature?

That’s WAY more fun, especially because it generally takes a few books for the signature to come out. Most often, it does so without the author even realizing it. Like I said above, it’s “all my characters ride bicycles.” Or maybe “I write love triangles. All my heroes turn out to be cinnamon rolls. All my characters wear red underwear. I only write stories set in small towns, never cities.”

See the difference? Branding is about you. Authorial signature is about your characters. It’s the habits that sneak onto the page, consistent across your books. Maybe not all of them, but enough that those of us who know to look can see and find them.

Now. Go forth and work on your branding. Readers need to be able to find you.

Don’t worry about your signatures. They are what they are, and for people like me, they’re a lot of fun. Stay authentic to yourself and don’t try to change them.

Remember, I’m here if you need me. I’m also glad to feature your books via the Featured New Book Spotlight. And while we’re here, check out the new newsletters! Fun changes are on the horizon. Come be part of them!


No NaNo?


It’s November, the time of year when the Movemeber people are growing mustaches and the writerly types are busy pounding out 50,000 word manuscripts they hope to turn into books of some sort (of high caliber).

Okay, being a woman, you can probably figure out why I’m not part of Movember. No, it’s NOT rampant upper-lip hair that is the reason I am so camera-shy. (Sorry to those of you who thought otherwise. Shut up, Will. You’ve met me; you ought to know better.)

Which leaves NaNo. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. As I said, it’s the time of year when writers of all sorts — published, unpublished, even some best-sellers — write a draft of a new novel. And after my fabulous sales success last month with Trevor’s Song, you’d think I’d be hot to use NaNo as a way to follow up with something even better.

So why isn’t Susan NaNoing?

Well, first, there’s the little issue of Susan the Editor continuing to wear the primary hat in these parts. Business remains good, so thanks to you who use me as your editor and those of you who refer your friends to me. I’ve got open spaces at the tail end of the month, and in December (and beyond).

That’s good for any of you who are actually doing NaNo. Revise your books and send ’em my way. I’d be glad to help you turn them into something truly amazing.

Yes, the editing business is good. But that doesn’t explain why I’ve done done NaNo twice: a winning project in 2003 and an unfinished work in 2005. Why go out on the downer note of a quitter?

Because the one thing that was reinforced to me both years was that… when I write like that, I write crap. My childish, innocent side comes out more than my dark side does, and all you who love Trevor know how much fun my dark side is. I can’t even say that it’s okay, in this era when Young Adult is still the hot genre of the moment (although it’s cooling a bit), to let that young side out.

That young side? It’s too young to be allowed to develop a plot. It does okay (not great. No Trevors in sight) with characterization and pacing, but plot? Oy. Man, the stuff I came up with those two years… teenage fantasy ain’t got nothin’ on the stupid shit I cooked up in pursuit of what eventually got shoved under the bed. It was barely salvageable, and I do mean barely. You’d think I’d never gone outside or lived in a city, it was that bad. Naive. Juvenile. Embarrassing.

And it got trashed as soon as the month was over. Heck, with the second attempt, I didn’t even wait for the month to be over. I just said it was crap and I had better things to do than write crap.

While it’s more than acceptable to give ourselves permission to write crap — sometimes, it’s entirely necessary to the process — I decided it wasn’t okay for me to give up a month writing stuff so bad, all I’d take out of those two experiences was ONE character. ONE. That’s not a very good return on investment. It’s not even a BAD return on the investment. It’s DREADFUL.

So… no NaNo here. In its simplest form, it doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay. Everyone’s process is different. This is part of what makes the world the wonderful place it is. We all have our things that work, and our things that don’t.

Which now begs the question of what I AM writing, and when you’ll get to see it. After all, I’ve got readers to keep happy after that sales spike last month.

The answer to that remains simple: sales spike or no, my royalties aren’t paying the bills yet. Editing still does.

Guess we’ll all have to remain patient and see.