This is going to sound hokey, but I’m reading a book on personal branding. One of my goals for this year is to find a better, more efficient way to market my writing. It’s basically a given that, in the 21st Century, authors are responsible for a lot of their own marketing, and sure, putting a good book out there goes a long way, but you have to let readers know it exists. And my problem is that, at the end of the day, once I’m done with my day job and I’ve put in some solid writing time, there just is not much time leftover for marketing. So how do I make the most of the little time I have?

During the dot-com boom, I had a job as a copywriter at a startup that was primarily concerned with helping out executive types. My boss was a retired CEO who had once worked at one of the biggest insurance companies in the country, so that’s the sort of person I was dealing with. He was the Idea Man. We’d have these long meetings where he’d talk and I’d take dictation and my job was to translate his ideas into copy for the website. Branding was a big thing with him, which is probably why I thought the whole concept was silly for a long time. But he put forth the argument, one that is pretty true actually, that the way you present and market yourself goes a long way toward how people perceive you, and if you have a cohesive brand, that’s something people are going to remember.

But how does this relate to writing?

There was a post on Jessewave on Friday about crossing genre lines. When writers write in a different genre than the one they’ve become known for, how do readers react? This is a mild concern for me; while I will probably always write romance, I am interested in trying out different sub-genres. Sometimes the muse wants what it wants, you know?

This got me thinking about brand, though. If you buy six books by the same author, even if they are in six different genres, what do they all have in common? The author’s voice, for one thing, and probably similar sensibilities, senses of humor, moral bases. When you ask editors what they look for when singing new authors, they often answer “voice,” and that’s something that is unique to the writer. So if you buy those six books, no matter how different they are, they’re part of the same brand.

I as a reader often follow authors through different genres (with some limits—I avoid anything with graphic violence because I am a weak-stomached wuss, for example, but that is not the author’s fault, obviously) particularly once I’ve found an author whose style I mesh with or appreciate. I have genre preferences, but I’ve picked up books by authors I like in genres I usually don’t because, to a certain extent, I know what I’m getting into. I even bought a book recently that had gotten some pretty negative reviews because I’d read many other books by the author and really liked them.

I don’t really have any conclusions yet beyond that this stuff is just on the brain. I’m trying to get a head start on swag for the events I’m attending this year, which means I have to think about design and come up with a slogan and all that. Slogans are hard, because it’s difficult for me to figure out what I represent as a writer. I like to write books that are smart and funny and romantic and a little angsty. So how do I put that into something readers will remember, the sort of thing I could slap on a tote bag? That’s what I intend to figure out in the coming months.