Marketing Can Kill You

Good morning everyone! As you read this I will be coming home from my vacation in New Hampshire. Since things are rather crazy on my end, I’ve asked my good driend and paranormal writer, Grace Conley, to come and chat with us. Grace is a member of RWA and is currently pursuing publication. Her workshop on writing a YA novel will be offered by the Low Country RWA chapter this coming October.

So, I thought it would be interesting to talk with her a little about her experiences in pursuing publication. I know that you will give her a warm welcome. 😉


As a newer (read: unpublished, not new) paranormal romance writer, I diligently show up at my local RWA chapter meetings every month to glean what wisdom I can in the pursuit of making a living doing what I love – writing.

This month, our speaker, a veteran writer (read: has published a few books) gave some targeted advice on planning your “branding” early on in your career.

No, erotica writers, I don’t mean marking yourself – I mean marketing yourself.

Sage advice, I’m sure, but it makes me tetchy. Sure, there are places for marketing concepts to come into play for the unpublished writer – early on, when you’re deciding whether or not to write a certain book – and much later, during the year or so wait in between inking the sale agreement and the book actually releasing.

But I have to say, sitting down to do hardcore brand management before I’ve made my first sale seems a bit silly. After all, as any veteran RWA member can attest, we’ve all heard the stories of the wannabe Blaze author who ends up selling a YA manuscript instead or the wannabe Romantic Suspense author who ends up selling a cozy mystery.
As an unpublished writer, your first job is to write a book. Hopefully, a really stunning book that people will love and buy lots of copies of so you’re propelled onto the NY Times and USA Today lists. And, frankly, it can take a few tries before you find a genre that your voice truly shines in.

For me personally, I find that focusing too much on my “writer brand” at this stage is damaging. First off, from a time management perspective, it takes me away from my WIP. Secondly – and much more damaging – it makes me start to second-guess the WIP. Does that WIP fit tightly into my future brand? Will the market love it? Will I become the next Heather Graham, Kresley Cole, or J.R. Ward?

I can’t go there. My plan, plain and simple, is as follows:
Write book. Write lots of query letters. Repeat as necessary.
And worry about marketing when the time is right.

Writers and non-writers, what do you think? Am I being naive in not pre-planning my path to becoming the next Christine Feehan? Writers, are you “building your brands” now?


Grace Conley has written a dark, gothic Paranormal Romance and an emotional, heart-wrenching YA Romance. Even though they will require separate branding, she hopes that both books will garner agent representation — and an audience.

6 Responses to “Marketing Can Kill You”
  1. Hi, Grace and Suzanne. I’m published in two genres (paranormal and historical romance) under the same name. I decided to use only one name for the two genres because I didn’t think I would be able to handle two websites, two personas, etc…. This may have been both naive and lazy, but I was a newbie at promo and trying to be practical. 🙂 I don’t know whether having a confusing author brand will be a problem — too soon to tell — but it never bothers me when an author whose work I love switches genres, voices, etc. In fact, I like it! If an author’s work is always more of the same, it’s not as much fun (for me at least).

    As for branding yourself before publication, that doesn’t make much sense to me, because (as you noted above) one never knows in which genre one will be published first.

  2. I have many different interests and stories come to me from all of them. I might be inspired to write a western historical about a gunslinger family, then turn around and be hit by the story of a wounded warrior werewolf hunter.

    A marketing epiphany came to me when I took a step back and looked at my current body of work. I have seven published stories and three on the way this summer. Many of them are paranormal, one is historical and one is a science fiction romance, but *all* of them showcase my “brand” which is Heat with Heart. All of them also, in one way or another, Embrace the Shadows. That’s where I dwell. That’s where I play. In one way or another, every character I’ve ever created has had to learn to light their way and find their path through darkness.

    Optimism, hope, true romance and scorching sensuality–these are qualities that permeate the stories I write. all the stories I create regardless of genre.

    I think anyone pubbed or unpubbed seeking to brand themselves should consider doing so thematically. Look at your writing. Chances are even when you’re switching genres… it’s all you:>

  3. I agree about doing it by theme. I’m published in a few different genres all under one name but all of my books have the same theme.

    Yes, marketing is a huge time suck and takes alot away from writing but it’s a necessary evil. Personally, I didn’t think about marketing or branding too much before I was published. My main focus was writing books/stories and pursuing the elusive first contract. I didn’t have a website or blog before publication.

    Best wishes in your career!

  4. Amanda Vyne says:

    First of all, HELLO GRACE!!! It’s a pleasure to see you here.

    On to business…I have to agree with the rest of the ladies above. I love romance and if its well written, I read across the sub-genres. I think it would be fine to use the same name for different sub-genres. What I think may require a name change is a change in heat level.

    Point in case….my grandma is a sweet, flowers in the front yard — cookies in the cookie jar type of grandma. She loves the sweet romances. If she were to pick of her fav author and the prose included “c”s and “p”s…..I think she may never pick that author again.

    Just saying.

  5. DL Snow says:

    Great post, Grace! And, so timely!

    I really appreciate what all of you have said here today because this is something I’ve been struggling with lately. I too have been trying to tailor my work to fit into a certain category because that is what I’ve heard agents and editors are looking for.

    I have just come from unveiling my webpage (mere minutes ago) and in my books section I have a contemporary, a fantasy and a romantic thriller. At first when I added my titles I had put them in those subcategories. Then, I removed them. They are simply my stories. I think Ms. Hancock hit the nail on the head. My stories may fall under different genres but the root themes are all the same. All of my books are about peoples’ passions, they all have an element of adventure and the overall theme is about acceptance.

    I really like that idea of using a ‘theme’ as a brand. And I really want to continue writing my root themes in whatever genre my stories take me.

  6. Grace Conley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Joining back up late-day (sorry, I’m fighting a time difference here)!

    Thanks so much for checking out the blog entry — and many thanks to the EtS authors for having me over as a guest today!

    Barbara M. — good luck with your two subgenres — both of which I happen to love!

    I enjoyed the discussion and tend to agree with Barbara H. and Sandra in relation to branding by theme. And Sandra, it was a relief to read your comment on not having a personal blog or site until publication — I frankly think writers should keep focus on producing terrific books and getting them published — a web presence can come later!

    Amanda — LOL on heat level, and as usual, you’ve nailed it! 🙂

    I’m off to check out D.L.’s site — can’t wait to see you published!

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