A Prepublished Novel in the Process of Revisions and Rewrites

Thursday, July 30, 2009

To Brand or not to Brand

Please welcome Cari Quinn, graphic artist. Hi, Cari!

Hello, Dayana. Thank you for having me today, Dayana!

While my first love is writing, my day job is as a graphic designer and proofreader at a community newspaper. Having worked in graphic design for almost a decade, I'm used to seeing what works - and what doesn't - on the page. Clarity and brevity are essential, and most importantly, a design piece is only as good as it reproduces.

But this doesn't apply to writers, right? Not so. Your brand is a visual interpretation of you and your product.

What color scheme have you chosen for your webpage and/or blog? Is it mirrored in your bookmarks, business cards and any other promotional materials? Perhaps not, but if you carry through your theme, the more recognizable your name becomes. Preferably, this theme works with your tagline and with your product. Maybe you write all over the map (as I do) or maybe you have two main genres in which you write. In those cases, generic is best, but perhaps there are design elements you can pick up that apply to both and would work well on your webpage and bookmarks, for example. An easy one...do you write paranormal romance featuring werewolves and vampires? A three-quarter moon in the night sky might be the perfect element to evoke the reaction you're hoping to create in your reader. In my opinion, simpler is best. You're trying to create a feeling, not bombard the senses. Just as a lipstick imprint on an envelope is sexy and romantic, it's also clean and basic. That's what you're looking for. That snap of instant recognition that, if you're lucky, will become something your readers instantly associate with you.

That's also where your tagline comes in. Do you have one? A tagline encapsulates your work in one or two sentences and lets your reader know what to expect when they pick up your story. When I started writing a few years ago, my tagline was "Because love - and sex - can be funny." I chose this because everything I write seems to have a thread of humor running through it. As I went along, I realized that tagline didn't work for me anymore, because I was branching out. Yes, my stories still usually have a humorous element (or so I hope!) but I'm also writing darker pieces now, such as Urban Fantasy. So I went back to the drawing board and came up with "What's more dangerous than falling in love?" I'm a romance writer, and by putting that word "dangerous" in my tagline, hopefully the reader gets the impression that there may be darker aspects to my writing. Even when I write straight contemporary, that tagline works.

Being succinct is key. Think what you would want someone to say about your work, and see if you can tie that into your tagline. If you're really creative (and we all are, or we wouldn't be writers), look for ways to tie your tagline into the branding of your website and promotional materials. You write paranormal and cozy mysteries? Have that slice of moon on the top of your webpage? Maybe add a gleaming silver knife with one drop of blood to represent the mysterious side of your writing persona. And perhaps your tagline is, "Sexy romance filled with things that go bump in the night." Okay, not great, but it's just an example for you to use as a springboard for your own ideas.

I also think having a logo is important. YOU are your own company. And the more places that people see your specific logo and tagline, always represented in the same way, the more often that becomes imprinted on a reader's mind. Recognition is your best friend as an author. If Sally Jane is sitting home looking for a spicy book to download and she remembers seeing your splashy, unique logo on a blog somewhere, you may just be the one whose books she searches out to read. In this time of self-promotion, it's vital you give yourself every opportunity to succeed. In case any of you stop by my blog, I don't have a new logo up yet. ;) But I will soon!

One last word about branding and creating a mood with your promotional materials. As I mentioned earlier, a design is only as good as it reproduces, which is why blogs that are dark in color with red or white type rarely work well. Anything that is hard to read gives your potential reader a reason to bypass your page - something you do not want. True, there are sites like Readability, http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/ which can translate most blogs/webpages into something easy on the eyes, but most people don't want to go through that extra step. Keep your design elements to the tops and sides of your pages and leave the areas where you type as clean as possible. And be brief, as brief as you can while still getting your message across. I love to read, but when I see a blog that's a page long or more, I cruise on by. At best, I hit the highlights. Which brings me to another point. Try to break long passages into sections, with bullets that make it easy to skim. Anything that encourages your reader to stay a while is a very good thing!

Thank you for reading! I'll be around to answer any questions or comments. I'm considering doing a series of posts on this subject on my own blog, so please stay tuned!

Cari Quinn
Wow! Great information isn't it? Thanks for sharing all this, Cari. Please stop by again any time you like. I really enjoyed this.

Also, for those of you who haven't checked out my blog post yesterday, I talk about additional exposure ideas and thoughts. Thanks for dropping by today.


  1. Hi Cari!
    So happy you're here!

    How often should an author change her tagline?

  2. Ohhh I love this! What fantastic information that I haven't thought of. Now I need to go in and see what I need to do to make my 'tag' line work better.

    Keep the advice coming, Cari and please let me know when you blog about it.

  3. Ohh and darn if the links didn't work! Not sure why. *pout*

  4. Hi Kimber! Thanks for stopping by! :)

    I'd suggest an author changing their tagline as often as the overall flavor of your work changes. Simply put, if you're a historical author and your tagline reflects that, if more and more of your releases are paranormally themed, I'd start looking for a more general tagline that covers both without being too specific. Playing up the romance angle, for example, rather than the genre.

    Catherine, thanks for coming by! I'm sorry about the links! The readability one is tricky, but if you copy and paste it into your browser, it does work. The link for me is incorrect - my fault - but here's the correct one: http://cariquinn.blogspot.com/

    Glad you found the information helpful! :)

  5. It was great advise. Us newbies need all the help we can get! Thanks Cari, great stuff.

  6. Thanks for sharing this information, Cari. I thought my cloudy moon in a blue night sky was original for my paranormal novels. Oh well... Is it all right if your tag line reflect you rather than the genre you write in?

    Thanks for having her, Dayana. It's nice to have a graphic artist's impressions here. Very refreshing ~ Mickey

  7. Hi CP! This is great stuff, and also stuff I know nothing about, LOL, so I really appreciate you sharing it.

    My tagline is: Heartwarming stories with Heat. Since I write across several genres, my tagline needs to be pretty generic. It shows that I write hot (and erotic) but with lots of emotion. At least I hope that's what it conveys ;). I want readers to know that the romance, even more than the sex, is key in my work. Plus I get the alliteration with Helen Hardt.

    So, tell me, is it working? Don't be too hard on me ;).

  8. Thanks for the corrected site. Very interesting to know. I just redid our website but it doesn't match the feel of our books. Back to the drawing board :o)

    Melissa Golliday

  9. Love the post, CP.
    I can't wait to put all that stuff into practice. And even better, it urged the both of us to take a web class.

    I can't wait to do that. Another one of those crazy SAB things between us---both with the Graphics background and love to write. It does help to make a pretty page, especially a readable one.

    can't wait to see what else you come up with for your own blog

  10. Thanks everyone for stopping by. :)

    Mickey, some of the most timeless elements work the best. The logo I'm designing for myself right now has a heart - can't get much more familiar than that - but it's stylized and a little out of the ordinary, like me. ;) If it works, I say use it! I think it's fine if your tagline reflects you rather than your work. As long as it's snappy and concise and sums you up well, then you're in business. :)

    Helen, I almost used your tagline as an example, so I'd say it works. LOL You write in so many different genres that generic is the best way you could go. That one line expresses your work perfectly. :)

    Great to see you, Tara. Yes, I now need to start practicing what I preach! LOL I'm looking forward to learning to design my own site so I can create exactly what I'm looking for.

    Dayana, it's been great being here today! Thanks so much.

  11. Okay, Cari, I'm going to toss my blog and website up on the chopping block. I already know I did everything you say not to do on my website homepage *sighs* so blast away.

    Also, since I write mainly dark paranormal but am inclined to write mystery suspense/crime drama how about a tagline like:

    Shift into the mystery and magic of hot romance with a bite.

    or perhaps,

    Hot romance with a bite.

    The latter emcompasses both vamp and wolf shifter, don't you think?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts and thank you so much for joining me here. You blog has given me a lot of fodder.



  12. Hi Cari,

    Thanks for the wealth of info on branding. I'll be sure to put it to good use.

  13. Cari, this is great info, thank you for sharing. I'm in desperate need of a tagline but have the worst time coming up with anything suitable!

  14. Great info! This parallels everything I've read in books like Websites for Dummies. Another reason for high contrast is that it's easier on aging eyes. ;)

  15. Hi Cari! I'm still struggling with a logo and your excellent article gave me some ideas. Thanks!

  16. This is really good stuff, Cari! Thanks for sharing with us. I totally agree with everything you say.

  17. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by!

    Yes, Skhye, you're absolutely right. High contrast definitely helps aging eyes - but anyone's, really. It's more pleasing to read content that doesn't require eyestrain of any kind. ;)

    Dayana, I checked out your website and blog. I think your blog is easy to read, with fun, vibrant colors. Since you tend to write darker stuff - at least that I've seen - maybe as it gets more toward your season (and mine, since we're both Halloween freaks, LOL)you could play with blog themes that are a bit darker and richer in tone. That would highlight your work more at a time when people are especially hungry for paranormal stories. But I like your blog setup now. It's simple and readable.

    As for your website, the only page that made me stumble a bit is your "about me" page. I love the browns, but the brown text on a brown pattern doesn't offer much contrast. On the other hand, I loved your "stories" page. Though you used light type on a darker background, I still found it to be readable and the scheme fit your story's content perfectly. Throughout, you kept your content concise and fun, which encourages people to keep reading. :)

    As for your tagline, I love both your ideas. My personal preference is the first, because it gives just a bit more detail and reinforces the atmosphere you create in your stories. And yes, I'd say it covers both vamp and wolf shifters - though if you just said "with bite" you're leaving it open for edgier stories like suspense/crime drama, IMO.

    Thanks so much for allowing me to visit, Dayana! It was really fun and I hope to get to do it again soon. :)

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