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Thoughts On Branding

Thoughts on Branding

For a little while now, I’ve been trying to up my game when it comes to marketing. That’s probably the biggest area of this whole writing thing that I have spent little to no time in since I started publishing. It’s just not what I want to think about. And I’m not particularly great at it. But, it’s a skill and can be learned, so I’ve been reading books and watching webinars and all those things you do when you want to develop a skill — and there are two things that are almost always the first ones addressed: websites and branding.

I’ve known for a long time that I need to sit down and really dedicate some effort to my website. It’s okay, as websites go, but it’s what I’d like it to be. But one of the things I learned in college (back when the Internet was a new, fascinating place, and web design was kids like me and some html tags) is that I really dislike web design.

Of course, saying that, you’re probably asking yourself (as I ask myself, believe me), why not just pay someone to do it then?

This is a valid question. And, in fact, when I first started writing I DID hire someone to do my website. I did a lot of research. I figured out whose work I liked and found other websites that I wanted mine modeled on and I signed a contract and paid a staggering amount of money…and working with that person was a challenge and at the end of the day, after the process had dragged on and on and on, I finally said let’s just be done. I had a website, which was enough. It didn’t matter that I hated it, right?

So, I stuck with that design for about six months, until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then I went ahead and did my own quick and dirty makeover that, after a time, morphed slowly into what we have here. And here is functional. It’s just not exactly what I want.

So. Website. I need to remake my website.

Step one of that process? A Tagline.

When I first started writing, I settled on “Grace-Driven Fiction.” And I still like that, and grace is absolutely a HUGE part of my books, but talking with people (readers, writers, friends, family…basically everyone), it was clear that a) that was too generic and b) it had no zing.

Fast forward through a thousand iterations and lots of self-doubt, and I switched to “Thoughtfully Romantic.”

And now, I’m second-guessing that. To me, “Thoughtfully Romantic” means that my books have some element in them that gives the reader room to think about a topic or issue that’s relevant to Christian living in today’s world. Some of my books are weightier than others, for sure, but it’s my prayer that every story – in addition to providing a good story – gives readers something to think about. (I love the start of a recent review of A Tidbit of Trust — it begins “It takes skill for an author to create an unlikeable, judgmental Christian character like Adam Lassiter in order to explore the darker, flawed, human side of Christianity.” I smiled as I read that (and the rest of the review), because this reader got it. She didn’t necessarily like it, but it made her think, and I love that.)

But I can also see how people might think that it means my characters are sweet and kind (e.g. thoughtful — as in “Oh, what a thoughtful gift!”) And also, this year, I’ve run into two other authors who are using “Somethingly Romantic” as their tagline. So I worry that, really, it’s just getting lost in the wash. (Obviously, they’re not using the actual word “Somethingly” but the same formula. I’m “thoughtfully” they’re “gracefully” or what have you.)

How much does it matter? I can’t answer that. If you read marketing books/blogs/podcasts (well, obviously, you don’t read a podcast, but you know what I mean), it matters. It matters A LOT. But for myself as a reader? I’m not sure I could tell you the tagline of any author I love, even if they’re someone I’m also a friend with. And I can’t say it has much (if anything) to do with buying (or not buying) a book.

So, maybe I’m just overthinking the whole thing. Wouldn’t be the first time, for sure. Probably won’t be the last, either. I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you have any.

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