Thursday, March 05, 2009

Q&A a la Ann Landers: The Big Multiple Genre Branding Question

I get letters and sometimes the questions asked are just too good for me not to pass on to other writers--with permission, of course. Laurel Peterson’s perspicacious questions are among those I couldn’t resist. Below you’ll find all her questions but especially the one that bothers authors who write in several genres. I’ve inserted my answers in bold. Hope you find a tidbit or two that will help you with your promotion campaign.


Dear Carolyn:

Prill Boyle, editor of the Defying Gravity blog, referred me to you through LinkedIn, while you were, I believe, steaming your way toward Panama! I imagine that must have been quite a trip.

By way of introduction, I am a newly published editor (with a partner) of a women's studies book called Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women's Experience, released by Cambridge Scholars' Publishing ( This summer, a chapbook of poetry will come out, That's the Way the Music Sounds ( I have been reading your book, The Frugal Book Promoter (which my poetry publisher recommended, by the way!), and your advice is so very helpful. Thanks! I confess, however, to being completely daunted by the process and while I'm usually pretty good at taking things one step at a time, I feel as though I'm behind the 8-ball, and I'm not sure where to put my energy first or even which thing is going to be most useful.

ANSWER: You've read The Frugal Book Promoter and so I'm sure you know you have to pick and choose. Select from that book only what feels best for your book, your personality, and your pocketbook! Don’t spend a lot of money because things you pay for generally don't work any better (or even as well) as promotions that are free.

LAUREL So! That said . . . I am most stumped with how to brand myself. I can see that you have written a wide variety of things, and you talk a bit about your brand in your book, but I would love to hear more about that. I am not only a poet and non-fiction writer, but I'm also a mystery novelist (where my heart is these days), and the only thing that holds them all--loosely--together is the idea of women's issues. However, that is such a tricky brand, as one can end up being categorized as feminist (in the negative, harsh sense) or the colloquial use of “chick” (as in the we-can-write-her-off sense!).

ANSWER: I have this same problem. I, too am a poet (I've pasted a couple of my e-mail signatures below so you can see how I swing between my literary work and my how-to books for writers, even in the smallest things. Here's what I ended up doing and it will probably help if you follow this by going to my Website and looking at it first and as you read this explanations. It’s at Here’s the plan.

~I put all my work under the frugal banner because, frankly, nonfiction will always attract more readers and other visitors than literary genres do. Furthermore everything on the same Web site helps my literary work because there is some crossover interest (though not much!).

~You'll see the literary links on the left, more general links at the top of the home page. I use two different domain names. The HowToDoItFrugally domain goes to the main (home or index page) but the second one, goes directly to the page that talks about my poetry, novels and leads more directly to the individual pages of my creative work.

~That I used my own name of my creative work illustrates how important it is that you choose a brand that isn’t too narrowly focused. Authors often write more than one book and those are often in more than one genre. When I wrote my novel, I never suspected that I would write several chapbooks of poetry. Simply put, there are times when your name is your best brand. (-:

~I am also interested in helping soldiers in Iraq. I tend to keep that almost entirely separate from my other branding though I do mention it on my Website here and there (on the tolerance page, as an example). That blog is And you'll see more about another book I'm involved with that is only , really, for people aligned with the military in some way.

You are on the right track. You try to choose a brand that encompasses as much as possible. And I understand about the feminist/chick thing. I have another friend struggling with that and among readers of material of interest to women it is very important.

LAUREL: In addition, the college where I work (I'm full time at Norwalk Community College where Prill has been involved) would like to sponsor a book release party for the scholarly book; I'm not sure what you think of those, if you've used them, and what results they've had for you.

ANSWER: I love launches and think they are very effective when you have them in one of your own little ponds. It’s a little like putting having a wedding--both the work and the thrill. Having said that, for a launch to be successful you have to promote it like crazy. Use your Frugal Book Promoter index and check out words like launch, book signings, etc. Signings and launches are always more successful when you have a partner (not only writing but promotional) as you would have with this one--your Norwalk Community College is sure to support the party. I think you'll have a blast. It's part of the great fun.
Would you thank Finishing Line Press for me for recommending my book? I am published with them, too. Tracings, is now an award-winner! (-:

LAUREL: Anyway, that's a lot of questions from a stranger! I am grateful for any bit of experience you can offer.

Laurel Peterson
Note: Laurel Peterson is a professor at Norwalk Community College and a published writer and editor.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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