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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Author branding: Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel has one of the most beautiful, romantic feeling author websites I've ever seen: check out her Danielle Steel Beauty. All pink, black lace, and floating sheets of rose-hued stationery.

Of course she's a best selling author with millions of romance novels sold over the years, and although I'm not a big fan of the genre, she got my attention when she came out with her perfume, Danielle by Danielle Steel, a couple of years ago. That an author could brand herself and then actually merchandise that brand beyond books was a revelation. 

Now book series have been branded forever. That's why I loved reading Nancy Drew. From book to book, I knew what to expect. Girl detective, formulaic mystery. 

The best brands touch your soul. They feel authentic. Danielle Steel the person (at least the public persona) seems to be all femininity and romance, and everything flows from that fount: her books, her website, her eau de parfum spray.

The type of writing stars I work with – self-publishers, entrepreneurs, educators, activists, speakers, spiritual leaders – should consider their brand in everything they do, including their books and spinoff products. When planning a new book they should first ask, Does it fit my brand?

What is your brand? Can you state it in one simple declarative sentence? Here's some help:

  • My mission is to blah blah.
  • My vision is blah blah.
  • I like making people feel blah blah.
  • The goal of my company is to blah blah.
  • My life has been about blah blah.

The experts say that branding is marketing. In my opinion, author branding is more than just marketing. Maybe it's existential marketing. It's answering the question, Who am I? You can tell when authors haven't answered this question for themselves. They end up rehashing what others have written. They plagiarize their thoughts, maybe not word for word but the theft is there just the same. That comes from not knowing what you're about.

Exodus 3:14: I AM THAT I AM. Brilliant!

One of my pastor clients knows exactly who she is, down to the font. She is a woman of God with the emphasis, from a branding perspective, on woman and God. She absolutely adores cursive lettering and knows the Bible inside and out. Her ministry is of the heart and everything flows from that: her Sunday sermons, her books, her website, even the way she talks in everyday conversation.

Another client, a national speaker on the education circuit, coaches hip hop student athletes (high school football) in the inner city. That's who he is. Everything he does, from workshops to books, is informed by this identity and his desire to help underserved students and those who work with them. His products don't always look the same, but neither do the Geico commercials. When you see the name Alfred "Coach" Powell on the cover, you know what you're getting.

Why is author branding so important? There's a lot of noise out there in the marketplace. The author brand helps you distinguish one product from all others that are similar. A good brand makes you feel that you know something personal about the author and that you're connected to her. Any good sales person will tell you that sales and repeat sales are all about relationships.

If you feel Danielle Steel's romance novels, you'll feel her perfume.

Donna Marie

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