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110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0136by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

As an author, I look forward to my next book release the way parents look forward to the birth of their child. After all, the release date is a birthday of sorts—the day my creation is real to everyone, not just me! If you’ve ever known someone expecting twins, the excitement is even higher—though, the fear associated with the event is also heightened.

This year, I’m having the publishing equivalent of quadruplets:

duckduckmoose orangutangled

snoringbeauty tywrecks

Like I said, I’ve got 99 problems, but a book ain’t one.

I get it. To have her problems, you might be thinking. After all, too many things publishing is a far better problem than too few. Or none at all. But there are problems created by my multiple birthing. Here are a few things you might not consider when praying for a year like this:

  • The whirlwind of marketing becomes a tornado.
    Since January, I’ve done three blog giveaways (the first was a DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE package of a book, a book, and a package of magic erasers, the second was a piece of Aaron Zenz’s original art, and the third is the autographed book we will give away here on this blog) with a fourth one coming up. I’ve done 42 Skype classroom visits—not including the 14 I have scheduled for the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS launch. I’ve flown to a conference in California and done a bunch of signings. I’ve revamped my website, I’ve had educator guides created, I’ve read the books so many times I have them memorized. And on the 7th day I rested…except, not really. Remember, all these marketing things are in addition to my regular job of writing, revising, preparing workshops, creating professional development. Oh, and raising all my kids.
  • orangutangsbyaaronToo much of anything is good for nothing.
    As much as we want to see our books in print, publishing is about more than just personal accomplishment—t’s about sales. While my ego might be excited by multiple books out at the same time, the market is another story. Have you ever heard of market saturation? Economic theory says in a given market, only so much growth can be supported. For authors, that means there are only so many new books a consumer will buy at a given time. Having too many books at once can actually reduce the probability that a fan will buy all of them, just because he may not want to buy more than a certain number of books within a short time period. This principle also extends to recognition. It’s highly unlikely that you’d have multiple books nominated for a given award in the same year. So you’ve increased your overcall competition by competing with yourself.
  • The “what have you done for me lately?” problem.
    Let’s face it—people are basically raccoons, distracted by whatever is new and shiny. And if you have a bunch of books come out at once, chances are, that will be followed by a long gap until your next release. But a book only keeps it’s “new car smell” for a finite amount of time. When something else new and shiny comes along, you won’t be able to compete and the raccoons will move on.

So, who still wants to have lots of books published at once? And who doesn’t?

Well, let me tell you a secret—it’s not up to you.

For the most part, publishers work on their schedule. And their concerns aren’t your concerns. So books may come out slowly at regular intervals, or they might appear all at once. As authors, we don’t have much say in this.

So how do you deal with this? How can you turn all these negatives into something positive for you?

I’ve given you the problems, so let me propose some solutions:

  • Find your overarching narrative.
    Whenever I have a book release, I take the details of its inspiration and craft a storyline that matches to a theme. For example, every night at bedtime in my house, my kids go nuts. My son, especially, when he was younger, he refused to sleep—no naps, no bedtime, no nothing. He was absolutely convinced I was going to do something awesome. This became the backstory for CHICKS RUN WILD, and I’ve introduced the book to hundreds if not thousands of readers by telling this story. With each of your books, you should be creating a narrative as well—but when you have multiple books at once, think of an umbrella narrative that talks about all the books. For example, DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE and ORANGUTANGLED are both about having bad days (though they resolve that issue differently). When I talk about them together, I tell my audience about taking bad days, mistakes, blunders and turning them into inspiration. They’re also both about friendship, and the different ways your friends can help you get through a rough patch. When you have one narrative, that message starts to represent you as a brand instead of the individual products/books. And at the end of the day, you want fans of your brand, not just your book.
  • Coordinate efforts.
    When you start marketing one book, leave yourself openings to market the others. For example, when I was booking release day virtual visits for SNORING BEAUTY and I had too many requests, I offered the folks I couldn’t schedule in March a spot on the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS release day. So instead of having to start from scratch for the next release, I’ve got some legwork done already.

sudiptabookmarkUse this principle in your marketing materials, too. Having bookmarks printed? Think about designing something that works for all your new releases. Making postcards? Create a “New for 2014” card instead of individual designs.

Just breathe. As I said before, in the grand scheme of things, having too many things published at once is the better dilemma to have. Because if you’ve got to have 99 problems, at least a book ain’t one.

.

Thank you, Sudipta! This is all good to know since I will be having two books released in 2015! Yikes! TWINS! Somebody boil some water!

Do you have any questions or comments for Sudipta? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of one of her 2014 books, YOUR CHOICE! (And a tough choice it is!)

Also be sure to visit Sudipta’s awesomely nerdy blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule.
 

Writers are entertainers. We immerse readers in a magical world, letting them escape with our words as a guide. If a reader enjoys your ride, chances are they’ll seek you out again. And again.

This week I read a lot about branding yourself as a writer, thanks to writing friend Jill Corcoran. The subject isn’t foreign to me, having worked in marketing for a decade. But just what is branding for writers? Developing a consistent style in your stories, offering readers a place that’s as comfortable to return to as their favorite chair. It’s not about writing books so similar that no one finds value in buying more than one. It’s about finding your niche in the publishing world and working within it.

Let’s compare this idea to chain restaurants in the US. Why are they popular? Diners know the menu, they know exactly what to expect. Olive Garden promises that the chicken parmigiana in Spokane will taste the same as the one in Cleveland. They don’t just sell unlimited salad and breadsticks, they serve predictability and comfort. Repeat diners know they’ll enjoy their meal.

People often buy the same laundry detergent, the same rice and the same cheese year after year. How many of you use the same brands your mother bought? Consumers will buy an item simply because they know it and they don’t know the competitors.

Brands also have unique qualities that make them more attractive than similar products. I prefer Barilla Plus pasta because it has added protein without a significant change in flavor. While it’s just pasta, it’s very different from the other noodles on the grocery shelves.

As a new writer in an increasingly difficult book market, developing a brand may give you an edge over the competition. When I think of Grace Lin, I think of whimsical illustrations with colorful patterns like origami paper. John Scieszka? Fairytale spoofs. Roald Dahl writes humorous, fantastical tales. Think about some of your favorite authors and what kind of feelings their name brings to mind. You want to elicit that same kind of recognition when readers think of you.

On the flip side, author K.L. Going admitted that her interest in multiple genres makes it difficult for readers to get a handle on her. At the Rutgers One-on-One Mentoring conference last October she said, “You never know what you’re going to get with a K.L. Going book.” She suggested not doing this as a new author, although she also encouraged us to write what we love.

But what if we love crossing genres? What if writing a supernatural YA mystery comes as naturally as a quiet non-fiction picture book? Perhaps you can be predictable in your unpredictability? Isn’t that a brand as well? Sure it is. But is it one you want as someone who’s trying to break into a tough, competitive business? Agents and editors tout “high concept” in novels, so why not come up with a “high concept” for yourself?

I realize that branding yourself as a writer is a complex task, especially for someone new who is still experimenting with style, genre, voice and subject matter. Stories are more complex than shampoo. You can’t guarantee thicker, fuller hair and a fresh lavender scent with each turn of the page. So what do you guarantee your readers?

Ask your critique partners what your brand might be. What perceptions do they have about your stories? What qualities in your writing are consistent? What do they look forward to when you hand them a new tale? Where does your work really shine?

You might have a very good idea about what your brand is. But remember that branding is all about someone else’s perception, not yours. You can have an image or a message you wish to relate to your readers, but are you sending it? Start asking around. Get to know your own brand so readers can get to know you.

What are you thoughts on branding for writers?

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 1, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
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HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
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Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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