Book Obsessed Babes, Author Branding, and Hurricanes

21463029_873618552804602_8770725380492940851_nBefore I get to gushing about how awesome this past weekend was, I want to send my deepest condolences and sympathies for those who were in the path of Hurricane Harvey and Irma this past month. I’m from Florida, so I know that hurricanes are no joke and the pictures flooding through Facebook (no pun intended) are evidence of the kind of destruction mother nature can dish out. If you were severely affected by the storms, I hope you and your loved ones are safe. I live in the Panhandle of Florida, so the hurricane had down graded into a tropical storm by the time it reached me. A lot of my friends (who are not Florida natives) were panicking that the power would go out and the area would be flooded. I bet they’re glad they bought all that water and gas.

I will be “that person” and say that I did not prepare for the storm whatsoever. We kept an eye on the storm, but we didn’t do jack squat because we knew we’d just get a lot of wind and rain. Nothing was damaged, we didn’t lose power, nothing. The only cool thing that came out of it was that I got a three-day weekend and used that precious time to work on the fourth book in the Loup-Garou Series. We’ve had worse storms hit in a single afternoon out of nowhere.

21370941_1708585682487687_308161575881954344_nBesides writing while the wind howled outside my writing room window, we spent our Saturday in Destin with a group of fabulous authors at the Book Obsessed Babes Author Signing Event. This was my second major event and it was phenomenal. I had a new (smaller) banner and once more, I nearly sold out of my vampire romance novel, Passions. I don’t know what it is about that book, but everyone seems to love it. Because of this, I now only have a couple of copies for the signing event coming up this weekend in Texas. Ruh-Roh. I wasn’t able to get them shipped fast enough to arrive before we leave, so people are just going to have to make a bee-line for my table if they want a copy.

This was the first event where I had my husband serve as my assistant. Next weekend, we’re going to have to lay some ground rules because he was ALL over me. He is normally a very affectionate man and I couldn’t ask for a better husband, but it was rather distracting to have him hugging and kissing one me while I was trying to talk to readers. They, of course, thought it was cute and funny, so I guess it might have worked in my favor. My line was “This is where I get my inspiration!” Which is the complete truth.

21462271_1708722465807342_6460953648781531168_nThe only downside to the event was the fact that the hurricane frightened many authors and readers away. We were planning on having over 60 authors and only about 40 were able to turn out. This sucked because a few of the authors I met in Sarasota in July were not able to come, so this was almost a completely new crowd for me.

(Caption for this photo: The carpet was super comfy so I took my shoes off. No one complained about the smell)

That worked out just fine because I made tons of helpful connections and even promoted a few other events that I would be attending next year.

With that being said, I want to take a moment to talk about a marketing concept that I’m finally beginning to grasp. Author branding. For anyone who has taken a business course or marketing course, you might have an understanding of this idea.

Author branding is basically the answer to the question “What are you known for?”. It’s what readers will instantly know “Oh, ‘so and so’ writes this” or “That person is an expert in this”. I’ll give you a few examples from this weekend alone.
I met plenty of authors who have found their brand and it’s phenomenal.

21432837_10213337147599138_6725246404310716634_nPaige Tyler is a paranormal action/thriller author with a specific focus on wolf shifters. Her brand would be her two main series, X-Ops and SWAT, which feature paranormal creatures as SWAT team operatives or spies. That’s what she writes, that’s what she is known for. So, if someone came to me and said they like thrillers, but they also like werewolves, I would direct them to her table. I can say beyond a doubt that they will find the genre and type of entertainment they want. (This is Paige to the right with her wolf signing buddy, Remy)

Another example is Ditter Kellen. She has her Enigma series (no relation to my own) and it features sea-creature/alien/sci-fi sort of feel. If people like the idea of Atlantean creatures with a good dash of romance, I would send them her way because that’s what she writes and that’s what she’s great at.

If someone was looking for a cat-shifter series, I’d send them to Theresa Hissong. If they were looking for a sweet, small town romance series, I’d refer them to Mary Jane Hathaway. If someone wants a good YA paranormal action series, I’d point out Jennifer Siddoway. Vampire novel? Go see Anne Rice. Victorian/Western werewolves? Go read Susan Krinard. Want World War II fiction? Go see Ellie Midwood.

But, you get what I’m talking about? An author sometimes writes in the genre they are best known for and they have a theme. Paige Tyler (who is the sweetest lady on the face of the planet, by the way), writes about military and special ops sort of stories because that’s what she knows best through her husband who is retired military. Ditter Kellen’s books take place on the Gulf Coast where she grew up, which lends to the theme of her series with sea-people. And they all write within the same genre that works for them. Those who like sweeter romances may not want to read Theresa Hissong, but they will eat up Mary Jane’s books because that’s her niche.

Successful marketing involves finding your niche in the industry and running with it. What this has taught me, if that I haven’t found a conventional brand just yet. All of my books are paranormal, to be sure, but they vary in heat-level from super sweet (Silver Screen) to a little dash of sex (The Legend). The general genre of paranormal stays the same, but I’ve written Young Adult, historical, and romance, and then there’s Clouds, which is my Christian Dystopia (totally left-field).

What my husband recommended is that I brand myself around the fact that my werewolves and vampires are unique to the industry. They have a history, a culture, an ancient language, and a specific biology that sets them apart from the typical interpretation of what werewolves and shifters are commonly known for. However, this is still hard to do because I can have a fantastic YA series, but they may not like the historical novellas that go along with it (such is the case with the Loup-Garou series vs The Legacy Series). Those who love the sweet romances won’t want to read the steamier books.

Now, you may be saying to yourself that this makes an author more rounded and can reach a wider audience, but it can also spread one too thin. It’s hard to market a YA series that gets a little provocative and it’s even harder to convince people that it’s a SWEET paranormal romance, when the very term seems to contradict itself. Believe it or not, it’s hard to find a paranormal romance without an erotic sex scene ever other chapter. As a result, my books tend to entail two or three genres that don’t mesh well.

To remedy this, as soon as I’m complete with the last book of the Loup-Garou series, I’ll be turning my attention towards narrowing down my brand and figuring out what I want to be exclusively known for. I’ve got a few series ideas in mind, but once again, they kind of jump all over the place so with the help of my new author buddies, I’m going to trim the excess and fly this puppy a little straighter.


About Sheritta Bitikofer

Sheritta Bitikofer is an author of eclectic tastes. When she's not writing her next paranormal or urban fantasy novel, she can be found volunteering at her local animal shelter, shooting archery at a medieval reenactment event, doing Zumba, watching a historical documentary, or having coffee with her husband at their favorite café. A wife and fur-mama to two rescue dogs, she makes time to write engaging and moving stories about shifters, vampires, and magic that enthrall readers from cover to cover.
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