Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Branding Yourself for Publishing Pros

We talk so much to authors about the importance of branding yourselves. Of picking a genre and sticking with it or at least identifying what you're really strong at and making sure that comes through in your brand. We encourage authors to have a brand and a hook and tell them that they should be able to pitch themselves easily and succinctly when asked. But what about agents and editors? Shouldn't we be required to do the same?

Yes, absolutely. And it drives me crazy that so few can or do.

When anyone asks an agent or editor what they are looking for we should be able to give a few really strong concrete answers.

It drives me crazy when I'm meeting a new editor and looking to find a way to make her stand out and feel special enough to submit to and what she gives me when I ask what she's looking for is the company line. Yes, I know your company publishes contemporary romance and suspense, but what I want to know is what floats your boat personally. If I already have a relationship with Jane, Betsy, and Amy at your publisher than I need to know what you're doing that makes me want to send to you. Do you have a passion for werewolves or sexy lawyers or erotica? Are you confused by historicals or exhausted by suspense? Those are the details that build you as a brand in my mind and make me think of you when I have a sexy lawyer novel and submit to you over Jane, Betsy or Amy.

Agents need to do the same. When we're meeting authors at conferences or mingling at the airport bar we need to be able to tell the author specifically what we're looking for. Sure I represent romance, but my true love is dark, gritty suspense or right now I'm just tired of anything involving a CEO bachelor.

Our brand is going to evolve and change a bit as the market changes. An author's brand might do the same. Sure we're all still looking for romance, but now we miss those CEO bachelors and might want more of them. So updating the brand on your website and through social media is important, but so is making yourself stand out by saying, once in a while, this is exactly what I want on my desk right now.



Artemis Grey said...

Thanks so much for posting this! It's something that, as a writer still agent-hunting, I find super frustrating. Unless I have the chance to actually 'hang out' with an agent at a small conference and get to know them on a person level, as well as an agent level (which is one reason I love smaller more personal conferences) it's very frustrating to hear agents roll out a laundry list of what they rep or are 'interested' in, because you know that while, yes, they are probably INTERESTED in that entire gamut of genres, there are just a few that really DO it for them, and the rest are just that, interests, not passions.

I know how hard it is to narrow down interests, so I'm fine with agents listing as many areas as they want, but it would be incredibly helpful if the also said, "But my real passions are..." or something like that, just so we know where we, and our ms, stand going into it.

AJ Blythe said...

I hadn't really thought about the editor/agent relationship before, but it makes sense. Particularly the frustration part, because I can relate to that :)

DLM said...

I can't say "bless you" emphatically enough, and gesundheit is clearly not going to help. This is one of the research stumbling blocks we run into constantly in the query process, and it can be so hard to split the do I?/don't I hair on whether to take a shot or not. Some days, I eliminate a prospective agent just because I want to winnow my "slush pile" list of whom to research. Some days I query whether it's completely clear muscular historical fiction sans corsets and rippling chestnut hair is their bag or not. Most days, I think to myself, "Are they being as arbitrary as I am?" :)

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