Challenge,  Kickstarter Campaign,  publishing

Fiction Branding… Part 1…

Different Types of Branding…

And you brand a fiction series for different reasons. So for a number of posts, I’ll talk about fiction branding and the known reasons to do it, and some reasons most fiction writers never once think about.

And yes, at times I will talk value and trademark and so much more.

But starting off, most indie writers understand the surface level of book or series branding. (I am not talking to traditionally published fiction writers because they do not own their own books with traditional contracts these days.)

Making books in a series look like they belong together, and making books under an author’s name also look similar has been being done in publishing for hundreds of years. Publishers, including indie publishers, do this to increase sales. Very simple.

If a reader likes a book in a series, the other books are easy to find and buy.

Basic marketing 101 and most indie writers I know are good at this element.

For an example, I have gotten a lot of great comments about the Bryant Street covers and look that we have on the Bryant Street Kickstarter right now. (Still going… take a look.) That is all branding, but there are more elements than just the basics on those books. It was our wonderful Stephanie Writt who designed that brand and those covers.

Sure, the Bryant Street books all have the same look, similar covers and darkness, different titles, all done the same. Easy to spot.

But there is more branding… the catch phrase.

More branding, the header. And going forward all Bryant Street books and products will carry that simple street-sign-looking header.

The header will become a major element of the brand, plus the colors of the header. It will be consistent.

For those of you who have taken a basic covers class from me and WMG, notice the size of my name on the books. Why is it so much smaller than I teach writers to do on these books? Simple, we are not selling me as an author, we are selling BRYANT STREET.

We are setting up the BRYANT STREET brand.

Here is one of the covers for the new brand. 10 stories per book, four books total. The Seasons of Bryant Street. Check out the Bryant Street Kickstarter.


  • Harvey Stanbrouigh

    Another excellent and much-needed series of posts. I certainly don’t have to tell you, but I hope you’re turning it into a WMG Writer’s Guide too. I believe serious writers will snatch it up.

    • dwsmith

      42 years ago when I wrote the first Bryant Street story, it never would have occurred to me to brand it, and of course that was 25 years before the indie movement when I had an opportunity to even think this way and control the branding.

      On novel series, sure brand them from the start. Some writers I know work on that aspect as they write the first book even.

      • Kate Pavelle

        Dean, when it comes to branding a story from the start, sometimes it’s obvious where that story belongs. At other times, especially when it’s a new-to-me world or character, I have no clue! I learned not to shoe-horn new stories into existing brands while still writing, because that invites my critical voice back in.
        At some point, would you please go over some strategies that would help me and others write into the dark *and* think in terms of branding from the almost-beginning?

        In the past, I used a generic short story cover layout with the intention of figuring the branding out later. Problem is, I seldom get around to it (because new stories, right?) and when I do get to it, I have to go through my whole catalog and decide which orphan stories might belong. (Then I am tempted to “tweak them just a bit” so they belong better, which is rewriting, so I don’t do that.)

        In general, I feel like I am wasting a lot of time trying to brand, whilst other writers seem to be so beautifully organized! There has to be a balance without hiring it out.

        • dwsmith

          Never think about branding or marketing or anything else like that when writing. Ever. Just write the story that wants to be at the length it wants to be and worry about the branding when finished. A very simple line.

          Just write the story.

          • Jason M

            Dean, I make my own covers/branding before and during the writing process.
            It’s not intrusive. It’s motivational.

        • dwsmith

          And Kate, writing into the dark has nothing to do with branding. Writing into the dark is a writing process. Branding is a marketing and business thing. The two should never meet.

          • Kate Pavelle

            Now that I have branding in my hind-brain, say I am writing a new story and the title pops into my mind. So I write it down and realize that it goes with several similar words…and I have titles for a whole branded series. Now, I didn’t ask for those. They just appeared, but now it’s hard to focus on the original story. The original story was a delicious little snack. Manageable. Now this stupid new series is trying to push it out, and it’s not manageable because my snack turned into an elephant.
            What started out as a short story now turned into a fight, where I resist the pull of the series (and the branding and all those shiny new things I am learning about.)
            Ugh. So the process of writing into the dark is under a load of unwanted thoughts that don’t belong.
            This is, by the way, a recent issue and I think once the Shopify store is set up and it’s maintenance is just another familiar groove, my writing brain will stop getting hijacked. Fingers crossed!

  • Harvey Stanbrough

    For Kate et al, it’s always better to write the stories/novels and get them out.

    My “big” western series has the original story of twelve novels.

    But then a “gap” subseries came along to fill the 16-year gap between two of the original novels. That ended up being 10 more novels, all about the same POV character. All of this was the POV character’s doing, not mine. I just got the joy of writing the stories and being entertained.

    The gap series is pretty well branded. Now I’m on the verge of going back and rebranding the entire 22-volume series.

    My 10-volume Journey Home SF (we go there) generation-ship series was well branded from the start.

    My ongoing Blackwell Ops crime-thriller series, currently at 20 volumes, is branded fairly well, but I’ll be redoing a few of those covers with branding in mind.

    The first series is actually a saga, the story of one POV character. The SF follows a particular small group of POV characters on a single journey, so it’s also a saga. The third is a true series with a different POV character for most of the books, although one subseries (7 books so far) is a saga.

    Finally, in addition to several one-offs (branded only to my name) I also have a short action-adventure series that was well branded from the start.

    I got my start in 2014 by trusting and listening to Dean (Thanks, Dean) and finally believing-in and trusting myself and my characters. With my 86th novel going into the can today or tomorrow. That’s all within 8 years of writing time (I had two years with almost no writing.) Drop by the blog sometime at hestanbrough[dot]com.

  • Cynthia Lee Gilbert

    I don’t write books in a series (not yet, anyway). I write gothic horror/romance stand alones so my cover branding (I design my own covers) consists of young women standing in front of creepy Victorian houses or disembodied female heads hovering over creepy Victorian houses and, on occasion, just a creepy Victorian house. I use the same gothic-y font for titles and the same sans serif font for taglines and author information.

    As an aside, it wasn’t until I started teaching myself to design book covers that I realized I was writing gothics. I spent a year or two not knowing what genre I was writing in so when I started designing covers and they all had young women standing in front of or hovering above haunted houses, I figured my subconscious was trying to tell me something.

    Sometimes I will design a cover for a short story first and then write a story for it.

    It really is just so much fun.