Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Fiction Branding… Part 5

Not All Stories Are Created Equal…

I hate to bring up this topic, but sort of needed for this series right about now. Why do I hate saying that not all stories are suited for branding? Because writers have the lowest opinions of their own work and will automatically take this as an excuse to not bother on some stories or series that could be branded.

Here is the reality. Just because you can’t yet think of how a brand would even happen with a series of stories or novels does not mean it can’t happen.

And the reverse is true. Just because you think a series of stories would make a great brand does not mean they will.

So what are a few factors that can help you decide if you have a decent brnd besides listening to your own self-doubts or over-inflated ego?

1… Is the series selling pretty well and regularly?

2… What holds the series together. A character, a genre, a theme or idea, or just cool art on your covers?

3… Can you imagine or even do some cool merchandise from the series on your Shopify store? And if you have some up, does the merch sell at times?

4… Does the entire series have a simple one-sentence catch phrase? (Example… my Bryant Street brand… “The Place Where The Twilight Zone Lives.”  Or “The Place Where The Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks Meet.”)

5… How many stories or novels have you written in the series? Enough to even start to show a pattern or is your promotion ahead of your writing in the series? (Don’t ask, there is no magic number, but I can say one is not enough.)

6… How long have you been making money from the series? Branding and trademarks often depend on time. (I have been making money on Bryant Street stories since 1982 and the name is not a bad mark when it comes to publishing.)

Just a few things to think about when you take a hard look at your own work. There are many others.

Just don’t think that every story you write can be a brand worth a ton more money, and don’t discount any story by thinking it might never be part of a larger brand.

Coming up: What exactly is a brand and the different levels, including author brands, the value of the brands over the individual pieces of the brand, how trademark plays a roll, and then what can you do with a brand once you know you have a good one.



  • C.E. Petit

    As reinforcement here, the US Patent and Trademark Office has some specific guidance on the kneejerk consideration (usually wrong!) regarding branding of “series”:

    • A single title is not registrable as a trademark.

    • A series title is registrable as a trademark (if otherwise eligible),† but that series identifier must appear on every element of that series (even if that involves withdrawing prior editions and reissuing them with New! Improved! covers/title pages/whatever), not a retconned description of that series identifier.

    The PTO has applied very similar reasoning in rejecting registration of non-title elements that appear in single works of fiction (most of these rejections are in internal proceedings and neither available nor considered precedent).

    † Ignoring for the moment that registration of trademarks, unlike registration of copyrights, is not required to enforce the mark rights — and that other aspects of unfair-competition law can get snarled up with single-item titles. The point is just that even bureaucratic trolls buried in a satellite office of the Department of Commerce know this! (Some of them are relatively well-socialized trolls, but still…)

  • Sheila

    Interesting. Making me start to think about other things I could offer. I know many are way ahead of me, but I seem to have been born behind a trend, not setting one. Ah, such is life!

    • dwsmith

      Behind??? Trend??? LOL!!! Sheila, if you started a Shopify store in the next year, you would be ahead of 99% of all indie writers and 100% of all traditional writers. This is not a trend like Facebook ads stupidity, this is how books will be delivered into the future and brands will be built. It is called 2024.