People love talking about brands. Recently, Orange made an unintelligible move, renaming themselves ‘ee’. This, of course, means nothing to those of us who aren’t in on the secret that this means ‘everything, everywhere’. Orange was one of those really cool brands in its heyday. Was it really a good idea to throw the name away?
In every downturn, publishers also tend to obsess about their imprint logo and brand values. They agonise about whether they need to spend more money on promoting themselves. In the end, though, it always comes down to one bald fact: it barely matters if you have a black swan, an oak tree, or a dodo on a book’s cover. You should be spending every available cent building your authors. They’re the only brand that counts, and many people don’t realise that authors need to be brand-managed with as much care and attention as Coca Cola.
But what if you’re an author, established in one genre but wanting to switch horses? Oh dear, oh dear. Every publisher’s nightmare.
JK Rowling made the bold move into adult fiction, but many authors try in vain to find a publisher to take them on in a new guise. It may not simply be a case of building your brand from scratch: your original author brand, and the values it stands for, might actually damage performance of a new book.
Some authors choose a pseudonym and take their chances. Some may have to take a reduced advance for the new book, but if the venture feels creatively right then switching genres has got to be a good move.
Wanda Whiteley, former Publishing Director at HarperCollins, is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Manuscriptdoctor.co.uk, a literary consultancy