Is Branding Wicked or Wise?


Dear Heather…

“Branding” calls to mind glowing coals and sizzling iron Xs, and some writers resist the term as if it means just that. The idea of sticking to one kind of story, genre, or audience seems antithetical to the creativity that drives them to write. Branding yourself as a writer of something specific is a valuable strategy because it helps readers discover and stay with you long-term. They know what they’re getting—and they want more of it. Fortunately, eschewing branding doesn’t mean sabotaging your career. Plenty of MG/YA writers enjoy careers where their consistency is not in genre but in the quality of their writing. Look at M.T. Anderson, author of the cyberpunk YA Feed (a National Book Award Finalist), the two-volume YA historical fiction The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (both volumes are Michael L. Printz Honor Books; the first also being a National Book Award Winner), the wacky, satirical middle grade series “Pals in Peril” (of which Whales on Stilts is my personal favorite), and the lauded “Norumbegan Quartet” fantastical adventure series (upcoming: The Empire of Gut and Bone), among others. Anderson’s brand is his name, which has become synonymous with brilliant writing. Now there’s a brand worth cultivating.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. Thanks for the info on branding. Personally, when I am looking for an author to read, I look first in the library where novels are stacked by author, but when in a bookstore they are stacked by genre (usually). I’m not sure if this is an advantage or not from our perspective as authors.

    • Authors of teen/tween novels aren’t as limited by bookstore shelving issues because they’ll be grouped in a comprehensive “Young Adult Readers” section, regardless of genre. (Of course, there will be genre-grouped endcaps and promotional displays.) Writers for the adult fiction market may be more concerned with that because adult fiction can be spread out over an entire store, some in “General Fiction,” some in “Thrillers,” that sort of thing. So there is certainly wisdom in sticking with one genre. But since we’re moving, for better or worse, toward more online book buying, perhaps the shelving issue won’t be an issue at all: every electronic book entry is cross-referenced with one-click access to a writer’s entire bibliography, regardless of genre.

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