OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Here's an outline of my two brands and how they contribute to my business, as well as my recommendations if you're thinking about these issues. I get a lot of questions about this topic so I thought I would address it head on 🙂
What is a brand anyway?
Whether you like it or not, you have a brand as soon as you publish a book, or you start tweeting, or blogging or anything.
It's how people perceive you.
It's the words and images that are associated with you and your books.
It's the emotions and feelings you trigger in the person who notices you or something you put into the world.
Therefore, it's important to control the perception of your brand.
You can do that by making sure everything you put out there in the world represents what you want people to see.
This site is aimed at writers, authors, and creative entrepreneurs. I am always upbeat and I want to be a positive force for good, so I will only share what resonates with that energy.
Of course, I have down days like everyone else, but I don't (often) share them here.
I blog here regularly and continue to do the podcast, YouTube channel and everything else to drive traffic here because this is a business and it pays my bills. I love you guys 🙂 but this site was always intended to be a business.
The color scheme is red and white, the tone and website style is positive, upbeat, helpful, and smiley. That is a part of who I really am, but it is only one aspect.
J.F.Penn is my fiction name and JFPenn.com is targeted at fans of my fiction, or people who might like to try my type of writing. The tag line is ‘Thrillers on the edge' because I find myself writing on the edge of thriller, mystery, crime and horror, as well as a healthy dose of literary and cultural references.
The tone and website style is dark, my picture is dark and brooding and the color scheme is black, greys and white. This resonates because my fiction is dark and twisty, and my themes are religion, psychology, the supernatural, violence and death, as well as global travel and fascinating locations. The tone is quite different to TheCreativePenn. It's also me, but only one aspect.
Income on JFPenn.com is purely from my fiction book sales, which continue to grow as a percentage of my overall income. I expect it to surpass the income from TheCreativePenn.com as I have more books available. The site itself is mainly marketed through the books themselves, and interviews I do on book blogs as JFPenn as well as podcasts and click-throughs from this site.
Why do I have two brands?
I started TheCreativePenn.com as a way to share my self-publishing learning curve, way back in 2008 when there was no international Kindle, there was no KDP or print on demand.
I made some mistakes around printing too much inventory without knowing anything about marketing, and I was really keen to share my story so others could avoid that pain.
I also saw my future as a non-fiction author and speaker, empowering people with live events and online training. A bit like a British, introverted Tony Robbins!
(a) I didn't ever expect to write fiction when I started this site in Dec 2008.
It truly didn't enter my consciousness, until this interview with Tom Evans in June 2009 about writer's blocks when we uncovered my own blocks around writing. That discussion identified the blocks and I moved forward, starting NaNoWriMo in Nov 2009. You can read the whole journey of writing my first novel here.
But essentially, the goal for this site never had anything to do with fiction!
I had originally set my path towards becoming a full-time blogger/entrepreneur, and that didn't change until 2011 when I realized being a fiction author was a possible future for me, and now it is my primary goal.
If you are writing fiction, and you want to start a blog, then for goodness' sake, start a blog (or a podcast) that attracts your target audience!
Don't do what I am doing — unless, like me, you have a goal for your writing-related site that relates to income or marketing. Or of course, you can write what you want if you just write for the fun of it (which is absolutely valid, but you probably won't put in the kind of hours I do if it's just for fun!)
But in terms of learning from my ‘mistakes,' I had to start from scratch with JFPenn.com when I changed direction, because such a small percentage of this audience are interested in my fiction.
If I was starting again today and aiming to make 100% of my money from fiction, I would continue blogging (or podcasting) as I do at JFPenn.com and BooksAndTravel.page about my research, videos about the books and interviews with other authors in the genre. I would rarely talk about the writing process, and I would never talk about publishing or marketing.
(b) Different target audience
The target market for TheCreativePenn.com and my non-fiction books is very different from the people who want to read my fiction and check out JFPenn.com. Yes, some will cross over, but as above, I have found it is very few. Maybe 5%.
To attract a specific market, you need to focus on specific topics, and give people a specific impression when they arrive at your site. You also need to build separate email lists for the different audiences.
You can separate your audience for your books through a different author name, as you can have separate author pages on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and the other book retailers so readers only see the books associated with that name.
I started out with Joanna Penn for all my books, but differentiating the target market soon became important, as did …
(c) The gender issue with my type of fiction
After Pentecost and then Prophecy, some of my readers came from this site and knew me as the smiley, happy person, I received feedback that my writing was ‘masculine,' and that my gender was causing people to double-take at the kick-ass action-adventure vibe of my fiction.
A lot of writers use initials to get over the initial gender bias, and so I decided to move to J.F.Penn in order to prevent people judging the books before they'd even read a sentence. I've written a much longer article on the gender bias issue here.
When is it a good idea to use multiple brands?
If you can avoid multiple brands, then it's advisable to try and stick with one. It's very hard to be active with more than one brand, for example, I gave up trying to tweet under two handles, so I use @thecreativepenn for everything.
I have two sets of business cards, two email addresses, two different official photos (one smiling, one brooding!)
But I'm glad I separated my brands as I need to keep my two audiences separate. My writing is quite different and aimed at a different group of people, and that's the main reason you might want separate brands.
You can use multiple author names and still only have one website, of course, but if you write children's fiction AND erotica, then you'll definitely want two sites. But if you write thrillers and romance, you could probably get away with one brand.
Questions to ask yourself around brand
- Who are my target audience for these types of books, or this type of site?
- Where do I want to be in 5 years time? Can this brand grow with me?
- Can I get away with just being one brand? (as this is much easier and I highly advise you do this unless you definitely need to keep your audiences apart)
- How do I want people to perceive me?
- How can I communicate that in what I create in the world?
Do you have any questions about author brands, or what I have done with mine? Do you have more than one author brand? Please do leave questions and comments below.