4 10, 2013

What’s In a Name? – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-10-04T06:06:52-05:00October 4th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Ice cream was on sale at the store last week. I walked by the freezer without even slowing down.

I was so proud. Then I passed a second display – not fair.

The featured ice cream was “Texans Tackle Crackle.” The carton resembled a football and, although I am not a huge football fan, the name intrigued me.

I bought ice cream – and ice cream cones. It is very good ice cream. Vanilla with chocolate swirls and something crunchy – I’m guessing it is the “crackle.”

This got me thinking about names.

Not all of our chickens have names – which is good since we have thirty or so chickens. Only the ones with distinguishing characteristics have names. For example, Frizz.

FRIZZShe is a frizzle chicken who has quite an attitude. She needs to have a name – she has earned it by her tenacity among the bigger birds.

Then we have Crooked Neck so named for obvious reasons.CROOKED-2

We had one named Hurt Foot for equally obvious reasons but she died. We don’t believe the death was at all related to the hurt foot.

Samson is our rooster with very long feathers.samson

In case you aren’t familiar with the story, Samson was an Old Testament judge who never cut his hair as part of a vow to God. He was known for his strength among other less desirable traits.

Names can describe something as is the case with our chickens.

Names can also create a sense of curiosity like the Texans Tackle Crackle Ice Cream.

So what’s in a name? A lot more than you might think.

20 05, 2013

Your Name’s on the Book Cover. What Does it Mean? Author Branding Part 1

By |2013-05-20T05:41:57-05:00May 20th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|3 Comments

Nothing is more exciting than seeing your name on the cover of a book you’ve written. You’ve devoted hours and hours to the creation of your “baby.” Holding that book in your hand or seeing the listing on an ebook seller site validates your hard work.  

 I still get excited when I hold my debut novel in my hand.


But what can a reader expect to find inside when they see your name on the book cover? 

Authors aren’t products like Pepsi or Coke, but readers do develop expectations about the content of novels based on author brand.  For example, what do you expect from books by Mark Twain, or Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling?

Me, I expect a southern tale from Mark Twain, a horror tale from Stephen King, fantasy and magic from a J.K. Rowling book and find exactly that.

 My TBR (to be read) pile is filled with all genres. On close examination, the highest stack is romance/women’s fiction books by authors like Debbie Macomber, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, or JoAnn Ross. These authors’ names on a cover promises a certain type of story and they deliver.

Their name is their brand.

Debbie Macomber will offer a story of relationships and enduring friendships. The reader will finish with a sense of love and hope.

Books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips are sure to be a romantic comedy adventure. I’ll grin and often laugh aloud as I follow SEP’s unique heroines to their HEA (happily ever after). 

JoAnn Ross’ stories offer strong, yet flawed women who overcome adversity, to-die for men-either emotionally wounded alpha shell guys or bad boys, and occasionally both, a very strong sense of setting, and a satisfying ending. 

Your name on your cover should signal YOUR author brand. Does it?

 If you don’t have any ideas how to do that, let me offer some suggestions on ways to cultivate an author brand using Primal Branding.

Author Patrick Hanlon, a marketing guru who’s worked on famous brands like IBM, LEGO, and Disney, equates product branding with a belief system. He says a strong brand contains seven primal codes: story, creed, icons, language, rituals, non-believers, and leader.

In this blog series on author branding, I’m going to discuss Harlan’s codes and how those codes relate to building an author brand.

1)    STORY

According to Hanlon, “Your brand needs to have a story or a background. It tells where your brand originated from and gives viewers or consumers something to connect with and something they can believe and trust in themselves.”

Readers especially love to know why and how an author got started writing.

That background story sets the whole idea of author brand in motion and is the chief reason all author websites and/or blogs should/must have about me pages.

The authors in my TBR pile all have their “story” somewhere on their blogs. Don’t believe me, click on the links and you’ll see.

  • Step ONE to develop your author brand. Share the story about how you started writing.

2)    CREED

According to Hanlon, “This tells what you believe in and how you might be different or similar to other belief systems out there.”

Story is not the same for all of us, neither is our creed.

Creed is what makes us, as a writers, willing to struggle to nurse our stories into existence, to persevere against headwinds that conspire against us?

Creed goes deeper than “origin” story, into the inner drive that led us to pursue a writing career. It’s what drives us to write.

Creed might be belief in the power of love. The frailty of the human condition. Comedy. The beauty of fine literature. Your fictional story will reveal what you believe most strongly.

Writers don’t necessarily state a creed, but a reader will pick up on our core beliefs through our story’s theme and premise.

  • Step TWO in establishing your author brand: Understand your core beliefs and develop your stories using those as your framework.

3)   ICONS

According to Hanlon,, “These are quick associations or flashes of meaning that are associated with your brand. They can be visual, a particular smell, sound – things like the taste of McDonald’s French fries, the sight of a Coca-Cola label or Mickey Mouse ears.”

Nora Roberts, bestselling author of more than 209 romance novels, brands her new release books with NR in a circle to clue readers the contains new content and is not a reissue. There may be other author icons, but Nora’s is the only author icon I know.

For most writers, author photos and consistent book cover design become logos.

These images stand for you and your work. It pays to have both your photo and your book cover done by professionals.

  • Step THREE for author branding: Use a professional photo for you book covers and on your website.


According to Hanlon, “All belief systems or brands have their own set of language and words with a special meaning for those who buy into the belief system. If someone wants to be “part of the group,” they need to learn the associated words.”

Hanlon is talking about specialized words that denote special meaning for a particular brand group. Think soccer fans, computer geeks, doctors, truck drivers, etc. If you want to be part of any of those groups, you have to know the language.

I believe readers already know some language of authors. Not the craft details like POV, scene and sequence, story structure, etc., but a general knowledge of fiction genres and have personal preferences.

That’s why language is an important component of an author’s brand and why I believe a writer’s language must remain true to genre. Doesn’t matter what genre you choose to write, but you’ll not add readers if your language is not true to the genre you chose.

PhilipMartin in his blog, Discover Your Author’s Brand, offers a different take on Hanlon’s core component language, calling it “sacred words.”

Martin believes language equals “key phrases that inspire you or the mantras that you chant or the slogans that you pin next to your computer” and directs you to Maya Angelou’s website.

He points out that Angelou uses iconic images of herself and the cover of her well-known book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in addition to a line from that book: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” on the website for branding.

Angelou use the language code of primal branding. So should you.

  • Step FOUR to develop your author brand: Consider the language of the genre in which you write and use related words for your website/blog and promotions, then model Maya Angelou’s website with iconic images and slogans.

In Author Branding Part Two, we’ll discuss the final three codes Hanlon describes: rituals, non-believers, and leader.

Until then, YOUR TURN: Have you thought about using Primal Branding to build your author brand?

5 04, 2012

Writer Branding Iron Symbols – What’s Yours?

By |2012-04-05T09:39:05-05:00April 5th, 2012|Judythe Morgan blog, Kristin Lamb, Uncategorized, writer, writing|5 Comments

Today I’m on the porch thinking on the idea of brand.

Probably too long-winded, but then it’s a lovely spring day to sit and chat.

Being a Texan naturally the first image of a brand that pops into my head is a branding iron symbol on the side of a cow.

CREDIT for photo on right: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. “Branding Iron [35mm slide].” Date Recorded 79/10. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, Library of Congress.

Cows are products like a writer’s novels are products. Cowboys use a different, very specific iron brand symbol for each owner.

 Commercial product marketing teaches additional ways to brand products.

  • NAME: Unique and distinguishable
  • LOGO: The visual trademark that identifies the brand
  • SHAPES: Think the old Coca-Cola bottle or the Volkswagen Beetle
  • GRAPHICS: The dynamic ribbon is also a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand.
  • COLOR: Owens-Corning fiberglass insulation is the only brand that can be pink.
  • SOUNDS: A unique tune or set of notes can “denote” a brand: NBC’s chimes are one of the most famous examples.
  • MOVEMENT: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors.
  • SMELLS: I love the rose-jasmine-musk scent of Chanel No. 5.
  • TASTE: KFC special recipe of 11 herbs and spices for fried chicken.
  • TAGLINE or Catchphrase: “The Quicker Picker Upper” associated with Bounty; Verizon brand “Can you hear me now”

Writers and books are different animals than commercial products. Branding irons won’t work. But will any of the other product techniques work to establish our brand with readers?

Books as products lack common distinguishable trademarks unless you count genre. I’m not sure the average reader has any idea what we’re talking about when we say genre. They know the books they like or the author they like.

Plus in this crazy new publishing climate, genre lines have become as crooked as a roller coaster track and about as scary.

Take, James Scott Bell— #1 bestselling author of the writing book Plot & Structure, and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, One More Lie and many more—has a new series written as K. Bennett. A zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh. Seriously. Paranormal elements combined with a legal thriller. How’s that for blending genres?

Stranger combinations are everywhere. So linking books by genres is not that clear cut anymore.

According to I’m Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®  “You have to become your own number one product. You must be uniquely you.”

While titles and covers can and do link series. Mostly a novel is a stand-alone work and readers connect by the author’s name.

The other commerical product methods aren’t so easily implemented by writers. Smells, tastes, movement, graphics and/or shapes of product marketing to attract readers to a novel seems a bit daunting. There are some very clever writers out there so I’m not giving up on someone coming up with an idea.


As an author, I’ve used the spelling of my name as a brand.  Every teacher, every college professor, every stranger who reads my nametag stumbles over the pronunciation. But they don’t forget the name or me.

For the full story on how I received the name, check my author website: Judythe Morgan

Next I’ve used the color green color for my website and Twitter. With a bit of luck, green brings happy thoughts and Irish to mind.

My blog and my FB pages tie together with the front porch. Lots of greenery in those banners too.

Green=happy thoughts. Porch=down home storytelling.

That’s how I write, that’s what I write—stories about ordinary events in ordinary people’s lives that end happily. Emotional stories about journeys of the heart.

Not straight romance, not straight women’s fiction, not simple love stories. A combination of those genres. See Bell’s not the only one who can blend genres.

My taglines also help readers remember me. “Voices and Views from the Front Porch” tag on my blog allows for a variety of blog topics and lets the reader  “know” me and my varied interests.

My website tagline of “Weaving Love Stories to Touch Your Heart” identifies the type of fiction I write.

Will these strategies work? I wish I knew.

In Kristen Lamb’s course, we learned that getting our names out there with samples of our writing builds our platform. But I have to admit advertising aka branding/author platform still baffles me.

When I had my antiques shop, I had a GREAT location-busy intersection in an active shopping center. My marketing plan was strong. I offered free cookies, lemonade and coffee to customers. A shop full of great merchandise, free cookies and coffee.The people came. Still…

antiques,Most of my customers admitted they came because someone told them about the shop.

So I conclude, a business marketing plan and a writer platform/branding plan are pretty much the same.

Word of mouth
Name recognition

Book Industry Study Group’s ongoing Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey in February confirmed my conclusion.  “e-book buyers cite word-of-mouth as No. 2—just like their print book kin.” Read here.

People read a good book; they share the book with others. So a writer’s primary challenge is first to write the very best story they can and second to make readers recognize their name.

Branding is about communicating. Engaging readers.

I’ve shared what I do. Remember I am not a marketing major. My expertise is chatting on the porch, sharing my views. Don Block, founder of, is a qualified expert and he offers some other specific ways to maximize your branding here.

YOUR TURN: Are you branding yourself? How?

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