[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Tracey Garvis Graves guest post on the site today. Take it away Tracey!]
When people find out I’m a published author, one of the first questions they ask is, “Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?” I answer by telling them that my debut novel, On the Island, was a bucket list item I was fortunate enough to cross off, and I’ve been writing full-time ever since. Inevitably, the next question they ask is, “What kind of books do you write?” I’m currently the author of eight titles—with a ninth in the works—and as someone who writes novels that share elements of two different genres, it can be difficult for me to answer this question succinctly.
Although I should have been thinking about this from the beginning, I was a few years into my writing career when I first asked myself the same question: What kind of books do I write? The more I write, the more I grow and change as an author. But if I don’t know the answer to this question, how will my readers know what to expect when they pick up one of my books? Author branding can seem like a daunting task, but an identifiable brand can help readers decide whether or not an author’s work will fit in with their specific tastes and preferences.
When your debut novel is the book you’re most known for, it can create challenges when it comes to writing subsequent books. The incredibly high expectations that go along with following up a breakout book can be a huge creativity killer. For me, that bucket list book was written in a vacuum. There’s something very liberating about writing a novel that has zero expectations attached to it. But that made anything I wrote after the first book subject to more scrutiny. I experienced the (very real) sophomore slump when my second book landed much closer to the women’s fiction end of the spectrum and was not, in fact, the fast-paced, plot-focused romance novel readers were hoping for. In order not to make that mistake again, I realized my brand needed some serious identifying and refining to help readers know what to expect when they pick up one of my titles, and to help me choose the premise for my next one.
I took the first step toward author branding when I worked with a graphic designer to come up with social media images, a logo, and a tagline. What did I want readers to think of when they saw my logo? What tagline would best explain the kind of books I write? What did I want to be known for? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that ‘contemporary fiction with a happily-ever-after’ was the best way to explain my author brand. You might be wondering what that tagline means, exactly. I like to think of it as a mash-up between women’s fiction and contemporary romance. A story that is solely focused on romance does not always appeal to me. I need more of the heroine’s journey outside of her romantic relationship. Conversely, a book labeled women’s fiction will often leave me pining for a romantic aspect and a more uplifting ending. I’m all about the female journey, but why can’t there also be a happily-ever-after at the end of it? I read to escape and when I turn the last page, I want to feel happy and hopeful. The risk, of course, is that my particular brand of storytelling won’t completely satisfy either camp. There may be readers who don’t want romance with their women’s fiction, and readers who don’t want elements of women’s fiction with their romance. But the books I’ve read and loved the most have a little bit of both. I’ve found my reading preferences definitely shape my writing style because it makes sense that I’m going to write the types of books I also want to read.
I was watching Bohemian Rhapsody the other day and, in the movie, a record executive tells the band that he needs something “really special” from them. He asks why they can’t give him more hits like “Killer Queen.” I could relate as I think most readers would love for me to give them another On the Island. But I could also relate when Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer, says, “It’s not bloody widgets we’re making. We can’t just reproduce “Killer Queen” because you’ve asked us to.”
Regardless of how my novels are received, what I’m making is art. And as much as I want to make my readers happy, I have to stay true to myself and my artistic vision. Every book I write is, first and foremost, for me. I can only hope that when I put it out into the world, my readers will like it as much as I do. When readers see my name or logo, or read my tagline, I hope it makes them want to pick up one of my books. Because if that’s the case, I know my author branding is working.
About the Author:
Tracey Garvis Graves is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into thirty-one languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next novel.
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.
Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game―and his heart―to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.
Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.