Monday, 22 January 2018

RNA South and West Wales Chapter


It was good to start the year with a meeting for the South and West Wales Chapter in Cardiff. Although we have twenty five members listed, our homes are very spread out, some members living on the west coast of Wales and others coming from mid and east Wales.  Although every third meeting is arranged to take place in Swansea, it still entails long journeys for some. Because of this, numbers are often small but we agree that it's worth meeting up whenever possible and members are happy to travel when they can. We now meet in Barker Tea Rooms in one of Cardiff's famous arcades where it's informal and very welcoming. As long as we top up our teas and coffees and maybe buy a light lunch as well, the management seems happy to let us stay and chat for a couple of hours.  Last year, as a group we decided that if people were arranging to take time out from work and writing, it would be better to have a theme or topic so that members would benefit. 

After catching up with everyone and finding out where they were with their novel writing, editing or submitting, the topic discussed this month was 'Author Branding'. Catherine (Burrows) had attended an excellent presentation on the subject at the 2016 Conference in Lancaster and was able to share what she'd learned. Thank you, Catherine. It gave us a great deal of food for thought. We went away to work on our USPs so that we can share them next time.

On her website, The Creative Penn, author Joanna Penn states that your brand may be thought of as your promise to your reader. It's the words, images, and emotional resonance that people have when they hear your nameAs writers, it's important to raise our profiles.  

Since the meeting, I've read a number of articles like this one on branding and the general message seems to be we need to think hard about who we are trying to reach, what we want to say to our readers and how we will say it. What will they think of us as a result? The brand is us.

Even though I am unpublished, there appears to be a common theme of identity running through the two novels I have written. As well as dealing with characters falling in love, both stories explore mother and daughter relationships and the dynamics of family life, both fit into the family saga genre, both are dual narratives and the actions of the characters reflect the social conventions of the era in which the story is set. Parts of both novels are set in Mediterranean countries, 'A Mother's Secret' in Sicily and 'Whispering Olive Trees' in Southern Greece. I like to think that if my novels are ever published - I'm trying hard! - my readers would expect to be moved by the roller coaster of emotions the protagonists go on. I have a long way to go to get the branding right but I've made a start. 


Every now and then, you read a book that you didn't want to end and one that you wish you'd written yourself. That happened to me this week when I finished 'Letters to the Lost' by Iona Grey. It was the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2016 and I can see why. It moves effortlessly from wartime to present and in both narratives, the characters come alive on the page. You are drawn into their emotions and get glimpses of times past and today. As reader, you become wrapped up in a beautiful tender love story. 

Thank you for reading. What novel have you read recently that you wish you'd written yourself? What is your brand? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

14 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful group, Jan. I've always found the support of other writers invaluable. Lucky you meeting in Barkers - they serve fantastic chai latte! x

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    1. Yes, Sara. The group is very supportive. There's a very wide range of experience in it, too, from people like me trying to get published, debut novelists and writers who have many books under their belts. Barkers is great, isn't it? Will have to try your recommendation next time. :-)

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  2. Teapots & notebooks - a heavenly combination! Finding the right writing group is important - you seem to have gathered an excellent group of good women around you. I belong to a tiny group - as you know - just myself & Janey. Small works well for us & I can't stress too much how valuable our weekly meetings are.

    It's taken me a while to recognise the importance of 'branding' - even though the word strikes me as a bit commercial. Up until recently, I've tended to think in themes. The ones running through my stories are, like yours, familial relationships (sisters in particular.) And ghosts! I find myself returning to the same motifs too - which is another strand of story - & worry sometimes that I overdo them. As a reader though, I'm drawn to a certain amount of familiarity - knowing some of what I'm likely to get when I read another book by a favourite author.

    I'm learning my own 'brand' if you like - reluctantly accepting that I need to have one! Ever since my editor described my writing as Welsh Gothic I've taken that on board although I don't want to over-stress it for fear of giving the wrong impression.

    Letter to the Lost is a gorgeous book - I couldn't agree more. As for the one I wish I'd written - too many to list! xXx

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    1. I like the sound of your meetings with Janey and know how much both of you get from them. I think your 'brand' is well established now, Carol. That's why I can't wait for book 3! As it should be, your new story will be different from 'Ghostbird' and from 'Snow Sisters' but I'm sure the Lovekin touch, especially in the beautiful language, will be there. :-)

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  3. Good to have a write up Jan, as I wasn't able to be there. Sounds like it was a useful event.

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    1. Thank you, Evonne. It was a useful meeting and you were missed. Plenty of food for thought. I'm looking forward to catching up with you, soon.

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  4. It was a very worthwhile meeting, Jan. I now have half a dozen 'buzz words' to play with so will be running them by you soon, hopefully. Re the book I wish I'd written, as others have said, there are lots but the current one will surely join my list. It's The Wardrobe Mistress by Natalie Meg Evans. I loved The Dress Thief also, but TWM's setting includes London's theatre land post WW2 and there's an enigmatic....no more spoilers!

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    1. Yes, I think we all came away with plenty to think about. I like your idea of looking at reviews and building a set of 'buzz words'. I shall look up both of the books you mentioned, especially the post WW2 one, as you know that's the era I like to read and write about.

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  5. It is important to think about branding, especially when you self-publish. Your covers need to reflect a similar look even though they are different. Readers do then tend to pick up on the branding in the cover and it does help sales, I believe.

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    1. Yes, Elizabeth. I'm very influenced by covers. The article on branding from 'The Creative Penn' I mentioned on the blog was in fact written with self-publishing in mind.

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  6. The meetings sound fun.

    I'm not sure I have a brand, unless you count purple?

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  7. How interesting. I hadn't thought of a writer's 'brand' as covering themes within the writing. How interesting - and so obvious when you think about it. What I love about the books you have written, Jan, as well as the social history aspect, which is something that fascinates me, is the choice of Mediterranean setting - I do admire a writer who can whisk you away to another place. One book that I love for this reason (among other reasons) is The Italian House by Teresa Crane, which ought to come with a sticker attached warning you that if you read it, you will want to sell all your possessions and go to live in Tuscany(!)

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I bought ‘The Italian House’ on your recommendation and loved it. The fact that it was set in Tuscany was an added bonus. 🙂

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