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 name. As 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Even though I am unpublished, there appears to be a common theme of identity running through the two novels I have written.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.