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A brand is an idea in the mind of the consumer whose power lies in the ability to influence purchasing decisions.
The key point is the power to influence. An Author Brand can only influence if people are aware of its existence. You must present the same Author Brand each time or they won't recognize your Author Brand as you (see last week's blog, Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law 19: Law of Consistency).
But what if the Author Brand you've been promoting isn't working? You want to change it, right? Today I'll discuss when, why and how it becomes worth the risk of violating Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law 19 by changing your Author Brand. Click through the jump-break to learn more.
Law of Change
There used to be an old saying, even made into a song lyric: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don't think that quaint old saying is still going around as much as it used to 30 years ago (let alone 100 years ago) but it's still as relevant as ever. Despite social media tools connecting people and the immediacy of smartphone sharing apps, people are still the same underneath. People gravitate towards what they know and are apprehensive of the unknown.
This is the basic logic behind Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) 20: Law of Change: Brands can be changed, but not often and only if done carefully. In fact, there are three--and only three--reasons for changing your Author Brand.
1) WHEN TO CHANGE: Your Author Brand is weak or non-existent in your readers' minds.
Your Author Brand exists inside the reader's mind as they cruise a bookstore and decide what to buy. You may not realize you have a position inside the customer's mind--and it might not be one you created or want to hold!--but you have one. If your position is merely an inoccuous speck, lumped together with the masses under the generic idea of "books I don't know anything about and won't risk buying," then your branding efforts definitely aren't working. It's probably time for a change in marketing strategy.
In addition to your position, your books need to be easy to find (discoverable). If your books are neither easy to find nor your Author Brand holding a position of precedence in the customer's mind, then your Author Brand is not working at all. It's definitely time to make a change--but carefully, in a controlled fashion. You still need to be you.
If you change your Author Brand because you believe it is weak or unknown, be sure to choose a new branding concept that will be easy for the "over-simplified mind" to understand and one that will be original, unique, and most importantly, you. Your individuality is your greatest attribute (Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law 14: Law of Attributes).
2) WHY TO CHANGE: You Want to Change Your Product's Perception
Maybe you want to move down the food chain of the product ladder. Yep, you read that right. There are times when you want to permanently lower the pricing position of your brand in a customer's mind. Maybe you want to make yourself known as a 99c Author who puts out a new 99c "book" each month. In this case, your marketing strategy will be to recoup unit-cost losses by increasing the volume of your sales overall. If you're someone who can turn out 99c work (forex, short stories) quickly and easily, you might find this a good strategy. If you sell enough copies, at a low price, you can make up or exceed the net profit of a few copies at a higher price.
Writing short stories is not the only way to enter the 99c market. Maybe you're serializing a full-length novel. Maybe you love to write flash fiction (under 1200 words). Maybe you just want to get your name out there with short, easy to produce samples of your Author Voice so that readers will be "lead" into buying your full-length novels.
There are several reasons why an Indie Author would want to move down the price ladder of Digital Publishing. If you do this after you've established yourself as a full-length novelist, customers will feel like they're getting a bargain by buying one of your Brand's books for only 99c but remember, going in the other direction--moving up the price ladder after being "known" as a 99c author--is much harder if not completely impossible.
Don't move down the price ladder unless you intend to stay there. Remember from Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law 3 and Law 4 (Law of the Mind and Law of Perception), it is extremely difficult to change a customer's mind once it's made up. The Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law 20 is talking about changing your Author Brand, not changing the customer's mind.
3) HOW TO CHANGE: The Change Will Take Place Slowly, Over An Extended Period of Time
This is one reason for changing a branding strategy which applies to widget-makers but not to our Indie Author business. For us, if we try to change our Author Brand over a long period of time, we are likely to lose some of our devoted fans. For us, our readers will buy our products, repeatedly, if and only if we consistently deliver the same Satisfying Reader Experience each and every time.
You are ill-advised to change your style or voice under the single Author Name. Instead, unique to our industry, is the vehicle called pen names. You can experiment or "find your voice" under a new pen name if you feel the urge to do so. Don't risk changing--even "over time"--because the beauty of Digital Publishing is that your books will never go "out of print." New customers will "discover" you long after you've written and released the first book. Maybe after you've died! If you want to keep selling books beyond the initial startup flurry, keep turning out the same type of Satisfying Reader Experience with each and every book. If you determine your style or voice has begun to drift towards an altered state, spawn a new pen name. It's free, it's easy, it takes only as long as you need to think one up.
What works in a slow-moving field like high-end automobiles won't work for a fast-moving field like Digital Publishing. There's not enough time in the world for a customer to "forget" what an eBook is like if it's still on sale under the same Author Brand Name that is trying to effect the change. Instead, create a Sibling Brand (not a Subbrand), or create a new "line" of books in a new genre. Don't create a line extension across genres; that tactic will kill both the original and the new Author Brand!
Next week's Monday Marketing will look at Immutable Law of Branding (for Indie Authors) Law 21: Mortality. No brand lives forever; sometimes killing your brand yourself is the quickest and least-painful option for a brand that isn't working for you.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will explain how to calculate the price and production time required for turning out a new book.