Just because an article is targeted at a different demographic doesn't mean you can't learn something from them.
To that end, here's an interesting little article on positioning an in-house design team as a "Vendor of Choice." It's something that's a little on my mind. But, it has a little discussion about "Branding" the internal team. And her main points for doing that are:
- Part of the Corporate Culture
- Lower Costs than Outside Agencies
- Experts in Company’s Brand and Messaging
- Proven Performance Metrics
- Demonstrated Success
- The Intangibles (trust, partnership, commitment, close involvement)
Notice there is no discussion about internal logos, t-shirts, mugs, or any of that other crap. There is nothing about "product." Sure, all those things affect the "product" (or are effected by the product) but it isn't the product itself.
So when I hear writers talking about "brand" and they think that's their book, I have to internally sigh. No, the book is your product. Your brand is your reputation. That's a simplified word for it. What are you known for? If it's your book you're in for a world of hurt. If it's because of the entertainment people get from your book your in a much better position. If your brand is that people trust you to take them someplace blindfolded because they know it's going to be an entertaining ride and they're in good hands, then you've got something.
And yes, there's a nice corollary to being taken for a ride blindfolded and picking up a new book. In each case you need to trust the person driving. Building that trust, letting people become comfortable with you, letting them know you know what you're doing, all of that builds your brand.
Once you understand that part, then we can talk about how you build your brand. And that comes down to some other simple rules; exposure, consistency, reliability, and readiness. Most people understand the first part of that, but don't realize those other three parts need to be in place before that first one will have any effect.
To give an example. When I read American Gods I could tell I was in the hands of a story teller. (Spoiler Alert) When he killed the Shadow three fourths of the way through the book I nearly threw the book away. Nearly. By that time I had come to trust Neil Gaiman to drive. So I continued reading through my frowny faces. And you know what, by the end of that book I knew I would read whatever Neil wrote. I could trust him. He doesn't disappoint. That's his brand. Hell, I read The Graveyard Book which is specifically not targeted to my demographic. All because I know he's going to give me a good time. That's Neil's brand.
Same with Steven Brust. In his Vlad Taltos series, by the time (spoiler alert) Cawti leaves and Vlad goes into the wilderness, I would still continue to read his books even through that turn of the story seriously pissed me off. And Vlad's stories get deeper and more fun since that point.