Friday, March 12, 2010

Building my brand, one crude joke at a time

I’ve been blogging for exactly six weeks. That makes me a relative newbie, so I’m hardly the person to speak with authority on blogging.

Of course, being unqualified to speak with authority doesn’t mean I won’t do it – I just thought I should establish my ignorance up front in case you’ve mistaken me for someone who knows something.

My agent prodded me for months to join the social media circus, but I was leery about donning my clown costume until I’d done some research. Though I tend to prefer research that allows me to poke dead bodies or simulate awkward copulation with my husband on the bathroom counter, this required a different sort of research.

I’ve worked in marketing and corporate communications for over a decade, so I knew I needed to use social media to build my brand. I read books like Shel Isreal’s TWITTERVILLE and Joel Comm’s TWITTER POWER. I pored over hundreds of blogs, making notes about what worked and what didn’t. I vowed to have a clear link between my website, my blog, and my and Twitter presence, and not to start blogging until I had a list of at least 50 potential topics.

I also vowed not to use that list more than once a week. I wanted it to be a crutch for occasional brain-dead mornings, rather than an excuse to avoid coming up with fresh, off-the-cuff ideas.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may be scratching your head right now. “You mean there’s a point to this blog? A strategy? A reason you’ve been blogging about eyebrow waxing, dog doo, scrotums, lost tampons, and recipes from Playboy?”

Believe it or not, there is.

Because if you’re the sort of person who chuckled at any of those blog posts, there’s a good chance you’ll like my books.

If your sense of humor is a bit more – well, normal, then you probably won’t become president of my nonexistent fan club. And how great is it that we can all figure that out now, rather than 17 months from now when you’re reading my debut novel and muttering, “I don’t get it, why would she use a pair of thong panties as an eye patch for a pirate costume?”

(Answer: because it’s kind of funny. And sexy, in an offbeat way).

Six years ago when Harlequin/Silhouette introduced the Bombshell line of women’s action/adventure novels, the books were wildly different from anything else they’d been publishing. There were explosions and kick-ass women who killed people, and endings that often had no commitment beyond the hero and heroine agreeing not to kill each other.

These were not traditional category romance novels – but someone forgot to tell the readers.

The line was canceled in less than two years (a month before my scheduled publication date, not that I’m bitter). Was it because the books were bad? I don’t think so. But I do think Harlequin did a crappy job with branding. They failed to let readers know what to expect.

The Bombshell books looked like traditional category romance novels. They were marketed like traditional category romance novels, and they sat on the shelves next to all the other Harlequin/Silhouette titles. Can we really blame readers for expecting traditional category romance, and being disappointed when that wasn’t what they got?

Though I had no control over the Bombshell situation, I do have some control now. I have 17 months before Sourcebooks, Inc. releases my first romantic comedy, so I’m doing my damndest to make sure readers know what to expect from me.

This blog is my voice – it’s my brand. I like quirky humor, risqué love scenes, and stories in which normal is nice, but weird is wonderful.

If that’s not your cup of tea, no sweat.

But if you like what you see here, then I’m hoping you’ll like my books. And in the meantime, I’m hoping you’ll keep coming to my blog for more.

(Heh-heh – I said coming. Snort!)

17 comments :

KAK said...

Thong panties as an eye patch? Yeah, yeah I'm going to buy the book just to know how that scene unfolds.

...but you can keep the sweaty tea.

Karla Nellenbach said...

Dude, you so make me laugh, and even though I'm not huge on romance, if they have a great plot and are humorous, I am all over them. I'm sure I'll like your books just as much as I like your blog!

PS...since I'm pretty busy as treasurer of Matt the Cat's fan club (what with his penchant for theivery and all) I'm sorry to say that I cannot spearhead the movement to get your fan club up and running. Please forgive me...please? :(

Cynthia Reese said...

Tawna, as usual, you put me to ever-lovin' shame. See, you're so organized, and I'm so NOT. (And believe me, gentle readers, YOU WILL LIKE TAWNA'S BOOKS. Buy them, early and often!)

Linda G. said...

When you put your mind to something, you sure do it right. If your blog is a reflection of what I can expect when I finally get read your books, well, I'll be first in line at the bookstore when they come out. :)

dirtywhitecandy said...

Tawna, you've hit on a fundamental truth of blogging. You connect with people who follow you because they love your voice and the crazy things in your head. Or the crazy lil thongs on your head... Go girl!

Tawna Fenske said...

KAK, I'm rather fond of the thong eye patch scene myself! And I laughed out loud at your comment re: sweaty tea. I thought it sounded awkward when I wrote it like that, and then thought -- "perfect! I made a gross joke and didn't even mean to!"

Karla, one of my big goals with these books is to try to hook readers who don't generally like romance, so you sound just perfect! And Matt the Cat wants to thank you for all your hard work as his treasurer.

Cynthia, a big welcome to my lovely critique partner -- one of the few people here who actually HAS read the thong eye patch scene! Thanks so much for the book love. Back atcha, sistah!

Linda G, in that case, I take back what I tweeted earlier about not reading your books because of the scary needle stuff. But, um, maybe you could warn me beforehand which pages mention needles?! :)

dirtywhitecandy, love your name, BTW! And I totally cracked up at the "things in your head/thongs on your head" line. Snort!

Tawna

kristina said...

I just spent the last hour or so ignoring my 3 yo (go play some more video games, dear) to read your blog from its inception. (I "found" you on 3/2 so some was just a review.)

I figure I am either now a stalker or your mother (um, not really obviously).

Seriously, you made me laugh. Not sure what caused our paths to intersect, but I sure am happier now that they have.

*mind is now whirling about ways to get you as a guest reader for my comedy group....'Cause I'm sure hanging with my Stand-up Sistas is a sure-fire way of increasing your branding, no really*

Linda G. said...

Oh, the needle stuff is only one little scene, all over in a paragraph or two. And even if you don't like needles, I think you'd enjoy my mc's...um, opinion...of the person wielding the hypodermic. Colorful phrases come easily to her in times of stress. ;)

Tawna Fenske said...

kristina, wow! You must've had some time on your hands. I'm pretty sure my mom hasn't even read all my blog posts. I'm flattered! :)

Linda G, well OK then, but if I see needles, I'm going to beat you up. That's after I've thrown up on your carpet. I do enjoy colorful phrases, so maybe it would all be worth it.

Tawna

Xuxana said...

Hi Tawna! I hope you get this comment, because I've been looking for a blog contest to enter you into. And here it is: http://www.completelynovel.com/author-blog-awards

I think your blog is ace and you should definitely win this award, so I've nominated you. Get on over to that website and grab the vote button for your blog. If you want to that is ;)

Hope you don't mind me nominating you, but I really think your blog is so funny and wonderful!

Xuxana said...

Oh and I wanted to nominate Linda G. as well, but I'm not sure how many people I can nominate. Will check it out in a minute ;)

Yours and Linda's blogs are my absolute faves!

Claire Dawn said...

My best friend once used a thong panty as a MJ-style mask :)

I think I'm going to LOVE your book. I can't wait :D

Linda G. said...

Tawna--okay, I cannot abide throw-up on my carpet, so you are getting a special copy of my book, one which I have painstakingly gone over every page and blacked out the word "needle." Or perhaps I will white it out, and write in a less fear-inducing word. Like "daisy." You have no problem with people getting stuck with daisies, do you?

Xusana--aw, you are so sweet. Thanks for liking my blog too. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Xuxana, thanks so much for the very cool award nomination! Will go check it out right now! I agree, Linda G's blog is also the cat's meow.

Claire Dawn, I would so love to see a photo of your friend wearing a thong as a MJ-style mask. That sounds priceless!

Linda G, being poked with daisies sounds delightful! In all seriousness, in addition to my needle phobia I also can't handle books in which animals are hurt, maimed, killed, or sad. A friend insisted I'd really like THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, but I just couldn't get through all the sad doggie parts. My friend finally went through with sticky-notes and covered up all the sections she thought would upset me. I still couldn't handle the book (I know, I know, I'm a weenie) but I did appreciate the effort!

Tawna

Linda G. said...

Tawna, I'm with you on the animal thing. I was seriously traumatized by reading Old Yeller as a child, and haven't been able to read anything in that vein since. Rest assured, no animals were harmed during the making of my book. :) Now, a few @ssholes get their comeuppance, but I don't count them as "animals," no matter their behavior.

Melanie Sherman said...

Tawna, I'm so looking forward to going to one of your book signings. You will be doing one over here on "the rainy side" won't you? And do you think you can bring a bathroom counter with you to show how you did your research? :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Linda G, I'm only protective of animals -- feel free to hurt as many a**holes as you like!

Melanie, I'm sure I'll end up doing signings on "the rainy side" of the state, since you have lots more potential book-buyers over there! I will indeed bring a bathroom counter as a prop, though I can't guarantee my husband won't hide under it.

Tawna