Friday, March 7, 2014

Establishing a Brand

From first word to final publication (Part 6)

It’s not a question of whether you have or don’t have a brand – it’s whether or not you do anything to define it.  Your brand is nothing more or less than the perception people have of your books – their quality, the types of stories you write, your style, etc.

It may or may not be a conscious choice, but for most writers, their name is their brand.  My work isn’t about me, though.  It’s about what I write.  So I needed a label to suit the stories themselves – which is how Outpost Stories came to be, an overall name for what I’m writing.  A brand.

There are a number of reasons for my using that specific phrase ‘outpost stories’ – but they can all be summed up in the definition of an outpost as a ‘refuge, a haven of civilization in the midst of a barbaric or hostile environment’.  It’s the title for this blog/website, and it’s the imprint for the distribution of my books.  But it’s more than just words.

While having the right name is important, it’s also important to have an identifying mark, a logo.  Since I’m not an artist or designer, I knew I wanted to keep the logo for Outpost Stories simple, straightforward, and minimalist (like my covers.)  And what could be simpler than the letters ‘OS’ – in the same Accord Heavy SF font I use for the titles on those book covers.

That alone might be a little too stark, though.  Thankfully I realized something quite interesting – a commonality between my two series (not of my design.)

The FURC community that’s the setting for the Slowpocalypse series is surrounded by an octagonal wall, which is surrounded by a circular security fence.  And in the Watchbearers books, the time-travel devices they use look like digital watches – specifically, circular cases with octagonal faces.

Realizing that shared visual element of the stories gave me the rest of what I needed for the logo.  I put the letters ‘OS’ inside an octagon and that inside a circle – resulting in a simple design that ties the stories together with the same motif.

I have a basic black and white version for where that’s required, but I also have series specific versions – for the back covers of the books themselves and this website.  For Slowpocalypse, the circle is gray for the fence and the octagon is brown for the wall.  For Watchbearers, the circle is a hash mark pattern for the watch and the octagon has red sections (which you’ll understand if you’ve read the book.)

But the name and the logo aren’t the brand, they’re the focus around which what my stories are about and what these books are like can crystalize.  Everything then becomes a part of the identity people associate with Outpost Stories – the way I write and the kinds of stories I tell, the look of the book covers and the layout of the text, what the books cost and what people think they’re worth, and what readers get out of them.

And after all this, the task of helping readers discover my books remains.

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