So many of us reinvent ourselves in the New Year, so we're asking authors who are rebranding themselves - through choice or necessity - how they go about a writerly reinvention.
As part of our special PHS Rebranding Edition, Zuri Day is talking about honing your author voice as a way of maintaining your brand...
Once upon a time, authors could establish themselves in a genre, and with a publisher, and live happily ever after for the rest of their lives, with national publicity tours and six-figure advances. Those days are gone. Today’s over-saturated market and unlimited access to five-hundred page books selling for ninety-nine cents requires creativity, diversity and outside-of-the-box thinking if an author wants to keep writing full-time, or for some, keep writing at all.
Authors performing this feat often take on the look of the Chinese nine-phoenix, a mythical bird with nine heads that was worshipped by Hubei Province natives in the kingdom of Chu. Each head symbolizes a genre, pseudo, persona or more. Not you? Alrighty, then. I’ll share my story.
The traditional publishing world was still sane when I entered it in 2007. By then I’d been a full-time creative artist for years—actor, producer, director, radio personality, and at the time I submitted my contemporary fiction debut—managing editor and senior writer for a lifestyle magazine. Little did I know at the time how much that multi-talent/tasking ability I brought into the literary game would serve me in the coming years.
Two years into life as a contemporary fiction author, my editor asked if I could write romance. I’d read tons of them so my answer was “sure!” The journey from that uneducated answer to becoming Zuri Day is a whole other story. Let’s just say it involved books on writing romance, lots of Google and joining groups like RWA.
Early on, I created a brand for Zuri. Hot, rich guys (except for my Blue Collar Lovers series where readers get to fantasize about amazing men who could actually be met in everyday life), and smart, powerful women placed in middle-to-upper-class settings tackling real life issues. That model has served me well, whether writing for Kensington’s Dafina line or Harlequin’s Kimani line, and will continue as I introduce an uber-wealthy family in the billionaire-driven Desire line in 2019.
Why? Several reasons. One, readers get used to an author’s “voice.” It’s why NYT authors with huge followings choose to use a pseudo when changing genres or styles, so as not to cause confusion. Two, it encourages the reader to follow the author instead of the line, knowing that the voice and writing style they’ve come to know and love will be there no matter the line’s perimeters. Three, it allows the author to keep those satisfied readers while growing and diversifying the fan base, a necessity in today’s literary climate.
Keeping readers across different lines is especially important when expanding into different romance lines is the goal. At the end of the day, all romance readers are still looking for the satisfaction that comes from the genre’s basic romance recipe: boy meets girl (hero/heroine attraction plus internal conflict), boy loses girl (internal/external conflict), boy finds girl again (conflict resolution through page-turning action), happily ever after (if it’s not a happy ending, it’s not a romance).
So what’s my advice for becoming the best nine-phoenix ever, with multiple pseudos in several genres? Develop a brand that binds and then…to thine own brand be true. If it’s a well-written, creative, page-turning one, readers will follow you.
Zuri's latest release, Decadent Desire, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.