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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Help Me Build My Brand


The people have spoken! I offer you a poll to help me choose my brand name. 

What made the list are ideas from girls and women ages 15 through 50. Two boys also contributed, ages 11 and 15. Thanks to everyone for great submissions. 

Image found here
If you’re going to self-publish, it helps to have a brand. Genre authors (mystery, romance, sci fi, etc.) have the luxury of a recognizable type--a guarantee regarding content and style--but as an author of hybrid works (literary and commercial), I’ve got to find ways to communicate the personality, essence, and passion behind my books.

I want the audience to know what it might get from my next book. I want my work to stand out from the crowd and be discoverable. I want to have a say over the perceptions of my work. Most importantly, I want readers to feel my words connect with their life experiences, concerns, and joys—that through my writing, I know them, and they know me. I want girls and women ages 15 and up to feel their voices heard when they read my books. Empowered, positive, inspired: a brand they can trust. I want the brand name to communicate strength, positivity, and intelligence. I don’t want to deter or alienate boys and men; that said, when I look at my books, I realize I have a niche and it will help readers to know what it is.

Before you vote, here are some points to consider:

I like to write about teen girls who are scary smart and pretty weird. I like to tell tales of their social misadventures with popular beauty queens who don’t take kindly to quirky, nerdy, and wise. I like to break all these stereotypes in the course of the story and leave the audience believing that each character is very, very human. I have one book finished about wise Wendy and two in the hopper about MENSA Minerva and academic Alastrine. Look below to learn about each of them.

Below the synopses, you will find comments from various respondents who contributed to the poll names. They might sway your final vote.

Wendy in HOW WENDY REDBIRD DANCING SURVIVED THE DARK AGES OF NOUGHT

At 16, Wendy Redbird Dancing flies her freak flag high; she’s a precociously smart white girl with a hippie mom, a missing father, and a rabid Michael Jackson obsession. And it doesn’t help that Sunny, her mother, just uprooted them yet again, this time from California to North Carolina. It’s May 2009, and now Wendy has to survive a new school’s exams, track Sunny as she hunts men, and fight off bullies like Deanna Faire, a mean Taylor Swift who rules this Southern roost. But one girl reaches out—Tanay, the only black girl in AP class—and she and Wendy forge a friendship to help Wendy defy Deanna. And Sunny’s new boyfriend turns out not to be the usual sleaze but instead, a charming and attractive guy. Shaye Tann brings peace to the household by taking Wendy under his wing. As he gains her trust, a crush ignites, and her confidence soars. When Shaye makes sexual advances, Wendy is flattered and confused. When Shaye rapes her, Wendy goes underground. Michael Jackson—St. Michael when he dies on June 25, 2009—is now the only one she can trust.
Minerva:

Minerva, a nerd girl ready to become an ace investigative reporter, uses the power of her pen and its propaganda to get ninth grade girls thinking boys want chaste girls. Girls start choosing celibacy as a way of life when they realize they are happier, healthier, and safer without the threat of sex too early. In the process of manipulating others, Minerva discovers her own sexuality and how much she has tricked herself.

Alastrine: (note, this is a genre novel with dystopian themes)

It’s 2077 and America has loosened up. Sex is fine, whether you’re a teen or an adult, as long as you don’t get pregnant; do it with whomever, whenever, and however many times. Just make sure you have the Freedom Ring implanted, girls. The seven dirty words are allowed on every TV station, all hours, and everyone can drink anytime when alcoholism can be deterred by a pill. In other words, the Kardashians have won. As wildly free as it sounds, life is managed by high-security cameras, body scans, and government intervention—led by a fascist Founder Party that keeps citizens well fed and compliant. Girls with naturally good genes, no assembly required—the Naturals—are fodder for this dominant political party that keeps the trains running, the rich richer, and teenage girls groomed to become First Ladies, part of a Presidential harem. 16 year-old Alastrine Bantam may be a leggy blonde Natural who doesn’t need modifications like almost every girl she knows, but she hates her celebrity status. She prefers staying home studying history to standing dumbly on a pedestal of beauty. She has not had sex like most girls, and it’s a terrible, embarrassing secret she hides quite well. She still harbors a hope she can somehow hide and avoid the inevitable future of political stardom due a Natural. But that pipe dream is exposed the day she learns a terrible secret from her best friend, Seagramme…

Knowing what you know about my stories, what should the name of the series be?

Other Ideas:

A writing colleague suggested that the titles be specific to the storyline: that each begin with a HOW (insert character title) DID SOMETHING... A series that has a formula for its titles might aid in the recognition and discoverability factor. She said, "focus less on the series and more on the book at hand. You could have a title that could be used for later books with a subtitle then.  I was thinking of 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' which was the first book in the series. The rest of the books have that title along with another title."

Former students suggested the following: "Since your target audience is probably pretty intelligent, I don't think they'll be drawn in by creative spellings of 'girls.' 'Nerd'...might be past its prime, or it never really got there. 'Geek' is the cool thing to be now.  On the other hand, 'nerd' is broader in its connotations than 'geek.' Geeks, I think, tend to be more game/fantasy/electronics focused. Nerds just have a thing they really, really like. Just a thought.  I'd also try and avoid anything that sounds like it was written by a well-intended adult; loving your inner nerd sounds kind of preachy.  Could you focus more on a specific character trait of these girls?  When I think of Wendy, I think of resilience."

A friend and fellow writer wrote, "Grrlz is cool. Feminist connotations. Gorilla Grrlz."

Other ideas that didn’t make it into the poll:
  • The Girls Outside
  • Precocious and Proud
  • Smarty Skirts
  • Overachievers
If you don’t like any of the poll choices, please do leave a comment. Bring on the ideas!

Thank you for your time. Crowd sourcing makes me a wiser woman!


18 comments:

DF said...

I like Gifted Girls because I think Geek and Nerd are now becoming overused. Gifted can mean a lot of things besides academically gifted. So that could be a versatile choice.

Anonymous said...

I would think you'd want your audience to reach beyond girls who are comfortable identifying themselves as nerdy/geeky. You want all girls to reach for your books! So maybe something like "Cheeky Chics: It's Cool to be Clever" or "Clever and Cool: How Brave Girls Rearrange the World" Just brainstorming!

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Thanks for these thoughts. I do like Gifted, but some are telling me it might be elitist or exclusionary? Not sure I buy that, but, all ideas are on the table this moment.

I like these other submissions, Anon. "How Brave Girls Rearrange the World" is unique! My characters are indeed brave.

I will say that the whole idea behind branding is about finding a niche, that slice of audience that is suited to the stories, so it's going to be somewhat exclusive (membership in a certain group). The challenge is not to be exclusionary...which I understand as "meaning to exclude," the whole purpose being keeping people out.

"Gifted" in its truest sense is 3% of our population, whereas bright/smart is much larger.

All good things to get me thinking.

Lyn

Bob Mustin said...

I sort of like something a little out of format: The World of Nerdy Grrls. It has assonance and alliteration and seems vaguely naughty.

josie said...

I like Geek Chic: (because?) it's cool to be clever or Geek Chic: words for the wise (without the girls)

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Bob, I like adding "world" because we authors do that, make new worlds.

Josie, I like leaving out "girls" because that builds on Anon's point of not limiting your reach in your name, if possible.

So much good stuff to think about. Thanks!

Lyn

Terri said...

I like the tag line "because my smart girl story matters". I think most smart girls know somewhere in their inner being that this is true, but how great to have it validated via great fiction.

Allison said...

I really like the "words to the wise" line because it fits without sounding like it's trying to hard. Misspelling "girls" or trying to use "cool" in the same phrase with "nerd" or "geek" sounds a bit like those pamphlets you get at a counselor's office - "It's cool to stay in school! :D" or something along those cheesy lines.

I also suggest the phrase "Intellectual Badassery," more to introduce a new train of thought than as a serious suggestion. If you want to keep it cleaner that's awesome, but I feel like that's a tag line that really would attract smart girls seeking empowerment/confidence.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Thanks, Terri and Allison. The message I want to communicate for sure is that intelligent, nerdy women have stories to share. "Intellectual badassery" is supremely awesome. Minerva may very well use that phrase in the next chapter I write! :-)

Lyn

Maureen said...

I haven't voted yet, but let me see if I can sum up my thoughts: I still find misspelling "girls" to be distasteful, and the word "girl" just worries me in general. But mostly because you want this title to be catchy, and it's a weird word that could be two syllables or one depending on the way you speak and that's dangerous if you need a catchy rhythm. For that reason, I kind of like Geek Chic, but the fashion connotations are a bit much for me. I just really like rhyming, though, so maybe you shouldn't listen to me at all.

"Nerd Rules" is also simple, but possibly misleading? Maybe, since I like rhyming so much, "Nerd Words." These characters all seem like nerds. "How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Naught: A Nerd's Words" (I don't know, maybe THAT is too ridiculous and cutesy. This is what happens when you write a terrible sonnet but your iambic pentameter is almost perfect.)

Anyway. I'm just going to stop now, because clearly I can't actually summarize things.

Maureen said...

It didn't stick in my mind, but looking again, I kind of like "The Girls Outside." Brings to mind The Outsiders which everyone has read but without names like Ponyboy. And I think it allows more for your dystopian entries in the collection than the rest do. Since dystopian fiction is all about nonconformity a lot of the time. I vote for THAT one.

I'm really done this time.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Thanks for the vote, Maureen. A Nerd's Words resonates with me, as does The Girls Outside. Grrlz and other misspellings have classic feminist connotations but few people seem to be picking up on them, and so if people aren't feeling empowered reading that, I wonder if I should steer clear.

I'm also thinking about The Girls Outside: Gifted. Weird. Wise. I'm all for the connotations of "the weird sisters"--witchy women empowered by spiritual strength. And my characters are mighty weird, I tend to think. :-)

Again, thanks for helping out!

Maureen said...

I think I prefer "Girls Outside" over "Grrlz" (etc.) because it seems that it's referring to your characters, whereas a lot of the other titles seem to be speaking to your readers. I think you would rather say, "I have written an awesome book about cool people that you should read!" than "I have written an awesome book FOR YOU (but oddly enough also for thousands of other people)." But it is also clearly for readers who consider themselves outside, as well. And with "grrlz" as also kind of a cultural reference, it just doesn't seem to suit any dystopias you may have planned. (I am all for dystopias, in case you couldn't tell.)

writemuch said...

what about Geek Chic: Brave New Girls

Anonymous said...

I like the so and so did blank formula because I LOVE your Wendy title!

Bobbie said...

Everyone wants their story to matter - so I like that tagline best. I suggest tweaking it to: "Why My Smart Girl Story Matters." Also like, with a tweak: "Words to/from Wise Girls." I'm partial to Geek - so Geek Chic or Geek Style or Geek Chicks or Geek Girls. (I'd caution that non-standard spelling runs the risk of becoming dated.) You're dialing it in - good luck!

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Thank you! I have much to mull over...Right now I'm thinking that many of these good suggestions can be page titles on the various parts of my new website, too.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to further another's comment:
Geek Chic: A Brave New Girl