Souping Up the Brand

October 23, 2019

from HL Carpenter

Tomato, tomahto, what’s in a name? In the case of fruit, a name may not matter much.

In the case of authors, a name can make quite a difference. Why? According to one successful author, the difference between writing generally and writing for a living is branding. 

Image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay

A brand, or name, author is one who provides prestige or reliable profits to a publishing house. For example, consider whether you ask for the latest novel by Nora Roberts or John Grisham by the title of the book or if you simply mention the author’s name. Most likely, the author’s name comes to mind first and you may not even remember the title of the book. That’s the power of a brand author.

Now let’s talk money. During 2010 and 2011, the successful brand author we mentioned in the second paragraph spent 10-15 weeks per year writing. For those two years, the Internal Revenue Service said she owed an additional $155,931 and $110,670, respectively, in self-employment taxes on her royalties. Yes, you read that correctly. She was required to pay more in self-employment taxes than many writers earn. And no, we didn’t make those numbers up or peek at her tax returns. The figures come directly from a court case, where she was required to tell the truth. We’re not mentioning her name, but you can look it up.

How did this author turn herself into a brand? According to the court transcript, when she decided to become a writer, she set out in a businesslike fashion to obtain stationery, a reputable agent, and a contract with a New York publishing house. She succeeded in working with a media coach and publishers to develop her name and likeness into a successful brand. In addition to writing, she spends time meeting with publishers, agents, media contacts, and others to protect and further her status as a brand author.

One final point: Branding doesn’t mean the writing has to be good. According to an expert in the publishing industry who testified in the court case on behalf of the author, the actual writing of a manuscript is a small percentage of the value a publisher seeks from an author. An author’s work may sell on the basis of the author’s name and readers’ expectations for a particular kind of story, rather than for the quality of the writing.

Tomato, tomahto? Name the fruit whatever you like. But make your author name a brand.

Simply Soupier Crockpot Tomato Soup

1 box (26.4 oz) finely chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place tomatoes, sugar, garlic salt, garlic, and black pepper in crockpot. Stir to mix.

Cook on high setting for 2 hours, or low setting for 4 hours.

Stir in cream until smooth.

Let stand 5 minutes for hot soup or cool to serve at room temperature.

While you’re slurping your soup (or is that just us?), we invite you to enjoy an excerpt from our mystery, Murder by the Books.

A letter from beyond the grave brings accountant Fae Childers face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

Then the fortune-telling grandmother Fae never knew existed, whose name and psychic abilities she now learns are also hers, issues a challenge from beyond the grave—a challenge that brings Fae face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.
When the mystery of Fae’s past collides with the troubles of her present, the situation veers out of control. Her very life is threatened. Who can she trust? The man she’s falling in love with? The former fiancé who has already betrayed her once? Or only herself?

With justice, romance, and her future at stake, Fae must overcome personal and professional obstacles to save herself and those she loves. And she’s going to have to do it fast, before someone else dies.

EXCERPT
The letter arrived on the last Thursday in April, two weeks to the day after I got fired from the accounting firm where I worked for the past decade. August Palmer, my landlord, hand-delivered the letter in person, saying, “The mail carrier stuck this in my box by mistake, Fae.”

I took the envelope without bothering to look at it and glanced past Gus, at the patch of brilliant cloudless blue sky framing his shoulders.

Tampa, Florida on the cusp of summer, full of birdsong and the scent of warming pavement.

“Beautiful morning,” I said, as if I cared.

“Afternoon,” Gus said, his voice a low rumbly growl, the product of too many cigarettes and whiskeys in his happily misspent youth. He stood outside the tiny apartment my mother and I rented from him for the past two years and eyed me. “Still mopin’, girl?”

He had shown up on my doorstep every day since the firing with the same question.

Adhering to our new routine, I answered the same way I always did, except this time I didn’t bother pasting on a fake smile to accompany the words.

“Nope. Not my style.”

“‘Scuse me.” His tone was as dry as the month he was named for. “Forgot you’ve been hidin’ in the apartment, tap dancing with glee.”

I met his gaze. “For hours at a time. Any complaints about the noise?”

He clicked a nicotine pellet against tobacco stained teeth and kept his silence. I regretted my sarcasm. In my forbidden childhood game of describing people in colors, I would have painted Gus early-morning-yellow, the shade of the summer sun before the friendly sheltering coolness of night gave way to the brutal heat of day.

The description would have horrified him.

“How are the treatments going?”

He grunted. “They tell me I ain’t gonna croak this week.”

“Glad to hear it. You might want to keep your distance from me, though. I’m jinxed.”

Gus shook his head. “You gotta get over them fools, girl.”

“That’s no way to talk about my former bosses.” Especially since I looked at the real fool in the mirror each morning. I had believed dedication, loyalty, and hard work were appreciated by the partners of Slezia + Fyne, CPA, PA.

Ha, ha.

“Anyway, I am over them. Way over.”

“Yeah?” He was not convinced. “You over the suit, too?”

“Sure am.” Once again, I stuck with our new routine and gave him the same answer I always did. “I have moved on.”

Once again, the lie carried the bitter taste of betrayal. The suit was Scott Piper, former co-worker, fiancé, and man of my dreams. The suit dumped me the day of the firing.

Gus snorted. “Funny how much movin’ on resembles standing around feeling sorry for yourself.”

In my opinion, wallowing in self-pity was marginally more mature than throwing a temper tantrum. Even if it hadn’t been, I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum. I barely had the energy to maintain my half of the daily conversation with Gus.

“Have you been watching that big bald guy on television again?”

He stuck out his chin. “Don’t get smart. You know I’m right. You’re mopin’.”

“Only because I can’t tap dance.”

He was right. In the eight months since my mother’s death, I had slogged through an ever-darkening morass of the malady Gus called moping, and what his favorite celebrity psychologist might consider the early stages of depression. The firing and the accompanying fallout shoved me even closer to the edge of a black abyss.

My moping was self-absorbed, given the burdens others faced, but what could I say? One woman’s detour was another’s stop sign.

“You ought to call your girl pal, that one you worked with. What’s her name? Sarah? Have you heard from her?”

No. And I didn’t want to hear from her, much less call her.

I shook my head.

“Your ma would have been annoyed with you.”

A lump in my throat closed off my voice and I could only nod. He was right about that too. My irrepressible mother believed in taking the positive approach to life. To her, saying negative words or thinking negative thoughts was the same as asking them to come true. She had little patience for pity parties.

Focus on your strengths, Fae, and always keep moving.

My ability to follow her advice vanished with her death. I was slowly turning into the type of recluse the Japanese call hikikomori. Even the simple task of cleaning out Mom’s bedroom was beyond me.

“So? You gonna open the letter?” Gus asked.

I turned over the envelope in my hand.

Heavy, officious, dirty white, and mildly threatening, the envelope shrieked of the intimidation perfected by lawyers and the Internal Revenue Service and jolted me right out of my apathy. My breath hitched in my throat.

Had Gary Slezia and Richard Fyne gone back on their word? Had they decided to forego their distaste for publicity and press charges against me?

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Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happeni
ng in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, GoodReads,
and their Amazon Author Page.

Sloane said @ 12:55 am | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

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