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March 2016
The Creating A Brand Issue

Sandra Murphy, Editor
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in this issue:
  Ask the Book Doctor
Branding, Brand Names, and Trademarks

Writing Contests, Resources, and Conferences

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Editor’s Note by Sandra Murphy

Branding is a word we hear a lot about, but what does it really mean and how do you do it? Bobbie Christmas has branded herself as the Book Doctor and gives an explanation of how it works for her. Chris Santella, author of the Fifty Places books, tells how he chose the idea and made it work and how he’s had success with it. One important step was to treat his writing as a business. What will be your brand?

What would you like to learn? See more of or less? Feedback is essential so send a note to and let me know.

Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews , 
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The SPAWN website is found at To the left are the icons that link to all our social media profiles. You don’t have to be a member of SPAWN to participate on our Facebook page. It’s a good way to keep in touch with other industry members. After all, SPAWN is small publishers, artists, and writers network.

Ask the Book Doctor about Branding, Brand Names, and Trademarks

by Bobbie Christmas
Q: At a recent writers’ conference, the word “branding” kept being thrown around. Am I behind the times? What does branding mean, when it comes to writing books?

A: First let me define the word “brand.” I liked the following shortened definition from, the best: “A brand is a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and marketed. Branding is the process of creating and disseminating the brand name.”

How does branding apply to writers? Branding helps writers gain followers and readers. Branding helps writers draw attention to themselves as well as their books. Branding may also show how a book fits into a specific niche. Branding is a subject so broad, however, that entire books have been written on it. I can tell you only about the things I’ve done to brand myself and add some of the ideas I’ve seen other writers use.

My editing company is Zebra Communications, so I customized my white car with zebra stripes and drove that car for twenty-four years, until it could go no farther. People could spot me, wherever I went. Although the car is gone, I still have a photo of it on my Zebra Communications Facebook page. Anyway, I studied more about branding oneself and learned that one way is to create a moniker, something people will remember.

Think of some of the monikers you automatically recall. The first that comes to my mind is Dear Abby. Most people quickly recall the name of Abigail VanBuren, the advice-column writer, but few knew her real name was Pauline Phillips. A current well-known moniker (or writer’s brand) is The Queen of Clean. Who can remember the columnist’s actual name, Linda Cobb? Who cares? If I look up Queen of Clean, I can quickly find her on the Internet.

 Read more of this answer and other Q&A...
Note to Readers: Write In Style, Bobbie Christmas’s book on how to use any computer to improve your writing, is available in either printed or e-book versions. See or  

Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas, book editor and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions quickly. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at
Feature Story

My Path to Publishing—Creating a Brand

by Chris Santella

In 1989, a close friend and I had a notion for a golf book that would highlight fifty of the best public courses in America. We wrote a detailed proposal, and somehow secured a reputable agent…or so we thought. The project went nowhere, and our agent finally informed us that no one was interested in such a book. Two years later, while perusing golf books in a local bookstore, I came across a title on public golf courses. In the acknowledgements, the author thanked his agent, who happened to be our agent, for the great idea!
Though slightly embittered by this initial setback, I continued to nurse the notion of one day writing a book. I tried to understand why my former agent couldn’t sell the proposal with my name on it, and realized that it probably had a great deal to do with my credentials…or lack thereof. So although the next book notion had not surfaced yet, I worked hard at getting published, thinking that good clips would be money in the bank when I sat down to pen the next book proposal. There were countless rejections, but I kept pitching, and eventually there were some small successes. 

By this time, I had moved west. Proximity in northern California¾and later in Oregon¾to great fly-fishing opportunities renewed my interest in this pastime. I fished a good deal in my spare time and read fly-fishing magazines. I thought I could write at least as well as some of the authors I read, so I began submitting pieces to these publications. They were accepted. I also wrote some fly-fishing-oriented pieces for general-interest publications. These were especially enjoyable to write, as they gave me the chance to introduce a newcomer to something I loved. 

I enjoy writing about fly fishing, but after a few years of doing pieces for sporting magazines and the odd in-flight piece on the topic, I realized that there was an opportunity cost that I hadn’t considered: all the time I was writing fishing articles that paid modestly at best, I could be hunting down work from commercial clients (I’m an independent marketing consultant) to better support my family. I decided that if I were to continue devoting time to fishing and writing, I would need to make more money to justify my time, and that the best way to do so would be to publish a book. 

Chris Santella lives in Portland, Oregon. For a list of the many incarnations of the Fifty Places books, go to:

Chris's writing has appeared in the New York Times, Trout, Atlantic Salmon Journal, Gray's Sporting Journal, American Lawyer, Travel and Leisure, Golf, San Jose Mercury News and Fly Rod & Reel, among many other publications. He is a founding member of
, a network of golf and travel writing. Chris is also a member of Portland-based Catch & Release, a four-piece rock band. He holds an MBA from Yale University, and a BA in English from Middlebury College.
SPAWN is here to help your career and celebrate your successes. Please send any information on awards, new publishing deals, major speaking appearances, etc.
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The Northeast Texas Writers Organization hosts the Jory Sherman Short Story Contest. Deadline is March 31, 2016. Word count should be between 1,000 and 2,500 words. Find the rules and prizes here:!2016-writing-contest/cnit
Each entry is read by three judges—enclose a SASE for a critique of your story. The story should be original and never published. Entry fee is $10.

Whether a professional writer, a part-time freelancer, or a self-starting student, here’s the chance to enter the premier competition exclusively for self-published books. Writer’s Digest hosts the 24th annual self-published competition–the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. This self-published competition, co-sponsored by Book Marketing Works, LLC, spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.
Deadline is April 1, 2016.

The 2016 Al Blanchard Award Contest, sponsored by the New England Crime Bake Committee, is now open. The prize consists of a $100 in cash, publication in Windward, Level Best Books’ fourteenth short crime fiction anthology, free admission to the Crime Bake Conference, and a handsome plaque. The winner is not required to attend the conference.

Story must be a crime story by a New England author or with a New England setting for non-NE authors, previously unpublished (in print or electronically, including author websites), no more than 5,000 words in length, and may include the following genres: mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, and horror (no torture/killing of children or animals).

There is a limit of two stories per author, and the judges will consider previous submissions, provided they have not been published in the meantime and they have only been submitted ONCE before. The same story or stories may also be submitted to Level Best Books. However, this is a separate submission process; for their guidelines, visit

There is no entry fee for the contest, which has a deadline of midnight, April 30, 2016. For instructions on how to submit, visit
For contests already announced, check out:
for more awards and contests.
Mark your calendars¾the Midwest Writers Workshop is July 21-23 this year, at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. More than forty-five different instructional sessions with top-quality faculty are offered during the three-day program, on everything from fiction to nonfiction to marketing to ways to get the creative juices flowing. Thursday focuses on genre-specific intensive sessions. Friday and Saturday are packed with sessions on the craft of writing and the business of writing.


Writers’ Police Academy is back! Registration begins February 14 and available spots fill up fast. Location: Appleton, Wisconsin.
This is a fabulous resource for crime and mystery writers. Panels to be announced soon.

Curious about creative non-fiction? Here’s a short list of conferences focused on just that.

• Stories from the Heart in Austin, Texas, April 15-17,

• Creative Nonfiction magazine, May 27-29

• River Teeth, June 3-5, Ashland, Ohio

• HippoCamp, from Hippocampus Magazine, August 12-14, Lancaster,

• Personal historians, October 23-27, Fort Worth Texas,


The 22nd Annual Cat Writers’ Association Conference events–seminars, book signing, editor/agent appointments, and more will be combined with the 2016 BlogPaws Conference June 23-25, 2016. CWA members receive the same “blogger” and “small business” rate, which entitles you to attend any of the exciting sessions/events, whether hosted by CWA, by BlogPaws, or by both. Conference is in Chandler, Arizona.
Rhonda Rees, veteran public-relations expert and author, recently won the Publicist of the Year Award from Bulldog Reporter, the PR industry's most recognized trade journal, as part of the Stars of PR competition. Her entry focused on the little-known subject of online book piracy, which impacts numerous unsuspecting authors. Rees's global public-relations-awareness campaign has helped to bring more attention to the issue, and has shed light on this costly and growing problem. She also won Publicist of the Year by the Book Publicists of Southern California organization, the IRWIN Award (Industry Recognition of Writers in the News), and used her title as a platform to bring more awareness to this same issue of online book piracy.  
For further information contact Rhonda Rees Public Relations Company: Website:
SPAWNews is copy edited by Bonnie Myhrum
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