Author branding has become a necessity, along with developing a platform and having a favorable online presence. If you want to make it as a writer, you must apparently become your own brand. It works with musicians, movie stars and reality TV phenomena, and it works with journalists and bloggers too, people who write stuff too.
Hell, other writers have branded themselves and made millions, right? Think of King, Patterson, Steel, Koontz, Grisham, Rowling and Meyer. What they have in common, if not their writing style, is the fact that they are brands. Their names alone sell millions. They must be doing something right, right? But what?
However annoying it is, we live in a business world. We put up a product for sale and want people to recognize and trust the source so they buy and read our books. Writing is an industry, and as a professional writer you need to sell, preferably before you even produce, just like in real-estate. If you know what you’re doing, smart marketing will help you to be known and sell your work, it’ll help you be someone. But if you’ve got no clue what you’re doing and just pop up all over the place trying to sell yourself without a plan or a good product, you’re not going anywhere.
But what exactly does it mean to brand yourself as a writer? Do you now have to commit to a stereotype and trim your life to fit into it, lest you should step out of character and lose credibility? And what the hell does building a platform mean? I know having an online presence doesn’t mean chatting with your friends 4 hours a day and playing Farmville, but what sort of presence do you need?
It’s easy to drown in the torrent of self-branding tips that floods the internet, and given the immense volume of absolute and utter crap that’s floating online, it’s no wonder most aspiring young writers misunderstand branding for bragging.
Branding doesn’t mean uploading pictures of yourself everywhere and tweeting links to your blog every five minutes. It doesn’t mean talking about yourself in third person or posting meaningless comments all over other people’s blogs just to leave your hyperlinked signature behind like a trail of horse hockey. Branding also doesn’t mean adopting a fake style or using an artificial voice just to draw attention to yourself in forums, and it doesn’t mean swearing like a drunk sailor and bashing others to make yourself look tough.
But what is it then?
Kyle Lacy & Erik Deckers give a very simple explanation to self-branding in their book, Branding Yourself:
A brand is an emotional response to the image or name of a particular company, product, or person. Branding yourself means that you create the right kind of emotional response you want people to have when they hear your name, see you online, or meet you in person. Self-promotion is not bragging or boasting. It’s just letting people know who you are and what you do.
The important factor that separates branding from bragging is understanding yourself—knowing your true passion, your strengths and your weaknesses—and owning up to who you are. Be the best you that you can be at this time, without going overboard and trying to build yourself a statue. Be natural. Know what you love and share it.
Lacy & Deckers phrase it like this: “Ask yourself: What do I want to be known for? What qualities do I want people to associate with me? What is the first thing I want to have pop in their head when they hear my name?”
In a very interesting post, Larry Brooks, the mind behind StoryFix, says that branding “forces us to choose, to navigate reality”, to decide who we are writing for and why.
If we’re writing for ourselves, for the pleasure of the journey and the creative process, then the outcome takes second place and we shouldn’t have to worry about being consistent and truthful to our public persona. But if we’re writing for others, if we’re aiming at, or already have, a professional writing career and are being paid by others for the fruit of our work, then we need to take responsibility of our image and trim the way we come across.
Discover your passion. Be bold about it. Tell your own story.
But be honest to yourself and others. As Larry puts it, “writing is life itself, not an analogy for life. It’s a transparent Petrie dish within which we live it… exposed.”
This blog post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2012