Are You Branding or Bragging?

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

Published by Veronica Sicoe

Science Fiction Author — I deliver the aliens.

30 thoughts on “Are You Branding or Bragging?

    1. Thanks Jessica! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you’re apparently supposed to do when you “go public” with your writing, but as long as you’re true to yourself, you’ll be fine. 🙂


    1. That’s true, Tara. Blogging helps to network, meet fellow writers and learn a thing or two about yourself in the process. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. This is a great post! Thank you! I’ve been trying to brand myself as the “death writer” for about a year now. If anything, my friends always send me links to interesting stories that are related to death.


    1. Interesting brand, and tricky to hit right. Seems you’re doing a neat job so far, though. Thanks for visiting and good luck, Pamela! 😉


  2. I appreciate your blog, and I plan on returning to this blog and following you on Facebook. You’re correct about branding, but I also think authors get yelled at enough. We’re doing the best we can, and at some point, I tune out the chatter and just do my thing. I look for my readers, and when I find them, I’ve done something right – even if it’s messy.


    1. Thank you, Jolie!

      Doing one’s thing is one of the most important aspects of being a writer. I know it’s hard to listen to your own voice with all the noise out there, but I think that hardens people up. The writing & publishing industry is no different than any other industry, it’s not a walk in the park, and the sooner you learn to filter out the things that are useful to you, the better. I find that a sobering lecture goes a lot longer way than ten wishy-washy tip-toey pieces of “friendly” advice. Besides, why learn from your own mistakes if you can learn from someone else’s?

      Thanks a lot for visiting and commenting (and following me on Twitter)! Wish you the best with The M Series!


  3. Great B-word!

    Twitter is becoming an annoyance, as many writers I’m following or follow me consistently sell themselves. Or they copy and past “meaningful” quotes and inject a little infomercial on their self-published book ever 10 or so posts. Yuck.

    The ones I feel are more successful are the ones that bring some real value to their blogging or tweeting. They write about relevant and helpful stuff (like your blog) and even entertain. That’s when I take it upon my self to explore whatever projects they’re working on. I don’t need their achievements shoved into my face for me to appreciate them.


    1. Thanks, Jay! Twitter’s supposed to be a huge chatroom, but it’s misused as a bulletin board.

      Indeed, the most interesting and compelling bloggers (and tweeps) out there are those who engage in conversations and provide something useful that’s *not* about themselves. Thanks for including me in that category *blush*, though I’m still learning every day! It’s a thousand times more fun figuring out useful things to say instead of saying “me” a thousands times over. 😉


  4. Awesome post! I even just emailed it to a friend of mine who was struggling with this very thing… I think for most of us it’s hard to “promote” ourselves because any level of it feels like bragging, and because we’re uncomfortable, we either don’t do it, or we over do and then we “are” bragging, so it helps to remember that we can just be ourselves and talk about what we love.


    1. Thanks, Anna! It’s great to hear my post could be of use! *beams*

      Being a beginner is natural, we’re always beginners at one thing or another any given time. What matters is that we keep an open mind and outgrow ourselves, that we take the step from awkward bragging to unreserved and implicit branding while we go about doing what we’re passionate about.


  5. This is great post and you’ve nailed it spot on. There’s a big difference between branding oneself and bragging about oneself. Unfortunately not everyone get its right the first few times that they try to brand themselves; and you’ve clarified how to and how not to go about it.

    Creating ‘Brand YOU’ is about being yourself, creating an online presence, creating some ‘noise’ with others in the big bad world of social media, doing the rounds whether it is a book signing / book reading, or attending relevant social events where your presence will be noticed. Brand YOU comes about with the right combination of networking within your social circles, your peer groups and the industry circle – ‘cos at the end of the day – it really is a small world and you never know who might know that publisher who’s gonna be publishing your book 🙂

    (sorry for going on – I’m passionate about the subject hehe)


    1. You’re absolutely right, Dazediva. Your public (online) persona is best built through the way you interact with others, through what you appreciate and what you give. Networking and supporting others is as much a gesture of sociability and solidarity as it is a way to find your own place and trust your voice.

      Please feel free to comment and rant to your heart’s desire, it’s great to discuss these things! 🙂


  6. Sorry for saying this, but I’m glad I’m not a writer, as in writing a book. I’m just a random blogger, lol. I know that is a writer in a sense, but it’s not my life’s work.

    But i have to say this is some really great advice here, I’m definitely tweeting your post 🙂


    1. Thanks, Millie! I’m glad you found my post useful! Blogging includes a lot more writing than “normal” people ever get to do, so you’re a lot closer to understanding what being a writer feels like than most others. 😉


    1. Hey, I noticed that too, hahaha! 😀 I was making little happy dances in my mind (glad no one can see those, I look like a crazy squirrel on a hot plate).


  7. Soooo true!! Great post!! I blogged privately for a while before I went public and actually started sharing it. Once I shared, I was overwhelmed with all the “to do” stuff, that I backed off for a while. I didn’t want to get stuck in the ‘this is what it should be, should look like, should sound like’ mumbojumbo to the point that I lost the originality and genuine intent and purpose behind the blog. Thanks for encouraging individuality and honestly!


    1. Thanks for dropping in, Falen! You should never try to be someone else than you are, there’s neither peace nor fulfillment in that. 🙂


  8. That’s a good thing to remind people of. I know this one guy that spent all of his time complaining and complaining. Blah blah blah everything sucks blah blah blah. Then he got a publisher, and it’s all me me me. He alternates between talking bad about other people and praising himself. It’s pretty disgusting.

    Oh, I found you through a to z.


    1. Thanks, Andrew! There are indeed far too many disillusioned writers who complain and talk others down, especially successful writers (for whatever psychological reason they might actually have), much like spoiled kids, and don’t realize it only damages them.


  9. Hi Vero – I know I missed a couple of your A-Z posts, so I’m scooting around and catching up.

    I think Twitter is the most abused channel with regards to bragging. I’ll admit to unfollowing Tweeters who do nothing but post one-ended conversations with links to their “free” or “99 cent special” ebook. Once in awhile is okay… but not every two minutes (as they pre-scheduled).

    I’d say branding is about relationship building. It’s also about listening to the audience you hope to engage. 🙂


  10. Absolutely agree when it comes to Twitter.
    Also true: branding is more about being natural and creating relationships, than it is about pushing products.

    Thanks for browsing through the older post too, Tracy!


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