Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Your Brand Is Just As Important As Your Books

Authors are full of odd beliefs, and quaint ideas. Perhaps the oddest belief I've personally come across, though, is the idea that their work exists in a kind of white space, separate and apart from who they are, and the life they live. This notion that your art will be judged entirely apart from you as its creator is, frankly put, ludicrous. All you need to do is to look at any artist in the world, and ask if who they were wasn't taken into consideration when examining their art.

"If you set his politics aside, though, the book isn't too bad."
You are an integral part of your book's success. Or, at least, the persona you create for yourself as the writer is.

Brand Management and Book Sales

We tend to think of a brand as something for shopping malls, or chain restaurants, but we never realize that as authors we are also our own business. As such, our brand is a combination of our reputation, our unique imagery, our niche, and all the things the public associates with us. Take a moment, and think of some businesses out there. Now ask what their carefully-crafted brand is supposed to say to you. Chances are you thought of things like Wal-Mart being a friendly store that has everything you need, or McDonald's giving you an affordable meal exactly the way you want it. But brand is more than just your commercials, your uniforms, and your reputation. It's also your actions, your attitude, and what you choose to show people.

Case in point.
Wendy's, for those who don't know, is a fast food place that sells burgers. A little pricier than McDonald's and Burger King, its brand was based on old-fashioned quality and taste. But thanks to social media, it scored serious brand points by also being snarky at other businesses in a way that got them attention in a good way. Seen as clever and amusing, they gained followers (and one presumes sold more burgers as a result of the hijinks).

What does that have to do with books? Well, ask Orson Scott Card.

If you don't know who Card is, he was the author of Ender's Game, as well as other popular novels. However, he is also a person who has espoused extremely negative views of homosexuality, and those views are on record (things like how being gay is a direct result of child abuse, for instance). Whether that was intentional or not, those views have become part of his brand as an author. Hence why lots of readers have turned away from him as a creator, and why boycotts of his work (and movies based on his work) tend to spring up.

Remember that. Because your brand is about more than your color scheme, your genre, your name (or pen name), and what's on your business card. It's also about the tone you take in public, how you comport yourself, and what you go on the record saying. For good, or for ill.

Your Reputation Follows You

Your brand isn't something you can just walk away from. It follows you, and every time you take to social media, publish an article, or put out another book, that brand is being added to. Which is why it pays to sit a spell, and actually think about what side of you the public should see. Do you want to be seen as a writer of a particular genre? Do  you want to come across as cooky and unusual? Mysterious and withdrawn? Or do you want to seem friendly and approachable to encourage more people to follow your work?

Good artwork helps. Especially if it's instantly identifiable.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. Hopefully it catches people's attention, and gets you thinking about how you look from your reader's perspective. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and to stay on top of all my releases follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support me and my work, Buy Me a Ko-Fi or drop a few quarters onto The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. My eternal gratitude, as well as a free book, shall shortly follow.

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