The Book Marketing Tip for October 14, 2012:
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Position yourself as the writer you really are.
The business of novels is a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry. And in entertainment industries, consumers look up to the stars. Celebrities earn the lion’s share of the market, while newcomers and has-beens earn next to nothing.
A “celebrity” is merely someone who is a famous brand. Agents and publishers are constantly advising writers to make a brand of their name or their characters, towards the path of celebrity-hood.
But what exactly is a “branded name”? Is it simply a matter of creating a logo, adapting a zany behavior, or hosting a television talk show?
Not really. It’s much simpler than that, and many authors will be relieved to learn it doesn’t require making any changes.
Branding a product is often described as “giving a product a personality.” Coca-ColaTM is old-timey Americana. HasbroTM is family fun night. DisneyTM is magical.
Giving a product a personality requires a lot of thought and imagination. How do you make a telephone seem “smart”? What makes a car seem “playful”? And please, when did car insurance become “funny” in a dry British-wit way?
People are different.
Movie stars brand themselves by the roles they take. Harrison Ford is a tough man of adventure. Drew Barrymore is an innocent instilled with a strong sense of right and wrong. Brad Pitt is a devil-may-care opportunist. Johnny Depp is just plain weird, in a children’s picture-book kind of way.
Authors don’t wear makeup or costumes, however. Their personality is in the style of their writing, their characters and genre and plotting.
In an attempt to wear a brand, many authors worry about what they should appear to be. They stress over what to call themselves as their pen name. They stress over what author’s style they should imitate. They ponder, and twitch, and sigh a lot.
There’s no reason. The brand, please remember, is nothing more than a personality for a brand. Why would you try to imprint a new personality on a writer, when they already have a personality?
Unlike other products, where marketers are trying to infuse the feeling of a personality onto a product that inherently has no specific personality, an author is born with a unique personality.
To succeed, authors need to be branded. All of their writing, their marketing, their communications and appearance should reinforce their brand. This allows readers to remember that author over a long career. It is an indispensable tool for building a platform.
Authors who try to adapt a new personality for the purpose of branding invariably fail. When they accept themselves for what they are, they can easily put that personality into everything, especially their style of writing.
Brand yourself for what you already are. Let everyone know what you stand for, what you like to write about, how you like to pursue the end to your novel. Make your writing and your public image uniquely you. Let your writing be true to you, and your readers will always remember you and your work.
When you brand yourself like this, there is an added advantage. You will carry your brand wherever you go. You will never slip up and let your brand down. You won’t have the stress of trying to be something you’re not, and you will never seem phoney.
And trust me, readers know when you are being phoney.
Branding yourself as “you” is not as easy as it would seem. Like one’s accent or body language, one is rarely aware of one’s actual personality. It may take some surveys of people who don’t mind telling you the truth about yourself: the good, the bad and the weird. But once you have a handle on the brand you already have, sharing that in your writing and marketing is fairly straightforward.
What is your branding? What do you stand for?
Recommended reading: Why Writers Dread Self-Promotion