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Marketing | Branding

It’s a somewhat icky concept to artists but it’s an important aspect to marketing so you might as well know about it. Branding is what it probably sounds like. It is building and keeping a brand image.

For writers this means you need to be consistent in what you produce, how you behave, and use a pen name for different styles.

Let me explain.

First lets build an imaginary brand. J. Square has a website about ducks. He blogs about ducks. He tweets about ducks and his books are about ducks. Then one day he decides to write about the history of television. But people go to J. Square books to read about ducks. That is what they expect. That is what they are looking for. He needs to create a separate “brand” for his history books.

There is an important lesson to be had about your approach to the brand elements. You need a website if you want to sell books, preferably before you even submit to an agent. But if the focus of your website is too narrow or doesn’t cover what you write about you will have problems.

You need to focus yes, but think of it more as a theme than a topic. You want to give yourself room to be flexible. The same is true for blogs and twitter and like it or not those are useful tools for authors these days. Now tweets are somewhat easier, so long as you don’t lock yourself in to a style, you can be much more individual and creative with what you say in 140 characters.

That said. There are a lot of approaches to twitter and one of them is to develop a voice. I think it is utter crap but it is probably highly successful so I’m not going to knock it that much.

One thing you can do is develop a range of the kind of things you tweet about. That is much more my style and I recommend it over the alternative.

Personally I tweet and blog about whatever I like. I’m stubborn that way.

How you behave is just as important. Yes you can have off days, but if you want a certain draw to your book tours then it’s best to have a certain style - intimate readings, question and answer oriented, what have you. (your agent can tell you more) This can change, yes. We grow, we build, we evolve. Neil Gaimon talks are a lot different now than in the nineties when I first saw him. Of course now it takes a lottery to get in to his events so it's somewhat understandable.

But you get the general idea. Once you build a name people have expectations. You’re an artist, sure you can blow them out of the water if you change. But do you remember what happened when the guys in Metallica cut their hair and shifted their style? A shit-fest. They wanted to move into something else and the fans, typically, wanted more of the same.

I don’t recommend staying stagnant and strongly believe it is important to explore and grow. Just be prepared for some ramifications if you go in a new direction.

As for the pen name, if you write in different genres I highly recommend using different variations of your name a la Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb. That way people know where to go in the bookstore and you have a better chance of readers stumbling onto your work. No need to be shy about it though. Just because you're under a different name doesn't mean you need to hide who you really are. (I'm looking at you Chris Gaines)

But what if you are self published? Same story. You can build your website to accommodate all your genres but you should still identify your different works with different author variations unless your name is Stephen King. As it is likely not, you had better get used to the idea of branding.

I know, yuck right? Publishing isn’t for sissies that is for sure. But nothing about art is easy so it’s no surprise there.


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