Last week I talked about how the second you put yourself out in the tinterweb, you're pretty much branding yourself. I gave a list of pointers on what to do or not (like don't represent yourself with pictures of dead armadillos).
I wanted to expand on this topic because Tahereh asked what I thought of Maureen Johnson's branding manifesto, on which she got 254 comments (as of this writing) all saying "Yes I love you and agree with you." (In fairness, I would have said that too.) To sum up the post, Maureen was passionate that social media for authors is a two-way conversation, and not about one person selling a book to another. And in this, she is absolutely right.
What is brand, again?
Maureen's example in her discussion was a woman at a conference who insisted that we all brand ourselves and sell, sell, sell. The woman is incorrect that this is what a brand is for. I suspect the woman doesn't quite know what a brand is, because she missed the boat on the online interaction that is so crucial to our world now. And also because she emphasized that you need to get out and sell or die. Branding is actually a set of consistent visual cues that define a certain sensibility for a person, company, or product.
If that is too rigid, think of this: a brand is a set of colors, or a logo, or a certain way of writing, or a habit that embodies you or your message. By this definition, branding isn't really related to sell sell sell, although it can be. Or you can use it to represent yourself. Maureen said that a brand is a package of yourself so that consumers know what to buy. This is true, but that limits the definition to purchasing.
Riiigght, so what does branding mean to authors?
It means that when you present yourself professionally and consistently, or in a way that embodies who you are, you're branding yourself. And my whole point in this discussion was that the second you step on the tinterweb and start pressing send on things, you're branding yourself because you're sending out representative material.
And if you're a writer aspiring to be published, you'll probably want to make sure you don't come across as a nut case. If you're already published, you'll probably want to convey what you write through color, fonts, and the style of your posts. (Psssst. That's a brand.) And guess what: your brand also includes how much you make yourself accessible to readers or others reaching out to you.
So let's see some examples.
Maureen's brand, as far as I can tell, is her iconic picture that she uses on Twitter. And a certain way of writing her tweets, including putting us into a jar. And while book covers will change between editions and print runs, her book covers are currently all consistent in the font they use-- a scripty type that fits in with YA. Coolio. I think Allison Winn Scotch's brand is wrapped up a consistent set of colors used throughout her communications: aqua and brown, and has also consistently been clear about wanting to help out aspiring authors through her blog. I think Tawna Fenske, quite apart from her high-quality monkey toes brand, has branded herself as a purveyor of humor by the type of posts she writes on her blog, and the effort she puts into amusing us on a regular basis through those posts. It wasn't a surprise to learn that she writes humorous romance.
What's my brand? Cripes. As far as I have tried, it's the visuals of the red scheme, my red photocopied-esque picture, and my font in my name up there. As far as I have tried with content, it's clear, concise information (I try) with lots of white space and headings. Since I write what I like to think of as humorous women's fiction, I hope my posts are somewhat funny (as in, laughing with me, right?). I'll stop there, because if I say I'm funny, then I fear coming across as someone with a very high opinion of herself. Or else a saddo who thinks herself is funny when no one else does.
Does it work? In the above cases, yes. In my case, um...I haven't got any books to sell yet, so only time will tell. If I ask you if you would buy my book based on what's on this blog, then you would be forced to say yes, and my head would be cleared for lift-off again.
Andddddd....why do we care again?
I did point out in my prior post that having a color scheme or a logo or a catch phrase might not be important for you. And you don't have to have those things. It's okay to have an ambiguous brand. Again, so long as you're consistent, and professional. People get along just fine without full branding guideline manuals. But you should, in my opinion, think about the way you come across to others and behave accordingly. That, to me, is the essence of branding.
I'd like to continue this discussion. What are your thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree?