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Platform: Branding by the Back Door

By Anne Goodwin

If there’s a demographic for the brand averse, I’m it. As a Brit of the baby-boomer generation, I’ve grown up in a culture that wrinkles its nose at any hint of self-promotion. I’ve felt personally affronted by the privatisation of public services, where passengers become customers and I daren’t even comment on the weather to the person delivering the latest batch of books to my door because, if they don’t complete their around in record time, the contract will go to another company. I’ve been professionally offended by the repeated rebranding of the NHS, leaching funds from patient care into headed paper and signage. Now retired, I’m still affected, as a volunteer for the national park, which has swapped its logo of a millstone with a circular hole in the middle to one with a square, and I’m expected to tramp the moors as a walking advertisement for the outdoor clothing company that’s our current sponsor. And yet.

And yet I’m a writer with small-press published books to promote. I understand an author needs a brand. But because I’m ambivalent, I approach it haphazardly, swinging between living with fingers-in-the-ears indifference to frantic clamouring to board the latest bandwagon – sometimes latest in the sense of newest, sometimes in a sense, it’s already left town – the blogosphere’s been hectoring me about.

And yet, as Charli has so kindly pointed out, I do have a brand. It might not shine and shout as strongly as some brands, I might struggle and blush to articulate it succinctly, but it does exist. And I’ve created it, both consciously and unconsciously, through being me, with all my clumsiness and contradictions. Committed branders should look elsewhere but, for the confused and reluctant, here are a few things I’ve learned.

You can develop your brand at your own pace. I set up my website almost ten years ago and didn’t begin blogging until it was starting to go out of fashion. In my back-to-front way, I joined Twitter a few months later, quaking in my bedroom slippers. Yet I’ve got somewhere.

Something is better than nothing, and you can’t do it all. Yay, you don’t have to be perfect! How many times a day do you have to remind yourself of that? Working meticulously through some version of ten-steps-to-branding might be the most efficient, but if that’s not you, don’t worry. But don’t let it stop you from doing the teeny-tiny bit you can do. Every little bit helps.

You don’t need a personality transplant, and you don’t need to sell your soul. Charli’s expertise in marketing for a non-profit organisation has helped me to see that a brand needn’t espouse the nastier tenets of late capitalism to thrive. Cooperation, compassion, and integrity can be part of a brand; Carrot Ranch providing the perfect object lesson in how these values translate into practice. You can choose how much of your everyday persona goes into your author brand, but you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. While confidence and eloquence are attractive, brashness can be off-putting, and even shrinking violets can sell their books.

Don’t sweat over how others do it. Shall I compare me to a better brander? Alas, there are myriad opportunities for seeing how we fall short. But, when everyone’s circumstances are different, isn’t this like comparing apples and oranges? Notice others’ success in order to celebrate with them, or learn from them, but turn away if it makes your own achievements seem shabby or small. Just because I’m better at giving this advice than following it doesn’t make it any less valid.

Are you a reluctant brander? What strategies have worked for you?

Rough Writer Anne Goodwin’s author brand encompasses grey hair and perhaps the only English accent Americans don’t find cute. Her writing explores identity, marginalisation, mental health, psychology, and attachment. She also has a pronounced intolerance for dodgy fictional therapists.

Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who seeks to resolve a relationship crisis by keeping a woman captive in a cellar, was published in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 80 published short stories. Her short story anthology, Becoming Someone, will be published in November 2018. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.


Platform is a guest blog to discuss ideas or share tips for building and marketing a writer’s platform.


  1. Ritu says:

    Anne, I totally sympathise with you on this.
    I find it hard to self-promote, create a logo and personal brand too…
    I feel our words and actions kinda create that for us.
    When my poetry book came out, I was just so happy to have a book in my hand, that had my name on it. I self published it via Createspace, and just did a little promoting on it.
    However, with my finally completed manuscript for my first ever novel, I may have to look differently at it…
    It’s the result of an 18-year labour of love.
    If I want to publish it, and I don’t go down the traditional publishing route, (which isn’t exactly easy to travel in itself) I will have to really create my brand more, as the success of that book lies in my hands!

    • Norah says:

      I wish you success with your book of poetry and your novel, Ritu, however you decide to publish it. 🙂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks for your support, Ritu. I’ll be interested to see what our expert Brendan Charli Mills has to say about it, but I think being a novelist who is already a poet is part of your brand, setting up reader expectations of a facility with language as well as storytelling. I hope that works for you.

      • Ritu says:

        Thanks Anne!
        Here’s hoping it works positively, in one way or another!
        I’d love Charli’s take on this too!

      • Annecdotist says:

        Yikes! That was supposed to read expert brander not Brendan. It must have been the excitement of so many comments on my post that let that one go through.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I’m fluent in typos and auto-corrects, Anne! I understood what you meant. 🙂

      • Annecdotist says:

        Ah, but did you spot “living with fingers-in-the-ears indifference” which was meant to be “humming with fingers-in-the-ears indifference” in the essay itself? A late addition that slipped through my proofing checks.

    • Charli Mills says:

      What you say is spot on, Ritu — “I feel our words and actions kinda create that for us.” That is what marketers call a brand experience! No matter how much or how little we develop a brand, our words and actions speak for us. Anne points out that your readers will already be familiar with your poetry and that sets a brand marker in place.

      You don’t have to have a logo as an author unless you plan to create an umbrella over your books and other related activities, such as workshops, community platforms, other non-literary creative works. Otherwise, You are the Brand.

      What makes branding difficult is…You are the Brand! This is the reluctance Anne writes about because many people don’t want that kind of self-promotion. But think of it this way, if you want to bring that 18-year-old labor of love to fruition and give it the attention you want, you have to stand by it as the Author.

      A good branding mindset is to think of Author as your profession. Think about how you are as a teacher. I’m sure you dress appropriately as a teacher, mind your words in the classroom, and keep an even tone no matter how your day might be going. That’s your Teacher Brand. When parents meet you, that’s a brand experience. It upholds the Teacher you want them to see and your brand builds professional credibility. So think of your Author Brand the same way.

      Promotions are something different. Branding is a part of platform building and promotions is a part of the platform marketing cycle. A strategic plan knits it all together. In fact, I believe that strategies (more than promotions) give an author an edge. Now, I’m going to be self-promoting a moment and say that I’m debuting a monthly e-newsletter subscription June 4 called Marketing Mavericks and it’s all about using strategy to build and market author platforms.

      The reason I enjoy branding and strategies is that I like to connect authentic brands to authentic audiences. So much in marketing is artificial and manipulative, no wonder we give it a bad rap. But real people living out real dreams can be successful. And shrinking violets can be a vibrant part of the marketplace, too!

      • Ritu says:

        Thank you Charli!
        So much great info to ponder upon there!
        I’ll definitely be interested in your newsletter, when it starts up!
        Brand – it’s almost like perception, isn’t it?
        We need to put out there, the image we wish to project…
        That of whatever type of author we wish to be known as, is that right?

      • Annecdotist says:

        Thanks for this detailed comment and clarification, Charli. I love your phrase “to authentic brands to authentic audiences”. What’s not to like?

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ritu, that’s exactly what branding is — the image of the author you wish to be known. Readers will develop perceptions of you as an author from what they see, read and interact. That meeting of perceptions is the brand experience. The more authentic you can be (without giving up your privacy) the more authentic that brand experience will be. You understand branding!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, good, Anne — I’m glad you can see what there is to like about branding!

  2. TanGental says:

    Ah Anne as ever how perceptive. You speak for a lot of us who enjoy the idea of our books being read and enjoyed (and yes the validation that comes with real strangers shelling out their hard earned on it) without the trappings of exposing ourself to those self same people in order to persuade them to open the self same book. But in its essence the brand seems to be about creating a little space in all the noise to allow our words out into the world to work their magic so why wouldn’t I want that? Like you, brand management smacks of soul retailing with Faust as the monopolistic buyer but really it’s just waving a little from the distance and asking if someone might be interested. And with the Carrot Ranch we get an audience who indulge us. It’s what we crave and it makes no demands on us beyond an expectation we will be polite enough to consider those others waving their 99 word flags at us.
    Maybe we can create a Reluctant Brandeers support group?

    • Norah says:

      Count me in with the Reluctant Branders support group. But better accept me now as I may be more reluctant in the morning. 🙂
      You’ve expressed a great addition to Anne’s original post, Geoff. We are waving, trying not to drown. 🙂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks for that lovely comment, Geoff. I like the idea of waving our little flags (especially as it’s extremely windy where I am at the moment) strung out among many others. People might be interested to discover more, or they might not, but are flags are still flapping, brightly coloured and patterned.
      And you have the Geoffle blogging brand which seems to me a lovely mixture of humour, history both general and personal, and a celebration of all things London.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Anne, you’ve nailed the beauty of Geoff’s brand. The Geoffle brand comes from brand experience — those who know Geoff through the Bloggers Bash and his blog, have aptly applied a fun and fitting moniker. Some corporations hate when the public takes ownership of a brand (for example, Whole Foods is known as Whole Paycheck because they are perceived as expensive). Yet, others like Starbucks, embrace their community and applied brands, having fun with sayings on cups. It shows that a brand experience becomes a real living dynamic similar t a relationship. It’s often how brands fail when they are created to be something they are not. Best to embrace what is authentic and approachable.

      • TanGental says:

        There and I’d not made the connection, thanks for that

      • Annecdotist says:

        Fascinating perspective, Charli. Isn’t that exactly what writers want, for readers to intuit the brand and reflect it back to us (when it’s positive at least)? I think it’s great that Geoff’s followers and colleagues at the Bloggers Bash have named his brand – although that can work both ways if we’re given a nasty nickname.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yes, as writers we want the engagement that comes with sharing a brand experience between author and readers. A negative connotation means we didn’t live up to our brand, or those responding negatively are simply not our target audience.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Geoff, that little space we want to carve out is our platform and our brand is the beacon. But when we join together in community, instead of having one stall at the bazaar, we present a bigger array of tents with like-minded sorts. A community platform like Carrot Ranch gives us all a bigger footprint, or perhaps a bigger flag to wave. And it’s much easier to say that we are part of something than to draw attention to ourselves. Now you know why I created Carrot Ranch — the Buckaroo Brand wanted a gang to promote rather than self-promotion. Deep down, I’m reluctant, too.

      June 4, I’m launching a subscription to a monthly e-newsletter and it includes a support group.

      • Norah says:

        I’ll be subscribing to your newsletter, Charli. It sounds great. And I’ve got lots to learn.

      • Annecdotist says:

        What a star you are, Charli, taking that reluctance and turning it into a vibrant and supportive community.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Anne, I didn’t want to be a star, but I wanted to shoot across the literary skies as one so I built a rocket to go in companionship with others. 😉

      • Charli Mills says:

        Norah, you’ve been a good live test subject, helping me figure out what to set up! You do branding, community, and credibility great and you keep my mind whirling with the target audience reach.

  3. […] Source: Platform: Branding by the Back Door […]

  4. Anne, I suffer in the same way having grown up being taught not to big note myself and to be seen not heard. I cringe myself when I see people selling themselves in a way I cannot bring myself to do but I recognise that it is a generational difference and perhaps it is a good thing that it is easier for those younger to point out their attributes to everyone.
    I feel I do have a brand but time has yet to pass to know how successful that branding may be.

    • Norah says:

      It looks like we’re all a little bit reluctant, Irene, but do what we can. Best wishes with your branding and success with your books.

    • floatinggold says:

      You definitely hit the nail on the head.
      I, too, was taught to not toot my own horn. I don’t like people to boast, so I don’t really do much of it myself.
      Today’s world is all about selling yourself. It’s because the Internet made it possible for so many people to be heard/ seen. Good luck to you.

    • Annecdotist says:

      I agree there is a generational difference, Irene. I heard the young woman on the radio yesterday talking about some of the photos she’d posted online being repurposed for a porn site. But that didn’t stop her from continuing to share parts of her (fairly ordinary) life. She didn’t actually use the term brand, but was clear she wasn’t going to be silenced.
      I also agree that you have a brand in your passion for memoir and looking back with a touch of humour on your adventures through life. Good luck with your book and I look forward to watching your brand develop further.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You have built a good solid platform Irene, including a brand that signals your work based on memories and creative writing. Your photos over the years have come to set an expectation, and even your flash fiction carries a signature readers can recognize. You’ve written about your memoir writing experience from several lenses from stories, photos, to academic. Time Past has set your brand as an authority on writing memories, as does your monthly post here. You are clear and consistent with your name and personal headshots, which makes your Author Brand easily recognizable. This will pay off when you publish your book because you will have a platform from which to market it.

  5. Your words resonate with me, Anne. I want to write and then sit back and enjoy an audience, but the self-promotion must go on if that is to happen. And that is tough. Small steps lead to bigger ones, I have found. And it’s essential not to compare.

    • Norah says:

      Small steps, tippy-toe steps, careful not to crush another’s toes. Careful not to don those too-big boots, but extra careful never, never to compare.
      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the audience just found us, rather than we have to play hide and seek with them? I’d like to just say, “I give up” and have them all show themselves! 🙂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Molly, and glad little by little is working for you. Your blog logo is very effective with the words reflected as if in water. I wonder how you developed that. Was it there right from the start?

      • No, I didn’t start out with this log. I first used a photo a friend took of shallow water at a lake. Then I got the program PicMonkey and started playing around with superimposing my own reflection on the water. Eventually I ended up with the current logo which I created on PicMonkey. I love this program and use it to edit the photos I use for the blog. Sometimes I edit free photos from Pixabay by adding overlays – most often my face peeking around something. And other times I edit my own photos I’ve taken.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Great to allow yourself to play around till you come up with an image that feels right for you. Just as we do with our writing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Many of us feel this way, Molly! Connecting with our target audience can be hard, but the stronger we can communicate our brand, the better target we make of it to attract readers. For example, it’s clear on your website that you are funny! Little steps are best, too because, as you say, they lead to bigger ones and they prepare us for what we can do next. I like what Anne says about comparison for learning and celebrating. You’ve built a clear brand that makes you approachable as an author.

      • Thank you, Charli. Initially my logo didn’t convey that my brand was humor, so I kept tweaking it until I had something that made it more obvious. There is nothing worse than writing a tongue in cheek essay and having people take it seriously! Your words are encouraging to me. I do feel that small steps add up and they are all I can do on any given day. I love the Carrot Ranch community. It has given me a new group of supportive friends, and little by little I’m getting to know people better.

      • Charli Mills says:

        It’s good that you are willing to tweak. That means you are paying attention to the brand experience, too. Although too much tweaking can confuse people! I once managed a brand and the biggest part of my job was keeping board members and the CEO from wanting to do random overhauls of the brand. It awesome to be master of your own! Humor is not easy to pull off, but you do it so well, Molly. I’m glad to get to know you better, too!

      • Thank you, Charli. I am at a point when I’d like to have a new wordpress theme, but can’t find the right one and would like a fresh, new look. But then someone told me today she liked my logo, so maybe I should be content and not worry about it. It is nice to have you appreciate the difficulty of humor – so many think it is easy and it gets the respect it deserves in the writing world. Your complement means a lot to me – you are such a great support and happy to have you as a new friend!

      • Annecdotist says:

        Oh, Charli, random overhauls of the brand is exactly what’s happened to public services in Britain over the last thirty years, especially in the NHS where ministers will insist on keeping meddling, but despite the constant attacks the public remains loyal to the brand.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Molly, there are ways to refresh a brand without making a shocking overhaul. Make a list of what you want to convey and look objectively at your current site. You might not need to do much. I used to do brand audits for co-ops across the nation, and the most important factors are these — is your brand consistent, does it communicate your values (your style of writing), and does it answer the public’s questions about who you are and what your business is? Co-ops were notorious for not caring about “image,” and they suffered a backlash when the sleek stores of Whole Foods came into the market. On one audit I took my then teenaged daughter with me. I noted things like cleanliness and well-stocked shelves, but when I asked her what she thought about the co-op versus the new Whole Foods, she wrinkled her nose and said the co-op was dirty. It wasn’t! But that lack of a cohesive look — multi-colored and handwritten signs, a hodge-podge of posters, no staff uniforms (or aprons), so designated interior design — it added up to a dirty look. Needless to say, that insight from a teenager changed a lot of minds and “cleaned up” a lot of brands.

        Your brand doesn’t need cleaning, but I think as you grow, you might want to explore specific WP themes that convey meaning to your target audience and expand your logo into a fuller brand board to guide the look of your online territory. Be strategic about it, and any changes or upgrades you make will feel like the growth of a garden opposed to the brand experience Anne is talking about with NHS where it’s startlingly different and does not convey new meaning and perhaps clouds the existing loyalties of the public. All because some board member was bored with the logo.

    • Norah says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation about your brand, Molly. It does reflect your humour well, and I don’t mean that in a shallow way.

  6. Norah says:

    Anne, this is a wonderful article that resonates with so many of us, as the other comments testify. Would that our audiences were ready-made and beat a path to our doors and that we could just get on with what we love most: writing. But it’s the audience that provides that extra purpose. We may selfishly wish to write for ourselves, but we are also generous souls and like nothing more than sharing our inspiring words with an appreciative audience. Branding and marketing is part of it. As a part of your branding, I see you as a consistently effective writer in whatever genre you choose – short story, flash fiction, novel, blog post and review (apologies if I’ve missed some). The high quality of your writing speaks volumes to me. Charli is showing us how the marketing can be achieved without losing our authenticity, and, as Geoff, explains, provides a platform on which we can hold each other up through the group’s promotional strength. Thank you for sharing your insecurities. You provide the vehicle through which we can share our own.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks for that generous endorsement of my “brand”, Norah, I’m very much enjoying the comments here. I might be mistaken, but aren’t you one who developed her brand before launching into blogging and your fabulous web resource for educators of young children? Would be interesting to hear more about that (are you listening, Charli?). Although of course I don’t think you imagined flash fiction becoming part of your brand. Testament to your flexibility and openness to new opportunities and experiences – definitely part of your brand. And your logo is perfect. Maybe I should have one.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Norah, Anne is right — you have a thoughtful, authentic and vibrant brand from logo to colors to materials. And I’d go as far as to say that your creative writing is a part of the Norah Colvin brand. From the beginning, you approached writing flash fiction with two brand elements in mind — Norah as Educator, and Norah as Child Whisperer. What I mean by the latter, is that you have an accurate lens for writing fiction from the point of view of a child. That is not a lens many writers own. So you teach us in your posts that frame your fiction and you further educate us by giving readers a child’s perspective. I know you’ve worried that some of your flashes were too simplistic, but I’ve always disagreed because I understood how well-matched such flash is to your brand.

        The most difficult part of building a platform is keeping that target audience in mind. Even the big publishing companies struggle with this and it’s why many “cheat” and sign on “known” authors. We’ve all heard about celebrities getting big book deals — that’s because they have an existing fan base. Even if they can’t write their own books (and have ghost writers) they are hailed as brilliant authors only because of their easy target audience. It’s the hardest road to build, but you will be served well once it gets the traffic because your brand is undeniable for everything you claim to offer. We will keep working different strategies and you will maintain that brand.

        Anne, Norah has further marketing materials that are beautiful, like a banner and brochure. And I think her educational materials are like a portfolio. She’s got a bold flag to wave. We just need to get her closer to the right shore.

      • Norah says:

        Brand? I love your Annec . . . brand. It’s so clever. I don’t know if you need a logo. Maybe you do, if you want one. I wonder what it would be. A book and a pen? No, something more imaginative, I’m sure.
        Thank you for your kind words about my brand. I did think of my web name and logo early on. I’m not sure if I’ve established my brand behind that well yet though. You’re right. When I set out, I hadn’t even heard of flash fiction but I enjoy its diversion and the contact it gives me with other writers of fiction. I like that you describe me as flexible and open to new opportunities and experiences. I try. More in my mind than my body. 🙂

      • Norah says:

        I can’t see where to respond to your generous comment, Charli. But thank you. Your support, and that of others in this community is what sustains me. I like the thought of being a child whisperer. I do try to capture the child inside. Maybe it’s because my child is trapped inside crying out to be heard.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Reflecting on this further along with Charli’s comments, I think part of your brand is also bridging the child and adult experiences. So I’m constantly surprised by your take on the prompts, but it works so well. But that in and out of different mindsets can be a heavy load to take on.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I love that you can still hear your inner child Norah, and perhaps that is what resonates with us — a connected adult.

  7. This is a fine and wise thread following a fine and wise essay. I am still confused as I thought the ranch had given up branding and gone to ear tags. The comments did make me think of this amusing little video.


    • Hahaha! 😂😂😂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Ha, ear tags would certainly be less painful than branding, although I think the badges Charli has created are gentler than either.
      Thanks for sharing the video. A useful reminder that there is such thing as an excess of entitlement. I wonder if there is an equivalent version of an author convinced the world should celebrate her books.

    • Charli Mills says:

      D., you can certainly wear the badges as ear tags! We’re old-fashioned and get up at 8 am to brand (ha, who am I kidding, I keep millennial hours).

      • Huh? No, I am still cornfused. With a touch of Legionare’s Disease as a result of that fambly stuff earlier referenced…
        Do I have a brand? Am I branded? At the legion it was only a matter of last names dropping; grand mas sees yer

      • Charli Mills says:

        Your brand resides in the consistency of your name (D. Avery) and the quality of your humorous and poignant writing. There are ways to connect your brand elements and create a stronger sense of identity as an author. There remains an aura of mystery around you which you can take advantage of because your writing is so sharp and authentic (meaning it resonates with readers). Your brand is stronger in what you produce. There will come a time when you’ll want to make a decision about your author brand. I think that will come when you are ready to accept the full mantle of Author. It’s one many writers shy away from and creates the reluctance Anne speaks of, but I think you could create a fun and vibrant D. Avery brand without giving up privacy.

        There! You got a real answer instead of a wordplay answer. 😉

    • Norah says:

      You’re too funny! Your brand is wit, cleverness and humour. There is no other like you. You stand alone. With us.
      Love the video.

  8. Ah. The ‘reluctant brander’. That’s me. That’s many of us, I think. The heavy-handed promotion is never going to work for me. Others will argue but it won’t work because I can’t get behind it, you know. I kind of just…write then skip away. (Which isn’t going to work, either.) I’m not sure if it’s a generational difference or if it has to do with personality or…? Anyway, I don’t have a brand. Not really. I look around and see I really don’t. (But that is me comparing. Ugh.) My perfectionism and introversion are obstacles, as well.

    Anyway, fantastic post.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Sarah, personality must be part of it and that’s not solely down to the generations. Definitely much easier for extroverts, but we can all do something – as you have done in creating your brand of dark flash fiction – if we decide it’s worth the trouble.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sarah, you’ve built a strong brand for your dark flash fiction, and before that, you created a clever connection between your lifestyle and fiction blogs. You’ve shown that a brand can evolve as an author does. Branding is being who you are, and yet you don’t have to give up privacy — your brand can be a professional expression of who you are.

      I like to consider an author’s strengths. You say perfectionism — think of that as exceptionally high quality. You might have to push through the barriers it puts on you, but you can also credit your brand with being exceptional. And introverts can find strategies that fit their strengths.

      You definitely have a clear and compelling brand! Next steps are to decide how to use that brand and you might enjoy the behind-the-scenes planning. Maybe if you thought of yourself as a client. How would you promote the Author, Sarah Brentyn? That might give you more distance so it doesn’t feel like you, the private person, is displayed on a platter. Think professional boundaries with your brand activities.

      You have a great community through your blog and tons of credibility., too. Branding is not the only platform element. Target audience is next, and there’s distance with a target audience.

      • Annecdotist says:

        That’s an important reminder, Charli, that being authentic doesn’t necessarily mean losing our right to privacy. I don’t have much truck with the notion that we have only one real self; more that we have multiple selves for multiple contexts and situations. Even if there are contradictions between the different versions, each one can be true in its own way.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I agree, Anne and I think writing gives us the opportunity to explore those variations. We are evolving, and yet we can commit to a mask as a writer. The more transparent we can be with that mask, the more authentic its expression. It’s delicate, and vulnerable, to build a brand out of our own bones, but I like to think of Author as a professional brand as that is a mask readily understood.

      • You know what, Charli? I don’t know how, but I forgot how good you are at this. I mean, *really* good. I’ve been in the middle of an attempt to rebrand for a few months. I’m bookmarking this comment strand. I NEVER thought to think of myself as a client. That is brilliant! I could do so much for me (her…me…?) that way. Distance would be helpful and the only way I’ve gotten any sort of distance from my brand is by comparing it to others and seeing where it needs work. I’m not sure that’s been super helpful.

        I completely agree a brand is just being who you are. I don’t know how that translates to marketing or branding in the writer/author sense. As far as perfectionism, it inhibits (and irritates other people). 😉 But I like your take on it better than mine.

        As far as a target audience… I just don’t have one. It’s a painful realization I’ve had in the past few months.

        Thank you so much for this!

    • Sarah, I don’t know you. Yet you have shown up enough to push me. To inspire me. To give me a benchmark. To make me wonder if I should quit it because you have already done it so well. So, erm, let’s just keep writing, ok? This branding thing may be the hardest thing we do. Shitdam. yikes

      • Alright…let’s toss the quitting aside. Then, wow, thank you. That is some compliment. And I absolutely love the idea of inspiring anyone to write.

        I do think branding is probably the most difficult thing we have to do. At least for some of us. I mean, just showing up gives us a brand, really. But an effective brand, a brand that can be marketed… I’m not there yet.

    • Norah says:

      Sarah, you are the queen of micro-fiction, a whole lot of story in just a few words. You own it. It’s your brand.

      • Hmm… A woman of few words. I like it. 🙂 Seriously, thank you, Norah. You are always so supportive and wonderful. Unwavering support and encouragement is part of *your* brand, I think.

      • Norah says:

        Thank you, Sarah. I’d like it to be a part of my *brand*. I try. It’s very easy with some people. *wink wink*.

  9. Jules says:

    RBSG for the Buckaroos at CR…. I’m in.

    While I’d like some real moola as it were I’m not big into the recognition of a Brand. I want to be recognized but stay in the shadows.

    Perhaps that’s why I’ve given away booklets I’ve put together of a variety of poetry. Maybe with the support of CR we can be secondary brands …Let CR have all the light, but just take pieces of recognition that is just enough to keep us wanting to write and please others as well as ourselves.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Jules, I like your idea of being a secondary brand, expecting less and not comparing ourselves with the big brands, but nevertheless bringing a ray of light to the shadows.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jules, I know you are among other writers who love to write and want to share but don’t want to step out of the shadows. My vision for Carrot Ranch is that it makes literary art accessible no matter where a writer is on the spectrum between hobby and profession. And when it comes to building and marketing a platform, the great thing about the Ranch is that it is shared. We are all a part of a tribe here and that gives us a measure of security that we don’t have on our own. Yet I think each jewel deserves to shine on her own. Something I hadn’t thought about is that maybe some of the jewels want to cluster, and that’s fine, as long as you get the recognition and reward you want. I think you have been brave in putting yourself out at the Ranch as a leader and many would recognize your brand as a wordsmith — someone who plays with words and explores meanings. Even your pen name is part of your brand. For many writers, I’d push to develop a “professional brand” but I’ve come to know writers such as you who don’t necessarily want that path. Secondary branding in an interesting way of looking at it. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but if it makes literary art accessible to you in the way you want, then we are doing something worthwhile. It’s easier to put the light on Carrot Ranch because we are doing something interesting together, and no one has to stand up alone.

      • Jules says:

        Its the mentoring and the standing together with others who are the same and different that is the Brand of Carrot Ranch. And that comfort is an asset you need to be proud of too.

        Thank you for your continued encouragement and support. 🙂

        Ah…wordsmith… yes I have always liked that 😉

      • Charli Mills says:

        It’s a community that amazes me because it reminds me of the cooperative movement and the quote the movement liked to use: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead. That we can change the world with literary art is something hopeful for us all. In the meantime, we play with words!

    • Norah says:

      Jules . . . because your words are jewels on the page. 🙂

      • Jules says:

        Wordsmith or Wordsmythe or Wordsmyth …

        I have a series some where, where my character is WordWoman or something like that… been a long time – I think those verses were penned over thirty years ago I’d really have to do some digging to find that series!

        JulesPaige because words are like Jewels on a Page
        (When I joined an online book group and another writing site that has since disbanded…)

        That’s been my tag line since I started blogging –
        Even before I had blogs. I can’t help the puns… it’s just part of the package 😉

        The beauty of a fractured opal…. there is only beauty in the stone because of the fractures.
        (Yep, my birthstone.)

      • Norah says:

        You have always been clever, Jules. A sparkle of light on a dull day.

      • Jules says:

        As my hubby says I wake with the sun in my window (which rises in the west)… with a smile on my face 🙂
        Though I have been getting up way before noon most days 😉

      • Norah says:


      • Annecdotist says:

        I love how you’ve played on your name in a way that complements and extends your brand.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I love that puns are part of your package! You are another example of how an author can have a brand from how you approach writing and express words. There can be many different brand expressions.

  10. floatinggold says:

    You make some great points. It’s important to find the balance between not promoting yourself and over-promoting yourself.
    I find CR to be a great place for like-minded people. Talented writers, who do not sell their souls in exchange for more “Likes”.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks for that. I so agree about balance and not selling one’s soul. Although I have liked like in the comments on my post.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You have it right about finding that balance. I think having strategies help because then you work a plan rather than tossing out a bunch of promotional tactics that you may or may not believe in their value. I’m all for authenticity. Carrot Ranch appreciates the talented writers; no souls required in exchange! I know what you mean about the “likes” exchanges. It can be hard to resist and even more difficult to maintain.

      • floatinggold says:

        How did you get to be so talented and knowledgeable on everything?

      • Charli Mills says:

        Let’s see, I can’t run, I can’t sew, and there is a ton of information I don’t know! I just stick to what I’m passionate about. My career was in marketing communications for publications and community food systems, and what I enjoyed most was building authentic brands that could compete with the supermarkets and writing local profiles on all the amazing sustainable farmers, food artisans, beer makers and cooperatives. But my creativity has always resided in words and I wanted to be “literary” not business oriented. I know that tribes are stronger than individuals, and creating a community for writers makes sense to me. You all bring the talent to the Ranch!

  11. I loved reading about you, Anne. Your viewpoints seem perfectly sound to me!

  12. I found this very refreshing, Anne. I often feel like I really don’t have a clue and it is nice to know others, further along the road than me, also were a bit haphazard in their approach to social media and personal branding.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Robbie, I think you are deliberate in your branding efforts and smart about using the art for your books in with your blog posts. And you and Michael have a beautiful banner for in-person events. A brand does evolve, just like we mature or change as we grow and discover new expressions f ourselves. I like how you involve your son in your branding, too — he’s more than a co-author and you demonstrate that to your readers.

    • Norah says:

      I agree with Charli, your illustrations are unique. They contribute a good bit to your brand.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Robbie, although I don’t know about further along … Like Charli and Norah, it’s my impression you have a strong brand with your clever edible representations of your story characters co-created with your son. It’s both distinctive and appealing, even if – or perhaps especially because – it evolved haphazardly.

  13. dgkaye says:

    Here, here! I am with everyone here on branding, writing, doing real life. It’s a comfort in a way to know we are not alone. <3

    • Annecdotist says:

      Yes, I’m greatly encouraged to find I’m not the only one who struggles.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Debby, I think it’s a strength to have community because we give our individual brands a more visible platform. You and the Sisters of the Fey have created a fun community brand and yet each of you has your distinctions. Your author brand is vibrant, relatable and one that attracts readers. That’s not an easy feat to obtain. But you are pleasant and consistent with how you put out your author brand, and colorful. And it is so good not to be alone because we are a mix of our writing goals and life situations. <3

      • dgkaye says:

        Charli, thank you for your most eloquent reply. Funny. I just replied to Annne about stength in numbers. You have put it so succinctly here, especially your last sentence. <3

  14. I totally agree with you Anne. It’s hard to self promote but I find that by doing book reviews and other advertising for self published authors helps me as much as them. Being part of the community here at Carrot Ranch really helps too. Best wishes to your continued success. <3

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks Colleen. I think the self-published authors I meet online have collectively done a great job of counteracting some of the prejudice around the brand through demonstrating quality and professionalism. And the mutual support maintains that. All the best to you too.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You understand the leverage community gives your platform. We can promote the community, and it benefits a larger group and gives us a bigger footprint. And yet you have created a distinct brand with interesting promotional strategies. I know we share a love of rocks and no surprise that you feature a stone necklace in your book. However, leveraging those relationships you’ve built, you created an offer for selling your book on Etsy with an actual replica of the necklace made by an artist. Playing into our passions and strengths gives us that authentic brand. And some might think it’s silly to focus on an audience that likes rocks, but those are potential target readers. It’s highly likely that those who collect crystals would be interested in a YA novel for themselves for a youth they know. We have to see where our brand creates an attraction, and get us into markets where we stand out from the chaos of an oversaturated book market. I’m glad you are a part of the community, too! <3

      • Charli, thanks so much for your guidance. I have no idea how to go about setting up an Etsy story, but feel like the calcite pendant and book were my strongest marketing tool. I may need to pick your brain more about this idea. Great idea!! <3

  15. Adele Marie says:

    I love this article, thank you. Also, I still hate that the public services have become privatised. xxx

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Adele Marie.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Adele, and Anne — did public services ever involve the public in their decision?

      • Annecdotist says:

        Good question, Charli. At the macro level, the only opportunity for public engagement I can think of has been at the general election, and even then governments have implemented changes that weren’t in their manifestos. So the biggest policy changes, like my branding, have been introduced through the back door. Then at local level governments give service providers a responsibility to consult, but the power to change anything is extremely limited and sometimes objections are documented but the development still goes through. In fact, this issue comes up in my WIP regarding community consultation on the siting of a home for former psychiatric patients in the neighbourhood.
        Or policies have been introduced which are in the interest of individuals but not the community as a whole. For example, we now have a severe shortage of social housing partly because Margaret Thatcher gave council tenants the opportunity to buy those homes at below market value. How could anyone refuse such an offer? But for her government it was a clever way of converting traditional Labour voters into Conservatives.
        And, to come back to where we started, some people were persuaded to vote to leave the European Union through blatant misinformation about freeing up resources to fund the NHS.

      • Adele Marie says:

        Sorry Charli, I can’t remember but, no I don’t think they did. x

  16. Great post Anne, and yes, I will join the ranks, albeit it late as usual, as a reluctant brander who loathes and dreads the idea of self promotion. I struggle with feeling irrelevant and trying to ‘keep up’ while plodding along the best I can at the Summerhouse. Thank you for reminding me that I can develop my brand at my own pace and also that: ‘Something is better than nothing, and you can’t do it all.’ I didn’t even know I had a brand, of sorts, until Charli pointed out ‘The Summerhouse’. I am not sure how to expand on that for now though. Wish I had more time to add to the wonderful discussion here. Reluctant brander or not, you are an inspiration to us all at Carrot Ranch Anne and I wish you the very best 🙂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Glad it resonated for you, Sherri. When I saw you had commented, I immediately thought of your Summerhouse. You do indeed have a brand. Isn’t it great how Charli has helped render the concept so much less daunting?

  17. LucciaGray says:

    Wow! What a great article, Anne, and such a fabulous discussion, sorry I’ve dropped by a bit late.
    I think we all seem to be shy of the word ‘branding’, as many have said, it’s probably a generational thing, we’re mostly shier on social media than younger authors and most of us self publish or work with small publishing houses, so ‘branding’ is left to us, and that leads to the next point, we’re not experts in marketing.
    I honestly didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging and using twitter about five years ago. I had heard it was a good idea so I checked other writers’ blogs and tried to do something similar as a showcase for my books. I created a writing persona with a pen name, Luccia Gray, which was supposed to be separate from the ‘real’ me, Lucy Garcia (anagram).
    A few months later, I started to do what I liked, write poems, flash fiction, post photos, and information about Jane Eyre and Victorian literature, my writing process, book reviews etc. and very little about my own novels, in comparson.
    Right now, I post whatever I like! It is important for me to connect with other readers, writers, artists and bloggers, as I live and work in Spain. I’ve also noticed my posts are getting more personal, and Luccia and Lucy are more or less the same person. I’m no longer focused on my ‘brand’ and I have no idea how my brand is coming along, but it doesn’t really bother me much right now. I’m just focussed on enjoying my life and my writing journey…

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks for joining in, Lucy (and I tend to use that moniker rather than Luccia not because I’m avoiding that brand but because my voice recognition software has a better chance of getting it right – but seriously I think the Spanish flavour is an asset to your brand). I agree with you that we muddle along and the most important thing is to enjoy it and maybe, as Charli is so good at pointing out, our brand will develop despite ourselves – but it’s good to recognise when we’ve stumbled upon the target.
      I fantasise about how much easier it would be with a bigger publisher, but I think all authors have to take responsibility for their own brand and there’s a risk that if you think the publisher will do it all for you you’ll be left behind. Or shoehorned into a brand that doesn’t suit you (us).

      • LucciaGray says:

        Actually I was thinking today that if you write a good book and are lucky enough to get it noticed by readers, you don’t really need a brand. I’ve reviewed Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine and there’s very little information about the author available. No author bio on Amazon and a couple of lines on Goodreads… I fantasize that she has a fabulous agent and/or publisher who does all the hard work!

  18. Annecdotist says:

    Charli, thanks so much for hosting this post and for creating a safe space for the branding averse. Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing your own reflections. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.

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