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 http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/ or on Twitter @Annecdotist.
Platform is a guest blog to discuss ideas or share tips for building and marketing a writer’s platform.