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Branding, Bios and Author Multiple-identity Disorder
by Anne Goodwin
If there’s one consistent message about managing our author platforms, it’s that consistency rules. After all, if consumers need to be exposed to a product around seven times before they commit to making a purchase, only a fool would reduce the odds of being noticed by presenting their product in potentially contradictory ways. Friends, I am that self-sabotaging fool.
While I deeply admire those who can sum up what you stand for in an attractive image and roll-off-the-tongue strap line, there’s a part of me wailing How on earth can you know? Doesn’t your sense of who you are alter, like mine, with the seasons? Don’t you behave differently depending on who’s with you and where you are?
I do appreciate that we can’t dither indefinitely; that we have to make choices if we’re not to stagnate. I accept there’s no brand loyalty without brand recognition. Hell, thanks to Charli, I even accept I have a brand. But I have to develop it at my own pace.
I’ve come a long way since I balked at putting my mugshot on my website. I’ve come a long way since my first published stories were followed by the bio-that-never-was:
Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and hates bios for fear of getting it wrong.
Although a certain self-deprecating humour has become part of my brand – risky because what amuses one person turns another right off – the sentiment of that non-bio still holds true. I do like to contradict myself and fear commitment to a form of words that were right for me yesterday but a poor fit today.
But my shape-shifting author identity might be frustrating for others, as I was reminded recently when someone kindly sent through the version of my bio she planned to use in a post that mentioned me. Horror of horrors, it was the bio that accompanies my debut novel, and thus three and a half years out of date. Yet it wasn’t so much that the older version deprives me of the opportunity to crow about more recent accomplishments, but the slant of the summary was wrong. I don’t know if others do this but, in addition to my short-and-sweet Twitter biography, and the let-me-tell-you-everything about page on my website, I’ve composed a completely new bio for each of my published books.
Why, Anne, why? Because each novel draws on a different part of me: I thought readers of my debut, Sugar and Snails, narrated by a psychology lecturer at Newcastle University with a close friend teaching in the mathematics department across the road, might like to know that I studied those subjects at that same institution myself. But that’s irrelevant to people picking up my second novel, Underneath, who might be more interested to learn that, like Steve, my narrator, I used to like to travel and that, like Liesel, his partner, I worked in mental health services in the region where the story is set. If and when my possibly third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is published, I’ll probably mention that, like Janice, one of three point-of-view characters, I had a role in the longstay psychiatric hospital closures of the 1980s and 1990s.
With my forthcoming short story collection, Becoming Someone, I have a freshly-minted bio all over again. As the anthology is on the theme of identity and self-discovery, it felt right to include some of the quirkier aspects of my own identity in the bio:
Alongside her identity as a writer, she’ll admit to being a sociable introvert; recovering psychologist; voracious reader; slug slayer; struggling soprano; and tramper of moors.
We all have multiple identities to accompany our different responsibilities and roles. But I’m still unsure how much my multi-author biographies represent flexibility and diversity versus disorder and lack of focus. What do you think?
Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity launches on Facebook on November 23rd, 2018, where the more people participate the more she’ll donate to Book Aid International. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists.
Becoming Someone published 23rd November, 2018 by Inspired Quill
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-908600-77-6 / 9781908600776
eBook ISBN: 978-1-908600-78-3 / 9781908600783
Amazon author page
Author page at Inspired Quill publishers
Facebook launch in support of Book Aid International
Article by Ruchira Khanna, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.
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Rolex, Nestle, Audi, Coach, Tommy Filger, Hanes, Revlon, Prada, Bentley, GE, Kenmore, Maytag, Toyota, Mercedes, and the list goes on…
In fact, companies decide on a product, a brand logo and then go on about manufacturing their product. Such is the importance of a name and logo.
As a manufacturer, a brand is a window for him to peep outside and get noticed by consumers as he advertises his product on his website or a social media outlet, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Branding just doesn’t happen; it has to be thought about and well planned since ultimately that’s how the consumers will picture you.
Some useful advantages for having a brand are:
- It helps give you a platform for ease, reliability and a recognition of what you stand for once you vouch for it, with ardor and passion.
- Branding can put you in the limelight by setting you apart from the crowd that has that same product. You are given a stage where you can continue to exhibit your passion to thousands or millions of like-minded people who agree with the formation of your goods created.
- Your brand once showcased well, can bring like-minded people together who would love to use your product, thus broadening your consumership.
- Depending on your brand and the inspiration it can draw to your buyers. It can help motivate them and assist them to reach out high goals in their lives via the incentive of your A-rated product.
- If your brand has been able to create a good and loyal consumership, chances are they will recommend your work to others while you just continue to be in the production line.
- A strong brand will give a vision to the users on what to expect while easing the stress of the brand owner as he/she has been able to reproduce it with each production.
- If you stick to your brand. If you are loyal to your brand, chances are your consumers will also be loyal to you!
- This is your brand and your promise that you keep production after production. Thus, keeping your promise to your customers.
- Creating a brand not only helps create loyal consumers, but also helps the producer to stay focused on his/her goal of creating best product to sustain the reputation of the brand name.
- Once your feet are soaked in your brand, it will help you connect with your consumers on all levels as they have gotten used to using your name.
Aha! The importance of branding.
It helps differentiate the goods and services from other sellers while clearly delivering the message while confirming your credibility thus, creating user loyalty over time as your solid brand is motivating buyers to purchase the product.
This same fundamental applies to a serious writer who wants to succeed: branding himself to get recognition and be able to eventually sell books.
A writer has to analyze his write-ups and the subjects he is passionate to write about. He has to ponder over the kind of stories he likes to tell, narrate or serve to his readers. Eventually, that will help him attract the kind of readers that love to read such topics.
Typically genre comes first, and branding follows that. The brand has to exist within the genre the writer pens his words.
Some examples could be: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a writer of a fictional genre, but it revolves around detective/mystery. He gave birth to Sherlock Holmes in his write ups that are still looked upon. Could brand this author as a “The detective writer.”
Nora Roberts published her first book in 1981, and since then she has not turned back. Thanks to her 594K followers she has been nicknamed by The New Yorker as, ” America’s favorite novelist.”
Although she would be branded under, “The romance writer.”
As a writer/author decides upon the theme of his book before penning it down. Have a certain topic in mind prior to penciling it down. Frame your characters and plot if planning to write fiction or a subject relevant to the theme if working on non-fiction. Climb the ladder gradually of plotting and scheming as you cling onto the topic of the book. Towards the end when you have published that work, you will be representing that particular brand.
For instance: “The ——– writer.”
The dash could fill in romantic, mysterious, inspirational, dramatic, comic, lover of life, etc.
After branding yourself; making your own website and showcase your brand by publicizing over the media.
“The adventurous writer” will be easily remembered and when searched upon, like-minded readers will be able to connect the dots via the author/writer’s website, and that would result in clicks on your book links, and voila! you have readers craving for that brand by following it with as much passion as you the writer continues to pen down words fervently.
Once a name has been established thanks to the various social media outlets, with a respectable number of readership; the chances are that along with the readers, a literary agent, and a reputed publishing house could also get drawn to your charismatic brand name.
Aha! The journey that unfolds when a writer decides upon a particular brand name! No doubt there is sweat, dedication, passion and lots of marketing involved from the writer/author.
But, in the end, it is all worth it!
Ruchira Khanna is just another soul trying to make a difference in this lifetime by juggling between her passion and responsibilities. A Biochemist turned Writer who draws inspiration from various sources and tries to pen them down to create awareness within her and the society. She’s the author of Choices, Voyagers into the Unknown, and a children’s book, The Mystery of the Missing Iguana. Ruchira has published her latest fiction-drama novel titled, Breathing Two Worlds available on amazon world-wide.
Platform is a series that discusses the balance between craft and creation. It’s a writer’s sum total of visibility comprised of branding, community, credibility and target audience. An author markets product (books, blog, podcasts, workshops) from a platform. This series offers tips from experienced authors, publishers and marketers specific to all writers interested in building a platform and selling books and related products. If you have an article to share with the community of writers at Carrot Ranch, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basics are important. When I was advanced to a pre-algerbra class in 7th-grade, I missed crucial math basics that were taught that year in regular class. It wasn’t until I was 30-years-old that I would learn those missed basics. Suddenly math wasn’t so difficult. That’s why I’m breaking down the components of the platform so you can understand the basics and decide how to use each as a building block.
The purpose of this series is to teach other writers the marketing basics that form what a writer’s platform is and how to use it.
For twelve years, I was marketing communications manager for a natural foods cooperative in Minnesota. I built a national reputation as a brand manager: I built the co-op’s brand through communicating stories, wrote a brand case study for a marketing workbook, presented workshops on the topic and was the subject of numerous magazine articles. When I left, I freelanced over 30 articles on branding.
My personal brand evolved from my specialty; I was the Brand Buckaroo. It stuck in the minds of those I worked with, taught and networked among. I had fun with the buckaroo image, even though I was strict with our store’s branding. I created a western-themed “Branding 101” continuing education course for our workplace. Thus, staff nicknamed me, “The Sheriff.”
When I turned over the store brand to my predecessor, I kept my buckaroo image. After all, I truly was born into a buckaroo culture which shaped my natural inclination for story-telling, and I was headed west to write. I had to shape a new idea for my platform because I was identified with business and freelancing when I wanted to be identified with literary writing. Buckaroo writer and Carrot Ranch became my branding foundation.
My strongest writer’s platform component is branding. This is also an example of how your platform does not have to be like mine. I love branding, I understand it at a deep level and I use it strategically. It’s fine for you to have a simple brand that others experience. But you need to think about what it is.
As a writer, you are the brand; how others experience you and your writing is branding.
A brand creates physical, emotional and intellectual triggers in the mind of the reader. A writer’s brand is unique, identifiable and visual.
Your name, photos and even the symbols, fonts and colors that you use in your social media, marketing collateral and public relations all add up to your brand. Writers are like cupcakes: the outcome between cake, frosting and decoration is endless. Build your brand like a cupcake and be consistent thereafter.
You don’t change who you are once a month, so don’t change your brand after you’ve established it. Keep your brand as close to who you authentically are, what you write and what you publish. Be your own cupcake and maintain your personal recipe.
This doesn’t mean you can’t re-brand. Sometimes it takes a year or two to get a feel for who we are as a writer. Sometimes we begin with free templates or generic colors and fonts to set up our initial presence. As you evolve, so will your brand. Therefore, let your brand grow into something more definitive.
Take a vanilla-chai cupcake, for example. In the beginning, you put out a flavor that rocks the cupcake world. But your cupcake looks, well, overly vanilla. You spice up the look, give the decoration a flair and you’ve re-branded. But it is still the cupcake others have come to recognize and want. You are still the same writer.
What if you no longer want to be a vanilla-chai cupcake? Maybe you started out writing romances because that was the easiest way for you to earn money as a writer. Now you want to write epic political thrillers, definitely a jalapeno-dark-chocolate kind of cupcake. You are a different writer. Develop a new brand (that’s why some writers have multiple pen names, thus multiple brands). Keep in mind that managing multiple brands consistently is complicated.
Branding goes beyond the visual cues and becomes an experience.
Branding occurs the moment a reader takes a bite of your cupcake. You are not in complete control of your branding. No matter what you do, you can’t make every person like your cupcake. Maybe someone likes the idea of vanilla-chai and someone else thinks it looks too bland. Both may or may not like the taste. It’s perception. And you can’t waste your time trying to change the perception of another. Focus on those who connect to your brand.
Your branding is based on how others experience your:
- Image of who you are as a writer
- Quality and style of your writing
- Level of professional manners
- Emotional, intellectual or physical connection with your readers
Branding is how others experience the visual cues of who you are as a writer. The quality and style of your writing adds to that image. How you treat others on your blog, their blog, Amazon reviews, at book signings, in the media or in correspondence to publishers is a measure of your professionalism. Think of this as manners or customer service. All this leads to connectivity with others, or not.
If your branding isn’t connecting with others, go back to the most basic element of who you are as a writer.
Be authentically who you are: that writer who likes ballet, lyrical sentences and collects Victorian dolls. Or that writer who wiggles at the sound of a race car revving an engine, collects all things Coke-a-Cola and writes terse dystopian YA. Don’t be pictures of your iguana or sprinkle your website with cartoon butterflies if you write modern spy novels, unless you can tie it to who you are as a writer in a way that others would understand.
Think about your own attributes, interests and strengths. Think about personal relationships.
- What do you connect with about yourself?
- Why do you write?
- Who do you connect with as a kindred spirit?
- How do others perceive you?
- Ask a friend or family member to be a mirror of you at your best.
Think about longevity. Will your branding work in the future? My buckaroo brand has been with me throughout my career. It evolved from marketer to writer, and is something I can imagine in the future. I can visualize myself at 92, wearing my buckaroo hat and turquoise boots to a book signing. That I arrived by walker or horse doesn’t matter. That my book is a western, eco-thriller or chick-lit doesn’t matter, either. The buckaroo is me, not my books. My branding is built around my ability to tell stories and make emotional connections: Wrangling words for people, roping stories for novels.
Let’s examine some existing brands so you can get a feel for branding and how it works for a writer’s platform.
Norah Roberts. Her official website is clean, professional and has a romantic flair without being over-the-top. Her picture is fun and you can almost imagine her as one of her jet-setting characters. Even her husband fits the brand of a handsome spouse to the world’s top romance writer. The colors are modern and not gender specific (no obvious pinks or frills). Go to her blog and you might be surprised to find it plain and simple. She’s approachable, enjoys fun times among girlfriends, uses party-left-overs to make a vat of chicken soup and has the same complaints as others on the east coast about the long winter. Her branding is engaging and despite her opulent life, she connects with her readers by being her authentic self. Note: go to her J.D. Robb page and see how different the branding is there.
Clive Cussler. Actually, his website is under a re-brand, which is good because the design looks dated. It is heavily focused on his many books, but note that a photo of him dominates over the bookselling. Clive Cussler is the brand. He makes a surprising statement: “I have never considered myself as much a writer as an entertainer.” His branding is that he is the grandmaster of adventure. He’s lived a life worthy of fictionalized tales in adventurous novels. He is not as approachable as Norah Roberts, but he welcomes readers to his website and feels present. He does not blog. All his books are housed on this one platform.
Wine Wankers. This is blog is one of the best blogging success stories from branding to community to credibility to audience. Conrad (one of the wankers team) was among the first to follow my blog. I thought he was a nutcase. His picture made me think that this was some creepy dude that I would not want to follow anywhere, but I do look at other bloggers’ sites when they follow me. I laughed when I got to the site and read, “Smile 🙂 You’re at the best wine blog ever!” Why does this creepy picture work? First of all, it actually represents the three-man team with a knack for branding humor. The other part of their branding is an authentic enjoyment of wine beyond the pretense of the industry. It’s a wine blog for the common person who happens to love wine. They are Australian, thus they focus on their region. From their branding and community they built up credibility and the site is among the most influential on the internet. And you bet that equates to a large audience.
Here’s a chart of branding specifics that you can use to define who you are as a writer to others:
Tell me about your branding in the comments. Do you feel it is an important component of your platform? Why or why not?