I see lots of Twitter discussions and blog entries on the importance of social networking and branding for writers. I have my share of sites (just look at my sidebar), and have given some thought to what my “brand” might be (or should be), so I certainly don’t knock the idea.
Yes, publishing’s moving. Yes, a writer (any artist, really) should be online somehow. But, how much time and energy do I spend doing this? Where do I spend it? More importantly, what about the writing? Makes me wonder if I have to be Don Draper to figure this all out.
Alan DeNiro (author of one of my favorite short story collections, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead) has also tried to ponder these mysteries, partially spurred on by a presentation at SXSWi, at which the assertion was made that…
An author is no longer an individual working in a room alone, but the leader of an online “tribe” of followers –- the people who comprise the author’s audience. Several example kept coming up, wine guy Gary Vaynerchuck, author of Crush It!, business guru Seth Godin; and Kroszer’s favorite example, The Pioneer Woman, who “could organize a tour on her own without the help of a publisher.” The consensus, from another panel –- “Scoring a Tech Book Deal” was that a potential author needed a minimum of 5,000 Twitter followers.
Now, I have no intention of being John the Baptist in sackcloth and ashes, crying out in the wilderness. I’m not going to rail about art vs. commerce. I’m just saying that as I look at my “writers” list on Twitter and the Google Friendconnect bloggers I’m following on the sidebar–which accounts for only a third of the writer blogs I follow on my RSS feed reader–I see exactly the tribalism that’s being talked about. Book and story reviewing, writers of every level interviewing other writers of every level, guest blogging, group blogging — and I honestly have no idea where I fit in yet.
Until I figure it out, though, I feel I’m doing two things absolutely right…
- I’m writing what I want to write, and I’m putting it out there.
- I’m connecting with “the right people.”
Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Joel Hodgson said his crew was never worried if not everyone would get their arcane references, because “the right people will get it.” Who are “the right people?”
First, I’ll talk about how I collect them. I collect them the way I collect comic books after the 90s when people realized they just didn’t need 8 variant covers of the same damn first issue of every book with an X in the title. I invest in the books I want to read. The ones that interest me. Same with the folks I follow on any given social network I belong to. I follow them ‘cos I want to. Because they pique my curiousity, or enthrall me with their points of view, or they’re doing exactly what I want to be doing, the way I hope to do it. And, I strive to be equally interesting to them. And I accomplish this by putting myself out there, and responding the best I can to what these people put out there.
I read an interview with–well, I forget if it was Ricky Gervais or Eddie Izzard. To paraphrase my favorite bit of that interview, I’d rather be 1000 people’s favorite writer than 10,000 people’s 10th favorite writer. The way I see it, my chances of accomplishing that are better when I develop–okay, a tribe–of people who “get” me.
i.e. “The right people.”
I guess you could say my branding strategy so far can be best summed up in the poem “Motto” by Langston Hughes…
I play it cool
And dig all jive
That’s the reason
I stay alive.
as I live and learn,
Dig and be dug
Now, I did say “so far.” So, tell me — am I missing anything? What else should I be considering? I want to hear especially from my peeps that have blogged about this in the past (don’t make me go back through all the Read items in Google Reader, pleeeease?). Am I thinking too hard about all this? Or not hard enough?