My Branding Motto

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.
My motto,
as I live and learn,
         is:
Dig and be dug
In return.

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?

Educate me.

12 thoughts on “My Branding Motto”

  1. I've been giving this a lot of thought lately, too. Because, yes, we're in the same boat. We read the same blogs. We hang out with some of the same people.

    My friend Nisa (you know her) and I were discussing how the social networking world has become so feverish. We're knocking ourselves out trying to study up on things, learn things, connect, be interesting, informative, and entertaining. And, oh yes, have lives.

    I have come to the conclusion that this early in the game, I don't need to particularly focus on branding. If I hang out with the people that I want to be with, and read/write what I want to read/write, I'll eventually end up branding myself inadvertently. It will be a genuine brand that fits me, not something forced that I feel I have to do. When I pick up an agent, I'm sure s/he'll help me with that type of decision. It's what they're good at, after all. If I spend so much time on the superfluous, I'm going to run out of time for the writing.

    -Mercedes

  2. If I hang out with the people that I want to be with, and read/write what I want to read/write, I'll eventually end up branding myself inadvertently. It will be a genuine brand that fits me, not something forced that I feel I have to do.

    Not surprising that you can say in two sentences what it took me a whole blog post to say.

    If it's early in the game for you, it's extremely early for me. I think you're right not to worry about it yet. Will probably follow suit.

  3. This is basically what I reiterated at the start of last week's "Writer, Brand Thyself" post…the only thing you really have to do to brand yourself is to establish genuine relationships and connections with as many people as you can handle. That will effectively create your personal "brand" by default – and when you are ready to announce a release, it will automatically pay off as your personal community spreads it around via word of mouth.

    So yeah – don't worry about it…just keep making friends, hanging out with people you like, and the rest will follow, IMO. 🙂

  4. One issue you didn't mention was the design side of branding – using related designs and avatars across sites, so people recognise you. I think a lot of that comes naturally anyway (I didn't sit down and decide I'd use the blue mushroom… I just started using it because I liked it). But it helps to ponder it sometimes.

  5. @Jaime: That'll teach me to not keep up with my pals' blogs as much as I should. Your entry might've lessened some of my anxiety, had I read it when it came out. 🙂

    @Polenth: I've wondered about the design aspect of my branding. I used to scrape by with an avatar I blatantly stole from a famous indie cartoonist. Then I started using my face. I wonder if it got me more follows. Anyway, I'd also pondered a logo concept similar to that of the band Chicago, who originally intended to be a "faceless band."

    In the end, though, seeing as I have no graphic design knowledge whatsoever, I use what I have, namely a chocolate syrup logo done by a Seattle's Best barista and my "face made for radio." 🙂

  6. Like most writers, this is what I often ponder over too, and my method is pretty much same as yours – I follow people who either educate me with interesting information that I want to know, or who interest me – and many times those who interest me also educate me because I am interested in their journeys.

    I don't have time to focus on every social networking out there, so I am sticking to a few, and I enjoy them so it does not feel like a chore. I find it's better to make good effort in few places than lousy effort all over the place. Or if you make good effort everywhere then you more than likely don't have enough time for writing, which is the main thing in the first place.

    The key is not to necessarily look for followers or readers but people that you could be friends or at least friendly acquaintances with.

  7. I did some minimal social networking before my book deal. Then after my book deal, I upped my volume on Twitter, Blogger and Facebook. Now I have people following me, emailing me, asking about my book, asking for interviews…so social networking does work. I have bonded with many readers and writers since last summer.

  8. abrokenlaptop, took the words right out of my mouth – albeit rather more eloquently….

    I don't blog to procure a platform. I blog for pleasure only and follow those who inspire or motivate. Pure and simple. Stick to the writing. The branding will follow. One would assume.

    The greatest authors of our time wouldn't have known what a platform was. They were too busy writing. There is too much out in the open these days and not enough mystery. Keep a little bit for yourself and others to discover.

    Excellent post 🙂

    PS. The test of your platform is in the sales of your novel. Nothing more 🙂

  9. There are a number of reasons why my internet activity isn't branded and refined, but the two which spring most readily to mind are frustratingly difficult to overcome. There are numerous reasons to identify oneself, most importantly being the opportunity for people to track your online output, but still…

    Firstly, I don't have a single computer which I use to do everything, which means that a particular avatar may or may not be on the machine I am using at any given time. I'm also reluctant to unexpectedly change avatars once they have been used for a while, so I now have eight or nine on the go.

    The second issue is to do with content. People from one area of interest might not be interested in another – the comics folks wouldn't be in the least bit interested in the coding stuff I cover, and readers and writers of books probably wouldn't dig the art-world material… There are places I associate with in different ways, and the crossover ain't that big.

    Just my tuppence of thoughts on the matter, so feel free to contradict. 🙂

  10. A face made for radio? Puh-leeze. You're adorable. And while I loved your indy cartoon avatar, there is something about seeing somebody's face that is much more personal. Also, I think that I told you I thought you were a 50 year old white guy with a beard. Who else would know so many Meatloaf lyrics? It's always very nice to put a face with the personality.

    I wanted to give you a heads up that I'm (modestly, naturally) flaunting the fact that YOU LOST our Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse contest! It's part of a WIP Wednesday that's going up this week. Can't wait until I officially beat Jason and Harley in order to collect all of your songs for my blog. Bwa ha ha!

    -Mercedes

  11. @Dolly: …so I am sticking to a few, and I enjoy them so it does not feel like a chore.

    Exactly! Why make something like this a "chore," especially when there are people on the other side of the keyboard who can probably tell the difference between someone on a social network who networks socially and someone who's just out to peddle their stuff.

    @Medeia: Now I have people following me, emailing me, asking about my book, asking for interviews…

    Y'know, I think this is a great example of form following function. Maybe the amount of social networking one does should only be the amount you need to do at the time, whatever that may be.

    @Wendy: The greatest authors of our time wouldn't have known what a platform was. There were too busy writing.

    See, Mercedes isn't the only one who has a way with words ;).

    @bigwords88: I'll speak more to the 2nd issue. I've seen lots of folks try to keep stuff separate like that. I have trouble trying to keep this site and my Tumblr straight. I used to worry about duplicating content from my Tumblr to my blog. Now, I have to fight not to do it.

    @Mercedes: You wouldn't be the first person to look at my playlists and wonder how old I am :).

    So, given that I've doomed myself to do a video anyway, I'm wondering if it's worth it to pull the story back out now that I've gotten some writing out of my system. Because I'd love to watch you all dance…

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