Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Can Be a Bummer Being a Brand

Oh, to be a brand like John Updike.
Can I get an Updike Pass?

On my mind lately--Like it or not, our individual personal brands as writers touch every aspect of our work. What we write, topics we cover, audience, marketing, what our (future for me) book  covers look like and the name we use on these are all packaged together. At least that's how some some marketing experts say it is supposed to be.

Branding is something I've thought about and practiced some as a freelance writer, but it is even more important for an author. So I've been refreshing and adding to my knowledge, hunting down the best tips. One common piece of advice I've keep running across is to pick a pen name for each genre or don't brand at all.

That's a bummer. I'm not sure I will always stick to the same genre. In fact, I'm almost certain I won't. I already write articles on a multitude of topics. A large part of my passion for news writing is the daily variety in subject matter. I use the same name for everything and intend to keep doing so. Am I already in danger of being a weak brand?

Maybe, just maybe, I'll get lucky. John Updike (Rabbit, Run; The Witches of Eastwick) published novels, non-fiction, short stories, poems and children's books under one name. That seemed to work out alright. His work was critically acclaimed and scored two Pulitzers.
"Readers will stay with an author, no matter what the variations in style and genre, as long as they get that sense of story, of character, of empathetic involvement."
                       -- Dean Koontz
Best-selling suspense thriller writer Dean Koontz pens children's books. So does adult, tween and everything in between author Melody Carlson. Some big names, but those names became genre-busting brands.

My ego isn't so big that I'm comparing myself to these authors. Just glad to know there's a precedent, a reason to hope.

It won't be easy to do, that old work may come back to bite me. An irate commenter once posted (one of many) on a news editorial of mine: "As a freelance writer from Illinois maybe you should stick to articles about your interests such as pet care, fashion and beauty, or maybe in-depth article on redecorating and creating party center pieces."

I haven't thought about that comment in a while, but, as I'm working on the last pages of my first novel, it surfaced. After all, I just might have the temerity to write a literary novel and then a bodice-ripper. All while enjoying writing under one brand.

How far have you developed your brand as a writer? Overcome any worries or bummers along the way? 

Photo Credit: Michelle Kinsey Bruns / Wikimedia Commons


  1. Coincidentally, my B post for today was about branding also. My brand came about by default.

  2. I honestly hadn't thought about branding at all until recently when I saw other writers talking about it.

    For me, my decision is to write whatever is on my heart. My characters don't really care whether or not I'm writing in a specified genre--if they have a story, they want it told. I typically write fantasy, but even these vary. I've got a co-written inspirational fantasy series. By myself, I'm writing two books that are sort of fantasy with a steampunk influence. And I've written two slice-of-life, everyday stories. The only common thread is that these are all YA. But my publisher looks at my books, whatever genre they are.

    I'd just keep writing what's on your heart and mind and see what comes of it. And if you were able to stick out the writing business even when you got comments like that on an editorial, I think you'll be one to keep at writing whatever you want and enjoy. :)

  3. It is difficult to "brand" after all so many of us take the luxury of writing (and hoping to get paid for it) what we love for granted. If only there was a better way to balance what we love and what the audience is searching for.

  4. Branding is a double-edged sword online. On one hand it can keep people from latching onto and exploiting the inconsistencies that all of us have in our personalities, but on the other hand it lessens your overall influence because you are operating under several smaller names instead of one "all-seeing" name.

    However, after you reach a certain level of success that quits mattering because you have readers/opportunities no matter what.

    I don't have enough online pull to get away with maintaining an active subscriber and opportunity base if I burn too many bridges. (I.E. I would never be foolish enough to post my political thoughts on my Christian fiction book review and family site. It's more sensible to avoid politics altogether.)

  5. Just wait till that irate commenter has to eat his/her words because of your success!!

  6. Well done Tamara! Looking forward to your future posts!

    Popping in by way of the A-Z Challenge. I’m blogging at:

  7. I agree, it is a bummer. I have a lot of interests and facets to my personality....great post!
    A to Z Blog Challenge

  8. I completely agree with this. I've been reading a lot about branding and I'm just not sure what to make of it. I enjoyed your post!



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