Category Archives: Marketing

A Brand Is For Life?

This is about fiction writing not non-fiction.

We all know that publishers are not really the brand that readers worry about, though that might change in the future—if subscriptions take over from wholesale.

We all know that the author is the brand. The reader looks for the author’s name and then buys the book because they have enjoyed other stories by the same author.

But.

Is the actual brand the author, or the writing?

The writing is what the reader reads, not the author’s life-story. Does it matter who the author is, what they have done, how they view the world, so long as the story does its job?

I worry about being called a brand. I find this whole ‘writer as brand’ nonsense. I have two pen-names, Stephen Godden and T F Grant. One for Fantasy (Stephen Godden) and one for Science Fiction (T F Grant) because readers of Fantasy may not be readers of Science Fiction and I think it’s only fair to let them know what they are buying before they open the cover and look inside. Though, to be honest Speculative Fiction is a continuum, so there is a large chunk of either/or stuff in the middle. I suspect T F Grant will be the truly weird stuff, because ‘truly weird’ is pretty much the preserve of SF. Fantasy can be weird of course, but SF is weird based on science, that is usually mind-smackingly out there, when you come right down to it.

But even then, with pseudonyms, is the author the brand or is it the writing?

See, if you say the author is the brand then anything the author does affects the brand. There is a danger that the author’s personality becomes fixed, that they keep churning out the same stuff, because they are seen as a brand.

My personality is not a fixed point, my tastes are not fixed, and I reserve the right to change my mind about just about any thing at any time for no more reason than I feel like doing so.

But if ‘I’ am a brand then changing my tastes, my opinions, the way I interact with the world becomes part of that brand. Changing any part of it can lead to accusations of hypocrisy or—that old favourite of the ‘we-so-special’ classes—selling out.

That’s the problem with making your personality, whatever flavour it reeks of, part of your marketing process, part of your platform. You are telling people, ‘This is me. If you agree with my political views, my philosophical views, my lifestyle choices, then please buy my stories’. You are asking people to join your tribe and fight all-comers on your behalf.

Then you write something that is an exploration of some facet of the world that goes directly against what you have told your tribe you believe in, and maybe your viewpoint shifts because of the writing of that work. Because at heart that is what I—as a writer—do; I write about stuff that interests me, in a way that gets my juices going, all the while learning something new about how I see the world. Without that interest, without that excitement born of trying something I have never tried before, without that exploration, then I get bored and churn out monkey-chum.

But what happens is you write something that says the exact opposite to what you said in your last novel? What happens then? Your ‘tribe’ loses all faith in you because you told them that you were one of them. There is no room for flexibility if your brand is a fixed point. There’s a falseness to a brand, if it is built from artifice.

So my advice is to make the writing the brand. Write the best you can. Range far and wide across all the genres and sub-genres you want to explore, don’t be fixed spot, remain a moving target. Who you are is inherently part of the writing process, but don’t make it part of the branding process. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep without slumping into tedium.

Essentially, get the hell out of the way. Let the writing do the talking.

Brands are fragile. They are a shared delusion (like cyberspace: *tips hat* to Gibson). I’m a real person. I’m robust. And I reserve the right to change whenever I feel the need.

PK’s Caveats: Caveat 1: I may not know what I’m blathering about. Caveat 2: There are no rules about writing, there are just things you can get terribly wrong. Caveat 3: If people apply the words never or always to storytelling techniques, ignore them.

First posted to ‘of Altered States’: http://www.ofalteredstates.com/blog/

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The Agony of Marketing

Well here we are then. My first ebook is published by Firedance Books. ‘Tales of the Shonri: City of Lights’ is out there on Amazon for people to buy. Lovely, ‘triffic, spun gold dreams flying across my forebrain, but then…ah…yes…now I have to market the damn thing.

I’m not what you would call a natural salesman, well not for my own work anyway. The idea of saying, ‘Please buy my work,’ to perfect strangers makes me come out in a rash. I’d much rather just bang it out there and leave it for people to find, but that really isn’t going to work these days. Too much other stuff out there, too hard to get noticed, and I can’t just leave it to other people to do the hard yards. ‘Put up or shut up’ is the phrase that springs to mind.

All marketing is just generating word of mouth. That there is a truth less spoken, but garnering word of mouth is not that easy when you are up against millions (yes, millions) of other writers all trying to do the same thing. This is what led to the sock-puppet/paid-for-reviews debacle that firestormed its way across the net. Writers get desperate and when they get desperate they get stupid. Though I seriously doubt it is just self-published authors doing this sort of thing. Traditionally published writers have been thrown to the marketing sharks for quite a while now, so cast the mote out of your own eye before you start casting aspersions against others.

Would I sock-puppet? Nope. I’m so painfully honest that I even give my real name to chuggers. Would I pay for reviews? Nope. That’s like cheating on a test. So up here on the cloud of the virtuous I’m left thinking: What do I do? How do I generate word of mouth? Oh dear god, I have to start putting meself about don’t I?

I actually have a lot of theoretical knowledge of marketing, lots of bookmarks from the Book Designer [http://www.thebookdesigner.com/] and others. I’m even part of the marketing team for Firedance Books. But doing it for my own stuff is another thing entirely.

For instance: I suggested that the blogs on this site (originally posted to http://firedancebooks.com/blog/) should be reader-facing. Is my first blog on this site (that’ll be…um…this one) truly reader facing? Not really, it’s more a mea culpa. I kinda assume readers might be interested in this sort of thing, because, to be honest, right now writers and readers are all in this together. Writers want to get readers and readers want to find stuff worth reading. It’s the chum filled waters of author-discovery that is causing all the problems. The sharks are attracted and us poor so-nice-it-hurts people had better learn to punch them on the nose.

Readers and writers have to work together on this. If you read something and love it, put up a review. If you read something and loathe it, put up a review. If you read something and meh you don’t care really, put up a review. Give them five stars, one star, however many stars you think it deserves, but spread the word good or bad.

Because without reader judgment the whole system will break down. Writers can only put their stuff out there, try to attract some attention, go on sites like GoodReads (don’t spam over there, folks, they really don’t like it) or try to get a respected book blogger to review their work.

But there are millions of writers all trying to do the same thing, which makes for a bottleneck. There are only so many book bloggers, there are only so many books that any one person can read on sites like GoodReads, there are only so many ways to generate word of mouth.

I’ll pledge to you now that I will never be underhand about my marketing learning curve. If I screw up then I’ll put my hands up, no point in being all David Cameron about it. Make a mistake, admit the mistake, don’t make the same mistake twice is my modus operandi. Make a mistake, brazen it out and treat everybody else like an idiot, really doesn’t appeal.

And here is the web address of my new hub website [http://stripminingmobius.wordpress.com/]. Just launched, new on the block, a work in progress. Marketing see, you gotta have a hub.

Readers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your ‘sleb biographies, but take pity on the poor writers; a lot of us really aren’t cut out for this and we’re are just doing the best that we can.

PK’s Caveats: Caveat 1: I may not know what I’m blathering about. Caveat 2: There are no rules about writing, there are just things you can get terribly wrong. Caveat 3: If people apply the words never or always to storytelling techniques, ignore them.

First posted to ‘Firedance Blogs’: http://firedancebooks.com/blog/

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Filed under Marketing, PK's Pleasant Pomposities