the circular runner

Am I a Brand?

In life, media, observations, Uncategorized, writing on May 24, 2012 at 6:08 am

Lately, I’ve been reading a book called, Branding Yourself.  Though I am reading it with a type of excitement that a once purer, less-commecially-minded me would have reserved for a novel by the Bronte sisters, the book also fills me with a little bit of dread, which is also like the Brontes come to think of it, though for a different reason.  Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy, the authors of the book, are very clear about what they are trying to teach: that you need to go out there and get people interested in you.  Why? You ask.  Because you are your own brand.

Really?  Am I just like this?

I don’t think so, because I’m not getting paid the way Coca-Cola is.

All joking aside, it must be in the summer air (I know it’s summer because I live in San Fran, and it’s cold) but for the rest of the northern hemisphere, it’s warm and writers are ripe with a desire to get to the next spot in their carers.  I recently discovered, Livia Ellis’ blog, which I very much recommend.  I was especially taken with her post about writing as a business.  Livia has some interesting insights into this question, and I want this and a couple following posts to be a type of dialogue. For now, let me say that I’m surprisingly excited about this whole branding thing, and yet there’s also a part of me that agrees with Joe Ponepinto at the Saturday Morning Post.  He only puts up one post a week now so as not to get so caught up in the business of getting read that he neglects the business of writing.

Joe is a wise man, and I keep his thoughts in mind as I slave over my branding statement, which is making one thing clear to me: I am not a natural at branding myself.  It’s not false modesty.  Really, it’s just a mindset thing. For me, writing fiction has always been a bit abstract–not the stories I tell or the process behind them.  The abstract part was how to get my stories read by the people who like what I write.

I’ve kept that process vague out of fear, I think.  Is there a market for what I’m offering? As a brand in the making, I need to be thinking about this even if the answer might scare me.  At the same time, as a writer, marketability is probably not a good thing to obsess about because it limits the imagination.  Who the hell knows what will catch on?  Did Mr. Coca-Cola know that some syrupy, bubbly dark liquid would become a world power? I can’t imagine he could have.

For myself, I’m not in any place to make definitive statements one way or another.  I will say that for now, I’m trying to find a way to get people aware of what I’m doing.  That’s a crazy process, and I will share it in the next post.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other writers about how they try to manage the needs of commerce with their own needs as writers and artists. How much time, if any, do you spend working on the business of business and how much on the business of putting words to the page?

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  1. This is a subject I’ve been fascinated with for years! It’s tough, if not downright impossible, to resist the branding impulse — the drive to develop a platform, the necessity of distilling all you are into a single pithy catch phrase. The minute we become aware of the game, we become implicated in it. Even authors and artists known for resisting the system you describe are defined by it; their brand image is that of the artist who resists the brand image. Commercialism, branding, consumerism. What’s an artist to do?

  2. Hi Gabe. First, welcome back and thanks for the mention of my blog. Blogging once a week is a strategy with a lot of components–first, it keeps me on a schedule, and hopefully, it helps readers look forward to the next posting. It also works as quality control–I get a ton of blog ideas, but since I only post once a week, I have to carefully consider which one will say the most and get the best response. But as for freeing up more time for creative writing, it hasn’t. Instead I’ve been spending a lot of my “free” time pursuing other branding opportunities. The latest is Twitter–passed the 1000 followers mark yesterday, and that only makes me want to keep the number growing. I’m just starting to get into LinkedIn.

    I feel it’s all a necessary evil. I finished a novel in April. I don’t have an agent or a publisher, so I’ve started doing the query thing (talk about a humbling experience). As you know, most agents and publishers want to see a “platform,” so the thinking is if I can get the numbers up to say, a combined 5,000 (Twitter, Facebook, blog, Linkedin, etc.), an agent or pub might look at that and say, “hmmm, maybe this guy can sell a few books.”

    Do I enjoy self-promotion? It’s fun to see the numbers go up, but no, I don’t. And I hate spending all that time trying to establish a writing career and not writing. The logic of business and bottom lines aside, I also resent the burden corporate America has placed on writers and other artists by turning us into hucksters–it cheapens what we do and often degrades the quality. What kind of a world is it where each person points to him/herself incessantly, only to say, look at me? It’s not really a society I want to live in.

    Who knows? Maybe at some time I’ll decide the world of self-promotion is taking too much away from my creative side and I’ll just be happy as a writer. Maybe some time soon.

  3. 1. I haven’t started another novel since I started writing my blog. No time for both.
    2. I spend all my time trying to brand myself, but I’m not particularly good at it. I’m better at writing. Catch 22.
    3. I’d prefer to let someone actually brand me with a sizzling hot cattle brand than spend any more time on FB and Twit. Wait– LInkdin? Do I have to do that, too?
    4. Even if I could do that– get a real brand, probably on my “flank,” right?–I don’t know what it would look like because I’m not good at branding. And I’d need someone to hold it for me and press. Basically, no matter how I look at it, I can’t do it alone.
    5. Whatever happened to the idea that agents did this so the writers could write? Maaan, I started writing a decade too late.

  4. […] last week, I think I hit a nerve–in a good way.  I sheepishly posted about my experience trying to brand myself as a writer.  (Are sheep ever branded, by the way?) […]

  5. First – thanks for the mention. I just found your comment in my blog – three months later. This goes to prove the fact that you cannot be all or do all. I write, edit, market, and blog. I just can’t do them all at once. It’s hard work being a writer, because no one is really just a writer anymore. That idea that we are islands unto ourselves, banging away at our keyboards, then being finished with the process once we send off our manuscript wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine, is gone. We not only have to write, we have to turn ourselves into a product.

    Having to turn myself into a brand makes me feel like a Kardashian or, worse, Paris Hilton. Hookers have to use less shimmy and shake than I do to get noticed. But this is the new business of writing. And it is a business. If you look at what people buy, they go for brand recognition. I noticed this when I worked in a bookstore. People look for the name on the cover. Getting that name to be as recognized as Coke or King is the key to becoming successful.

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