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RemusShepherd
06-10-2010, 10:33 PM
I just wanted to make sure that AW saw this manifesto that's going around the internet. In case you haven't seen it, the author Maureen Johnson went off on a wonderful little rant about branding and publishing. (http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/2010/06/08/manifesto/)


I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. I don't want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won't, because I am weird.

I agree with her sentiments, and I hope this becomes a full-fledged backlash. The internet -- and the publishing industry -- should be made of people, not plastic trademarks.

Soccer Mom
06-10-2010, 10:37 PM
I love that post and I'd totally bring her snacks.

Bubastes
06-10-2010, 10:49 PM
Same here. I'm SO sick of social media "experts" hyping the "you are a brand" nonsense. I suspect that even the people who tout self-branding haven't a clue what they're talking about. The general concept of branding is to develop yourself and promote whatever unique talents you have. Gee, it sounds a lot like what we're trying to do! But somewhere along the way, it got twisted into some sort of obnoxious self-promotion method that's all talk and no substance.

Here's a 1997 article by Tom Peters that describes the concept of personal branding. It's not a new concept, nor is it as revolutionary as the cheerleaders make it sound.
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html?page=0%2C2

I'd bring her snacks too.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2010, 10:56 PM
The trick is to allow your books, and even your name, or, better, your pseudonym (s) to be brands, but to keep yourself out of it.

Beyond this, it's completely out of your control, and the internet is not going to change, and neither will marketing. Ain't gonna happen.

The best any of us can do is to simply keep ourselves out of the mix. But the books we write, and the name we stick on those books, will, if people like them enough, become brands. That's just how it is.

But keep ourselves out of the mix should be enough.

blacbird
06-10-2010, 11:06 PM
This happened long before the Internet. In fact, one of the first prominent "brand" writers was Max Brand, the pseudonym used by prolific fictioneer Frederick Faust. Another early one was Edgar Rice Burroughs. They were fully as commodified as "brands" as James Patterson is today; they still are trademarked brands, in fact.

caw

katiemac
06-10-2010, 11:16 PM
Maybe because I'm in the business of marketing I don't see branding as a problem.

Perhaps you don't see yourself as a brand, but your readers will. A brand in of itself does not have to be limiting. A brand does not have to mean "You can expect only this type of book from me."

Your brand can be: "You can expect an awesome book from me."

brainstorm77
06-10-2010, 11:32 PM
I'm a brand. You can call me Heinz!

Bubastes
06-10-2010, 11:35 PM
Your brand can be: "You can expect an awesome book from me."

I like this! May I steal it? :D

Adam
06-10-2010, 11:37 PM
Ugh, I hate "brand" crap. It seems to be part and parcel of publishing now though, from what I've seen.


I'm a brand. You can call me Heinz!

Hai, Heinz! ;)

FluffBunny
06-10-2010, 11:42 PM
I'd like to be Acme -- good products sold to people (or coyotes) that don't necessarily know how to use them. ;)

On another note, a famous person, much involved in a craft I enjoy, became her own brand. She defended her brand so outrageously that people were afraid to even mention her name on the Internet for fear of getting a letter of reprimand from either the person or her lawyer. Yahoo groups mysteriously disappeared because the person in question made complaints. It led to a tremendous amount of backlash against her and people started referring to her as She Who Shall Not be Named. Being held up as a sort of female Voldemort is not the reaction she was looking for, I don't think.

C.M.C.
06-11-2010, 12:15 AM
I would put much of the 'blame' for branding on the audience. It seems to me that people have a very hard time dealing with anything out of the ordinary, such as when an author makes a broad jump between styles or genres. It's like when Bob Dylan went electric. He wasn't doing anything that didn't fit his brand (ie. Bob didn't care about the establishment), but people threw a fit because it was different. I really don't believe there are hordes of authors wanting to brand themselves without the impetus of a public clamoring for more of what they already know.

RemusShepherd
06-11-2010, 12:18 AM
I really don't believe there are hordes of authors wanting to brand themselves without the impetus of a public clamoring for more of what they already know.

The point of the manifesto seems to be that the publishing industry is wild about branding right now, and authors are being pushed into doing it even to the extent that it becomes antisocial.

'Be social, not plastic' would be a good summary, IMHO.

Shadow_Ferret
06-11-2010, 12:20 AM
I said it before, in another thread supporting branding: I am not a brand. I'm a human being!

Although someone else pointed out that I am, in fact, a ferret.

Bubastes
06-11-2010, 12:23 AM
Why does The Prisoner come to mind? "I'm not a brand! I'm a free man!"

Shadow_Ferret
06-11-2010, 12:25 AM
Because that's what I was channeling when I said it. :)

aadams73
06-11-2010, 12:27 AM
My reader self and my writer self are in conflict here.

As a writer, I'd love to be able to write whatever strikes my fancy, regardless of genre, tone, etc. I love stretching my wings, exploring my own capabilities and trying to expand my writing skills beyond the borders of genre. The writer in me itches to explore all the possibilities, just to see if I can.

But as a reader, I want to go into that bookstore, pick up the latest book by XYZ, and know what--within reason--I'm getting in return for my money. I want Janet Evanovich's books to be funny every time, I want something fantastical from Neil Gaiman, I want a thrill from Preston & Child. I rely on their brands to tell me what kind of story is between those covers.

Branding leads the reader to the shelf so they can find exactly what they want. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

bettielee
06-11-2010, 12:29 AM
God Bless Her. **goes to make snacks**


The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.

BenPanced
06-11-2010, 12:32 AM
BenPancedR. There ARE No Substitutes.tm

FluffBunny
06-11-2010, 01:02 AM
BenPancedR. There ARE No Substitutes.tm

How about, "Accept NO Imitations -- Ask for BenPanced by Name!" Or, maybe, just, "Offer not valid in Nebraska". ;) I think I'll go with, "Contents may have settled in shipping." I'll be famous!

BenPanced
06-11-2010, 01:10 AM
Me? Settled? Boy, you haven't been around here very long, have you?

san_remo_ave
06-11-2010, 01:32 AM
Maybe because I'm in the business of marketing I don't see branding as a problem.

Perhaps you don't see yourself as a brand, but your readers will. A brand in of itself does not have to be limiting. A brand does not have to mean "You can expect only this type of book from me."

Your brand can be: "You can expect an awesome book from me."

I agree.

Cassiopeia
06-11-2010, 01:37 AM
I keep getting referred to as "that customer service girl". The president of the local chamber of commerce thinks it's cute to call me that. Only problem is, it limits the scope of my consultancy work.

We. Are. Not. Amused.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 01:42 AM
Branding is not new. It's part of intellectual property control, and the professional presentation of self. It's been part of what writers do since the sixteenth century.

Shadow_Ferret
06-11-2010, 01:44 AM
Branding is not new. It's part of intellectual property control, and the professional presentation of self. It's been part of what writers do since the sixteenth century.

That all sounds so dehumanizing.

Cassiopeia
06-11-2010, 01:54 AM
That all sounds so dehumanizing.Yep, it does seem to sound that way at times. Sorta like the HR profession which now uses an accounting term for personnel. Human Capital. It's a bad bad practice.

But branding is becoming one of those overused cliche buzzwords and I can see why someone would refuse to do it.

Hallen
06-11-2010, 02:15 AM
Ugh, I hate "brand" crap. It seems to be part and parcel of publishing now though, from what I've seen.


I don't understand that. People need to be able to recognize what they are buying. "Brand" is just a word to describe a complex image that people recognize and relate to. If there were a room full of shoes and you bought one pair and loved them, but there was no branding. The next time you go for shoes, you'd have to just pick at random hoping you get a good pair. If the shoes are branded, you'll know what shoes to get that will likely provide you with what you desire.

Your brand as an author does not define you, it defines your product. There is nothing stopping an author from using multiple brands to provide multiple products to multiple sections of the market. It's hard to do because you have to have the backing of a publisher, but I know it gets done. (this might be what she meant by being "locked in". She is known for one type of book, but wants to write others and can't find a way to get published?)

Jamesaritchie
06-11-2010, 02:44 AM
But books and names aren't human. No product is human. Products are out there to sell, branding helps them sell better, and has pretty much nothing to do with how you live you life.

Bubastes
06-11-2010, 02:49 AM
But books and names aren't human. No product is human. Products are out there to sell, branding helps them sell better, and has pretty much nothing to do with how you live you life.

Very true, and this is the way I've always understood it. However, the trend now is to treat yourself as a brand (that is, you as a person), which is where I think most of this social media advice/nonsense is coming from. I don't mind branding my books, but leave me as a person out of it.

EagerReader
06-11-2010, 02:55 AM
My reader self and my writer self are in conflict here

This. Totally.

Hallen
06-11-2010, 03:03 AM
Very true, and this is the way I've always understood it. However, the trend now is to treat yourself as a brand (that is, you as a person), which is where I think most of this social media advice/nonsense is coming from. I don't mind branding my books, but leave me as a person out of it.

Ah, interesting. I wasn't looking at it from that standpoint. Yes, the whole social/new media thing has a lot of people spinning. I don't think I would be comfortable putting myself out there like that. I would do it as a pen-name persona, but not as me. I'm not looking to be famous, I just want to write. I can fully understand not wanting to do that and honestly, I think it's asking too much of people to do so. I'm willing to blog, I'm willing to tweet, I'm willing to do signings and conventions, but I will be promoting my work, not myself.

I have a friend that is a freelance advertising copywriter. She went to a special school to learn all about this stuff and how to use it effectively. Right now, it's seen as the new paradigm that will replace all traditional advertising. I don't think it will. It will become a tool in the toolbox.

Jamesaritchie
06-11-2010, 03:28 AM
Very true, and this is the way I've always understood it. However, the trend now is to treat yourself as a brand (that is, you as a person), which is where I think most of this social media advice/nonsense is coming from. I don't mind branding my books, but leave me as a person out of it.


Yes, you're probably right, but I don't have a problem with it because I don't do it, I don't care if other writers promote themsleves as a brad. Up to them, and if the decide they don't enjoy it, they can always stop.

But some people seem to love being a brand, love all the social media flap. That's fine with me. If it makes them happy, they should go for it.

I, however, am with you. I choose to leave myself out of it.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 03:47 AM
That all sounds so dehumanizing.

Dude, it goes back to the idea of the colophon, where a scribe signed the end of a mss. that the scribe copied.

It means that today, we know a ms. copied by Ulric of Maburg is going to be a solid piece of careful work. We talk about "This is an Ulric ms."

It means that the Aldus Manutius sign of an anchor in a book or stamped on a binding means a carefully printed book with a carefully designed type.

It means that when I find a book with Bear's name on it, or the Tor rocket ship, I have an idea of what kind of book it is.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 03:49 AM
Very true, and this is the way I've always understood it. However, the trend now is to treat yourself as a brand (that is, you as a person), which is where I think most of this social media advice/nonsense is coming from. I don't mind branding my books, but leave me as a person out of it.

Yeah, that's for amateurs, not for people who write day in and day out.

That's for the Ann Rice sorts.

FluffBunny
06-11-2010, 04:52 AM
Me? Settled? Boy, you haven't been around here very long, have you?

No, me settled. You, no substitutes. Why, pray tell, are we both talking like a Tarzan movie?

FluffBunny
06-11-2010, 04:58 AM
Yep, it does seem to sound that way at times. Sorta like the HR profession which now uses an accounting term for personnel. Human Capital. It's a bad bad practice.

But branding is becoming one of those overused cliche buzzwords and I can see why someone would refuse to do it.

Ugh. That's even worse than being called a "resource". State employees here aren't people or employees or even resources--they're FTEs. Full-time Employees. Don't let the "employee" part fool you; they refer to empty spots as FTEs, too. It's just the name that's used for a slot whether or not there's a human in it.

"Human Capital", though, that's worse. (shudder)

Soccer Mom
06-11-2010, 05:00 AM
I think she's railing against the notion of push, push, push your brand, all the time, everywhere. All network is about branding. You must repeat something at least three times. Blah, blah, blah.

She's simply saying not to forget the human side. You are still a person, separate from your products.

san_remo_ave
06-11-2010, 05:13 AM
Ugh. That's even worse than being called a "resource". State employees here aren't people or employees or even resources--they're FTEs. Full-time Employees. Don't let the "employee" part fool you; they refer to empty spots as FTEs, too. It's just the name that's used for a slot whether or not there's a human in it.

You sure they don't mean "Full Time Equivalent"? that's what my company means by FTE, which is clearly meant to dehumanize.

san_remo_ave
06-11-2010, 05:16 AM
Very true, and this is the way I've always understood it. However, the trend now is to treat yourself as a brand (that is, you as a person), which is where I think most of this social media advice/nonsense is coming from. I don't mind branding my books, but leave me as a person out of it.

Great way to put it. I suspect this is more to do with the focus our society puts on celebrity these days and the influence THAT has on name recognition. It goes hand-in-hand with reality show consciousness than basic branding. IMHO.

Libbie
06-11-2010, 05:17 AM
You Are Not A Brand

The hell I'm not! I want a lucrative career, thanks. I'm capable of keeping myself emotionally detached from the branding of me, too, so I'm all set to go. Now I just need the fat contracts.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 06:14 AM
You sure they don't mean "Full Time Equivalent"? that's what my company means by FTE, which is clearly meant to dehumanize.

FTE is a Federal TLA; it's used in terms of benefit calculations.

And yes, it means Full Time Equivalent. It's used in industry, private and public companies, and higher ed and hospitals.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 06:15 AM
This is like worrying over whether or not you use FaceBook.

Just concentrate on writing the best possible books.

FluffBunny
06-11-2010, 06:30 AM
You sure they don't mean "Full Time Equivalent"? that's what my company means by FTE, which is clearly meant to dehumanize.

No, at least they said it was "employees" when I was still working for them. Hmmmmm..... Could be worse, I suppose; at my last, "let's get a whole bunch of new employees from widely divergent divisions together and make them fill out insurance and other paperwork" meeting, one of the HR people referred to us as cattle. As in, "Okay, time to get the cattle into the meeting room." I felt so....special. Moo.

NoGuessing
06-11-2010, 06:41 AM
I'm a media student majoring in journalism (well, not anymore, I'm switching. anyway). Here is my opinion, for what its worth.

That blog shows good examples of how not to promote yourself.

People are misunderstanding the concept of branding in media. We're not selling Watties spaghetti here.

Branding is whatever you want it to be. The smart way to promote yourself is not to promote yourself.

What do I mean by that?

First, I will not promote "NoGuessing" the person. I am not Paris Hilton, I do not desire the type of media attention she receives.

I will promote NoGuessing the author and my work.

But I will not repeat myself three times and whatever other gibberish those..people... the poor blogger described indulge in.

The best self-promotion occurs when no one really notices you're doing it.

That means being polite, being well spoken, and being relaxed, amongst other things. Pushiness and brazeness will get you no where and as we've seen will actualy alienate the readers you want to buy your books.

You want the readers to like you.

If people like you, then they'll be more favourable in their interactions towards you. It is human nature. If you're an obnoxious douche, they're not going to buy your book. I've had the Sword of Truth novels recommended to me, but I will never read them after seeing a few Terry Goodkind interviews. I don't think very highly of the man at all.

In contrast JK Rowling, Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan come across as great people. They're just a few examples.

In this day and age authors need to go on book tours and things because its a great way to interact with your readers. How cool would it be to actualy meet JK Rowling in person?

"Branding" won't trap you into a genre either. It shouldn't anyway, unless you've talked up a genre as your only love or something. Ken Follet wrote Pillars of the Earth and Eye of the Needle, two very different books. They both did brilliantly. if people know who you are and you write a book in a different genre to your norm, I argue your reader/fan would be more inclined to try something different from you because they like your work and trust you to write a good book.

Marketing is what you make of it.

Miss Plum
06-11-2010, 08:14 AM
The hell I'm not! I want a lucrative career, thanks. I'm capable of keeping myself emotionally detached from the branding of me, too, so I'm all set to go. Now I just need the fat contracts.

Hee hee, I'm with you. I can't wait until I have to worry about being branded. When the time comes, they can heat a circle-T over the forge until it's glowing and sink it into my bare shoulder.

shaldna
06-11-2010, 03:23 PM
branding of a writer is all too often forcing them into box from which there is no escape.

although I'm sure it's effective if you only ever want to write the same type of novels, same genre, same age range etc etc.

But if you want to write somethng else, grow and develop, then you're 'branding' could be holding you back.

willietheshakes
06-11-2010, 05:48 PM
branding of a writer is all too often forcing them into box from which there is no escape.

although I'm sure it's effective if you only ever want to write the same type of novels, same genre, same age range etc etc.

But if you want to write somethng else, grow and develop, then you're 'branding' could be holding you back.

I think you should tell that to Neil Gaiman, about how the "Neil Gaiman" brand is holding him back...

RemusShepherd
06-11-2010, 06:02 PM
The best self-promotion occurs when no one really notices you're doing it.

That means being polite, being well spoken, and being relaxed, amongst other things. Pushiness and brazeness will get you no where and as we've seen will actualy alienate the readers you want to buy your books.

You want the readers to like you.

And if you're incapable of doing this? If you're an irascible misanthrope who is visibly nervous in social situations, you can't promote yourself this way.

The problem is that people want there to be one solution that applies to all cases. Sure, some authors can promote themselves well. But some can't. Right now a lot of agent and author blogs are telling socially awkward authors to give up, without even looking at the quality of what they write.

Publishing needs to have routes to success for both social gadflys and misanthropic hermits -- both Sandersons and Salingers. If someone wants to be a brand then god bless them, but they shouldn't have to be.

Phaeal
06-11-2010, 06:11 PM
I want to be several brands.

Jamesaritchie
06-11-2010, 09:03 PM
I think you should tell that to Neil Gaiman, about how the "Neil Gaiman" brand is holding him back...

I love Gaiman's writing, but I'd stop writing altogether before I'd spend the time he does on the road, running all over hell and gone in what does seem to be a personal brand rush.

But Gaiman seems to love it, and if you do, go for it. It certainly won't hold anyone back. It's just not a lifestyle that I'd even consider living.

Jamesaritchie
06-11-2010, 09:05 PM
I'm a media student majoring in journalism (well, not anymore, I'm switching. anyway). Here is my opinion, for what its worth.

That blog shows good examples of how not to promote yourself.

People are misunderstanding the concept of branding in media. We're not selling Watties spaghetti here.

Branding is whatever you want it to be. The smart way to promote yourself is not to promote yourself.

What do I mean by that?

First, I will not promote "NoGuessing" the person. I am not Paris Hilton, I do not desire the type of media attention she receives.

I will promote NoGuessing the author and my work.

But I will not repeat myself three times and whatever other gibberish those..people... the poor blogger described indulge in.

The best self-promotion occurs when no one really notices you're doing it.

That means being polite, being well spoken, and being relaxed, amongst other things. Pushiness and brazeness will get you no where and as we've seen will actualy alienate the readers you want to buy your books.

You want the readers to like you.

If people like you, then they'll be more favourable in their interactions towards you. It is human nature. If you're an obnoxious douche, they're not going to buy your book. I've had the Sword of Truth novels recommended to me, but I will never read them after seeing a few Terry Goodkind interviews. I don't think very highly of the man at all.

In contrast JK Rowling, Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan come across as great people. They're just a few examples.

In this day and age authors need to go on book tours and things because its a great way to interact with your readers. How cool would it be to actualy meet JK Rowling in person?

"Branding" won't trap you into a genre either. It shouldn't anyway, unless you've talked up a genre as your only love or something. Ken Follet wrote Pillars of the Earth and Eye of the Needle, two very different books. They both did brilliantly. if people know who you are and you write a book in a different genre to your norm, I argue your reader/fan would be more inclined to try something different from you because they like your work and trust you to write a good book.

Marketing is what you make of it.

Well said, though I don't read books based on whether I do or don't like the writer. I don't care who writes a book, or what that writer is like, as long as it's a good read.

Noah Body
06-11-2010, 09:41 PM
I'm a brand. You can call me Heinz!

:D

NoGuessing
06-12-2010, 04:35 PM
And if you're incapable of doing this? If you're an irascible misanthrope who is visibly nervous in social situations, you can't promote yourself this way.

The problem is that people want there to be one solution that applies to all cases. Sure, some authors can promote themselves well. But some can't. Right now a lot of agent and author blogs are telling socially awkward authors to give up, without even looking at the quality of what they write.

Publishing needs to have routes to success for both social gadflys and misanthropic hermits -- both Sandersons and Salingers. If someone wants to be a brand then god bless them, but they shouldn't have to be.

If an author isn't a confident person in public, then I would strongly suggest they work on it. Not just for promoting their books either. Confidence is an invaluable trait across all areas of life.

If an author suffers because they are obnoxious in the way they promote themselves then the solution is simple: Don't be a dick.

If they really don't want to work on their confidence/people skills, then they can use other media. Blogs, facebook, video diaries etc etc. Really, it's not that much of a stretch to do it. You post on this website, and without looking at the members list you have several thousand potential readers on here that know who you are because you post here.

If an author really, really wants to leave it, then that is their problem and a really stupid choice in a highly competitve field like fiction writing. They can hire a marketer I suppose, but that costs a lot of money.

In a competitive market, those who have great communication skills on top of good writing will always beat those who just have good writing. The publishing industry wants the best, most skillful writers in their books. The easier their books are to market, the more likely they are to pick the author up. I see absolutely no issue with this logic.

Authors shouldn't have to to talk to people, but they do. I shouldn't have to sit in a traffic jam or go to class even if I'm sick. I have the option not to, but I'll suffer for it in the long run.

There are always challenges in life. There is the hard route and the easy/lazy route to dealing with challenges. If an author isn't prepared to work on something they need, then there are consequences.

Kitty27
06-12-2010, 09:58 PM
I am Nicola. Expect magical,freaky and completely insane glory from all of my books.
Disclaimer:Swaggerjack me and I will spit hoodoo at you.
*Smile*

LOL! I call social branding hustling. That's all it is. Superior writing will always have fans. There will always be writers who can sell well without any sort of hustle.Personally,I think that they are rare. I feel that superior writing+hustle will come out on top every time. I have read books that are absolutely terrible but are bestsellers because their authors are excellent hustlers. Writing is a competitive business. You are putting your book against other writers. Forget all this high blown talk of beautiful writing,compelling plot,and other stuff(just for a moment). It is a competition and the best won't always win. A book has to have that extra oomph to bring it in the marketplace. There are writers out here who are not playing and doing everything they can to win. Folks bash SMeyer all day long,but that woman's hustle is something vicious. I cannot help but to admire her for it.

It's just like the rap business. The rapper with the best flow is not necessarily the winner. I think that Mos Def, Nas, and Talib Kweli easily beat Jay Z in terms of lyrical ability. But they don't have his hustle. That's why he's global and they are underground. If that isn't in your personality, then that's okay. But the writers with that hustle will easily blow past writers who,quite frankly,more talented than they are. We see it time and time again on the best sellers list. Horrid books beating all hell out of ones that are far better. It's not fair,but it's hard out here,folks.

Also,some books will require a harder push from their authors,whether you like it or not. Multicultural fiction of any kind is a hard sell. I know this. So I have to be a most excellent hustler,which I have no problem with. I will brand myself silly and have a good time doing it. I can see how someone who is shy might have difficulties. But there are ways to get things going. Facebook,Twitter,website,etc. All can be done in relative isolation. But there is going to come a time(hopefully) when you have to meet fans,talks to interviewers,etc.

But to be blunt,if you send your nice book out there with NO grind behind it,it will flop. Having a brand that readers know and expect is an asset. Hollering about a brand limiting you is ridiculous to me. If said brand brings you sales,money,and fans,exactly what is the downside? BRAND ME,BABY,all day,every day! None of us write for writing glory alone. If that was the case,we'd self publish and give the book away for free. Everyone here is going for a contract aka grip. A brand helps you get more grip. Again,what is the downside?

You want to do something else? That's what pen names are for. Then you get to build a whole new brand. I consider this to be quite a good time. Branding is a necessary tool in a writer's arsenal,just as important as excellent writing.

Christine N.
06-13-2010, 01:06 AM
No YOU are not a brand.

Your writing, however... it's a marketable product. Separate yourself from the product for personal interactions, but for business I suppose in this day and age you have to be the face of the company (ie: the writer you).

C.M.C.
06-13-2010, 02:08 AM
None of us write for writing glory alone.

Perhaps not all by itself, but it is the major factor for many people here. If money, fame or power were anywhere near as important, we wouldn't be writers. We're smarter than that.

veinglory
06-13-2010, 02:24 AM
You can publicise yourself and your work without plasticising yourself into a "brand".

Ken
06-13-2010, 02:30 AM
... can't but admire Ms Johnson. She's got integrity. No denying that. Thing is though that many writers, including me, don't got the ability to be anything other than a 'brand.' We're adequate at writing in one particular way and genre, only. Neither are we really capable of producing anything entirely unique. As such, I don't really care for this term she's coined. She's not just knocking the industry, but all of us writers who aren't up to her caliber.

Christine N.
06-13-2010, 04:35 AM
You can publicise yourself and your work without plasticising yourself into a "brand".

Yes, and I completely agree. I think Maureen's got it on the nose - that when you use your social media to promote yourself, you need to BE yourself.

Be a brand in the bookstore, be a person in real life. People want to know there's a real person behind the image :)

RemusShepherd
06-14-2010, 10:20 PM
If an author isn't a confident person in public, then I would strongly suggest they work on it. Not just for promoting their books either. Confidence is an invaluable trait across all areas of life.

I think you're mistaking social skill with confidence. You can be a confident person with no social skills. I'll point to Harlan Ellison as an example. (Although even Harlan is not completely without charm.)


If an author suffers because they are obnoxious in the way they promote themselves then the solution is simple: Don't be a dick.

If a pelican suffers from having oil in its nesting grounds then the solution is simple: Don't be a pelican.

Look, I know this is alien to a lot of you people, but not everyone has a choice in how they present themselves. Some of us have deep-seated problems with public behavior that were ingrained during our childhood. Telling someone like that to 'work on it' is like telling a pedophile to date older women. You just can't solve psychological problems that way.


In a competitive market, those who have great communication skills on top of good writing will always beat those who just have good writing. The publishing industry wants the best, most skillful writers in their books. The easier their books are to market, the more likely they are to pick the author up. I see absolutely no issue with this logic.

My issue is only that it shouldn't be that way. The best writing should win out, and that is the only gauge that publishers should use.

Because if they do weigh the ability to self-promote, before long it will be the dominating factor, and then the only factor. You can see that happening now in all the crap novels from celebrities that fill the bookstores.

Soccer Mom
06-14-2010, 11:42 PM
Yes, and I completely agree. I think Maureen's got it on the nose - that when you use your social media to promote yourself, you need to BE yourself.

Be a brand in the bookstore, be a person in real life. People want to know there's a real person behind the image :)


This is it exactly.

NoGuessing
06-15-2010, 10:06 AM
I think you're mistaking social skill with confidence. You can be a confident person with no social skills. I'll point to Harlan Ellison as an example. (Although even Harlan is not completely without charm.)

Ideally you'd have both.


If a pelican suffers from having oil in its nesting grounds then the solution is simple: Don't be a pelican.

Unsavoury people are vastly different from pelicans, unless you're reffering to noise level and nose size.

People can change. You aren't made into an obnoxious person. People get themselves into that toilet.


Look, I know this is alien to a lot of you people, but not everyone has a choice in how they present themselves. Some of us have deep-seated problems with public behavior that were ingrained during our childhood. Telling someone like that to 'work on it' is like telling a pedophile to date older women. You just can't solve psychological problems that way.

Unless there is an actual mental issue like autism or a stroke, then you can work on how you present yourself.

For those with an issue, then yes, there is an issue (pardon the pun). I imagine if they wrote a publishable book that the publisher liked, then they would find a way to help them if the book was good enough. Publishers are hardly likely to reject something that might sell. I know people with various mental disorders that still have blogs, facebook, twitter etc. They're great for creating market awareness.

Telling people to "work on it" doesn't help, correct. They need to want to work on it. They need to be motivated to work on it. They need to learn how.

Comparing pedophiles to authors with author presentation probably isn't a very nice thing to say.


My issue is only that it shouldn't be that way. The best writing should win out, and that is the only gauge that publishers should use.

Because if they do weigh the ability to self-promote, before long it will be the dominating factor, and then the only factor. You can see that happening now in all the crap novels from celebrities that fill the bookstores.

Why should a company choose a (mentally fine) author who will be harder for them to sell over an author of the same quality who isn't so easy to sell?

In any case, publishers won't pick up crap writing. They can't sell crap.

If you point at Twilight etc, then while it's not to my taste, a large number of people enjoyed that series.

The ability to self promote is hardly likely to ever be the dominating factor, let alone the only factor. That is an assumption, and a flawed one. Publishers still have to sell the book. Rubbish writing and especially rubbish stories that readers don't like will never ever, ever sell. There is no precedent for it. Unless there is an epidemic of global masochism.

Promotion skills will come into it when there are two pieces of publishable work and for some crazy reason the publisher can only pick one.

If the writing is good, it will be picked up. Publishers like authors with extra skills but if the story is a good one then I doubt they'll say "This story is good but we shouldn't publish it because, you know, who wants to read a good story?"

And I have never come across fiction written by a celebrity. Biographies and autobiographies are another matter. Often a celebrity can be made out of a writer if their books catch on in a massive way, but I've never seen a novel written by a celebrity.

But lets say Paris Hilton or George Clooney writes a book that is essentially the worst book ever. Publishers would consider picking it up because of the novelty value, and it would sell a few copies because of the novelty.

But do you know what? I think it would be laughed out by readers. They'd give it a go to see how bad it was, but if it was crap, then they'd still see. Readers aren't idiots. I think there would be more public pressure on the celebrity than on Joe Bloggs to write a good book, because writing books isn't exactly what George Clooney is known for no?

And if a good marketer submits crap, they will still be rejected. Sure their marketing skills could sell a few copies, but word of mouth is fast. Readers would learn to avoid that book.

Really, I can just see marketing and social skills becoming another straw man for unpublished authors to point the finger at in the near future.

Joe Bloggs: "They didn't publish my book because I'm not a confident person!"

Errr, no. They didn't publish it because they didn't like your story. Also, you're bitching on a blog/Facebook/Twitter. They're great for marketing, so your lack of confidence isn't the worst thing in the world.

dclary
06-15-2010, 11:47 AM
I just wanted to make sure that AW saw this manifesto that's going around the internet. In case you haven't seen it, the author Maureen Johnson went off on a wonderful little rant about branding and publishing. (http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/2010/06/08/manifesto/)



I agree with her sentiments, and I hope this becomes a full-fledged backlash. The internet -- and the publishing industry -- should be made of people, not plastic trademarks.


Yes. Because coca cola only sells cola.

Not any other flavor soda.
Not any juice
Not any energy drinks
Not any water
They don't sell shirts
They don't sell shoes
They don't sell tables, or chairs, or silverware, or dishware, or glassware, or kitchen utensils, or salt and pepper shakers.
They don't sell porcelain villages at christmas, or christmas decorations, or ornaments, or animated Santa Clauses.


Coca Cola sells 3300 different kinds of beverages alone, let alone the vast amount of other merchandise they market as well.


Branding yourself doesn't mean your market expects you to sell only one thing. It means you establish yourself as something worth buying -- and that *anything* you produce must be worth owning, simply because it's got your name on it.

Hell yeah I want to be a brand.

AP7
06-15-2010, 05:13 PM
Pardon my cynicism, but when you put out books entitled, "Suite Scarlett" "Scarlett Fever" "The Scarlett Letter" and "Scarlett O'Hara" you most certainly are a brand.

I think what she's really trying to say is, dont be an annoying, shameless self promoter. I dont see what that has to do with branding though. maybe I'm missing the point.

NoGuessing
06-15-2010, 05:43 PM
Pardon my cynicism, but when you put out books entitled, "Suite Scarlett" "Scarlett Fever" "The Scarlett Letter" and "Scarlett O'Hara" you most certainly are a brand.

I think what she's really trying to say is, dont be an annoying, shameless self promoter. I dont see what that has to do with branding though. maybe I'm missing the point.

Similar meanings of words, similar implications etc. Pretty easy to get mixed up in some cases.

swvaughn
06-15-2010, 05:52 PM
*IT WILL GO ON THE INTERNET OR IT WILL GET THE HOSE*

I liked that part. :D

RemusShepherd
06-15-2010, 06:35 PM
Promotion skills will come into it when there are two pieces of publishable work and for some crazy reason the publisher can only pick one.

If the writing is good, it will be picked up.

I don't believe this is true. There are plenty of good works that go unpublished, and plenty of bad works that get published because the author is able to leverage themselves better. Promotion skills come into it well before quality is considered. If nothing else, a well-promoted book might find its way past the slush pile and onto an editor's desk, while a better story in the slush might be missed. In that case it's not a matter of measuring quality, it's a matter of whether both texts are given a fair look.


And I have never come across fiction written by a celebrity.

Are you even living on planet Earth? Glenn Beck, Katie Price, Hugh Laurie, Pamela Anderson, Madonna -- the list goes on. Some of those were savaged by critics (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/14/AR2010061405423.html) as terrible stories (http://www.curledup.com/pamstars.htm), but they still sold like gangbusters.

Now, the publishers can be forgiven for printing some of these. They make money on these books that then funds the publishing of lesser known authors. Publishers need to make money. Nobody faults them for that, even if they selling a bit of their souls to do it.

But the advice now being given to new writers is to follow that model: Learn to be a celebrity first, and an author second. Be a brand, and polish your writing skills if you can find the time.

This advice is WRONG. It is harmful. And for some authors it is impossible to follow. That's all I'm saying.


But lets say Paris Hilton or George Clooney writes a book that is essentially the worst book ever. Publishers would consider picking it up because of the novelty value, and it would sell a few copies because of the novelty.

But do you know what? I think it would be laughed out by readers. They'd give it a go to see how bad it was, but if it was crap, then they'd still see. Readers aren't idiots.

Please take me to your planet. It sounds so much saner there.

Medievalist
06-15-2010, 11:55 PM
Going back to the OP and the linked article, there's a problem other than the obvious one--the woman on the panel going on and on about branding, is clueless. She's selling a new version of digital snake oil, but, like the old versions of snake oil, digital or otherwise, she's running a scam that, at the end, doesn't actually have a product for the customer--or the reader.

Branding done right is good. The way most people use branding is not good. It is in fact, offensive, stupid, and damaging.

Nor is the way most people talk about, use and refer to social networking applications and sites.

The smartest thing I've heard, seen or read about this is practically an ancient tome in Internet years; it's called The Cluetrain Manifesto (http://www.cluetrain.com/).

It's about the way the 'net, used properly, is about conversations, about many-to-many conversations.

Most people, including most bloggers, including many self-described expert bloggers, especially in publishing, have completely screwed themselves because they are engaging in one-to-many conversations.

They are, in effect, creating a negative reputation, and negative branding--they have become, like Anne Rice, brands to avoid.

dclary
06-16-2010, 02:04 AM
Going back to the OP and the linked article, there's a problem other than the obvious one--the woman on the panel going on and on about branding, is clueless. She's selling a new version of digital snake oil, but, like the old versions of snake oil, digital or otherwise, she's running a scam that, at the end, doesn't actually have a product for the customer--or the reader.

Branding done right is good. The way most people use branding is not good. It is in fact, offensive, stupid, and damaging.

Nor is the way most people talk about, use and refer to social networking applications and sites.

The smartest thing I've heard, seen or read about this is practically an ancient tome in Internet years; it's called The Cluetrain Manifesto (http://www.cluetrain.com/).

It's about the way the 'net, used properly, is about conversations, about many-to-many conversations.

Most people, including most bloggers, including many self-described expert bloggers, especially in publishing, have completely screwed themselves because they are engaging in one-to-many conversations.

They are, in effect, creating a negative reputation, and negative branding--they have become, like Anne Rice, brands to avoid.

This.

Specifically why I've always preferred forums to blogs. And I'm nearly as ancient as Medi when it comes to things of the internet. Ancienter, maybe.

gothicangel
06-16-2010, 11:44 AM
Has anyone else noticed the branding of art work on jackets?

I've never looked to see if they are the same publisher [probably pop into Waterstone's and have a look :D], but I've read them before and they've left me feeling 'meh.'

Too genre for my tastes [I like my literary thrillers], but when I see these jackets I stay well away. Sometimes I do feel like a good genre book, but these jackets put me off. Which is sad because I've read some great genre writers and the branding is putting me off.

NoGuessing
06-16-2010, 12:55 PM
First of all, nice job at conveniently ignoring about half of my post.


I don't believe this is true. There are plenty of good works that go unpublished, and plenty of bad works that get published because the author is able to leverage themselves better. Promotion skills come into it well before quality is considered. If nothing else, a well-promoted book might find its way past the slush pile and onto an editor's desk, while a better story in the slush might be missed. In that case it's not a matter of measuring quality, it's a matter of whether both texts are given a fair look.

Can you give me some examples of these unpublished good works?

I have extremely strong doubts that a publisher would let something good slide. They want good books. Also, to my knowledge, there isn't a rule where the head honcho says "all right guys, we can only publish twenty books this year. Even if a book kicks ass, we will ignore it and let our competitors have it." If a publisher is that stupid, no wonder they need to sell some hot sex books written by Pamela Anderson.

Also, are you reffering to writing or story quality? What makes writing/story good and bad in your view? Good is subjective, and I'm trying to see what these great unpublished books consist of. Some examples would be great.


Are you even living on planet Earth? Glenn Beck, Katie Price, Hugh Laurie, Pamela Anderson, Madonna -- the list goes on. Some of those were savaged by critics (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/14/AR2010061405423.html) as terrible stories (http://www.curledup.com/pamstars.htm), but they still sold like gangbusters.

Please don't try and talk condescendingly to me. I may have to start talking about the geology of other planets to make your eyes glaze over.

Whilst I would love to be having this discussion from the comfort of my living room on Pluto, I am in fact talking to you from Palmerston North, New Zealand, Planet Earth. Similar temperature to Pluto btw.

I haven't read those books. I only just found out who Glen Beck is. A Fox News loony, good for him. I don't watch that trash. I like his idea though. 1984 is an awesome read and if someone could pull off something similar I'd be a happy man. Obviously he didn't pull it off.

What your links are lacking in are sales figures. Do you have any?

I can see a book by Pamela Anderson selling, but only for the novelty. If the book was bad, do you think readers would automatically think its good because she wrote it?

Isn't there a rule on writing that says something like "never assume readers are stupid"?


Now, the publishers can be forgiven for printing some of these. They make money on these books that then funds the publishing of lesser known authors. Publishers need to make money. Nobody faults them for that, even if they selling a bit of their souls to do it.

Are you implying that non-celebrity authors can't make money? Are you implying a movie star can't be a good writer?


But the advice now being given to new writers is to follow that model: Learn to be a celebrity first, and an author second. Be a brand, and polish your writing skills if you can find the time.

This advice is WRONG. It is harmful. And for some authors it is impossible to follow. That's all I'm saying.

Writers are encouraged to be celebrities? Links please.

My understanding is writers are encouraged to have an internet presence and the ability to go on a book tour.

Also, a celebrity is a lot different to a brand. A brand is Coca Cola. A celebrity is Tommy Lee.

And I'm sorry, but no matter how hard Joe Bloggs tries to be a celebrity, he will never sell as many books as a good author with a few marketing skills. Celebrities are known. The only ways an author can get known is:

A) Writing a good book
B) Already being established in another field

I think you are getting the three very mixed up.

A marketer is your everyday promoter.
A celebrity is some random famous person who generally has a sex tape on the net.
A brand is a product, like Coca Cola.

While a bottle of Coca Cola having sex shouting "buy this!" would no doubt amuse me, I can't see myself taking this bottle of coke seriously. I think I'll go see if the new Artemis Fowl is on the shelves yet.


Please take me to your planet. It sounds so much saner there.

Did you know that the Milky Way Galaxy is going to merge with the Andromeda Galaxy?

Sure you can come say hi to me at Plutoston North. It's a bit chilly though.

Really, I think you're making this into more than it is. A few people skills, like you know, saying "hi" and smiling sweetly, are hardly comparable with Madonna.

Tbh if I danced in the kind of outfits Madonna wears, people would buy my books to make me stop. They wouldn't be able to read them though because their eyes would be permanently blinded by my awesome masculine sexiness ruined.

This argument is sounding similar to people that point at bands that make a catchy song and all the tru fanz jump up and down, screaming "sell out!" at the top of their lungs.

NoGuessing
06-16-2010, 01:06 PM
Going back to the OP and the linked article, there's a problem other than the obvious one--the woman on the panel going on and on about branding, is clueless. She's selling a new version of digital snake oil, but, like the old versions of snake oil, digital or otherwise, she's running a scam that, at the end, doesn't actually have a product for the customer--or the reader.

Branding done right is good. The way most people use branding is not good. It is in fact, offensive, stupid, and damaging.

Nor is the way most people talk about, use and refer to social networking applications and sites.

The smartest thing I've heard, seen or read about this is practically an ancient tome in Internet years; it's called The Cluetrain Manifesto (http://www.cluetrain.com/).

It's about the way the 'net, used properly, is about conversations, about many-to-many conversations.

Most people, including most bloggers, including many self-described expert bloggers, especially in publishing, have completely screwed themselves because they are engaging in one-to-many conversations.

They are, in effect, creating a negative reputation, and negative branding--they have become, like Anne Rice, brands to avoid.

^this

Christine N.
06-16-2010, 01:49 PM
Are you implying that non-celebrity authors can't make money? Are you implying a movie star can't be a good writer?


No, and no. But celebrity books in general (don't get me started on the book Paris Hilton "wrote"- she didn't but her name was on the cover) sell enough copies to cover the more literary works that don't sell as well. The literary book might not lose money, but it also might not quite sell through as hoped, or make a smaller profit. The celeb book will bring in enough capital that the publisher can take a chance on a book they might not otherwise. Or two.

Non-celebrity authors do make money. Of course they do. And there are celebs who DO write well. Julie Andrews and John Lithgow both write children's books that I enjoy. Madonna??? *shudder*

NoGuessing
06-16-2010, 04:42 PM
I have seriously never seen any celeb attempts at fiction in the stores down here. I don't doubt they're out there somewhere and people buy them, but I would be interested to see some sales figures and compare them to some bestsellers and midlisters.

I don't think they're anywhere near as big of an "issue" as RS believes.

I am soooo going to Whitcoulls tomorrow and having a poke round for these celeb books.:D I can't believe Paris Hilton had a go.

Not buying her book though ;). It will suck and she doesn't deserve the attention.

gothicangel
06-16-2010, 04:53 PM
I doubt you would ever hear about Katie Price, just a wannabe z-list Brit celeb. One day very soon they'll be switching the cameras to someone younger and she'll be the one they are saying OMG about.

Celeb writers don't bother me, we are writing for different audiences. But they are welcome to it, if it means the money they generate means my literary thriller gets a publication deal.

SarahNFisk
06-16-2010, 05:22 PM
I think she's railing against the notion of push, push, push your brand, all the time, everywhere. All network is about branding. You must repeat something at least three times. Blah, blah, blah.

She's simply saying not to forget the human side. You are still a person, separate from your products.

YES. MJ's post wasn't so much against having a "brand," but about the way you present yourself and this 'brand' - the way so-called experts are explaining branding. She does a GREAT job of marketing herself via social media, but I've only ever seen her mention an actual book once. (This post spread like wildfire and it's slightly ironic that people are now buying her books because of it.) In fact, I became a Twitter follower before I ever read any of her books - and I've bought several since. On the other hand, I started following this author on Twitter because I loved his books. His Twitter stream looked like this:

"Buy my book, Awesome Book, here."

"My book is available online here: ..."

"Awesome Book was released today, but it!"

etc...

Ugh. I unfollowed him and haven't bought a book since. This is what MJ is speaking out against.

SarahNFisk
06-16-2010, 05:43 PM
Pardon my cynicism, but when you put out books entitled, "Suite Scarlett" "Scarlett Fever" "The Scarlett Letter" and "Scarlett O'Hara" you most certainly are a brand.

I think what she's really trying to say is, dont be an annoying, shameless self promoter. I dont see what that has to do with branding though. maybe I'm missing the point.

Only the first two are books of hers. And Scarlett Fever is just a sequel of the first one.

I agree with your second point. It doesn't have to do anything with branding, in the true sense of the word. However, so-called experts are calling the make-sure-everyone-knows-your-name-at-all-costs type of social media marketing "branding."

RemusShepherd
06-16-2010, 07:15 PM
Can you give me some examples of these unpublished good works?

Also, are you reffering to writing or story quality? What makes writing/story good and bad in your view? Good is subjective, and I'm trying to see what these great unpublished books consist of. Some examples would be great.

You're asking me to prove a negative, to point to things that do not exist. How do I show you an unpublished book?

I could, I suppose, point to books where the author tried to get published the normal way but eventually failed, yet had great success in self-publishing. Or I could show you books I've read -- my own and my friends -- that are worthy of being published but have not yet gotten an editor's attention. But neither of those are good proofs. It seems self-evident to me that there are unpublished good novels out there, considering how slow and inefficient the publishing game is. Since authors are human with limits to their endurance, and novels often take years to sell even if they are good, it should be obvious that some good novels are abandoned by their authors out of frustration with the publishing industry. That's the most rigorous theoretical proof I can give you.


Please don't try and talk condescendingly to me. I may have to start talking about the geology of other planets to make your eyes glaze over.

I'm sorry, I never meant to be condescending or insulting. I did warn you that I have poor social skills.

As for planetary geology, I'm a satellite physicist and I think we could find some common ground there. No pun intended. :)


Whilst I would love to be having this discussion from the comfort of my living room on Pluto, I am in fact talking to you from Palmerston North, New Zealand, Planet Earth. Similar temperature to Pluto btw.

Gah. It's always the New Zealanders. :) You're not the first kiwi that I've had problems communicating to effectively. Something about the mindset down there that I don't understand, and vice versa. Oh, well, I'll soldier on.


What your links are lacking in are sales figures. Do you have any?

Pamela Anderson's execrable novel made it to #17 on the NY Times bestseller list. Glen Beck's novel is debuting this week, and is expected to top the charts. Celebrity novels sell very, very well in general. That's the only reason they're published.


I can see a book by Pamela Anderson selling, but only for the novelty. If the book was bad, do you think readers would automatically think its good because she wrote it?

Note that A) She didn't actually write it. Most celebrity books are ghost-written. And B) she also published a sequel, so it wasn't just a novelty act.


Isn't there a rule on writing that says something like "never assume readers are stupid"?

That is a rule writers have to follow when designing a story. It is not a rule for publishers who are marketing a story. Marketers want people to be stupid and easily led.


Are you implying that non-celebrity authors can't make money? Are you implying a movie star can't be a good writer?

No, neither of these. I think another poster explained it quite well already.


Writers are encouraged to be celebrities? Links please.

Um. That's what the link in the original post was ranting about. Writers are being encouraged to become their own brand.


Also, a celebrity is a lot different to a brand. A brand is Coca Cola. A celebrity is Tommy Lee.

The fact that you didn't even have to use his last name proves that we are talking about a brand, not a person. :)


A marketer is your everyday promoter.
A celebrity is some random famous person who generally has a sex tape on the net.
A brand is a product, like Coca Cola.

Yeah, we have very different viewpoints on the nature of fame and humanity. It's probably a waste of time having this dicussion. But, soldiering on...

A celebrity is some random famous person.
A brand is an idea -- usually a name, but sometimes a logo or just a concept. It is used as a shorthand description of a product. The brand is generally a condensed or stylized imitation of the actual product.
Marketers sell products. They like products to have brands, because they can convey a lot of information about the product by just mentioning its brand.

So: Coca Cola is a brand that was originally condensed from 'Cocaine-based beverage' ('cola' being a short description of the type of beverage.) Marketers can say 'Coca cola', and people instantly know they are talking about a specific brown, sweet, caffeinated, carbonated drink.

A celebrity becomes a brand when they promote themselves as iconic. Tommy Lee Jones is so well known, the name 'Tommy Lee' carries all the information you need to know. Harrison Ford is both a name and a brand -- it gives you the image of a rugged, handsome leading man in filmes with moderate action potential and a high level of drama. That may not be all that Harrison Ford does or all he's capable of doing, but that's the brand he's created for himself. In books, consider the name 'Dan Brown' or 'Lemony Snicket'. Those brands describe the content of every book that is labelled with them.

Writers are being advised to become brands -- to have their name represent the essence of what they write. I could someday be 'Remus S.', and everyone would know that a book with that name on it has hard science fiction, libertarian attitudes and a lot of deviant sex. If I'm very lucky I'd get a shorthand description, like 'The heir to Robert Heinlein, only squickier'. Everyone would know what a Remus S. story is about, and marketers could put ads up with nothing but the name and people would know exactly what they were selling.

As you can see, this is laughable if you aren't already famous enough for the public to form an impression about you. It's trying to force a meme, and that can backfire. That's what happened with the branded author in the link at the top of the thread.

So, branding is risky for new authors -- it pigeonholes you, and if you force it too much it's obvious and ridiculous. It's also not possible for some authors. If I were to try to brand myself I would probably end up as 'The heir to Harlan Ellison, only more of an asshole', and I don't want that.

But branding still seems to be what publishers and agents want. And that's a problem.

Whew, that was a lot of typing. I think I'm done after this, NG, whether you understand my point or not. Good chatting with you, though.

DeleyanLee
06-16-2010, 07:40 PM
But branding still seems to be what publishers and agents want. And that's a problem.

Sorry to disagree with you, but it's not what the publishers and agents want. It's what the average reader/bookbuyer wants. I'd actually say demands, not wants. Publishers are only trying to keep their businesses alive by supply the demand, after all.

I honestly don't see what all the hooplah is about becoming a "brand-name author". I honestly don't. I mean, we all have things that attract us to the stories we want to write, and those things tend to be there in everything we do write. These are the things that create our "brand" of books. It's what a reader (hopefully) fall in love with and want to experience again and again and again--which is what gives a writer a solid career and can launch them into bestsellerdom if the writer does it extremely entertainingly.

Seriously, isn't that what building a successful career in writing is all about--having people buying what you write because they know they like your style of stories? Or have I entirely mis-analyzed the careers of the successful authors all these years?

Shadow_Ferret
06-16-2010, 10:12 PM
Maybe it's me, but I don't think of the writers I enjoy as name brands. To me, that means they're putting out cookie cutter books, all packaged similarly, like the canned section in a supermarket. "Hmm, do I want Delmonte or Libby's?" All the corn is the same, just with a different label.

What attracts me to the writers I enjoy is their writing, their style, their word usage or phraseology. Not that they can put out the same story novel after novel after novel.

I'm not sure what you mean by "brand" unless you mean genre, but even within genre, there's a huge variety. I don't want to be pigeonholed nor do I look for authors who are.

Stlight
06-16-2010, 10:13 PM
I’ve never bought a book due to an author interview. I have put several authors on my Do not buy list due to their interviews. You can substitute blog for interview.

Authors who mention their books in every friggin’ post they make in groups, do not buy list. It makes me feel used.


Note - I don’t believe S Meyer only promoted herself once and that was after the books were mega hits. She went on Oprah. She made a point of not promoting herself, of hiding behind her brother. Remember?

Christine N.
06-17-2010, 01:02 AM
I have seriously never seen any celeb attempts at fiction in the stores down here. I don't doubt they're out there somewhere and people buy them, but I would be interested to see some sales figures and compare them to some bestsellers and midlisters.

I don't think they're anywhere near as big of an "issue" as RS believes.

I am soooo going to Whitcoulls tomorrow and having a poke round for these celeb books.:D I can't believe Paris Hilton had a go.

Not buying her book though ;). It will suck and she doesn't deserve the attention.


I would say a great deal of celebrity books fall into two categories: biography and children's. Which, if you don't like biography/memoir and are not into children's book trends (which I am, being a mother of a younger child, library school grad student, and children's writer) you might never notice.

They don't write a great deal of mainstream fiction, no. But there are piles of celebrity memoirs and children's picture books. Really.

Terie
06-17-2010, 01:29 AM
They don't write a great deal of mainstream fiction, no. But there are piles of celebrity memoirs and children's picture books. Really.

Here's a list (http://nancykeane.com/rl/362.htm) that's 10 years old, before the phenonmenon really took off. For example, it doesn't include Madonna's picturebooks.

Then there's the more current Amazon offering of 'Children's Books Written by Celebrities' (http://www.amazon.com/Childrens-Books-Written-by-Celebrities/lm/R1DML0L29FM885).

And Barnes and Noble's 'Celebrity Children's Books' (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/childrens-books-kids-baby-preschool-celebrity-author/379001083/).

Ruv Draba
06-17-2010, 01:45 AM
Maureen Johnson has created her brand as 'ordinary person having a conversation with the reader'.

Except that she's not. Email and forum-posts among members is having a conversation, but a blog is a broadcast medium. Johnson has no idea who she's talking to.

It's clever but she's self-promoting.

Medievalist
06-17-2010, 03:05 AM
There are also some "celebrity" authors who do write their own books, and very well, too: Carrie Fisher, Stephen Fry, for two names.

Christine N.
06-17-2010, 03:07 AM
Absolutely. I had forgotten Carrie Fisher. She also just wrote a play, come to think of it, and I saw an article on it.

But she is an exception to the rule, I would imagine, regarding mainstream fiction celebrity writers. I think there are far, far, more engaging in children's writing - some of them probably think it's easy. And for some it might be - I suck at picture books. Really. I've tried. It's HARD.

NoGuessing
06-17-2010, 04:50 AM
You're asking me to prove a negative, to point to things that do not exist. How do I show you an unpublished book?

I could, I suppose, point to books where the author tried to get published the normal way but eventually failed, yet had great success in self-publishing. Or I could show you books I've read -- my own and my friends -- that are worthy of being published but have not yet gotten an editor's attention. But neither of those are good proofs. It seems self-evident to me that there are unpublished good novels out there, considering how slow and inefficient the publishing game is. Since authors are human with limits to their endurance, and novels often take years to sell even if they are good, it should be obvious that some good novels are abandoned by their authors out of frustration with the publishing industry. That's the most rigorous theoretical proof I can give you.

Self published are probably about as much evidence as there is before things start getting really subjective (friends books etc)

I asked my question for precisely the problem you brought up: how do we know how good or bad these books are?


I'm sorry, I never meant to be condescending or insulting. I did warn you that I have poor social skills.

As for planetary geology, I'm a satellite physicist and I think we could find some common ground there. No pun intended. :)

I loled at the pun. :tongue

All good d00d. As for physics, you have a skill I wish I could do to complement my other stuff, damn you. :tongue I'm going down the geology/geography route instead.


Gah. It's always the New Zealanders. :) You're not the first kiwi that I've had problems communicating to effectively. Something about the mindset down there that I don't understand, and vice versa. Oh, well, I'll soldier on.

Lol, I have no idea what it could be. Maybe we're blunter than the rest of the world. or is that just moi?


Pamela Anderson's execrable novel made it to #17 on the NY Times bestseller list. Glen Beck's novel is debuting this week, and is expected to top the charts. Celebrity novels sell very, very well in general. That's the only reason they're published.

Note that A) She didn't actually write it. Most celebrity books are ghost-written. And B) she also published a sequel, so it wasn't just a novelty act.

Firstly, if she didn't write it then this is sounding very marginal in terms of false advertising. Obviously they've found a way around it.

I imagine the sequel was written to capitalise on the novelty.


That is a rule writers have to follow when designing a story. It is not a rule for publishers who are marketing a story. Marketers want people to be stupid and easily led.

Ideally yes, but rarely can they find a passive audience. Humans are ****ing suspicious. All those saber-tooth tigers back in the day.


Um. That's what the link in the original post was ranting about. Writers are being encouraged to become their own brand.

I meant primary evidence, such as a publisher blog or something.


The fact that you didn't even have to use his last name proves that we are talking about a brand, not a person. :)

Not neccessarily. If I called myself only by my first name, never saying my las name, then I would be reffered to only by my first name before long.


Yeah, we have very different viewpoints on the nature of fame and humanity. It's probably a waste of time having this dicussion. But, soldiering on...

A celebrity is some random famous person.
A brand is an idea -- usually a name, but sometimes a logo or just a concept. It is used as a shorthand description of a product. The brand is generally a condensed or stylized imitation of the actual product.
Marketers sell products. They like products to have brands, because they can convey a lot of information about the product by just mentioning its brand.

yep, all well and good. I was mainly checking you hadn't gotten mixed up in your definitions. It looked like it at one stage.


So: Coca Cola is a brand that was originally condensed from 'Cocaine-based beverage' ('cola' being a short description of the type of beverage.) Marketers can say 'Coca cola', and people instantly know they are talking about a specific brown, sweet, caffeinated, carbonated drink.

A celebrity becomes a brand when they promote themselves as iconic. Tommy Lee Jones is so well known, the name 'Tommy Lee' carries all the information you need to know. Harrison Ford is both a name and a brand -- it gives you the image of a rugged, handsome leading man in filmes with moderate action potential and a high level of drama. That may not be all that Harrison Ford does or all he's capable of doing, but that's the brand he's created for himself. In books, consider the name 'Dan Brown' or 'Lemony Snicket'. Those brands describe the content of every book that is labelled with them.

You have mixed up a brand with general perceptions. Harrison Ford doesn't have a brand, he just has some general roles. I would like to put a Bluebird chips sticker on his forehead though, just for kicks.

Dan Brown is probably the author closest to being a brand thanks to his rinse and repeat conspiracy theory thriller novels. Lee Child is another getting close to it with similarities in Jack Reacher plot structures. But then you have the likes of Ken Follet. By what you are saying, Pillars of the Earth and the more recent World Without End are lucky to exist.

When you're a big author I think it would actualy be easier to do whatever you like (unless you're Rowling and need to follow up Potter somehow). Anthony Horowitz has his spy thriller Alex Rider series going, but the Power of Five is urban fantasy.


Writers are being advised to become brands -- to have their name represent the essence of what they write. I could someday be 'Remus S.', and everyone would know that a book with that name on it has hard science fiction, libertarian attitudes and a lot of deviant sex. If I'm very lucky I'd get a shorthand description, like 'The heir to Robert Heinlein, only squickier'. Everyone would know what a Remus S. story is about, and marketers could put ads up with nothing but the name and people would know exactly what they were selling.

As you can see, this is laughable if you aren't already famous enough for the public to form an impression about you. It's trying to force a meme, and that can backfire. That's what happened with the branded author in the link at the top of the thread.

No, writers are encouraged to have some people skills and an internet presence. While this is difficult for more socially awkward types, it is a far cry from being a brand. I have never, ever seen publishers telling writers to be brands, but I do know they are interested in an author having a blog and organising a book tour.


So, branding is risky for new authors -- it pigeonholes you, and if you force it too much it's obvious and ridiculous. It's also not possible for some authors. If I were to try to brand myself I would probably end up as 'The heir to Harlan Ellison, only more of an asshole', and I don't want that.

But branding still seems to be what publishers and agents want. And that's a problem.

Whew, that was a lot of typing. I think I'm done after this, NG, whether you understand my point or not. Good chatting with you, though.

But you don't need to brand yourself. Honest. Branding oneself sounds like a desperate attempt to get published because the publisher didn't like their book.

If Pamela is a brand and pigeon-holed as presumably a plastic dummy with large... then what is she doing writing books? Since when would her brand allow that?

Catch ya later bud.

timewaster
06-18-2010, 12:03 AM
The trick is to allow your books, and even your name, or, better, your pseudonym (s) to be brands, but to keep yourself out of it.

Beyond this, it's completely out of your control, and the internet is not going to change, and neither will marketing. Ain't gonna happen.

The best any of us can do is to simply keep ourselves out of the mix. But the books we write, and the name we stick on those books, will, if people like them enough, become brands. That's just how it is.

But keep ourselves out of the mix should be enough.

I agree. I am a brand insofar as people who have heard of me ( and there are not vast hordes of them) expect something particular from my books. My publishers expect certain qualities too and have told me that certain books I have written don't fit the brand so that if I wanted to write something different I would have to do so under a different name.

I am not a bestselling writer but if it has happened to me I think it will probably happen to most people who write more than one book. It isn't a big deal. It doesn't mean I feel obliged to market that brand at every moment: it is what it is. If you gain a reputation for doing something well then that is what people will expect to see you do.

MJRevell
06-26-2010, 08:30 PM
I disagree with Maureen -- she is a brand, in a sense.

But a brand doesn't mean you will churn out the same thing over and over again.

The moment someone first picked up her book and saw her name on the cover; the first time her website wend live and fans and random viewers stumbled upon it; the first time she spoke at one of those conferences, and people listened to her, she became a brand.

People will listen to her, and read her work, and they will like it or they won't. Then, the next time they see her name on the cover of a book, they will expect things based on what the first book meant to them. And that's being a brand just as much as Nike is being a brand by stitching swooshes on football boots.

kuwisdelu
06-27-2010, 01:44 AM
Maybe it's me, but I don't think of the writers I enjoy as name brands. To me, that means they're putting out cookie cutter books, all packaged similarly, like the canned section in a supermarket. "Hmm, do I want Delmonte or Libby's?" All the corn is the same, just with a different label.

What attracts me to the writers I enjoy is their writing, their style, their word usage or phraseology. Not that they can put out the same story novel after novel after novel.

I'm not sure what you mean by "brand" unless you mean genre, but even within genre, there's a huge variety. I don't want to be pigeonholed nor do I look for authors who are.

Believe it or not, I agree with the ferret.


I don't want to read a book written by a brand. I want to read a book written by a person.

In fact, I'd rather an author write something I didn't like with passion than write more of what I enjoyed before with ennui.

I don't like authors I can feel "safe" with. I want to know there's a human behind that book cover who's writing something he or she is passionate about. Not just a brand producing books for my enjoyment.

timewaster
06-27-2010, 11:06 PM
[QUOTE=kuwisdelu;5086422]Believe it or not, I agree with the ferret.


I don't want to read a book written by a brand. I want to read a book written by a person.

I don't think the two are incompatible and actually in order to be a brand you don't have to write the same book a million times. Sometimes a distinctive voice or literary distinction or weirdness. I mean any ' name' author is a brand from Terry Pratchett to Ian Mckewen. All it means is that the reader has certain expectations about the flavour or quality of the novel.

TB4me2000
07-02-2010, 10:25 PM
I clicked on that link expecting to fight tooth and nail against this "manifesto," because branding really is important, as some of you have touched on. Endless self-promotion, which is what Johnson really seems to be against, is a pain in the ass.

I'm sure a bunch of you have friended or liked or followed brands selling products or branded people selling themselves on Facebook and Twitter and Linked In and what have you, and found that it's annoying to be shouted out day in, day out. For me, that gets people un-liked, un-followed, etc.

In my opinion--and I don't have stats to back this up--but IMO, strategies like that don't work, especially now that other brands and people are becoming savvy social media users. The Internet really is about conversation and community, and shouting is very much one-way. People have rebelled against advertising on TV, on websites, you name it, we hate it. We like information that is beneficial to us or to something we care about, and we like entertainment. That's what gets a user's attention.

So really, Johnson is right and wrong. She's right that self-promotion is evil, infuriating, mind-boggling madness. And she's wrong, I think, when she says that we're not a brand. Just remember that brands can and do change :)

JeanneTGC
07-05-2010, 11:06 AM
The fact that you didn't even have to use his last name proves that we are talking about a brand, not a person. :)

A celebrity becomes a brand when they promote themselves as iconic. Tommy Lee Jones is so well known, the name 'Tommy Lee' carries all the information you need to know.
Sorry, have to leap in here.

Tommy Lee is the drummer for Motley Crue. He was also married to Pamela Anderson. That's the Tommy Lee I think NoGuessing was referring to. Lee IS his last name.

Tommy Lee Jones is an actor. And unless you want people thinking you're talking about the charismatic drummer from Motley Crue, you'd better use his last name. He'd like you to use his last name, since that identifies him (and his brand) and ensures we know we're talking about the actor, not the drummer.

BTW, Tommy Lee has/is a much stronger brand than Tommy Lee Jones (I am a fan of both, btw). But Tommy Lee's brand extends past music, to TV and the realm of "celebrity", whereas Tommy Lee Jones is "merely" an excellent actor. And the former roommate of a former Vice President. But Tommy Lee is Pam Anderson's ex, and, say what you will about that, but it ensures that a lot more people know who he is, ergo, bigger brand.