Author Branding Without The Scar

Do you have a brand? Do I have a brand?  Is it painful to get one?

Writers understand the importance of marketing, but the concept of branding often perplexes. Yes, we need to stand out, but how and by what method? And what does branding really mean?

The following definition hails from an online article aptly named The definition of branding: “Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable.”

Oh, I like the simplicity of that. How do I do it? Given I wrote a medical thriller, I should brand myself as a healthcare professional, yes?

Well…no….for the following reasons:

1)      Who knows what my future holds? Confining my work to a specific genre might prove suffocating.

2)      I don’t want to be Carrie, the medical provider who writes; I want to be Carrie, the writer who writes, and as such, I’ve been intentionally vague about my professional background.

3)      I started with a public health blog. Oh, indeed I did. Two people came.

4)      Writing humorous posts pleases me. Greatly. And when one enjoys the process, one is more inclined to park buttocks on chair and tap, tap, tap. Plus, humor allows an endless possibility of topics, from writing to reading to commentaries on the absurdities of life. Besides, plenty of blogs by writers on writing already exist, all more knowledgeable and skilled than I.

Still, snuggling into a precise niche might prove wiser, particularly to “establish reputation and credibility.” But for now, I prefer the generalist mindset. Best to avoid the scar of a brand I don’t wish to maintain.

Before I go, allow me to share Nathan Bransford’s take on the subject, an author whose website contains a wealth of information for writers. Admittedly skeptical of author branding, in his post entitled On the Internet There Is No Such Thing as a Brand. There Is Only You, he writes: “The only, and I mean only way to approach a world of social media is with honesty, transparency, and authenticity.”

Ooh, I like that, too. Although my blog makes light and exaggerates my quirks, what you see is what you get, which I hope is a balance between a writer’s need for professionalism and a human’s need to have fun.

After all, the world is sour enough.

What about you? Do you have a brand? Do you think it’s better to be a “generalist” or a “specialist”? Did you ever have a day of zero site visits? I did. On my other blog. It was fun.

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

145 Responses to “Author Branding Without The Scar”

  1. David Stewart

    I’ve always thought of branding as similar to typecast, so I’ve been leery of it. I like writing funny and weird things, but also dark things and I always thought that if I ever become famous, I’d have to choose one, even though I don’t want to. After all, when people read a Stephen King or Tom Clancy novel, they’re expecting a certain thing and probably don’t like surprises. However, from what you’re saying branding is more about reputation, so that makes me feel a bit better. Do I have that right?

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think it could be either or, but I think it all starts with reputation. People may file you in a certain category on their own, and before you know it, you’re branded. But as long as you remain authentic and honest in how you present yourself, I think people may be more willing to let you stretch your boundaries. Then again, it may all be pointless. Once an author writes a thriller, people may not want to read anything else from him or her. For me personally, I’d be okay with that, as long as it wasn’t as restricted as only medical thrillers. And as long as I can still write light on my blog.
      :)

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

      • David Stewart

        As long as it was something you like, I guess, it’d be fine. I think of A.A. Milne though, who wrote Winnie the Pooh. He started hating Pooh after a while, since he was an adult writer, but after that people on wanting to read more Pooh stories. :)

        Like

  2. Carol Wuenschell

    Who? No. Neither, and yes. Seriously, I think the authenticity is the important thing. Glad you brought up the subject.

    Like

    • crubin

      Ha ha–I enjoyed your answers. Zero blog hits is fun for the self-esteem, no?

      Thanks for stopping by.
      :)

      Like

  3. IntrovertedSarah

    I looked for my brand, I even used a mirror. No luck. I’m unbranded but unfinished too so that does make sense. There is so much to think of, much to mince over, and you keep me thinking. :)

    Like

    • crubin

      Yes, I try to avoid the mirror in looking for my brand, too. I may find things I don’t like.
      :)

      Glad to keep you thinking. Aerobics for the brain are always good.
      :)

      Like

      • IntrovertedSarah

        If my body can’t be fit, at least my mind can. :)

        Like

  4. Chris Biscuits

    Hi Carrie, this is a great post, and obviously a bit of a talking point. If I may offer a bit of insight – in my day job I am a graphic designer working in marketing, and branding is pretty much job one.

    There are two different types of branding; corporate branding and individual branding, and both of them are relevant for discussion.

    A corporate brand is an interesting thing. It is not, as many people think, a logo. It’s a set of ideals and personality traits that define a company’s tone of voice for their public image and advertising. What’s important is that the brand only exists in the minds of the masses – the Apple ‘apple’ doesn’t make the Apple company successful – it’s the ideals and credentials that people associate with the brand that make it what it is. Conversely, McDonalds recently changed their interiors to natural greens and greys, but they didn’t affect the global opinion of their fatty, unhealthy junk foods. BP changed their logo from a green shield to a green and yellow flower, but didn’t change their policies on anything. At all. And people bought it, because flowers are nice. Then they flooded the Gulf of Mexico, and all the ‘sorry’s’ in the world couldn’t change their brand perception.

    An individual brand is perhaps more on-topic, and could perhaps be described as the ‘thing’ about you. As you say, you don’t want to be defined by your background in Medical Provision as much as you do by the comedic content of your work, and an individual brand is exactly that. Think of the one descriptor you would use to describe both yourself and a friend if you met someone new at a party. For example;

    ‘Hi, I’m Chris and the thing about me is that I blog about my insecurities in a way I intend to be funny. This is my friend Erin and the thing about her is that she blogs about the meticulous details in the syntax of her novel. This is my friend Bill, and the thing about him is that he can fit four chocolate fingers in each nostril… etc. etc.’

    It is never the only thing about a person, it’s just what you’d use to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

    On a personal note, although I blog anonymously, I try to keep a consistent tone of voice across anything that is published under my name. I spend all day making companies look personable and respectable, when most of the time they’re far from it, and this has influenced my own branding and writing style to be as human and down-to-earth as possible. I’ve had a few readers identify me by my use of footnote jokes, too.

    In terms of author branding, I don’t think it’s derived from what you say, but how you say it. If you blog about writing, you’re one of many, but those who do it well, or in a comparatively unique way will stand out and succeed. As an example; I found your blog not by chance, but by seeing your comments on various other blogs, and coming to associate your little avatar with a comment worth reading. From there, I developed a character from your writing, and clicked through to the Write Transition. You’d already made an impression, and that lead me to have faith in your abilities, and to read your past posts.

    I would also ask you to consider whether or not a ‘brand’ is a good thing for an author to have. Stephen King wrote ‘Stand By Me’, but the volume of er… volumes of horror and suspense that he writes make it something of an anomaly, in the context of his ‘brand’. J.K. Rowling will always be expected to write a certain type of book, and she’ll never fully escape her ‘brand’. These are authors who are primarily defined by genre and audience respectively, rather than their content or craft (although we know them to be good, obviously). A versatile writer’s work will be identifiable across a wide range of media.

    In conclusion; a brand is much more about how others see you than what you think it is, although through your writing you can control a great deal of that. I didn’t come here because of your history in medicine, I came because you made me laugh, and that’s what I’ll remember you for when I close the browser window and see you appear in my reader in the future.

    Anyway, sorry for the essay, and great post! I’m off to read some more, and hopefully not have such lengthy opinions on them!

    Like

    • crubin

      Chris, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate you taking the time to write it as it gave me a better sense of how to go about this “marketing and branding” thing. It also helped put me at ease to see that others–well, at least you–recognize what I am trying to put out there. Sure, I’ll likely write thrillers, probably with a medical bend, and not humorous novels, but the blog is more about my personality, not so much my books. If a reader enjoys my blog, then perhaps he or she might enjoy my novel, even if it’s of a different style.

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. It’s nice to hear from someone who does this on a daily basis.
      :)

      Like

      • Chris Biscuits

        No problem, it does become a little bit interminable after a while, and it’s very difficult to walk down the high street without criticising everything. That, and every company wants to be pretty much the same thing.

        One of my favourite sayings (that I’m about to horrendously misquote) is that as a creative, you will put a little something of yourself into everything you do; it’s what gives it a soul. It’s what makes you realise that whatever something appears to be, a human being made it. With that in mind, whatever you’re writing, something of you will be there in the mix, and _that_, more than anything else, is your ‘brand’. :)

        Like

  5. Fay Moore

    So missing you while you are on vacation. However, your toes told the tale — you are having a great breather. You deserve it. When you get back, would you be kind enough to look at my June 28 post “It’s Up” and give some feedback on the linked work? It would be greatly appreciated. :-)

    Like

  6. susan sheldon nolen

    Hi Crubin, thoughtful post on a very difficult subject, branding. It’s easy to do if you are Agatha Christie and I think she never worried about it, just got on with it and by doing so ending up creating a brand. I wonder if we worry about this too much and should just get on with it. ahem…. easy way to say..I have no idea what my brand is! ;-)

    Like

    • crubin

      I think you’re right in that maybe we just need to let it happen, though perhaps we can give it a gentle steer. Which is why I need to alternate my silly posts with those of more substance like this. After all, I don’t want to be branded as the over-educated potty humor blogger…
      :)

      Like

  7. idiotprufs

    Carrie, the health care provider who writes, is better than Carrie, the girl who killed a gym full of teenagers with her brain.

    Like

  8. Madame Weebles

    I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get over to your blog since I enjoy your comments on other blogs so much. Sorry!

    I hadn’t really thought about branding for my blog since I do it just for fun; Weebles are a motif rather than a branding element. Like so many bloggers, I don’t fit into a precise niche so I hadn’t thought about how I would want to be perceived or identified. Ideally I’d like to be perceived as Wonder Woman but that niche was already taken.

    Like

    • crubin

      While you were commenting on my blog, I was commenting on yours. Does that mean we both need to get a life?

      Thanks for stopping by and for the follow. I know we’ve crossed paths in the blogoshere, so it’s nice to connect. Love your site–glad to have had the chance to check it out. And if you’re going for a brand of sharp wit and humor, it appears you’ve succeeded–your posts are hilarious. I look forward to reading more.
      :)

      Like

  9. Ann Marquez

    Great post, Carrie! As always I’m a day late and a dollar short … I’ve been putting together a series of future posts for my blog titled “The Things Learned About Self-Publishing.” “Branding and Building a Platform: A cautionary Tale,” is Part II.
    But you already ‘said it’ here and you ‘get it.’

    I never wanted to be “branded” as an expert on probate. I simply had an experience and learned things I though might especially help broken families that I wanted to share. But if I were to corner myself inside that box, talk about limiting.

    My “thing” is politics. I’m also writing a gritty novel about marriage and relationships. I write anything and everything that touches my life and ignites my imagination. Mostly I write things that I hope will make a difference. (High, impossible, hopes. ;) )

    I’ll refrain from writing my post here (now it feels too weird to post it at all ;) ), but I will say that I don’t believe in this branding stuff. It works for a tiny few, but mostly I believe the concept began as one more workshop topic and nothing more. I’ve always been skeptical and rebellious about the “marketing” advice that’s been dished out the past decade or so. I want to see proof.

    But again I must say that you have done an excellent job with your blog and with finding your way. I love how you tie the medical into your posts using humor. Just look at the results! :D

    Like

    • crubin

      Thanks, Ann. That’s nice to hear.

      Yes, I would imagine getting branded as an expert on probate might be a bit limiting! On the other hand, if someone really does want to be known for one thing, the expert on the topic, then I think precise branding would be the goal. I imagine that works better for non-fiction than fiction.

      I look forward to reading your post on branding. It helps to get other people’s take on the subject. Plus, I’ve received some great advice from these wonderful comments.

      Like

  10. Anastasia

    I think to have a brand you must be your brand. If you chose one thing, you’re expected to BE that thing. And as with “who I am” in general, I find that who I know I am, others quirk their eyebrows at, and what others believe I am (when it’s not accurate), I think is absurd and obtuse. So if you’re going to put it out there you have to be absolutely sure of it, because you can’t just change it every time you think of a new cool idea. You could be a “writer of thrillers” but keep the medical part out?

    Like

    • crubin

      It’s always amazing how others’ perceptions of us are often different than our own, isn’t it?

      And you’ve hit on my thoughts exactly. I think I mentioned to an earlier commenter that I suspect I’ll stay in the thriller genre: I’m just not sure I want to be confined to only medical thrillers.

      Thanks for the comment. Nice to hear from you.
      :)

      Like

  11. Audrey Kalman

    I really, really don’t want to think of myself as a brand (I am a person!) so I like the ideas of just being me. Really, there’s no one else I CAN be.

    As for zero-hit days, yes, I do have them. I think it’s a hazard of being one of those “writer’s bloggers.” Need to figure out how to expand to my potential READERS by the time my next novel is ready for launch…

    Like

    • crubin

      You make a good point about branding to potential readers. Writers tend to follow other writers, but they’re not necessarily the ones who’ll be reading our work. (Didn’t you do a blog post on that issue?) The question might become then, how can we appeal to a wider audience? I try not to focus all of my posts on writing, and this does seem to help, but on the other hand, the posts on writing get a greater response.

      Thanks for the comment. May days of zero hits be a thing of the past.
      :)

      Like

  12. char

    Ouch! My hand hurts from scrolling clear down to the bottom of your comments to add my own 2 cents (or penny’s worth or nonsense). And now, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say–oh yeah, something about branding. I don’t get it, and am envious of those who do. Aren’t you glad I took the time to scroll all the way down here to say that? I hope you are. And 0 views. That does sound like fun!

    Like

    • crubin

      I am happy for any words you give me. After all, you inspired my Friday Night Stroll post, even if it did end with a tree flipping me off.

      I suppose by being who we are on our blogs, we’re branding ourselves whether we realize it or not. Which doesn’t bode well for me with all of my potty humor…

      And yes, zero views is humbling, to say the least.

      Like

  13. Kourtney Heintz

    Carrie, I tend to blog about my writing life, but, ahem, I’ve made that a broad mandate. ;) I prefer to be a generalist because I never know which book will find an agent–the YA gothic mystery or the Adult Fantasy. Hard to market to a specifc genre when you write in different genres. I vote for generalist unless you are committed to one path and will never write outside the lines.

    Like

    • crubin

      I think you’re right. Until I’m more sure of my path, generalist seems the way to go. Thanks, Kourtney. As always, I value your opinion.
      :)

      Like

  14. butimbeautiful

    I didn’t know you’d written a medical thriller. Where is it then? In fact I didn’t know you were a medical person. But then, the sharp intelligence, the incisiveness – it figures. Well, branding. Naturally, I don’t like it. It smacks of conformity and labelling and typecasting and also of hard work and forward thinking, none of which I like.

    Like

    • crubin

      I guess I’ve done my “generalist” branding well then if you didn’t know these things about me.
      :)

      My book is slated for release in September, but I’m still waiting to hear from my editor, so I don’t know if it’s release will get delayed or not. It’s a little nerve-racking. I’ve signed with a small e-publisher (some print as well).

      Like

  15. writerwendyreid

    I always thought a brand was your byline or logo. Mine is “Immerse Yourself in My Imagination” Other than that, I’m not really sure what it is. In regards to my blog, as you know, I have tried to pin down one topic for posts but ended up sticking with a variety to keep it interesting. :-)

    Like

    • crubin

      I really like your byline. It’s creative and well-suited to a writer. I think that’s part of a brand, but I think how we present ourselves is also part of that brand. I just don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into something I can’t change later. I suspect some of it will get easier when I actually have a product to brand. Other than my blog.
      :)

      Like

  16. i mayfly

    Carrie,
    This post is like a webinar. There’s so much talent, experience, variety and content you could turn THIS into a book…
    I’m always conflicted when I see your “new” posts in my inbox: Do I go for the feather in my cap to be the First or….Do I hold back and reap the benefits of everyone else’s sage advice. (Guess we know which one I chose this time – miss 101 ;-)
    LOTS of thoughts are running through my head on this subject, but I’ll try not to burden you with all of them (aren’t you glad).

    1. I think the unique aspect & strength of your blog (aside from writing quality and substance – that’s a given) is the CONVERSATION that transpires…so the QUALITY actually continues beyond the original post. That may well be your “brand?”

    2. Which brings me to #2 (& I’ll stop here): Point of Diminishing Returns.
    If the purpose of the blog (distinguishing it from your book) is a combo of writers group and promotion, at what number does one have to stop the conversing and do the writing…or abbreviate for time management sake…and thus affect the quality of the blog conservation? From this POV would a strong Brand/Following actually negatively affect the purpose of Writers Group?

    Which takes me back around to that annoying question: For What Purpose? Branding to achieve more followers? Will it affect the bottom line? Money? Or something else?

    From a very selfish POV, I love you just the way you are ;-)

    Like

    • crubin

      First of all, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad I was able to convey meaning in 400 words. I’m sure my husband wishes some of my “speeches” were as short as these posts.
      ;)

      Second of all, I agree with you on the quality that the commenters bring to a post. I have benefitted greatly from the words and thoughts of all these wonderful visitors. I am grateful for every morsel they share. I doubt I’d join a writer’s group per se, but I think this does indeed act as one.

      And finally, as for your second point, given I only post twice weekly, this hasn’t been a factor for me, though if I posted daily, I imagine it would.

      As always, thanks for your insights.
      :)

      Like

  17. RescuedFromTheBottomDrawer

    I have to admit, I cringed a bit when I read the first part of the title of this post. I feel like I’ll never get the hang of this whole platform/branding thing. I have a hard enough time just blogging on a regular basis! Which is no doubt why I have a lot of zero-visit days.

    I’m still a little afraid of just being myself on my blog. I think I lead a pretty boring life. I’m actually a little surprised that people read my posts! Guess that’s something that will get better with practice. I hope.

    Like

    • crubin

      Oh, believe me, I live a boring life, too. Which is why I need to bring the outside world into my posts.
      :)

      I think it just gets back to being yourself. The rest will follow. There. How’s that for profound?

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  18. Elliot

    I don’t get the branding thing at all. I like to write one way (sort of) for the blog, and another way entirely for stories and other “creative” things. I see the two as separate (the blog vs story). I would compare it to the writer David Hewson (who has just done the book version of “The Killing”). His works are different to his blog. His blog he uses for other thoughts e.g. articles on helpful things in scrivener.

    My post for tomorrow has some links with points 3 & 4 that you may find interesting. It will also include the search term nonsense we discussed previously.

    Like

    • crubin

      I suppose if you’re already a successful writer, you have more leeway with loose branding, but I think if you’re a newbie, it can be more confusing about how to present yourself.

      I look forward to your post tomorrow.
      :)

      Like

      • Elliot

        Yes true of course. The whole blogging & social network thing has changed the way us newbies have to work.

        Like

  19. whiteladyinthehood

    I think you are SUPER funny! I really do!

    Like

  20. August McLaughlin

    I consider myself an author and a brand–all my quirks and work included. I think it’s a wise choice, particularly since traditional marketing techniques seldom work for books. Kristen Lamb has great thoughts on this on her books and blog.

    Like

    • crubin

      I think that’s the way to do it. In some ways, it’s easier to be authentic online, at least for me, anyway. I worry about book signings and other in-person promotional venues, when nerves and naiveté may keep me from presenting my true self. I might be a babbling brook.
      :)

      Kristen Lamb does indeed have some great content. Thanks, as always, for the comment.
      :)

      Like

  21. the curtain raiser

    I think personal branding is an issue or will become an issue for eveyone having an online presence, not just authors. We are increasingly moving to an online world, no matter what you do. But I too struggle with my blogging brand. I had a vision before I started blogging, but the reality and what people respond to is different to that vision and I am still in explore/find the niche mode. Torn between humour which like you, I love to write – it’s just so much fun and has a rythm all its own – and the more serious midlife wisdom stuff. Of course the answer probably lies in a combination of both, which I can pull off sometimes. However I love your authenticity and your what you see is what you get philosphy. And I’ll see your quirks and raise you three :).

    Like

    • crubin

      Ha ha–give me a little more time, and I’ll see if you have a “tell” (or at least I think that’s what they call it in poker).

      I think you’re spot on–branding is important for anyone in the online world. As is authenticity and honesty, I imagine. And I believe one can toddle between humor and more serious posts as long as neither deviates too much from one’s typical style.

      Thanks for your kind words and for the comment.

      Like

  22. Sword-chinned bitch

    The end of this caused me to guffaw — oh my! — I’ve never used that word before! Thanks so much for this Carrie. I may have branded myself as a death metal enthusiast who eats cake and hates money — I thought about that yesterday, how little by little, I thinks that’s what I’ve done. I like the idea of transparency. I’m going to read those articles — I could use all the help I can get!

    Like

    • crubin

      Nothing wrong with branding yourself with cake. Or chocolate, as in my case.
      :)

      But in all seriousness, sharing your interests goes into the whole concept of transparency and authenticity. People enjoy learning facts about the authors whose works they read. At least I do. That doesn’t mean we have to bare our souls, but sharing tastes in music, cake, and the evils of money seems reasonable.

      Thanks for commenting, and may you never experience a day of zero blog hits. It does nothing for the self-esteem, I assure you.

      Like

  23. clownonfire

    Carrie,
    You are so right about being in tuned…

    I’m obsessed when it comes to branding – it’s also not a surprise as it’s part of what I do for a living. When I first started blogging, and I was nominated for the Liebster awards and such, I changed the look and feel of the banners, so they would look like the rest of my blog. I’ll make sure to always write a comment the same way: an opening and a closing. I’ll always sign Le Clown. If someone refers to me as “clown”, I’ll make a smart ass comment to correct him. Branding will make your blog unique, it will give it its voice – that and great content, of course. I’d like to add to Nathan Bransford’s quote: One key factor to a successful social media strategy is to not continuously talk about yourself – unless you are Le Clown, but that’s his gimmick – and to go out of your way to talk about/with others. To create a dialogue with your readers. And that, Carrie, you do it marvelously well. Congrats on all of your blogging success.
    Le Clown

    Like

    • crubin

      Thank you, Le Clown. That’s lovely to hear. And I do believe I came across that Nathan Bransford quote…

      You do indeed brand yourself well. In fact, I’d say very well. You allow readers to know your true identity but present yourself as another. That’s a tough thing to do, and to quote Le Clown himself: “you do it marvelously well.”…

      Thanks for stopping by. I know you’ve been in comment overload today.

      Like

      • clownonfire

        Carrie,
        I should also re-read myself before pressing on “Post Comment”… Argh. Talk soon, friend.
        Le Clown

        Like

        • crubin

          No worries. I corrected your typos, so you won’t stress about it. But not your content.
          ;)

          Like

          • clownonfire

            Carrie,
            Move to Montreal, please!! We would be best of friends… Next time I go to Cleveland to visit with stepmom-in-law, we have to grab a coffee.
            Le Clown

            Like

  24. G M Barlean

    I gotta be me. Who knows what that is. I think in general, I’m special. Or maybe I’m especially general. Does that help? Branding sounds suffocating. I prefer to be like a writing puppy. I’d like to pee in all the rooms.

    Like

    • crubin

      Ha ha! Now there’s a visual.
      :)

      I’m not sure I want to pee in every room, just maybe the bathroom (medical thrillers) and the bedroom (thrillers). And those of us who enjoy your work know that you are indeed special.
      :)

      Like

      • Polly Robinson

        I’m with GM on this one … there is something in the human soul that wants to stay outside a box – remain free to manoeuvre – go with the wind …

        Like

        • crubin

          True. And who knows, maybe I will settle into a narrow niche someday, but at this point, I feel like too much of a newbie to do so. I’m probably a marketer’s worse nightmare.
          :)

          Like

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