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?

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    • 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.:)

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  2. Carol Wuenschell

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

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    • 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!😉

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    • 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…
      :)

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  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!😀

    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

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