Saturday, January 16, 2010

Author's advice: Brand Names

    For any author recently published I have one thing to say-congratulations, you are Crest. Or Telus. Or McDonalds. Feel free to insert any brand name you like here.

    I'm sure a lot of people know about Tiger Woods (well, let's not kid ourselves. I'm sure most of us have been drilled through the head with too much information by now), and how he cost shareholders 12 billion dollars for infidelity. I for one was astonished that ONE person was able to cost that much money because of a mistake that should only be really affecting his personal life. The problem is that Tiger is a celebrity, and like other celebrities, people invested money in him. In fact, people do it all the time! Would your kid really want that pen if Hillary Duff's face wasn't plastered all over it? Would you really buy that toaster without Brad Pitt's approval? Not to mention the thousands if not millions of fan sites all over the web.

    So where do authors fit in this crazy system? Well, surprisingly, and to a lesser extent, we have the same problem too. I write ‘surprisingly' because we have a name on the cover, a photo in the back, and some might think that would be it. But nowadays, writers are making a very conscience effort to promote their novel-going out to book signings, reading at coffee shops, chatting on-line, etc. Consequently, anything bad they do does tend to hurt book sales. And trust me, it does happen.

    To give a recent example, during an on-line chat another writer casually mentioned that they were hung over from New Years and might be writing slower than usual. This immediately started a bit of a flame war regarding the use of alcohol. At first I defended this writer. It was his personal life, after all. Who cares? Then I realized, ‘Oh crap, he's a brand name, and so am I.' This is not by far the only and worst example of a writer putting their foot in their mouth, and more severe examples are easy enough to look up.

   So for all you newbie writers, just remember-your name, alias or not, is a brand name. You are free to your opinions, of course, but also keep in mind what you are representing at the same time. And hopefully that is the newest best thing in the writing industry. :)


graywave said...

Which is why it's a good idea not to pretend to be anything you're not - even for money. That way nobody is disappointed when you turn out to be, well, you after all.

I'm as happy to build a brand as the next author, but if the brand is wearing my name then it better look and sound just like me. People can buy my writing, or not. I'd prefer it if they did. But if they think they're buying a piece of me along with it, then caveat emptor.

Nerine Dorman said...

Some very good points that you've raised. However, these days it's often difficult keeping track of the authors who brand themselves with several pen names for the different genres they write.

Natasha Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natasha Bennett said...

I completely agree, graywave. We don't want to be mindless drones, after all. :)

I want to give another example, and this is also a true story. There was another writer who posted on-line with the spelling of a twelve-year-old, and I'm not talking about the occasional mistake-his posting style seriously needed to go through a word processor to make any sense. When I talked about it to him privately, he said, 'Well, obviously I'm not talking about my writing so it doesn't matter right now.' Which I believe is not true.

My point is (and I'm sorry if this is not clear in the blog) for people to make sure they realize that what they post, good or bad, can and probably will affect your book sales.

(deleted double post)

graywave said...

Natasha, I absolutely get your point, and I absolutely agree with it. Everything you post, everywhere on the Internet, can and will come back to haunt you. Anyone who doesn't think so ought to do some searches on their name and see what turns up.

I just think that the best defence against this is to be yourself and to be prepared to accept the consequences. For example, the fact that I've written a number of pro-evolution, anti-fundamentalist posts over the years almost certainly means that most of the American 'Bible Belt' wouldn't buy my books if they knew. But then they are not my target audience anyway.

I'll never be Stephanie Meyer with this attitude, I agree, but I might be a John Scalzi :-) (I know. I should be so lucky.)