When I started writing the last thing I was worried about was selling myself.
Or my stories.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to tell stories.
I’d think that most, not all but MOST, authors are driven by the same engine – the desire to tell a story.
It’s only when you find yourself writing story after story after story of varying lengths that you realize that, oh, gosh, I suppose this is a thing.
I suppose I should think about all of this.
And then you start looking past the stories and towards getting them to people.
Art, meet commerce.
Because if you do something like this, if you do art, there’s a point where either you are very good at it, or love it so deeply, that you want it to be more than a hobby.
You want it to pay for itself so it will allow you to keep DOING that thing you love.
Blah, blah, blah.
People have been speaking to that point as long as there is art and commerce.
Is it better to be a true artist and starve or a fed merchant with no artistic soul.
I leave you to sort all that out, though I’d offer that if someone is so naïve as to think that the person creating art they love should be taken care of, or held aloft above common art merchants then kid, you should take a walk, get some air, and call me later.
The weird thing for me about getting ‘serious’ about writing was the selling.
The fact that it wasn’t enough to just write my stories.
I had to then find ways to get them to readers and better, to get readers to want to PAY for those stories.
And I did the thing, I took my wandering path that lead me to where I am today – in a mag, published online, published in anthologies, self-published, and honorably mentioned a couple times in a well-regarded yearly collection twice.
None of that really got me anywhere, awesome as it has been.
So I had to market myself.
And uh, well, I don’t really have a brand.
I can’t figure that part out.
Branding to me would be like making myself a personality.
A larger than life figure.
I am not that.
I am just a guy writing stories.
Sometimes they are dark, sometimes they are cute, most times they are weird.
So brand never stuck with me.
I still work at the marketing. I do my bloggies, I post on the Tweets, and I still do shows when I am able. How that leads to a brand, I can’t tell you. I have been working at this for twenty years but haven’t figured that out.
A lot of us don’t.
A lot of folks don’t.
I suppose maybe that’s why a lot of us don’t go further than small shows and blogs and occasional sales.
We don’t have a brand.
The problem is when the brand becomes bigger than the stories.
When the brand is the focus.
And that happens too.
That’s the easier way for a publisher to sell and market that author’s work – to focus on past deeds, past works, and to lean on that to sell the new stuff.
And you know what, these folks earned that.
They worked, they found success, and they earned it.
And odds are that they aren’t the ones choosing that their works be sold as the new JOE STEEL product, like KILLER SOCKMAS mixed with DEAL OF THE NEVER-EVER-EVER.
We wants brands.
We want that short cut that tells us – oooooh, I am gonna like this.
There’s nothing wrong with being able to brand your work, so long as the brand doesn’t become bigger than you or the work itself – save, again, some of the legends, who stand as titans in their field outside of the norm.
The rest of us, well, we need to find a way to get people’s attention.
We need to be able to get their attention on the work.
Most of us don’t want to shill, to be salespeople, but if we want to be able to work on our art more then we need to be able to afford to do that and that happens when we make more time…which happens when we make more money.
It is what it is.
And a brand can come easy to some.
They have a persona.
They have a niche.
They have something for people to latch onto.
‘AH, that’s so and so, they do such and biscuits’.
But it’s a real thin line you walk, that brand.
Because the brand can betray you.
Build something from it and it can be the noose you have woven that hangs you when you don’t live up to it.
Or it can make you a clown or actor, always having to be ‘on’, like many comedians are expected to be, and always that character you’ve created to brand yourself.
It becomes a brand in every sense of the term.
And it can become a joke.
I have done enough shows where I saw the schtick.
I saw the brand.
It can go on and on. Sure, some sold, absolutely, but at what cost to themselves.
I remember one artist I’d always see at a big comic show and she had become her brand – same outfit every day, same schtick, same aloof act.
Maybe it worked for other folks.
It just made me grind my teeth.
For some, the brand is everything, the brand is bigger than anything else.
It is their one thing, becoming bigger than the work, becoming all there is because that brand, that hook, is what keeps them fed and the machine they have built working.
They focus on it so much that they lose sight of everything else.
Even all sense.
Branding isn’t new.
It’s not evil.
This is no missive on the woeful state of the poor artist.
We make the choices on what we pursue and what we pour our time and passions into.
It’s just an interesting thing, the notion of a brand.
The notion that part of the deal is being a showperson.
I still have trouble with that and suppose I always will.
I guess that’s why I don’t sell much and don’t do well.
Hmm, maybe that’s my brand though.
Maybe that’s my ‘in’.
“Oh, hi, is this your work? What is it about?”
That’ll knock them dead.