There’s been a lot of talk about “branding.” Branding. We all know that certain companies offer a certain type of product. For instance, in the fast food world we can expect one known quantity from, say, McDonald’s, which would be different from something we’d buy from Subway most of the time. Sometimes we want a Big Mac, other times a turkey sub. On occasion we’d rather have Waldorf Salad at a fancy hotel restaurant.
The same goes for us as authors. We too have a brand.
However, I fear that the takeaway message of this for a lot of us is, “Wow. My first book was a YA romance. Now that’s my brand. I can’t change it. I’m stuck writing YA romance forevermore because that’s what I am known for.”
I’d like to dispute that. Very much.
I have an close friend who is a highly successful author. NYTimes bestseller, book being made into a movie, and so forth. A lot of people would define that as an author’s success pinnacle. Well, these projects on which his greatest success rests? They came after he was told by a major publishing house that he would not be allowed, under their imprint, to write anything from the genres in which he had achieved the most success. His first genre, thrillers, was all he would be writing. Period.
This was very discouraging, as he felt he had other things he’d like to write, to say, to convey, and he didn’t want to confine himself to one genre, despite its good mid-list success for that publisher.
I am so grateful he didn’t allow himself to be pigeonholed. He instead went ahead and wrote the books that were in his heart and mind. He’s written successfully in a completely different genre, as well as non-fiction, as well as in collaboration with other authors to create some books that have touched hearts.
Was his brand his genre? No. His writing, his ideas, his style, his voice—those were his brand. Many readers who loved him as a thriller author followed him to his new books, where he picked up more fans, who followed him to the other books. He continued (and continues) to put out quality writing, and his success grows.
I would therefore submit to all of you who are seeking to create an author persona, that your genre is not your brand. Your writing is your brand. Continue to write. To improve. To sharpen your skills and your voice and your productivity. Your readers will enjoy what you write because they will connect with you. Writers show a bit of their souls (which is what makes this a very personal and scary business to be in at times), and when we do it well, it feeds the reader. Readers come to us to be fed. And when we feed well, whether it’s McDonald’s (billions and billions served), or Subway (a nourishing choice), or that fancy restaurant at the Waldorf, that, my friends, is our brand.