Rob Farquhar, Author’s Brand

I had the idea of tracking down the Dilbert strip where Dogbert is about to offer Wally the “brand awareness” experience, but I’ve not read Dilbert in years, mainly because of the relentless cynicism. I know that the working environment that gave birth to Dilbert can’t help but breed cynics, but that’s part of the reason I got the hell out of Sydney.

Last post, I wrote about how every aspiring author, whether they decide to self-publish or not, needs to engage his or her prospective audience before said author queries an agent or publisher regarding his or her book.

This, according to the writing blogs I’m subscribed to, is where branding comes in. As I understand it, when my book appears with my name on it, my readers will asssociate my name with the kind of entertainment my book provides and will expect that any future books with my name on them will entertain in a similar way. That’s my brand.

Not quite clear enough? Well, you know the name Stephen King, right? Wrote It, The Shining, Cujo, etcetera. You think Stephen King, you think horror, even if you’ve never read any of his books. It’s the same way you think of Tim Tams, Monte Carlos and Milk Arrowroots when you think Arnott’s, because the Arnott’s brand means biscuits to you (if you’re Australian).
Other examples of author brands that leap to mind are:

* Anne McCaffrey: Dragonriders, Psychics as Transport Service
* James Patterson: Fast-paced thrillers
* Kathy Reichs: Bones – okay, Forensic science crime novels
* George R. R. Martin: Not Your Bitch (ahem) gritty political fantasy

So, if I’m going to get serious about authoring, not just writing, then it behooves me to put some consideration into how I’m going to present myself to a potential buyer or group of buyers. Who am I writing for, aside form the obvious answer of “myself”? What sort of person is likely to buy Slamdance? How am I going to get that person’s attention and how will I then get that person to trust that an Obi-Wan Roberti book is the entertainment he or she is looking for?

While I haven’t finished the first draft of Slamdance yet, a couple of folks have assured me that it’s never too early to be working brand-related matters out. Therefore in this post, I’m going to run through Joanna Penn’s work-sheet on developing a brand:

1. How do you want to be known? What words do you want people to associate with you?
I want to be known as an entertaining author, a writer of light-hearted action books that crack along yet don’t take themselves too seriously.
Words? Hmm. Okay, here’s some random brainstorming: Fun, badass, high-tech, silly, humour, romance, action, cool, explosions, robots, toys, cyborgs, clones.

2. What are your goals for the next 3 years? What words are associated with that?
Here’s the scary job interview question, and I don’t quite get the second part of it, or at least how my answers generate words. Maybe I’m interpreting “goals” wrongly?
– Finish and publish Slamdance. Out, on the shelf.
– Write at least two sequels. Dedicated, deep, ongoing.
– Develop another – I hesitate to use the word, “franchise” but it’s appropriate short-hand – franchise to write in. Diverse, Broad.
– Here’s one thing I thought of ten minutes after the three points above: Make a steady income. Quality, Dependability, Professionalism.

3. Will your books be in a particular genre?
Yes. Slamdance is action science fiction, with a dash of urban fantasy. Urban SF?

4. Who do you admire and want to emulate in writing and also as a brand? Find their websites and keep screenprints of what you like and don’t like. Use them as a model (but obviously no plagiarism!)
This is a good one. Okay, straight up: Scott Sigler, Elizabeth Vaughan, Spider Robinson, David Gerrold, Anne McCaffrey. Breaking down their websites I’ll leave for another post, though!

5. If you have a website already, enter it into Google Keyword tool. Are you happy with the keywords associated with your site? Do you need to change your focus?
Hm. The only result Google Keyword coughs up for my URL is Naftali Herstik, the cantor of the Jewish synagogue. Google finds my host’s last name, Herstik, more of an identifier to than any of my content. Time to get my own top-level domain name, perhaps?

6. What images do you want associated with you and your brand?
Hm. Joanna, do you mean “images” literally here – i.e. pictures – or do you mean it as a metaphor? If we’re talking pictures, well, Michael Zacher’s pic of Slamdance is something I definitely want associated with my brand – although it is rather static…

So, I guess my brand is fun action SF featuring lots of cool science-fiction-y toys.

How do I then “deploy” that brand? Now, there’s a good question; one deserving a post of its own…

But Enough About Me, Gentle Readers: What About You?

Have you put any thought into how to present yourself online?