Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I am not a brand

They say to market yourself as a writer, you need to turn yourself into a brand.
I get where they're coming from, but honestly, I'm not a brand. I'm a person.

That's all I hope my readers ever see me as, and all I ever hope to convey to them. To me, 'brand' sounds like I'm something other people mindlessly consume without paying attention or thinking for themselves about what they want.

When I reach for a more expensive brand of a product instead of the cheaper thing, it's because I've been taught brand loyalty and I expect a certain quality from the brand name. So it DOES make sense that readers should come to expect a certain quality of writing from a book with my name on it.

But I still can't stomach the fact of marketing myself as a brand. I don't want people to mindlessly  consume what I write. I don't want to come off as some super famous writer who deserves their attention. I just want them to see my book, take it off the shelf, and enjoy an afternoon because they read something that made them satisfied. The attention should be on the book, not on me.

Making myself into a brand makes it seem like I'm conditioning readers to come to me and give to me, when really all I want to do is give to my readers.

I have no doubt that in the future I will end up marketing myself as a brand. It's part of the publishing game. But I hope it doesn't come off as commercialized, cheapened, or like I have some kind of angle I'm working. I just want to make people happy through what they read. I hope it comes off more as "I loved her voice in her last book so I'm going to buy her next book too."


  1. Always love to read your thoughts. You argued well above, and I completely agree. For fun, though, I'll write here then only the counterpoint. For the sake of argument, allow me to play "marketer's advocate".

    While it's true that a fair appraisal of a book's quality can't be derived solely from its cover/marketing/hype, there are simply too many books out there to read every one of them. I need help in determining which pages are worth my time.

    Strangely enough, we often make decisions on what to read/buy based on trivia about the author, or anecdotal reviews from other readers. If someone reads/buys your book, they had to hear about it somehow. Being aware of and cultivating these "channels" by which people hear of you is not merely "playing the publishing game", but rather the only responsible thing to do.

    If we consider it disingenuous to see a lousy work over-hyped, is it not more deplorable to see an excellent work under-hyped? If, in an effort to be honest, I show up to an interview slovenly dressed simply because that is how I dress everyday, am I not demonstrating disrespect for my potential employer?

    I'd argue that the frequent mismatch between hype and genuine literary content, which we rightly find despicable, should drive talented authors to engage, not withdraw. It is logically inconsistent, and somewhat narcissistic to believe that one can simultaneously avoid both obscurity and a simplified public perception.

    You best start believing in brands, Ms. Rugroden, you are one!

  2. :D Wonderful, wonderful argument, dear brother.

    To which, since you quoted a pirate, I have nothing to say, but


    Seriously though, you are right. Brands are an easy, convenient way for people to find books they love. And though the mismatch of hype to content (as you say) does bug me, I forgot to point out that there's a positive side to brands.

    If an author successfully turns him/herself into a brand, it means their audience recognizes that they have a strong voice in their writing. It means they have proven that they are unique. When I do become a 'brand', I hope it's for that reason and not because I was over-hyped to readers.

    That's what a novel is, you know. It's not just a beginning and a middle and a denouement and marketing. That's what a novel needs. But what a story is... what a brand really is... is freedom.