Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Branding guilt

There's a lot of advice for authors out there that says, "Create an author brand." That's so readers can know what to expect when they buy one of your books. It's great advice, frankly. But I'll be the first person to admit I don't follow it.

Writing has been my only creative outlet for fifteen years. Prior to that, I was involved in film and theater as my primary source, experiences I loved and cherished and still often miss. Moving to the UK and then having kids changed all that, though, so I started seeking out other means. That's where writing came in. I needed to get out the creative energy in me before I had a meltdown. I loved my babies, but being at home full-time for the first time ever as an adult, without a job and outside adult interactions to engage me, was hard.

From the start, I never really cared about how substantial my audience was. Would it be nice if it was big? Absolutely. But it wasn't what drove me, and it never felt healthy for me to try and seek it out. It was a lesson taught to me in college, when I was acting. Most actors never get consistent work. Rejection is a huge part of the game. To expect big breaks is inviting disaster most of the time, because the reality is a lot harsher than that.

So creating an author brand never seemed as important to me as loving what I do. And frankly, I write the way I read or watch TV. I am not a single genre gal. I'm not even a single mood gal. I love horror as much as I love romantic comedy, and shows like Sons of Anarchy are just as much must watch TV as Modern Family is. I get bored with the same thing over and over, which is why I go from writing light to dark to contemporary to paranormal, and all the orientations in between. It's what keeps me sane and happy.

On the flipside of that, however, is guilt. Because I totally get why author branding is important. I understand readers want to know what they're getting. I do what I can to make it easier for them by putting labels on my stories on my website, but that doesn't really do much to help the readers who never shop anywhere but Amazon. All I can do is hope that the blurbs make it clear what they're buying, and pray that readers will understand my need to do what I do.

If I didn't switch it up, I wouldn't be able to continue at all, and brains leaking out my ears because I don't have anywhere to shuttle creative urges isn't attractive to anyone.


Carla Krae said...

When the brands divide simply, like contemporary and fantasy, it's easy to have two pen names. If you're more diverse than that, then it gets tricky, especially if books aren't in series so the covers don't carry a unified look. (Self-pub makes that a teeny bit easier because the author can at least choose a single font that represents their name for a symbol of unified brand.) Personally, not having a defined brand was hurting me, so I've had to make changes over the past year.

Vivien Dean said...

It's not even marginally simple in division, unfortunately. I'm more hard-pressed to think of a genre I *haven't* written than one I have. Same for orientation (though I haven't done much het lately, but that's because of time not desire).

I think in some ways I'm lucky that my primary goal isn't sales. It gives me freedom to do whatever I want. I don't expect anyone to read everything I write, so if my stories trickle into the hands of those who will enjoy them, then great.

But the guilt is still there that a reader doesn't know when hearing my name what they're going to get without closer examination of the blurb or cover.