The Truth about Author Branding


In the 19th century, vast herds of feral authors roamed the American West. In the aftermath of the Civil War, some Texas ranchers began annual author roundups. Each individual author would be chased down, roped, and branded with the official brand of the ranch that captured him. This brand was useful because the authors from several different ranches would be banded together and herded to the marketplace on a trail drive. The brands helped the trail boss fairly distribute the money earned from the marketing of the authors at the end of the drive. There were several John Wayne movies about these famous author drives?

OK, the above maybe is not 100% accurate. But how do you, the author, handle the thing that is described with the new-and-annoying buzzword ‘author branding?’

Think of it this way: Have you ever had a favorite author? An author that you would read anything he wrote, even if he wrote in some genres you didn’t usually read? Think of the things about that’s author’s book that you liked. Some of those things would be described as the author’s brand.

Your author brand is about you: the person you are, your ideas, your values, the kind of things you like to write. A personal example— I write poetry, and I often write certain forms— sijos, haikus, Collom lunes, found poetry. There are themes that pop up in my poems— often horror or science fictional themes, or themes about the Catholic faith. Some of these things would be considered part of my brand.

For Aspie writers, one source of things that might be a part of our brand is found in our Special Interests— those intense, obsessive things that animate and delight us. If you have an intense special interest in the television series Doctor Who, and you have written fiction about time travel, or about mysterious aliens that look like humans and travel about on Earth and other human worlds, these writing themes can be a part of your author brand. If you have an intense interest in Reformation-era Germany or ancient Korea, you can use those for settings in your fiction.

An author’s brand changes somewhat over time as you-as-author explore new themes and issues along with the old. A big change, or reversal, may be hard to manage. Example: many of my early poems were written in my Youthful Marxist Phase, and were published by Marxist/leftist literary magazines. Most of my early published poems were published in a Communist literary magazine called ‘Struggle.’ When I matured and rejected Marxism, and then became a conservative-libertarian, that changed my unofficial poet brand to the point that if I had accumulated any fans, they would have left me.

I’m working lately on developing my author brand. I still don’t quite understand it— most of the how-to-write books I own were written before the term ‘author branding’ came along. But I’m studying the topic and I intend to pass any useful information on to my blog readers.

Questions: What do you make of the whole ‘author branding’ thing? How do you understand the term? Have you developed an author brand? Or are you still lost and confused on the subject like me?

Some blog posts about author branding:

Nina Amir: 6 Branding Tips for Writers and Authors

The Creative Penn: Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform

The Book Designer: How to Build Your Author Brand from Scratch (And Why You Need To)

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