Branding Yourself

Standard

From my strategic marketing textbook:

“A good brand name can evoke feelings of trust, confidence, security, strength, and many other desirable characteristics.”
— Pg 86, Marketing Management (ISBN-10: 0-07-313763-4)

I’ve been doing the independent publishing thing for about a year (I can’t remember when I started exactly — May or June 2009). Throughout that time, I’ve observed many people, experimented with pricing, and have constantly kept a sharp eye on my work and “public image.”

Subconsciously, I’m always asking myself:

  1. Is this a book/piece of writing/project/product I can stand by, once I put it out on the market?
  2. (a) How is my branding image? (b) Is it what I want it to be? (c) Is it associated with quality?

I’ve observed (and/or hung out with) many people online — professionals in the traditional publishing industry (it is quite interesting to note that several of the top agents/agencies have extremely sparse websites/profiles — if they even have an online presence in the first place…), traditionally-published authors, both traditionally-and-independently-published authors, independently published authors, and paying customers.

I think many people have a tendency to go slightly haywire, when money is involved.

For example, the optimum selling price (thus far) for J. A. Konrath’s books is $1.99-$2.99 (he has determined this from past price tweaks, etc). Therefore, many indie authors think it is impossible for them to go higher than $2.99 (not all indie authors, but quite a few).

* Side Note #1: I like reading Konrath’s blog posts. Not so much the comments section — things can get quite ugly a little down the road (page on the computer screen, in this case), lol.

The thing is, I’m not too entirely sure that this would be the optimum selling price for every single ebook out there.

I’ve found that too much focus on price, leads to less focus on value.

I’ve found that too much focus on quantity, leads to less focus on quality. There’s an overemphasis on a novel’s wordcount, instead of the storyline — on the number of pages in a book, versus the substance/content of the pages — on the number of books one can get through (in the shortest amount of time, in some cases), versus the number of books that get through to you (the ultimate experience of reading a good book — “good book” being something that’s perennially subjective).

There’s a lot of noise, and constant chatter…which eats into production time. In my case, I may not be selling thousands of copies of my books yet (I’ll almost hit 200 this month — whether this remains consistent is something I’ll “wait and see”)…but they move every month, even if I don’t pimp/advertise/mention them anywhere.

I initially spent obscene amounts of time on: (1) product description/s, and (2) my blog designs/websites (even those that are not as fully customizable as those on www.wordpress.org). Why? Because these are the FIRST IMPRESSIONS a potential customer/reader has of me/my work — people I don’t personally know — that I may never have any personal, direct contact with — but who may check out my other work, if they happen to like one of my works.

I know having an online presence is paramount these days. If one desires to “be a brand,” one needs to have a Facebook and Twitter account, and blog/website, etc. Still, I think it’s quite interesting how the line between socializing (purely for leisure), and networking/marketing can be blurred. Not that it’s wrong. But the really, really great business people [who can (literally “adjust themselves to your personality” so that they can) sell you any-thing (these things are way more interesting than the actual theories one would have to learn as a “psychology student”)] know that at the end of the day — there’s still a product to be sold.

A Lexus doesn’t come cheap — that is part of the company’s branding, and they justify this branding with their “pursuit of perfection” (official slogan) and the luxury/prestige associated with owning one of their cars. Linking this to pricing (for ebooks, specifically):

  1. There are people who’ll snap up any $0.99 ebook, because “it’s cheap.”
  2. There are also people who’ll not look at any $0.99 ebooks, because “they’re cheap.”
  3. The reasons classics last (not just books but art, film, music, etc) is because of their timelessness and excellence.
  4. “Instead of stubbornly attempting to use surrealism for purposes of subversion, it is necessary to try to make of surrealism something as solid, complete and classic as the works of museums. ” — Salvador Dali

* Side Note #2: I know my thoughts can appear disjointed, but I come close to what I’m trying to find, via “seeking order by disorder.” My journal entries also tend to be more “disjointed,” than what I write fictitiously (just saying).

As a writer, I have always concentrated on the storyline, and the characters. Also, I never do the same thing twice. Of course, there will be certain recurrent themes and elements which appear throughout the poems/short stories/novels I produce — but I suppose I’m inspired by some form of change and challenge. Churning out the same thing over and over again is stale for me. It might work very well for other writers (and their paying customers / target audience), but if it doesn’t work for me, I’m just going to be making my own life very difficult if I try to be something I’m not. The whole experience wouldn’t be very pleasurable as well (I know; I’ve done so in other departments in my life).

I am what I am. I’m true to myself. I write because it’s what I love to do.

And I’ve found that what I value — what I tear my hair and eyeballs out for, what I rack my brains for, and what I bleed myself dry (at times) for —  is what my target audience appreciates, too.

I dedicate a lot of time and attention to include some level of style/substance in my material, which is simultaneously not so far-out/high-brow as to alienate/confuse the reader. It’s a balance that takes skill and effort, which I continue to cultivate with each new project. My aim is to offer quality, without being completely elitist.

I do these things, because my books + writing are part of who I am.

And because all this, ladies and gentlemen = My Brand.

* Unrelated Note: Two of my favorite magazines = National Enquirer (one issue ~$3.50) + Psychology Today (~$2.66 per issue, with 1 year subscription / 6 issues per year).

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3 thoughts on “Branding Yourself

  1. Branding yourself can be a scary prospect. At the end of the day it involves seeing yourself as the product as much as your book is. Some people will buy a book because of the book’s brand (case in point, the Wheel of Time. Even with a new author it is still one of the best selling fantasy series of all-time) whilst others are more interested in an author, and will buy anything he or she brings out (JK Rowling could sell a billion copies worldwide of a non-fiction book on potty training your hamster).

    But if you have integrity (whether you are honest or not, I don’t see integrity and honesty as being the same thing) your brand can grow organically around you as time passes. This is fine for a lot of people, but my brand is more like a bonsai. I am shaping its direction.

    Interesting post, though.

    Like

    • Yes — I think there should be more focus on “GOOD branding,” and not just “branding” (which is a concept that could be anything / of any standard). You have to have a very good idea of who/what you want to be, before you can start officially branding yourself in public (can only speak for myself, in “my own experience(s)” so far, lol).

      I think integrity and honesty go together (though different people might define them differently)…and I think a brand needs to grow organically (to some extent) in order to succeed in this day and age.

      Then again, flexibility and adaptability have always been requirements for success in business. Best way to outwit / outplay / outlast the competition (:

      Like

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