In the early 2000’s when the internet and the World Wide Web were coming to life, there was talk about how authors needed to create a ‘brand’ for themselves. In the romance-writing community I was a part of at the time, this was a big topic of discussion and not necessarily in a good way. To say there was considerable pushback against the idea of ‘branding’ was putting it mildly. My smart-ass response was that I wasn’t a can of soup on a grocery-store shelf.
When you put your work out into the world, you are creating a brand whether you like the term ‘brand’ or not. The best thing to do is accept that you are creating a brand and create one that reflects how you really are (because if you create a brand that’s the opposite of who you really are trust me, it won’t end well: see the current news about Ellen DeGeneres).
About a year ago I launched a website and over that website’s short life, I created what I thought was merely a tag line/warning: sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious. But now I realize I created a brand for myself and the content I produce, and also a warning about what I do, too. I sure as hell didn’t set out to do this but it’s stuck like super-glue, and I like it because it’s truly me.
Now I think the pushback against ‘branding’ today is mostly bullshit about how there are some people who put themselves and their work out into the world just to further their brand and be greedy and uncouth people (like Meghan McCain is fond of saying on ‘The View’ to various guests or in commentary on certain people).
So if anyone pushes back on me and says I’m only saying or doing something to further my brand those idiots are going to get a head-tilt followed by, “And your point is?” Because my point is this, if someone is out and about promoting their work what are they supposed to do? Talk about the weather? If you’re being asked to talk about your work then told that if you do you’re a self-centered ego-centric money-grubby dumb-ass… fuck that shit. Or if you want to be polite you can quote the lovely and talented Arianna Grande and say, “Thank U, Next.”
I will confess here I used to think I couldn’t speak up against being put-down for trying to put my work out into the world. Why? Because I thought that any asshole who ever told me what I was doing was dead-on-arrival and not worth anyone’s time and effort was right. How wrong I was, and how grateful I am to realize that now. Because people who mouth off and shit all over something or someone because they’ve got a case of mental and emotional hemorrhoids isn’t worth thinking about, listening to, or responding to with anything other than as much irreverent sarcasm that ends with a good wise-cracking punchline.
Now a better question to ask here is, can you go in a different direction than you have before, or even go off-brand? Uh, yeah. That’s called ‘life’ and life is constantly changing and pretty fast sometimes, too. Also, sometimes things don’t work as well as they should and if that’s the case, then a change is needed. There’s no need to keep doing something if it isn’t working for you just because some moron thinks you can’t do anything else.
I think what holds people back more than anything is worrying about what ‘someone’ might think. I used to let those ‘someone’s’ run my life more than they ever knew or would have cared to had they known. So a goal in successful branding is this: don’t listen to ‘someone’s’ bullshit that you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you have to stay on-brand no matter what, or that you can’t do anything but the one thing they want you to do. I’m a writer first and foremost, but writing has led me in a lot of different directions and will continue to do so. And whether or not to go in those directions is my decision and my decision alone.
Finally, reaping the rewards of your branding success is not wrong either. Making money is not inherently wrong, especially since the vast majority of people who earn money don’t earn countless billions that they would hoard. The vast majority of people in this world are just trying to survive and they sure as hell don’t need any shit in the process.
So I will embrace my brand of ‘sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious’ and wherever it takes me. Because in this crazy world more than ever, there is no such thing as a sure thing. Yet despite that I say this in my way of staying on-brand:
Do more. Be more. And if anyone doesn’t like that, tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Or to put it bluntly: own your fucking shit.