When I received my college degree in journalism I thought I had a pretty good idea about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d had an internship the previous summer and was lucky enough to get a job via that opportunity. With my little Honda loaded down one hot June morning, I drove the long eight hours to my new home and job in Los Angeles.
While the work was fun, and I met a lot of great people, I realized after a year L.A. wasn’t for me. I packed up once again and headed back to Arizona without a job, or a clue, about what I was going to do next. Luckily enough a few months later the stars aligned and I landed a dream job in advertising. Now to a lot of people the world of advertising seems glamorous (and it can be at times), but really it’s a lot of hard work, late nights, and many, many weekends if you want to get ahead.
One of my first tasks in my new job was to help with an account the agency had just landed. It was a start-up and needed the works: an introductory campaign, a memorable tagline, an eye-catching logo, etc. The work was thrilling, especially watching the brand grow from the bottom up. I learned how copywriters formulated what they wanted to say. How the client reacted, and most important of all, how the public accepted the company (and the brand). Later, I went on to work in marketing and public relations and saw branding in a new light. With established brands it was all about keeping the integrity of the image. How in each and every situation we wanted the public to view that company.
What does this have to do with writing you may ask? Well, it’s simple – like a company, you as a writer are in charge of your own brand. How you want people in the marketplace to see you. This doesn’t just boil down to what category and genre you write in, but how you portray yourself as a person to the public at large.
Social media provides an amazing chance for writers to build their brand. Through avenues like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, authors can share ideas, lines from their works-in-progress, cover reveals, even buy links to their books. In earlier days the only way you could promote a book was via an end cap at the bookstore, or by snagging a good review in a newspaper or magazine. Now there are countless opportunities to promote yourself and your work.
While the world had opened up in this great way, it has also generated a broad canvas for writers to damage their image and brand too. Recently, I’ve seen authors go off on long, angry tangents about industry issues. Watched as frustrated writers trying to land an agent, skewer a name or two. Even those who are participating in contests go off the deep end when their work isn’t selected.
It’s easy to get upset. These are real issues that mean a great deal to us, but in any and all of these situations there needs to be a cooling off period. A time to type a nasty rant into that “Tweet” box and then use that lovely out called “save draft.” The key is to measure how much you want to share, knowing every word will affect your brand. Personally, I’ve stopped following certain writers, and no longer buy their books, because their messages have turned angry, and in certain situations down right cruel. I can’t think of a worse way to damage your brand then by ostracizing those who once believed in you .
In my opinion there are many great writers who use social media to their advantage. They use Twitter, Facebook, and even their own websites, to build their image in a way that keeps their audience begging for more. Their posts aren’t only about their work, but about helping other writers. Some even share writing tips and insider information on their own paths to publication. They are careful about what they share and how they share it. Sure, a few have had their own moments of fury, but in the end somehow they’ve circled it back to how it affects their work, and what they want to bring to their readers.
Personally, I have a very solid idea of how I want to brand myself. I went into writing knowing it was going to be a long, hard road. I’ve worked in many difficult industries and learned that if you want to succeed you have to keep your head down, take a few knocks along the way, and keep going. When I started blogging, and being active on social media, I knew I wanted to be honest about my journey, but also take a positive stance on the experience. Sure, I’ve had my moments when I’ve let my guard down and shown my frustration, but it was measured and thought out – always keeping in mind how I want my readers to see me.
In the end, only one person can control your brand-you. Whether you are a seasoned vet, or just starting out, it helps to be mindful of how you want your readers to view you. In heated situations this may be difficult to remember, but if you want to be in the publishing game for the long haul, it helps to remember that every word, every image, is telling your reader something about who you are and how you write. Be mindful of what you share. In the long run, you will be much happier and so will your audience.
What about you? Do you think about your brand? How your readers see you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.