Monday, December 26, 2011

Branding Your Platform

One thing I've been thinking about lately—and this is prompted by Justine Musk's post—are writers who aggressively promote. (Justine has a great blog, by the way, and she's very engaging. Can't wait to read more of her work.)

We've all heard of "branding" and "platform." I confess these are words I can't really get my head around. What do they mean? Are they words coined by some ad exec? Don Draper, perhaps? According to Nathan Bransford, there is no such thing as a brand.

Do you agree? I think I do. I think for me, it's not so much the "branding" or "platform"as the willingness to engage with people. A couple of my "friends" on Goodreads are authors, and they only use the site to promote their own work, rather than share what they read. They're clearly trying to brand, but as a reader, that's a lot less interesting to me than authors who DO share book recommendations. One of them has written a series that looks awesome, but I haven't made time to read it, and I think that's at least in part because s/he does nothing online (that I've seen) but promote the blog and the books. It's kind of a turnoff. Authors who are willing to open up a little—even if it's insecure or negative—are a lot more likely to stay on my radar. It's not so much about the willingness to engage with people one-on-one (although I very much appreciate the authors who do that); it's more about the willingness to show a little personality. Authors on Twitter, for example, who link to articles they've read, who take a stand on some issues, who have opinions and are not afraid to share them—those are the authors to whom I naturally gravitate. Even authors who tweet what they have for breakfast—as long as the breakfast is awesome—are far more likely to attract me than authors who do nothing but aggressively promote their books. I'm still loyal to some authors, such as Stephen King, who don't use social media at all. But he did plenty of engaging in ON WRITING. Engaging can work wonders—whether it's online or off. I did two films (shorts) with a guy I "met" on Twitter, and we still keep in contact, even though we've yet to meet in real life.

I think this is one of the reasons Neil Gaiman is so popular. I wouldn't call what he does as branding or a platform at all. His blog is more like this smorgasbord of great links, book recommendations, advice on writing, etc. It started off as advertising for AMERICAN GODS and just grew from there. Yet he gets requests all the time to post pics of his dogs, cats, beekeeping stuff, etc. His fans think those things are just as interesting as everything else. I think one of the reasons he's so popular now is because he's willing to engage with his fans—perhaps even eager to do so. I once went to one of his readings here in Chicago, and he was a lot more earnest than what I expected. He really wanted people to enjoy the reading, and he spoke with every single person who wanted to get a pic, or a hug, or whatever. Not a bad "platform" for authors to model themselves after, in my opinion. I mean, obviously it helps that his writing is great. It always does. I guess what I'm saying that the people who are really good at branding make it feel like it's not branding. Because it isn't. Not really.