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.


Old Kitty said...

I'm so out of the writerly bloggie branding type thing - most of the writerly blogs I follow do the platform thing and are very serious about promoting their work. I think that's why I divert and follow very very eclectic blogs. I thought blogging was a sort of diary to keep in touch with friends and family initially like facebook but in more diary form. I think for me there is definitely a very strong part of the blog experience overtaken by writers just out there to promote and sell.

Also there's this reversal too - people tend to like the person first then said person brings out a book and whether it's good or not it gets bought and promoted solely on the basis that the bloggers like the person. I find this weird. For me - I discover the book first - getting to know the author is secondary or not important. It's different with blogging - I always come across blogs promoting on the lines of "buy her/his book cos she/he is such a nice person and does so many things for the writing blog community". The back of my head screams out "yes - the author is a very nice person, but is the book any good?!?!".

Guess I'm just being really bah-humbuggy and cynical! LOL!! Hey, I have a hangover afterall! LOL!

Take care

stacy said...

LOL! You're not being overly critical—or even mildly critical, in my opinion. I'm pretty much the same way. I have bought books by writer friends where I find the premise of the book intriguing. I'm afraid I've finished very few of them, however. I'm still trying to catch up on my classics!

Sarah Laurenson said...

I agree that it's annoying when an author only talks about their own books. Feels more like dealing with a bad used car salesman at that point. There are times when talking about your own book can be done well though - like with Phoenix sharing about her self-pubbing journey and the strategies she has used. That may be part self-promotion, but it's also useful info for other authors.

The tweets that use a ton of hashtags and have a quote from the author's work are odd to me. How is that quote taken out of context supposed to sell the book? So far, every one I've read has not been compelling or even interesting.

I'm not yet on Goodreads as I just don't have the time. It looks like a fun site though.

stacy said...

Great to hear from you, Sarah!

I think what Phoenix does is more of a service to writers who are thinking about the self-publishing route. That's a gift. It's one of the reasons I gravitate to her blog. There may be some self-promotion in there—which is fine—but I definitely feel she's connecting with people on a whole different level.

I mean, it would be odd if an author did NO self-promotion. But to start a facebook page or open a twitter account—or worse, develop a website—devoted solely to the promotion of a book, but never engage with readers ... that's something else.

I can sympathize a little because there are pitfalls to the online experience. Politics, religion, losing your temper ... all those can be big risks for certain personality types. But I appreciate the authors who don't try to tightly control everything, you know?

stacy said...

Oh yeah, and Goodreads really is fun. I would love to see you on there, Sarah!

Kitty, are you on there???

fairyhedgehog said...

Anyone who is just out to sell stuff doesn't get far with me, and that applies to writers' blogs as much as to anything else!

stacy said...

Right on, Fairy!