Call me silly

Kicking off our week of fantabulous guest posts is Sarah Wedgbrow, my crit partner and friend. We met through a local writing group and, being the loudest and most opinionated of the bunch, quickly banded together. We’re both always right, even when we disagree, so watch out!

Please give Sarah a warm welcome, and remember: most thoughtful comment of the week gets a prize! (I don’t know what yet, but I promise it won’t suck.)

There’s a lot of talk out there in the blogosphere about branding, platforms, etc. I recently read an excellent post by Wordbird about the topic. Madeleine points out that it’s very important that the book you’re writing is the one you want to make as your career—otherwise you could be branded for life.

This is problematic for me. I still don’t know which direction I’d like my writing career to go at this point (other than in the money-making kind). I still consider myself an apprentice and while I am writing a YA paranormal story (ghosts, not vampires), I don’t know if in ten years time I will want to be in the same place. I would still like to experiment some more with dystopian, contemporary, fantasy, middle grade and literary. If I am to write within these genres, will my only option be to adopt several different pen names?

There is also the possibility that the need for genres will fall to the wayside as e-readers and e-books become more and more popular. Without booksellers needing to know where to shelve a book, genres may become more blurred. Still, I would think that a consumer is the deciding factor on this one. When browsing online for books, you would still need categories and ways of organizing titles. I guess it just wouldn’t limit the amount of books being “bought and shelved,” which is a good thing for us writers.

Todd Newton’s post about Lady Gaga’s platform pointed out that even if you don’t like her music or her style, everyone knows what is “Gaga” and what isn’t. Just the other day, Scott Mills, a BBC radio one DJ mentioned how he’d like to change up OMG to OMLG (oh my lady gaga). It just proves how strong her platform is and how recognizable she is as an “artist.”

At this stage in the game, for me, the most important thing I have to worry about is writing. Sounds like such a nice problem to have compared to the mania that surrounds the publishing world. Call me silly, but I still want it—the book being published, the book tour, the book readings, catching a glimpse of my book in the book store or a trailer of my book online. One bit of relief is that at the heart of my stories is my own very special brand of humor. I may not be able to bottle it and sell it, but it certainly keeps me sane and keeps me enjoying this crazy career choice.

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14 Comments

  1. Jon

    Well, at least you sound in control of your branding. Not every artist gets to choose what genre/cubbyhole he or she is placed in, unfortunately. So, best of luck on that journey.

  2. Les

    So not a thoughtful post but “This is problematic for me. I still don’t know which direction I’d like my writing career to go at this point (other than in the money-making kind).”

    That is SO me right now.

  3. Hi Jon and Les…I guess I am in control of my branding. Nice way to look at it. But, yeah, it’s that figuring out which direction I’d like to go (Les, is it wrong that I am relieved there are more in my company?). Ponderous, man, really ponderous. xx

  4. I think how “branded” you are depends on how popular you are. For instance, I read a quote from JK Rowling in which she said that she had thought about writing a non-HP, non-fantasy book for adults in the future under a pseudonym, but then she thought it was pointless, as the press would find out that it was her anyway. Once you get to that kind of status, it can be really difficult to break out. People will always want that one thing from you. But I think that other artists who are not quite so popular (although still successful) have greater options to expand what they do. And even if you do achieve JK Rowling status, there are some super-popular artists who have broken their mold and reinvented themselves – look at Madonna’s career.

  5. Sonja, you know, I might be shooting myself in the foot, but I don’t want to be as popular as Rowling. I literally would just like to sell some books–something I’m really proud of and want to share. I think that’s hard enough to achieve as it is. But, I really like your point. Unless I’m that 1 in a million, I won’t have to worry so much. Just focus on the writing!!

  6. Okay so when I first started reading your post I thought “branding is gonna hurt.I’ve seen it done to animals on television and they do not seem to enjoy the process.” Shows you how my mind works doesn’t it? I knew that it was not that kind of branding by the way. But I still don’t think I’d like to be branded as just one kind of writer. Not that I have to concern myself with it just yet as my biggest worry is also still writing. Although I’m not too worried mostly just anxious to get to the finish line.

  7. Branding. I learned a new term today here. I have to say, I don’t think I like it as it feels like the opposite of art and creation.

    Let the writers create and the publishers sell.

    But I am old and earn my living as a teacher, so please don’t listen to me.

  8. Joelle, I am in exactly in your position. I need to constantly remind myself not to rush things and enjoy my “freedoms” so to speak.

    Pseudo, I like teachers…I would be silly not to listen to you. I have issues with writing within one specific genre and would love the selling to be up to the publishers. I just think that writers have more and more control over their careers these days, for better or worse.

  9. Hey Sarah, thanks for the mention. Platforms are something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years, and to me they have more to do with high concept because (in general) I don’t think I’ll mind being “confined” to Fantasy/Epic Fantasy. The themes in my books are what interest me, and I don’t see an issue building a platform around that… as I’m probably too old to execute a blatant shift in thought at this point ;)

  10. Ingrid

    “At this stage in the game, for me, the most important thing I have to worry about is writing.”

    I may be idealistic, but I sincerely hope that “writing” is always the most important thing we have to worry about, regardless of genre :)

    And, Joelle, I love the way your mind works!

  11. I’d hate to think that I’ll be locked into whatever it is I eventually publish or that I have to make some sort of decision at this stage. I’ve got plenty of ideas in a variety of genres. I know I can’t be successful in everything that I write, but I’d hate to think that I’ll be excluded from the Adult Thriller club because I published a YA novel. I’ve written both and feel that I have stories to tell on more than one level. I think it was Stephen King who, when asked why he wrote what he did, answered by saying, “What makes you think I can write anything else?” Besides, I figure that’s what they make pseudonyms for. ;) Good stuff, as usual, Sarah!

  12. Todd, you made a really good point and just to get a platform with half the power of Gaga would be enviable! Too old? No. Set in your ways? Maybe. I like that about you. I know what I’m going to get, which is kind of what you want.

    Ingrid, I need your idealism!

    Scott, I definitely don’t want to be locked in and I may have to think of some good pen names for other genres.

  13. Thanks Sarah. It’s good to be predictable that way, but still leave it open for other things (like my religious satire and whatever weird ideas I come up with in the future). I think the fact that there are no “rules” really makes establishing yourself MORE important so that people know what they’re getting into when they read your work. Expectations can be a good thing.

  14. Sonja-
    Very good point (as usual! :P). Unlike Sarah, I’d love to be as popular as JK Rowling… BUT I recognize that it has its pitfalls too (and I certainly don’t EXPECT to reach that level, even if I might dream about it). I think, though, that JK COULD write whatever she wanted, she’d just have to be prepared for people to hate it and/or constantly compare it to HP…

    Joelle-
    LOL!

    Pseudo-
    I think a LOT of writers/artists feel the same way, that “branding” really kills (or undermines) the creative process. Unfortunately there IS a business side to this… so I dunno, I have mostly resigned myself to the fact that I can’t escape the game, so I gotta learn to play it.

    Ingrid-
    You might be idealistic, but I still hope you’re right, that the writing is always the focus. :)

    Scott-
    I feel the same way as you and Sarah… Hopefully we can find a way to break out of the mold (any mold!) and write all the stories we’re passionate about!

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