When I think of the word branded, I see a burly ranch hand grab a cow around the neck, while another slowly inches his way toward the crazy-eyed cow with a red hot, branding iron. The sound of sizzle and … NEXT. We’ve seen it a hundred times – Bonanza, Ponderosa, Gunsmoke, any John Wayne movie. A few moments of discomfort and BAM! Branded!
Today the word ‘branded’ has a whole new meaning. The good news is that red, hot branding irons are out. The bad news is that it is a never-ending process of establishing who you are in the public arena and constantly maintaining your profile. There is a reason why professionals hire publicists. It can be a full-time job just keeping your name and image out there. And you still have to do whatever it is you do that requires you having a ‘brand’ in the first place.
Of course, not everyone needs a brand. But gone are the days when your only competition was the other mechanic/dentist/grocer … in town. We get around, not only in our car, but on the web. One of my kids figured out that by buying her tires online and having them delivered, and then put on by the local gas station, she could save a couple hundred dollars. If I don’t like to shop (and I don’t), I can go online and have everything I need delivered to my door, sometimes within a couple of hours. Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase, “The world is my oyster.” You can literally get oysters from anywhere in the world with a few clicks of a mouse!
How do I know I know I can get oysters anywhere? Because someone took their time and skill and put all the information together in a nice package that is attractive and accessible for everyone with a phone, that is always within reach. MOOOO!
So here I am – an author with a book coming out in the fall. Every publishing house will tell you that an author’s involvement in the promotion of their books is paramount to success. In other words, the more an author does, in tandem with the publishing house, the more they will sell. To be successful in selling books, authors have to figure out their ‘brand’ and then give it a big push out the door into cyberspace, and constantly stoke it, like a fire, to keep it alive.
I visited other author websites to see how they did it. I appreciated the honesty of one writer who had written a few sporadic blogs over the last 2 years (kind of like me), who said, “Not sure what I’m supposed to be writing here, but when I figure it out, I’ll write it.”
So, what is my brand? I have decided to stay as close to who I really am as possible, so no one is too disappointed when they run into me in person. I did the same thing with my headshot. As a singer, I needed a picture to send out every so often, and truth be told, I take a pretty lousy picture. However, I had one good black and white picture taken about 25 years ago, and boy did I get my use of that! Eventually, I had to admit I couldn’t use the photo I took in my mid-30’s when I was creeping up on 50. So now there’s a new headshot with gray in the hair and wrinkles around the eyes. It's on my webpage -- have a look -- if you dare! It’s not perfect by any means, but it is me.
As for my writing, I will tool around with the idea of my ‘brand’ and hopefully settle on something useful to those who pop over to my blog and website for a visit. I taught music for a few years and realized how much I like to share with others the things I’ve learned, and I’m old enough now to know that I have learned quite a bit, most of it the hard way.
So … for all you aspiring authors dipping your toe in the writer’s pool, here is one thing I’ve learned. You will need a social media platform. I use Facebook, occasionally stop by Twitter and dabble in Instagram (my kids have assured me I would never survive Snapchat).
If you’re young enough to have grown up with social media as your norm, none of this will be hard for you. But, if you’re old enough to have watched man’s first steps on the moon on an old black and white tv, then grab a life jacket, you’re going to need it.