Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Gail Kavanagh
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Are you doing everything you can to promote your writer brand? Many writers don't even think about themselves as a brand, they think of themselves as just writers. But most well established writers are, in fact, a brand. Think of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Jan Karon. Each has a strong Internet presence, and a definable print presence -- a brand.
These days, everything and everyone is a brand, from rock stars to celebrity bloggers. Promoting that brand and keeping it fresh in the public mind is what makes the difference between success and failure. Writers are no different. When you go online, everything you do is creating a brand, in the minds of publishers, potential clients and readers.
So what are the guidelines to making sure you are a recognisable writing brand, as unique in your own sphere as Stephen King or Jan Karon, with a big following attracted to and interested in your brand? You need to sit down and think about who you are, and what you are writing, as well as your personal goals, and how you can create a recognizable brand.
On the Internet, brands are associated with keywords. These keywords not only include the name of the brand -- like Coca-Cola -- but also elements associated with that brand. Think 'horror' and 'thriller' for Stephen King, 'Mitford' and 'Father Tim' for Jan Karon. Keywords like 'vampire' and 'Lestat' will lead you to Anne Rice. Keywords are vital for defining who you are and what you do online.
Use keywords to identify your brand elements. Think about yourself as a writer and what you want to communicate to publishers and clients. Does your list include words and phrases like 'trendy,' 'controversial,' or 'on the cutting edge?' Are you linked with genres like horror, romance, or science fiction? Or does it include words and phrases like 'reliable,' 'consistent,' 'attention to detail?' Are you linked with concepts such as 'content,' 'editing,' or 'journalism?' Can you use keywords such as 'experienced' and 'print published', or would keywords such as 'fresh approach' and 'new ideas' work better for you?
List the keywords that describe you and your personal brand and keep that list handy. You really need to accent the positive in your keywords. Don't use words or phrases like 'amateur', 'newbie' or 'old hand.' These give potential clients a pre-set impression of writers who don't know all the ropes, or who know too many and are set in their ways.
As many writers are well aware, a big part of success in writing is finding your niche, what is special about you as a writer. J.K. Rowling is a megabrand with her Harry Potter series. Note that the name of the instantly recognizable character she created is in the title of every book and movie. You see those words, you think J.K. Rowling. You see Twilight, you think of Stephanie Meyer. Both these writers, while so different in following and ability, know the value of their brand.
You may not be a fiction writer -- you may enjoy writing about crafts, cars or politics -- but so do thousands of other writers. Your brand consists of the unique perspective and personal experience you bring to your niche. You need to list what you bring to your brand that no one else has. Maybe it's your background, maybe it's the fact that you have often had to find solutions or solve problems on your own. No one else has quite your approach or your experience, and that is a big part of your brand.
In promoting your writing skills online, you have to make that brand recognizable and appealing to consumers who you hope will choose you for assignments. Who will buy your product? If you write about rock bands and concerts, you may be aiming at the youth market, or the nostalgic baby boomers who want to hear all about your personal experiences at Woodstock. If you write about collecting rare items, archaeology or history, the market may be wealthier and more conservative. You will brand yourself accordingly, coming across as someone who is in the know in these fields. Above all, you want to create a brand that can be trusted.
Many of use associate brands with logos, and logos are important. McDonald's Golden Arches are recognizable anywhere in the world. But what does having a recognizable logo mean if you are a freelance writer? If you have a company with a carefully chosen name that includes services like editing and proofreading, you will already know that a logo is important. It should be eye-catching and relevant, not boring, and it is well worth getting a professional to design one for you.
But freelance writers should give some thought to their logo too. If you write articles, fiction or self-help books under your own name, your name is your logo, and how you present that name to the public is part of your brand. If you have a website, do you stop and consider how to present your name as your logo? The font, the size of the font -- even the colors you choose -- are all part of your brand. You need to sit down and think about the styles and colors that will support your brand.
When you design a webpage or a header for a blog, keep your brand firmly in mind. Decide on a color scheme and use that where you can. If you are using a free blogging platform, choose a background that ties in with your brand, or one you can customize. Choose your fonts accordingly. A plain Roman font gets the message across that you are down to earth and reliable. Other fonts suggest different brands -- a Gothic romance writer may use a fancy Old English font, whereas a science or political writer may use something strikingly modern, internationally recognizable and sans serif, like Helvetica.
The image you present to the public is also part of your brand. You need more than a blurry snapshot as your bio pic. You need to be consistent with your image across all your Internet activities. Do you have different images uploaded at every website and blog? Get one good image taken of you, a clear head and shoulders shot, and use it consistently across the web.
Plan your bio image before it is taken. Pick out the main color you have chosen for your brand, and match what you wear and the background to the colors you are using as part of your brand. Use your brand keywords and match the image to suit, so that publishers and clients will have a visual image of your personal brand. When they see those elements, you want them to be reminded of your brand.
Think of all the places you can promote your brand online -- not just your website and blog, but Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others. Twitter can be a very good conduit for your brand, but don't over promote on any of these outlets. Offer snippets of advice, useful links, and random thoughts as well. As you gather fans and followers in your social networking activities, you are promoting your brand to them and their friends and followers.
Once you have created a consistent brand for all your Internet activities, you will have your brand in mind wherever you present yourself to the public, on forums or social networking sites. The entertainment blogger may have a bubbly persona everywhere he or she goes, because that is the brand. The archaeology and history writer may only show up where there is some information on the subject to be shared, and do so with restraint, because that is the brand. Of course, both can log in anywhere under other identities and not affect the brand.
Your personal brand is the key to marketing today. Knowing who you are, who you want to aim your product at, and how to fix yourself in their minds so that they go back to you time and again, is all part of your brand. Whether you are planning to start writing fiction or content, publishing eBooks or blogging, take time to sit down and work out your brand.
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Gail Kavanagh is a freelance writer and reviewer living in Queensland, Australia. Now retired, she has worked as a newspaper reporter with considerable experience in the entertainment and movie reviewing fields. She is a self publisher with several books listed at Lulu.com.