Writely Advice: The Writer Brand

When you think of brand, what comes to mind? Any number of images, sound bites, catch phrases, etc pop up to smack you upside the mind’s eye. Why does that happen? Because marketing execs are paid large sums of money to ensure that those brand names are burned into your psyche. And it pays off. Had it not been for brand, Apple wouldn’t be where it is today. Brand has brought Volkswagon back into relevancy.

There are plenty of books, sites, lectures, and articles centered around you getting your brand out there as soon as possible — in some cases, even before you have that first book published. And they’re all true. It’s hard work that will seem like a constant flow of pimping. In the end, it pays off. But what exactly is it you need to do? Let’s take a look.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you what tools to use, because you already know that Twitter, Facebook. WordPress, Tumbler, and many other’s are your best friends. And you probably already know how to use those tools better than those telling you that you need to use them. What you may not know are some key aspects of creating your brand — and I hope to help you understand those in the here and in the now.

Define you

What are you? Who are you? If you dig deep into the core of truth, what nugget do you pull out? That is going to be a very key element in your brand. You see, you are a writer — but not just any writer, you are a writer of a specific genre. And even within that genre you may have defined or re-defined a sub-genre. You are not just a Paranormal writer, you are a Existential Paranormal writer.

But the definition of you must go beyond just your genre. Your definition of you will be the ‘you’ that is put out into court of public opinion, so that ‘you’ must be one hell of a marketable personae. Why am I saying this?

Don’t be beige. What does that mean? You know that beige wall behind you? Don’t blend into it. Don’t just be one of the crowd. Don’t strive to be another Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King. Strive to be something unique, something no one else has ever been. And don’t expect this to happen over night.

After nearly two years of going the “indie” route, I was given a couple of ‘titles’ by my peers. Those titles are:

  • The Zombie King
  • The King of Blood and Glitter

Those titles stuck and I decided I should use them. They are tag lines I adopted (even for a cover of a book). Bold moves, yes…but moves that had to be taken to help make me stand out. And I was okay adopting those titles because they were handed to me by colleagues whom I respect. And, even better, they really added something to my brand. Now I’m not just “Jack Wallen”, I’m “Jack Wallen: The Zombie King”. Or, depending on the book I’m pimping, I’m “Jack Wallen: The King of Blood and Glitter”. I can be frightening and fabulous at the same time. There’s a bit of mystique there.

Presenting You

So you’ve defined yourself. You know what and who you are. How you present that definition will go a long, long way to making your brand recognizable. Here are my best tips on presentating yourself as a solid brand:

1) Get professional headshots (and make them SEXY): Do NOT use some pic you took with your phone or something your spouse or bestie took with a standard digital camera. Get a photo shoot with a pro and make sure you look fantastic. Once you have those headshots, use them in everything you publish.

2) Get a real domain: How unprofessional does it look for you to have yourname.wordpress.com? Very. It means you don’t care enough to spend 10.00 buck a month on hosting and a domain. Go to VerveHosting and sign up for the 9.95 per month plan and create your own WordPress blog there. Make sure your domain is either your name or something very memorable. I have a lot of domains:

  • monkeypantz.net
  • getjackd.net
  • zombieradio.org
  • adorkabledesigns.net
  • autumnalpress.com

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it pays off in the end. It means I’m very serious about what I do.

3) Center your tweets and postings around your brand (but don’t self pimp your books). No one wants to be SPAM’d from every angle. Don’t hit your followers with “Buy my book” tweets. Instead, build your brand by tweeting about things related to what you write. Currently, every day, I always tweet a minimum of three tweets:

  • Shero Fashion Tip
  • Zombie Survival Tip
  • Writer Tip

I am going to add in a horror tip as well (such as Horror movie recommendation or something). Why I do this is to focus on the genres I write about, drawing people into my brand without saying BUY MY BOOK! Once you’ve drawn them in, they will want to know more.

4) Finally, you must be personable. As often as you can, reply to people. Recently I had a request for an autograph someone could frame and hang on their wall. You can bet I immediately had an I Zombie I post card signed and in the mail. Those are the kinds of fans you must extend the hand of generosity to because, in the end, they will make or break you. Their word of mouth is worth more than $1,000.00 worth of advertising.

In the end

We don’t have millions upon millions (or even hundreds upon hundreds) of dollars to invest in marketing a brand. But what we do have is a number of unique opportunities to put ourselves out there that are very cost effective and powerful. But even if we make use of those tools, if we use them poorly, they will have little to no effect. If you use the tools at hand to present yourself in the best possible light you can… your brand will be strong and your books will sell.