This is the third installment in the continuing story of "Editing Mister D," a joint project to coach British nonfiction writer Pete Oxley through completion and publication of his first novel-length fiction work.
If you’re writing just for the fun of it,
branding may very well be irrelevant. However, if you think you may one
day want to become a professional writer, it’s never too early to think
about developing your brand. What is "branding?" Like General Mills,
Cadillac, Swatch, or any number of instantly recognizable names, a brand
is a kind of stamp, a shorthand way of telling your customers—er,
readers—what to expect. "Branding" is the process of creating your own
unique brand, and the practice of stamping that brand on everything you
Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and John Grisham are flesh and
blood human beings, but their names have also become brands. If you see
“Stephen King” on a book, you have a pretty good idea what to expect.
It won’t be a historical fiction romance, will it? No, it will be some
kind of paranormal thriller that will make you sleep with the lights on
for a while. You know that just because you read “Stephen King” on the
Now, I can’t call myself an expert on branding, but I’ve
learned a few things over the years anyone can use to position themselves as a recognized brand. The scale of that recognition is something
that comes with time because it takes time to distribute your brand and
impress it upon enough minds that it actually qualifies as a brand.
Moreover, it takes time to hone your brand into something specific and
compelling. There’s a certain amount of trial and error involved, so
again, it’s never too early to get started.
First things first:
Whether it’s your real name or a pseudonym, your nom de plume is your
calling card. Once you’ve settled on the name you’re going to use, use
it exclusively. Even your Twitter handle should be as close to your writing name as possible. For instance, if
you intend to publish as Herkimer MacGillicuddy, your handle
should be @HerkimerMacGillicuddy, not @xxHockeyPuck1982xx. You want
your readers to see your name over and over, and associate it with your
The second thing to look at your social networking
profiles. Do you go on about your favorite bands, or are you
introducing readers to your writing? Adding personal details to your
profile makes it easier for your readers to connect with you on a
personal level, but it is not a substitute for a carefully crafted
statement about your writing. You want to create an “elevator speech,”
or a short statement that will sum up your writing in as few words as
A great branding exercise is to write a very short (no
more than 300 words) essay about you and your writing. Pack everything
in this essay that you feel describes you and your writing, particularly
whatever it is that you feel makes it unique. Make a copy and edit
your essay down to half its length. Make another copy and edit again,
reducing by half again. Each time, you will be forced to identify the
truly crucial points and cut out the less important points. Repeat this
process until you have pared your message down enough to fit into a
Twitter profile (160 characters or less). Keep all of these short
descriptions to refine and use as you develop your brand.
As part of my "Editing Mister D" project, I've been analyzing writer Pete Oxley's branding, and I've found he's already off to a good start. Visit
http://peterdoxley.co.uk/ and near the top of the page you will see
three short statements that sum up his writing and qualifications quite
nicely in forty-two words. As we progress, we’ll be refining his
fiction writing profile to include something like “Author of the Mister D
series of paranormal steampunk adventure tales,” but you get the idea.
you’ve begun to create your branding, start using it everywhere. Put
it in your email signature, use it as a tagline on message boards, add
it to your Facebook, Twitter, and Wattpad profiles, etc. As you refine
your message, you’ll have to change it everywhere, but it’s worth the
trouble to keep your message consistent.
Creating a brand before
the story is ready to publish might seem like putting the cart before
the horse, but it really isn't. In self-publishing, branding
is the horse. Merely publishing a book is no guarantee that you will
sell even a single copy, but if you have connected with hundreds or
thousands of people and introduced them to your brand before you publish, you'll have a ready-made market clamoring for your stories.