As my authors can attest, I love to talk. About everything. But I especially like to talk about building and maintaining a career, and how authors can get from where they are to where they want to go. My approach to that is to talk about building a brand, which to me simply means figuring out who you are, what you write, and how to communicate that to your audience. I’ve spoken about this at conferences, and I know it’s made some people uncomfortable. They want to be artists, not a product. But I argue that in a very crowded marketplace, you need to clearly differentiate who you are to stand out and attract fans.
Which brings me to this fascinating/disturbing article from Ars Technica about a recent study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Apparently, consumers have such strong attachments that their own self-image is impacted by the brand’s performance. While I find this frightening–if this isn’t a sign that consumer culture is the only culture, I’m not sure what is–I do think it’s an important lesson for authors. To have readers who are that invested can be very important to a long-running career. Think about the biggest authors; each of them is their own brand, with readers knowing what to expect.
What’s important to remember is that being a brand doesn’t mean you need to write crappy books, condescend to the market, or consider what you do “product.” What it means is thinking strategically, with your agent and publisher, about the best ways to position, market and publish your books. As far as I’m concerned, even artists need to think things through and have a plan, and we agents are here to help you do just that.