Last week I talked a little about where I came from—First Turner Broadcasting, then a design company of a dozen people, finally freelancing for companies like DDB and Leo Burnett—and how I got from there to here, working as a professional novelist. One of the things I learned is that while the game has changed, the rules remain the same—the point is to reach as many people as effectively as possible.
A lot of people have an idea of novelists as reclusive, hiding in their garrets and typing away in the midnight hours. And some are like that. But I believe that careful management of your brand, even as an author, can measurably expand success.
There are a lot of ways to build a brand in my business. Some of them are traditional—touring, speaking events, teaching, attending conferences, running traditional ads. And all have their advantages. But these days, the real benefits are in new media, the web, and social networking.
The reasons are the same for me as they for a shoe company. For the first time since we lived in villages, there’s the opportunity for producer and consumer to meet directly. Not only that, but it’s cheaper and effective.
What does that mean for me? Well, first a website. And not just a sales piece, but something honestly beneficial to a visitor. All the flashy graphics in the world pale in comparison to answering someone’s question, helping them with a project of their own, or simply giving them a personal vision of your brand.
In this case, my brand is me. And I craft a brand message with some care. I’m shooting to give people the impression of what I hope my books feel like—compelling, intense, with both high stakes and complicated moral issues. I’m also trying to let them know that I’m a real person, that when they buy one of my books, they’re inviting me to tell them a tale, and that I don’t take that lightly. And a good part of that comes from accessibility.
So I have a Facebook page, of course. I also have a mailing list, and whenever I send one out—which I do with calculated infrequency—I give something away. I blog. I maintain my own website. Every year, I host a release party for my new book. This year’s is in Chicago, on August 6th from 7 – 10pm at Sheffield’s (3258 N. Sheffield). Come by and let me buy you a beer.
These things make sense for an author. But I think they also make sense for a brand. Want an example? When I turned 18, Gillette mailed me a razor, a Sensor. I’m now 35, and I still shave with it. Convenience? Sure. But also, they reached out to me. They made me feel a personal connection. They tied themselves into my life. And it paid out, for 17 years and counting.
Next week, my last with ADMAVEN—and thanks again for having me!—I’ll talk about how I’ve been using social networking to reach out to fans in a way that’s a little different.
Meanwhile, if you’re in Chicago, come by my release party! I’d love to chat.
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