We’re in a world where it seems everyone needs to be branded and packaged to be successful. Politicians—knowing what they stand for (usually). Singers—their style of music. For example, you wouldn’t expect heavy metal from Dolly Parton. And authors—what they write. You see the name “James Patterson” on a book’s spine and you expect crime/mystery.
I imagine it’s easy for a horror/thriller writer to put dripping blood or a skull and crossbones across her Twitter page. Or an erotica writer who can put. . .something else on her page. Use your imagination there.
But what if you write in more than one genre? Uh oh. That’s a problem.
This is what I’ve been struggling with lately. With three books out by August, soon to be four next year, branding is something I should have been thinking about a long time ago. So far, these are lesbian fiction—also comedies and dramas. And I do have more stories to tell in this genre, and possibly others. So how do you market yourself if you aren’t a one-genre writer? Here’s a sampling of my recent brainstorming with myself. It went something like this:
“But I’m versatile.”
“The Meryl Streep of writers.”
“That sounds way too pretentious. Readers will expect me to have an Oscar.”
“Something that denotes a little of everything?”
“If I put a picture of potpourri at the top of my Twitter page, people will think I sell my own homemade potpourri.”
“Diversity. . .”
“An LGBT rainbow implies LGBT books.”
“But I do write lesbian fiction.”
“Maybe a rainbow with different genres on each stripe of a non-rainbow colored rainbow.”
“A good logo shouldn’t be too complicated. PLUS, a logo with a colorful rainbow that’s not LGBT will look like a children’s reading group.”
Maybe you’ve done this mental exercise, too. Maybe you’re concerned about the branding issue as well. Many of the writers and artists I know do more than ONE thing. Does this mean we’re all screwed?
The reality is that nobody has much time anymore. The least amount of effort a reader has to put in, figuring out what you’re offering, the easier it will be for you to make the sale. But I don’t think an author’s only goal should be to aspire to a label that can fit on a bumper sticker. However, like your personality at a party, the general public may not get much time with you in a tweet or Facebook post. So you have less time to show who you are and why your books are worthwhile. How are you going to do that?
Do you put yourself in a box whether it fits or not? No. I’m thinking about finding a common denominator in my work that helps to identify me. For many of us, our voice is our unique, distinguishing factor that transcends genre. I’ve noticed I write with the same sarcastic humor that shows up in many of my stories, no matter what they are. So maybe this is a bigger calling card than a specific genre.
Every author has to find out what works for her, or him. You may be the queen of the gothic romance, or medieval drama, or political satire, or children’s talking cat books. Whatever turns you on, whatever your work has in common, identify that and it will help you market yourself more effectively. I think.
I’ll let you know if it works for me.