We are bombarded by brands every day. Unless you’re a hermit in a cave on a secluded mountainside, you’ve probably encountered the industry standard for toaster pastries…the blessed Pop-Tart.
I will argue this until my dying day.
What makes them distinct from others? Is it their aroma as they heat up in the toaster or the way they crumble in your mouth when you take a bite?
Why does brand versus generic matter?
In the words of The Highlander, “There can be only one.”
These products’ marketing departments aim to convince us that their product is the only one you need to buy in that category. And yes, Pop-Tarts are the only toaster pastry you need in your life.
It’s the same with people and their brands. It’s the same with authors and their brands. If you’re not an author, bear with me–this has validity for you, too.
Fans of one of the world’s most successful authors, Ted Dekker, expect a certain level of writing from him. They know that if they should be so lucky to meet him, he’ll look and behave a certain way. I don’t think this is an act on his part but rather the outward manifestation of his personality.
In 2009, I had the privilege to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Ted at a Denver restaurant.
He impressed me during our conversation. I realized later that while his worldwide success certainly plays into his intrigue, his branding serves as its foundation.
Go to his website real quick. See at the top how there is a green circle with a red cross in the middle of it? That’s the symbol of his Circle Trilogy books.
Ted was wearing that symbol on a necklace when I met him.
My initial thought was, “That’s cool that he’s got his own symbol around his neck. He must be really sold out for his books.” Later, thanks to a class I took at a conference with Jim Rubart, I learned how that necklace was just one piece of Ted’s overall brand.
Jim has interacted with Ted on numerous occasions, including in that very same restaurant in 2009. Jim said in his class that he’d realized what Ted’s brand was: he’s a rock star. He’s the rock star of Christian Fiction.
Look at the clothes Ted wears in his pictures on his website. His overall “dark” appearance is what comes out the strongest, just like a rock star.
What does that mean for us? What can we learn from Ted, authors or otherwise? I call them the “Four Be’s.”
1. Be Yourself.
This old cliché has been popularized through thousands of mediums—everything from Disney movies to college courses—but it’s true and absolutely vital to your brand. Ted’s not just “acting” like a rock star…he IS a rock star.
For me, I don’t just pretend to like action/adventure, speculative fiction, and flash fiction. I truly LOVE all of those things. You’ve got to be yourself. If you aren’t, then people might question your brand…they might question you. Disingenuity is easy to see through.
Don’t worry about what other people will think of your interests and who you are. Not everyone is meant to read your work or fully appreciate you. The people who share your interests can and will find you once you put yourself out there.
2. Be Obvious.
This one is essential, and will only grow more essential as time goes on. If we aren’t obvious with our brand and who we are, how are people going to know we have something to offer? That’s why Pop-Tarts makes commercials, right?
We’ve got to put ourselves out there. Not everyone is going to rally around us, but that’s okay. We get to express our interests anyway. If you want more information on effectively wielding and showing off your interests, there are thousands of sources online that will give you more information about how to do that effectively.
3. Be Consistent.
If I said I loved writing action/adventure novels then decided to blog about all the wonderful romance novels I’ve read lately, that might come across as a bit inconsistent. That’s not to say I can’t read those novels—I just have to manage my brand in a way that is consistent with my followers’ expectations.
If we’re not consistent with our message, then people won’t know what to expect from us. They’ll write us off as too confusing or too unpredictable (and in bad ways, not in that cool edgy way that some people can pull off because it’s part of their brand). Once you’re well-established, feel free to play around, but generally it’s better to master your genre before you attempt a new one.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things. In fact, trying new things can be beneficial to you personally and to your brand.
All of the “Be’s” are important, but this one is near and dear to my heart. You have to thoroughly believe in your brand and in the message your brand represents. If you don’t, everything else will fall apart.
Own the facets of your brand, whatever they may be. Wield influence and expertise in those areas as much as possible, which means you have to invest time in them. This is especially important for authors working on developing their crafts. Work to become the best writer you can be. Hire an editor if you need to.
If you’re a hopeless romantic, own it. If you’re a super geek, revel in it. If you’re a serial killer, get some help. (Seriously—that’s bad.) Whatever it is, believe in your brand and support your own endeavors.
You are your brand, and “there can be only one” of you. Live it.
And eat Pop-Tarts.
Meet the Author
Ben Wolf is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of Splickety Publishing Group. His debut novel, Blood for Blood has a 5-star rating on Amazon.com. You can read the prologue to Blood for Blood for free, and then you should definitely buy a copy.
Ben is also an in-demand editor with a 4-6 month waiting list for new clients. For more about Ben, visit his website, www.benwolf.com.