Sunday, September 23, 2012

Branding Your Writer's Self

I resist the idea of making "a brand" of myself and my work, but they say I must. We all must. So how do you accomplish that when it feels like shoeboxing an entire wardrobe?

I've written before about finding one's niche as a writer. About finding your tribe. Speaking specifically to your audience.

My tribe would be humans moved by humanity, what makes us and drives us. And what may lie beyond our human perception or comprehension.

As a writer, the first part of that statement would have me writing literary fiction. The second part puts me firmly in the speculative fiction camp.

I'm a split personality. And to that duality, I have to add a third: being a gay man with a desire to be a voice in that tribe. So I'm a writer of gay literary speculative fiction? Try to find that section of your local bookstore.

See, here's the thing. I love good horror, but I hate the often cheesy places it goes. I love the idea of alien interaction, ancient or current, in, upon, or among humans, but I don't always love reading science fiction. And while I would love to be one more author making gay characters an integrated part of everyday life, I don't want to limit myself to gay fiction. And I don't want to write gay "issue" stories. There are plenty of those.

So, shouldn't we speak to those with whom we'd love to speak, who would like to speak with us? People who are moved by or interested in what moves us to write? And wouldn't that, shouldn't that be found in what we like to read?

Well, no shit.

What moves me in reading, besides beautifully crafted images, language that sings, is what's amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking and brave and heroic about the human experience.

That can be found in fantasy worlds, of course, but I prefer to write about the world I know, with elements of speculation, because I love "what if…?" And if the suppositions are about horrific possibilities, well, I'm there, too. Bring it on.

So, back to branding. I think I prefer variations on a theme. But that's just me. And where's the niche?  Can I be an author of Speculative Gay Literary Fiction?  Author of Gay Literary Speculative Fiction? Or gay author of Literary Speculative Fiction? Yeah, show me that shelf.

Hello? Gay and gay-friendly wonderers, are you there? Can we talk about our fears, hopes, disappointments, tragedies, and joys? About what brings us together and tears us apart? About what makes all of us human? And, in some cases, decidedly not human? What I can bring to the party is a slew of good questions, some deep, some silly, some sad, some scary, and some without answers—at least from our limited view. We are, after all, only humans.

Or are we brands?

What say you?


  1. Are we human or are we brands? Both!

    Think of JK Rowling (brand). The issue with her new book is that it doesn't fit her brand because her brand is Harry Potter. Or, YA books. Or YA fantasy. Not adult fiction. But she's just human. A writer who wants to write something different this time around.

    That's my two cents.

  2. True. But do we, how does she, address her "tribe" as a writer of adult fiction, when she's established her brand as a YA fantasy writer? It helps, no doubt, that she has a huge following, many of whom will follow her, but what about those of us who don't yet have that following? Not expecting a pat answer. But there's the rub. ;)

  3. I think the author needs to be the brand not their book. I follow authors. If I like their voice and style, I'll follow them wherever they choose to take me regardless of genre because I know they're reliable. This allows me to explore genres and subjects that I may not have read on my own.

  4. I feel that way too, Angie. The authors I love I'd follow into any genre, and the blogs I follow are because I love the voice/attitude of the blogger, so it seems to me I'm following the author, but then, as Jean says, the author is the brand. So has Rowling made a mistake by breaking out of her established brand? I follow, for example, Nathan Bransford, at first because he was an agent with not only great industry insight but a terrific way of addressing any topic. Now that he's an author, I frankly don't care about his middle-grade books, but I still read him. I've never read any of Chuck Wendig's books, but I love his blog because of his voice. One day I'll pick up his work because of that, but I only know of his brand as "terribleminds" and not a fiction genre. Maybe I should stop reading about branding. We are who we are, after all. Or are we?? LOL

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