“Do I look like the sort of person who has a plan to you?” –The Joker
So, being a self-taught learner, as I’ve mentioned before, I just kind of jumped into this whole self-publishing thing without much of an overall strategy. I’m not good with thinking things through in advance, I do much better working with an existing situation, analyzing a process in motion and modifying it on the fly to make it do what I want it to do.
The approach is rather analogous to jumping off a building with a handful of spare parts and trusting that I can build a flying machine on the way down. It requires a pathological self-confidence combined with a lack of genuine comprehension of the consequence of failure.
So what I am now dealing with are things that I read about, but I didn’t really understand until now. (I do read the instruction book before I take something apart, I just don’t understand what it’s saying until I actually have my hands full of pieces.)
Not, unfortunately, the kind of branding that uses a hot iron. That kind I think I could handle. The kind where you establish a brand identity. Now, I had a kind of negative idea about branding that I realize was mostly based on arrogance and ignorance.
See, when I thought about promoting an author as a personality I thought about all the egregious ways in which authors have been promoted for something other than writing. The whole celebrity book tour thing, you know? Buy this book because it’s written by an actress or the guy who slept with an actress or somebody who went to jail for selling secrets to a foreign government.
However, I am beginning to see that there is a way in which an author can promote him or herself on the basis of things that actually have some relevance to the quality of the product being sold.
For example, my poetry. I don’t think that selling my poetry is a terribly viable business plan. The last American who actually made money as a self-published poet was probably William Blake, and he made most of his eating money as an artist and print maker, and still ended up sleeping outside a lot.
However, I can promote my poetry as a hook to promote my books, because it demonstrates that I know a whole lot of cool words and can string them together in interesting ways.
This blog is the same kind of thing. People can get a feel for my prose style for free and, it is to hoped, feel that it’s worth checking out my novel.
The question then becomes, is talking about my mental illness a good kind of promotion or a bad kind of promotion? In my particular case, I think it’s relevant to the novel that I have created and the others I intend to write. I can honestly say that I was able to write the James/Catskinner relationship the way I did because I, myself am dissociative.
On the other hand, there is a lot about my life that really is irrelevant to being a writer. I mean, I could publicize the fact that I went to high school with Brad Pitt, but that’s not really relevant. And besides, it’s not like we were close or anything. I can’t really produce an expose on his early years. (“New Accusations Surface: Brad Pitt Cut Through Other People’s Yards To Get To The Bus Stop In Junior High!”)
Anyway, I do think that branding is a legitimate marketing tool for writers. I know there are some books that I will buy purely on the strength of the author–Tim Powers, for example. Of course, the main thing is to create an established track record, which means a body of work.
Which means that I have to remember that along with promoting myself as a writer I also have to be actually writing. I need some steak to go with the sizzle.