On Diversification and Branding
Two words for you today:
The former: that sacred and cardinal rule of investing.
The latter: the process of establishing an identity that reflects you, your business, your work.
Les Deux: my sacred and cardinal rules of advice when publishing in this chaotic modern world of bits and bytes. And with the ‘net and social media conditioning us all to have attention spans shorter than Tom Cruise, the trick is never allowing people a chance to forget your name.
Because they will, if you let them.
Don’t let them.
As with any piece of writing or publishing advice, your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you. But it also might. Maybe it will give you an idea or three. Maybe it will inspire you to try something new, something no one has ever done. Maybe it will make you want to turn off your computer in disgust and spit on the floor because nobody tells you what to do, man.
But this is what works for me. (And sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it feels like no one is reading anything I write. That will happen to you, too. Don’t stop.)
There is no such thing a “typical” career in writing. (Many grumpy old farts who’ve failed more than they’ve succeeded may tell you there’s no such thing as a career in writing period. [Period period? Who writes about periods, anyway?]) The “traditional vs. Independent” argument is dead, long ago replaced by a sort of hybrid approach.
Publish traditionally when it makes sense to do so (and is possible). Publish independently when it makes sense to do so. In short, your goal is simply to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible.
This is both easier than ever, and harder than ever.
Easier, because the internet gives us access to the entire world.
Harder, because the internet gives every writer access to the entire world.
That means there’s a lot of noise to cut through.
And also a lot of work. Every time a new publication medium is launched, I sign up and publish something. Anything. But I try to make it original, a piece that hasn’t been published anywhere else. I’m on Patreon. Prose. Medium. I’ve published platform appropriate essays on LinkedIn. Nine months after I created my Wattpad account, I finally launched the first chapter of a new take on an old story just a couple of days ago. I also write weekly album reviews for the online heavy metal zine Ghost Cult. All this is in addition to—not in place of—writing two books a year.
Some writers will tell you to NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER NEVER EVER give your work away for free. From a professional’s perspective, it’s good advice; your work has value, so if you give it away for free, you’re devaluing it.
However, in this industry, that argument is like an incontinent old grandfather: it doesn’t hold water.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “You have to spend money to make money.” It’s one of the ten commandments of marketing. It might even be the first commandment. Promoting your work is tough, even without all the online noise we sift through every day. And while I don’t advocate spending (read: wasting) money on Facebook ads or Google ads or Spamazon ads, I absolutely believe in occasionally giving work away for free.
Say you have a trilogy of books for sale on Amazon. Your sales have hit a slump and you have zero ideas what to do. Why not run a campaign where you give the first book away for free? Everyone loves free stuff. And here’s the bonus: if they dig that first book (which they will because you rocked that shit), perhaps they’ll buy the second. And the third. And then everything else you publish after that.
Don’t think of it as “devaluing.”
Think of it as “promotion.”
(And stop with the “shameless self-promotion” phrase; it makes you sound needy even while you’re trying not to sound needy.)
So. Stamp your name everywhere you possibly can. Which leads me to…
At my day gig (yes, I have one of those, and unless some magical unicorn of popularity trots along and gently massages your bumhole with its horn of life-altering success, you probably will too), I work in digital marketing for a global biotech company. What is our driving initiative every year? (If you said “Eat more tacos,” oh how I wish you were right [although I don’t know why you’d say that because it’s totally random].)
Strengthening our brand. Increasing our brand’s visibility.
A brand is more than just a logo. It’s your identity. It’s your voice. It’s how you interact and communicate with your audience. It’s the look and feel of your website. It’s your Facebook and Twitter banner images.
As a writer, your brand is you. What do you want people to think when they see your name? More importantly, how do you want them to feel?
You’re the only you in the world (and thank god for that because more than one of you would be too much). Exploit your individuality.
And don’t be shy about it.
“But Jay,” I hear you say (since we’re already on a nickname basis, you and me), “how can I do that without annoying everyone on Twitter?”
Easy. Don’t be annoying.
Spread your work like a virus into every corner of the web. Offer quality work on a consistent basis, align your social profiles, and treat every aspect of promotion as but one piece of a greater whole.
Don’t let anyone forget your name.