Tuesday, January 31

Guest Post - Connie Barrett

I know its been a while.  Lifes been kicking my butt lately, and I've only just managed to get things done, so this has been on hold.

HOWEVER!!!  Here, I have a guest post from the lovely Connie Barrett.  Check out her blog here, Dragonfire: The Creative Spark

Independent Authors and Branding

I write fantasy, literary fiction, and nonfiction (mostly about self-healing and personal growth). Recently, when I was about to publish Gone to Flowers, a novel about a commune during the Vietnam era, a long-time writing friend asked me what I planned to do to help readers understand the wide subject range of my writing.

Another way to read the question is "How am I going to brand myself?" This friend has had a highly successful career as an advertising executive, and I took the question seriously because she knew all about branding when I still thought it was something you did to cattle.

According to the doctrine of branding, an author is supposed to limit her scope in terms of genre. To some extent, this makes sense. I would have a hard time imagining Steven King writing romantic comedy or Danielle Steele writing dark fantasy. (Either possibility does sound intriguing, however.)

However, one of the most repeated arguments against writing in more than one genre has to do with marketing. This also makes sense to some extent. It's easier to remember that author, C. M. Barrett, who writes about depressed dragons, impudent cats, and interspecies communications than to remember the author who writes the above, plus literary fiction about humans, and guides to vibrational healing. It's also easier for that author to do targeted marketing.

Dig a little deeper, and you'll find "experts" saying you shouldn't do it because publishers don't like it. Authors whose work is hard to categorize make publishers' work more difficult. As traditional publishers find it increasingly difficult to adapt to the changing world of publishing, they want their authors' material to fit into easily defined slots.

Here is the beauty of independent publishing. The only publisher I belong to is me. I have the freedom to write and publish material of my choice. It also means I have to figure out how to market a multi-genre body of material, a challenge that got more complex with the publication of a mainstream novel.

I've decided to answer my friend's question by asking another: Why do I write what I write?

I write who I am, what I've experienced, and what interests me. I've worked as a holistic counselor since 1987. I've written countless articles and some books. I've counseled people and their pets. I intend to continue doing so because I get deep satisfaction from making a difference in that way.

In addition to that satisfaction, I have learned invaluable lessons in understanding people and their problems. As a writer, I am all about characters, and working closely with people's concerns and sorrows can provide much illumination about the mysteries of human hearts and minds. My professional experiences have immeasurably enriched my fiction and nonfiction works and have helped to make me who I am.

I'm not a fantasy writer. I'm not a literary writer. I'm not a self-help writer. I'm a whole human being who has chosen to express myself outside the restrictions of the traditional publishing system. That gives me freedom. With freedom comes the responsibility to make it work.

So far, the best approach I've found to the marketing challenge is a guiding principle: "When you got it, flaunt it." What I've got is diversity. All I have to do is figure out how to flaunt it.

That saying, by the way, comes from the original 1968 film version of The Producers, written and directed by Mel Brooks. As you probably know, Brooks turned the film into a musical for which he wrote the lyrics and composed the music.

Wait a minute. OK, the guy is an actor, director, and scriptwriter. Writing the lyrics stretches his brand, but composing the music? That is so far beyond his brand that I don't know how he marketed it.

However, history records that he managed it. The Broadway play won 12 Tony awards. Maybe for Mel Brooks, following his dreams was more important than working his brand.

Some will say that once you have his standing, you can afford to break the rules. Consider this alternative: Maybe breaking the rules is how you get to have that standing.

There's only one way to find out.

Thank you Connie for being a Guest here at How Many Days In A Year.  I loved it, and agree that trying to fit into a mold, or brand, can often hinder you.  Branch out and be who you are.