I see lots of conversations about how an author needs to build a brand. Blog, tweet, FB, pin, make appearances, etc. And for a long time I believed it.
But, today I’m not so sure I do.
Because I finally stopped and thought about how I found the authors that I read. And, before I started down this writing road, I can tell you that I never picked up an author because of their branding.
At least, not in the sense that people talk about branding now.
I’m sure the title of their book, the cover, the back cover copy, and the first few pages had something to do with it. And there’s definitely branding involved in most of that.
But I couldn’t have told you a damned thing about any author I read other than what was in their author bio at the back of the book.
Because, as a reader (and this could be particular to the type of reader I am), I don’t give a rat’s ass who the author is. I don’t care what they think about…anything. Unless it shows in their writing.
I can’t remember the book now, but I received a book for Christmas one year that was hit-you-over-the-head-anti-meat and I put it down after fifty pages. Would I have cared, going into the book if the author was a fervent vegetarian? Nope.
It wouldn’t’ve attracted or repelled me. Because I don’t care what someone thinks. I care what they write.
I know there are readers who care about these things. Who want to know all about the author and either boycott or support authors based on their beliefs.
But I suspect that for a lot of readers, interest in the author comes AFTER they read what the author wrote.
Like, “Wow, that was a really cool and interesting book. What kind of person thinks up something like that?”
I’ll admit to looking up China Mieville and Gillian Flynn. After reading books of theirs.
But before? As a pure reader? Nah. Didn’t matter to me at all.
Now, as an aspiring author, yeah. I’ve read books people wrote because of their blogs. But it’s still a very small percentage of the books I read.
What matters to me as a reader?
The writing. The ability to tell a story.
I don’t care if someone has a cute dog or a cute kid. That can’t overcome bad writing or crappy storytelling for me.
Then again, in many ways I’m not wired the way a lot of people are. I don’t hero worship. My father is the closest I ever came and I can still acknowledge the deep flaws he had.
I don’t believe in putting anyone on a pedestal. Or placing their opinion above my own. I don’t care how many other people think someone is brilliant or right. If what that person says doesn’t resonate for me, I won’t accept it.
When I think about the authors I’ve really loved over the years, I have to say that most of them didn’t or don’t have platforms. They just wrote books. Brilliant, wonderful books.
If those authors were being judged by their websites or FB posts? Oh, no. We’d’ve lost out on some true works of passion and genius.
I keep coming back to this over and over and over again: It’s the writing that matters.
Over the long-term. (Someone can have a strong start with a great idea, but they won’t sustain that start if the writing sucks.)
I should amend that. It’s the writing AND the storytelling. Probably storytelling first, writing second.
All the rest? Being likable, being interesting? Optional. Periphery. Something to focus on when you don’t know how to focus on the writing and storytelling.
Master that. Master telling a brilliant story in a way that’s accessible to anyone and the success will come. (Assuming you sub it to agents or editors or magazines or self-pub it with a decent cover/title/blurb.)
Branding? Just icing on the cake. It means nothing without the cake.
I agree completely that the writing is what matters. Branding makes it easier for a publisher to sell an author’s books, particularly if the author is not an enormous name like Stephen King. Interesting post.
Good point on the value of branding to the publisher. Although, I have to say that I’ve probably stopped reading more authors based upon what I learned about them than I’ve started reading, so it’s a tricky line to walk.