Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Branding Wheel

They now have a new name for your personal style. The kings and queens of marketing have identified a new moniker that is supposed to define who you are, what you represent, what you’ve accomplished and ultimately what you’re selling. It’s now called your brand.

Branding was probably born in your standard public relations cubicle then took on a life of its own. It’s the newest prescription tailored to distinguish your marketing efforts from a divergent field of competitors and in turn help you claim some individuality in a world of uniformity and conformity.

Businesses are now into branding big time. Apple wants to be known for its simple yet elegant design work. Netflix has mastered the art of digital streaming movies. Disney tells its investors that it has mastered the art of the movie franchise. Each business is claiming to be unique with its own individual brand.

Branding can be found in consumer products…think Coke, Toyota and a bevy of ‘must have’ or ‘gonna get’ items we can’t live without. Retailers scramble to inject their best image into the minds of consumers and fill store shelves and the airwaves with recognizable products and services.

Over the last several years, the publishing world has changed radically. Gone are the days when unknown authors might be picked up by a publisher and given a marketing budget to get the word out on him or her. Nowadays even if you’re lucky enough to be picked up by the publisher, most of the promotional work is still left up to the author unless you’re a proven entity like Steven King or Nicholas Sparks.

So what can a writer to do to promote, advertise and market him or herself? Most writers would rather walk on hot coals than get in front of a group of people, even potential readers, to talk about themselves. Writers, at least most of them, are uncomfortable with the whole marketing and promotion routine. Many of them don’t understand and in fact hate the process…let me repeat that for emphasis…hate the process and are lost in what to do. Add to that the fact that many writers are introverts and it’s one heck of a challenge to even think about promoting one’s own work.

I’m no different. While I understand the fundamentals of marketing and promotion, I also know that the world has changed radically since I wanted to be a copywriter back in the ‘Mad Men’ era of advertising. Knowing of the new rules of the game doesn’t make it any easier for me or any other author.

Nowadays, you’ve got social media, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. There are book clubs to approach and speaking engagements to connect with your audience. There are giveaways suggested and even paying for book reviews.

You also have a plethora of wonderful opportunities to spend a fortune in designing, editing, and promoting your book without any guarantee of success. I’ve actually read articles in writing magazines that claim a new author must spend between $5000 and $10,000 per book just to get it ready for publication. Baloney. Think about it for a moment. What would your break-even be if you spent that kind of money up front before your first sale?

So what is the answer? You most definitely need to have a good editor to edit your work. I think the book design is important as is the cover and back cover blurb about its contents. In other words, create a good product to sell but don’t spend a fortune to get there. You should have a good web site and a presence on Facebook and other relevant author web sites.

I’ll admit I’ve been seduced by the hype and need to promote myself in some manner. So in an effort to play to my strengths and compensate for my weaknesses I’ve created my own roadmap to breaking out of the mold and trying to distinguish myself from other self-published writers. While I don’t have marketing answers for other writers I’ve found this guide works for me. I call it my branding wheel.

Let me repeat that this isn’t necessarily a roadmap for other writers. It was designed with my personality, limitations, ambitions and goals in mind. It suits what I want to accomplish and my comfort level in getting there. That is precisely why it works for me. Let me explain.

I have many shortcomings as a writer not the least of which is a short attention span. I can’t focus on any one subject for extended periods of time. So how do I deal with that short attention span?

My solution is to focus on my writing for two or three hours in the morning until my attention span drops off the preverbal cliff.  I consider any concentrated time over several hours to be very successful. If I can do the same in the evening, it’s been a very good day.

Often times I’m not sure what to write about although I know I’m not going to stick to just one genre. So I forget about trends and write about any subject matter that interests me. I always have multiple projects going on at the same time;  blogs, plays, marketing, etc. A lot of different subject matter all at the same time. It might be a western, a suspense thriller, a historical action/adventure/romance novel or issues around aging. My blogs cover the gamut of various subject matters of interest to me.

I have no intention of just writing in one format such as novels or non-fiction pieces. So I don’t and instead let the subject matter dictate what format my storyline might follow. I have written novels, non-fiction pieces, blogs, plays, screenplays, articles, and I’m still very interested in starting up a comic strip series featuring my grandchildren. And I’d also like to write some music for some of my plays.

I occasionally have a hard time staying motivated. If I have an off day or can’t concentrate I simply walk away. I can’t force myself to sit at the desk and stare at a blank screen because if I do nothing will happen.

Usually that isn’t much of a problem for me though. Writing has become my new positive addition. Much like running which I did for over 40 years, I am now addicted to writing. If I don’t write for a period of time, I get antsy and irritable.

My branding wheel is a roadmap that allows me to reference, sometimes, on a daily basis my progress made. It allows me the flexibility and ability to shift from one genre, one topic, one subject matter or current interest without halting or hindering the output or flow of information in and out of my brain. I can try to match up speaking engagements with book fairs or book clubs. I can cross pollinate exposure in the newspapers with appearances at events. I can advertise events on multiple levels and platforms.

I can continue to write no matter the topic or format. I can talk about what I want to talk about and write whatever I want to write. It provides constant input and output without feeling I have to work at it.

Simply put, it’s a roadmap to guide me along the way of the writer….and most importantly, it works for me.

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