The Marketability Monster

I have a problem people. See, the thing is I’m doing my best to build this whole “writer’s platform” thing so that I can grow my fanbase. I have to say that on the whole it’s a lot of fun interacting with all of you, and writing this blog every day has been a great experience.

There’s only one problem. I’m doing it wrong.

Well, not everything. Just the one thing mostly. But it’s something important. See, I’m supposed to be turning myself into a brand. I’m supposed to be building up the kind of persona online that will hopefully draw people to read my books.

It shouldn’t be that hard. When you think, Heinze you think catsup. When you think IBM you think computers. When you think Toyota you think dying in a horrible fireball of twisted metal that’s hurtling toward a group of unsuspecting preschoolers.

And when you think Albert Berg you think…well what exactly? This is the problem for me. I’m supposed to pick a genre and stick with it. And I know it’s good advice.

Stephen King writes horror. Michael Connelly writes mysteries. Simon Winchester writes non-fiction about smart people.

The problem is I do not want to be pinned down. Let me give you an example.

The story I’m working on currently is called The Mulch Pile. The Mulch Pile is a story about two brothers in a disfuntional family and what happens when the garden mulch pile comes to life and starts wreaking havoc in their already unbalanced lives. You could loosely classify it as Horror.

But the other day I was mulling some ideas over in my head, and I came up with a loose outline for a story about a goth dude who drives a Mary Kay pink Cadillac, a homeless woman, and an everyman sales clerk who all get in way over their heads when they face off with a group of drug-dealing grannies. I’m not sure where you classify that one, but I’m pretty sure its as far from Horror as you can get.

And I really want to write both of them. I know it’s wrong. I know it’s absolutely counterintuitive. I know people want to know what to expect when they pick up a book with my name on it.

But I can’t bring myself to commit. There are just so many wonderful stories out there to write, so many crazy things I want to try out. How am I supposed to narrow it down?

This is usually the part of the blog where I give you some kind of answer, some resolution to the problem presented. The problem is I don’t have one. Maybe I really should just buckle down and forget about my dreams of diversity.

Maybe you’ve got a better solution. Or maybe you’re facing the same problem. If you’ve got some advice for me, I’d love to hear it. If you’re in the same boat, I’d love to hear that too.

For now, all I can say is that I’m enjoying the ride. I may not be making much of a brand for myself, but I’m having a whole lot of fun along the way.

13 responses to “The Marketability Monster

  1. I am new to this writing thing. I obviously write fiction but within fiction where do I find my niche? For now, I think I will just write what falls from my head. Some day if I am loucky perhaps I will publish a book. 🙂

  2. My solution is to forget the branding BS and write what you want. Branding is for writers who are content to write to a formula for people who love formula books. Underlying that is the belief that every writer wants to be a best-selling writer. Two ideas have dominated the publishing industry for far too long. 1. You have to write within a well-defined genre. 2. Once you’ve established yourself in that genre, you have to stick with it. Is it any wonder that so few great novels are published anymore? Aside from the other benefits of self-publishing, it should give you the freedom to find an audience for your work in any genre. If you write both horror and romance, and I don’t care for romance, that’s not going to stop me from buying your horror novels if I enjoy them. On the other hand, If I think your horror novels are really great, I might take a chance and try one of your romance novels.

  3. For me, branding has more to do with voice and style than content and genre. When I think of Chuck Wendig, for example, I think of snark and absurdity, not so much horror writing.

    I agree with Catana: Write what you want to write and don’t worry about brand too much until you get a publishing deal. If you’re really worried about brand inconsistency, use a pen name when you publish outside your established brand.

  4. I second Austin. “Author brand” and “genre” are two different animals. Write want you want to write, but be aware of your delivery. Your presentation can work for or against you, so as an aspiring author, you should at least have an idea of what kind of “author brand” you are projecting.

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  6. I “third” what Austin said.

    I’m nowhere near as far along as you in my writing, but I’ve been reading how-to advice on various subjects for years and looking back, it appears to me that when people go against their inner knowing to veer onto a path that’s been suggested for everyone, the results are less than stellar.

    Actually, both the mulch pile and the other book sound like great ideas. In my recent research,I’ve learned that Bob Mayer himself has written military thrillers or whatever and also teamed up for romance writing with umm…J. Crusie. One of my favorite writers, Walter Mosley has also written at least one science fiction book which I couldn’t get into at all.

    You seem very committed to writing. You can trust yourself.

  7. I write in three genres, have published in one so far, and will be publishing in the second next month. I use pen names that are loosely connected to my real name (the one I’m using here) to make the difference distinct for my readers. It has the added benefit of keeping the genres distinctly separate in my head – when I’m working on erotica, I’m in the head of that pen name, and the same goes for my thrillers.

    My main platform is built on my real name…and I branch out from there. I brand each pen name according to genre, and that seems to work just fine. I get some crossover between the three, and separate audiences as well.

    It’s work, but worth it for me. I don’t think I could stick to just one genre, and I think lumping them together would dilute everything, so that’s how I deal with it. Your mileage may vary, of course…

  8. I have a slightly different perspective about that. Write what you want to write but if you’re trying to pick a genre, publish it in different names. 😉

    But yeah, it’s hard to pinpoint what genre to write. We’ll know about that along the way. I mean, let’s face it. With Stephenie Meyer, once she finished Twilight , she wrote The Host. It’s like a 180 degree turn. Her genre then became YA.

  9. I think it was the big publishers that put people in niches to start with. They wanted to know how and where to market you. When they marketed you. They don’t really do that anymore. That’s probably why a lot of writers wrote under pseudonyms, so they had the genre they typically wrote and then another.

    I’m by no means an expert. But, I think you can write whatever you want as long as it’s good and your readers will follow. As a reader, I don’t just read one genre. So, why should I be pigeon-holed into one as a writer?

    Make yourself your brand…an awesome writer, and not the genre.

  10. I think that you should write in whatever genre you want. Building a writer’s platform is good, but I don’t think any writer should get so caught up in branding that they limit their creativity to a particular genre.

    That’s my amateur opinion of the day 🙂

  11. I comfort myself with the possibility of pen names. Many prolific writers do this to separate genres that don’t seem to fit together. Your pen names don’t even necessarily have to be a secret (although this depends, for instance, on whether you’ve signed any contracts with a publisher that might stipulate secrecy).

  12. Wow, everyone’s responses above are incredible. So now adding in my two cents…

    Pick what you want your bread and butter to be. The one thing that you will find you will want to publish more. For me, because I know I can actually finish them, it’s children’s picture books. But I also have my love of writing adult romance, young adult fantasy, and some extra things for fun. I know they are more unlikely to get finished anytime soon, whereas the PB’s are already written.

    Or, just not worry about it like everyone says. Even Stephen King wrote other things besides horror. Same as John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Meg Cabot. (those are main authors I can think of at this moment) Don’t worry too much about creating a ‘brand’. Just be yourself and whatever you write will be you.

    I do really like the idea of different pen names. (meg cabot does that)

    Hope that helps!

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