Brand the book, surely?

As I’ve become a new author of fiction, I have read a lot of advice about how to become a successful author. First write a great book, they say. All right, I think I did. I wrote more than one.

Get known. This can happen through conferences where you meet like-minded writers and readers, on book sites such as GoodReads and LibraryThing, through Facebook groups, classes, clubs, and more. Make connections and learn at the same time. Sounds good.

Marketing, though, is complex. One can buy Facebook or Amazon ads, but these have various returns on investment. As of yet, I have sold few books, but to good reviews. Most of these are on LibraryThing, so my Amazon page doesn’t have any. Amazon isn’t just the elephant in the room. They control much of the book market. I am thus virtually unknown.

This isn’t me in London.

One must leverage social media to get known, so I have Instagram and TikTok as well as a Facebook author page. I post Victorian Background Checks where I talk for a minute about a book I’m using for research, recommending some good reads. Having a consistent tone and style on ones blog, social media, interviews, etc. creates a solid brand. Such a brand is an absolute necessity with so much competition.

But I keep hearing one should brand the author, not the book. Readers apparently want to know about the writer, about their personal life. I read author blogs where writers talk about their home, their spouses, their kids, and their pets. They post photos of themselves in new places, on holiday. I feel somewhat embarrassed reading them, like I’m being a voyeur. I liked their book, not their cat. Their work transported me to wonderful times and places, but I don’t need to know that they were at Disney World last weekend, or that their bathroom renovation is complete, or that they have a great bread recipe passed down from their grandmother.

If I’ve just read a book and loved it, I want the author’s website to tell me

  • the names of their other books,
  • the order in which their books were published, and
  • where I can buy them.

That’s it, really. Maybe some cool information about the characters, or the authorial version of “deleted scenes” — things, in other words, related to the work.

I don’t think I’ve known much more than what’s written on the flap for most of the authors I’ve read, and that’s been fine. Knowing about them breaks the fourth wall, as they say in cinema, or engages with direct address, as they call it in the theatre. Such things can be fun or interesting if they’re part of a piece, but not continually. I realize doing “meta” things is very popular at the moment, but it’s tedious after a short while.

                   This is not my cat.

In this world where any idiot can publish a book, everyone agrees that an author brand is a necessity, and that readers want to know who you are.  I’d prefer they know that I do my research, so they trust my depiction of the time and place. My personality (a little spiky, a little sarcastic, a little too intellectual) or my lovely face is unlikely to sell any books. And I don’t do fake very well.

But I am trying. One of the interview questions I recently answered asked what I do other than write. Before I would have talked about teaching, but now I don’t for two reasons. First, I got a review where the reader said they could tell I was a teacher. And more recently, because I just retired from the full-time faculty at my college after 33 years. (Everyone says, don’t quit your day job. I quit my day job.)

I do love gardening in addition to writing, so I can post about that. It’s something I do that a lot of people do, or they enjoy the product others create, as with writing books. It will give me more to post between Victorian Background Checks, make me more accessible-sounding, and perhaps interest those who like gardening. But I’ll be leaving my cat out of it.

2 thoughts to “Brand the book, surely?”

  1. Dang, I wanna know more about the cat, any cat, your cat, not your cat! However, amid a world of dog lovers, you might best leave the cat writing aside. I do suspect your gardening is just the connection point needed by social media though. Especially since it provides opportunity for photos–of produce, of meals, of bugs eating your produce.

    1. I’ll tell you, I’m trying the gardening thing, of books and plants etc. Not sure I get it yet, whether it’s really useful. But as long as a cat doesn’t wander into the photos, I should be good.

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