"The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people." ~Maureen Johnson
I like this for these two main reasons:
1) It's easy to forget the people on the other end of Twitter or Facebook or email or chats are PEOPLE. And so we don't always extend the same polite courtesies we would in face-to-face interactions, where we would never just walk up and say "Buy my book!" without at least first asking the person's name, shaking their hand, introducing yourself, and saying "hello." The internet should facilitate the same two-way exchange a conversation would, and not just be a one-way billboard on which we sell ourselves. So, I'm all in favor of anything that creates civility.
2) About her last point: though my writing shares a common theme -- the [I believe] universal search for a place to belong -- I've otherwise been struggling with the idea of branding myself. I write paranormal romance, but I'm not just a paranormal writer. I write contemporary romance, but not just contemporary romance. I really enjoy delving into erotic romance, but will never focus on that alone. I'm at work on a women's fiction, but don't seem myself building a career or a brand around just women's fiction. You see my problem.
Maureen is worth quoting at length again, here: "A personal brand is a little package you make of yourself so you can put yourself on the shelf in the marketplace and people will know what to expect or look for when they come to buy you....I don’t want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won’t, because I am weird."
I get that, as authors, we don't have full control over our own branding--that is, readers and agents and folks we interact with will put us into little branded boxes whether we want them to or not. But that doesn't mean we have to define ourselves by how others define us.
So, let's hear it for us schizophrenic authors! I understand the potential challenges writing different things poses, but if writing what you love is the surest road to success, I'm hoping I can find a way to make it work if I wear quite a few hats along the way.
And, even more, I'm looking forward to making some lifelong friends and colleagues to join me on my journey. After all, what's success without people to share it?
Thanks for reading,