Yesterday I did a post about the Author as Performer over on the ROR blog. It’s tough when you have to not only have to write a book that requires research, dedication and a year of your life, but then you have to promote it. This is especially hard as most authors are introverts. Why do you think they like sitting alone with their computer communing with the characters in their heads?
There’s another thing I’ve noticed. The average Australian is very uncomfortable about jumping up and down and saying Look at Me! In our country we have thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome, which is the tendency to cut off at the base, any one of our fellow Australians if they get too big for their boots.
Here’s a quote from Deep Pencil’s blog that sums it up neatly.
‘When Australian exports make it big overseas in the fields academia or entertainment, they often find it difficult to return home due to the huge amount of criticism levelled at them. Our ex-pats like Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, Paul Hogan, Mel Gibson, Clive James, and Kylie Minogue, seem to move away and never look back - nice place to visit, but hard place to live if you are doing well.
Australians like to deflate the pretensions of those they perceive to be "flaunting" their success. We like to pull down those who attempt to distinguish themselves by ridiculing them. It's the Australian way, and if you don’t like it get out! Then we wonder why there’s a "brain drain" and a "cultural cringe".’
(Yes I know they are tulips and not poppies. I couldn't find a picture of poppies that was copyright free).
So asking an Australian author to promote their work or to ‘brand themselves’ is really asking them to go against the norm of our society. With so many sources of entertainment clamouring for readers’ attention writers have to wonder if anyone will read their books. Publishers expect us to promote our books. It is just part of the equation now days.
Maureen Johnson talks about author branding here. She says:
‘I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. 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.’
Which is a valid point. After all, we might take a small step sideways into a cross-genre or decide to try our hands at writing in another genre entirely. Sometimes the story dictates the genre. It wants to be told a certain way and it won't let us go until we tell it.
Tansy Rayner Roberts has written a post here on the topic of author branding. According to Tansy:
‘promoting a business becomes a whole lot stickier when your business is in fact yourself. You do have a responsibility to yourself, your family, your publishers, and so on, to promote your work effectively.’
She goes on to talk about where you draw the line. How do you keep your family private?
And here Colleen Mondor talks about branding and how publishers are encouraging authors to promote themselves. She says:
‘…the world would do well to remember just how long Neil Gaiman was writing when he started his blog. He already had the fans before he went online; the blog (and twitter) were just icing on the cake for him and his readers and trying to duplicate that miracle without putting decades into writing is beyond silly.’
So what does a writer do, when their book is coming out and they hate to think of the poor little thing sitting all alone and unloved on a bookshop shelf somewhere?
I decided rather than have a physical book launch, I’d just offer copies of the book to lots of book blog reviewers.
So back to the author as performer. When my first trilogy sold I was terrified of talking in public. I asked someone what I should talk about. And they said - do your research if you are asked onto a panel, but the important thing is to be sincere, speak from the heart. So that is what I have tried to do.
When you see authors at festivals and conventions, what do you remember afterwards? Is it the ‘brand’ or is it sincerity?