Branding? No thanks…

Disclaimer: I’m a person offering my personal thoughts about something that has personally affected me. This is how I feel. That’s all there is to it.

I’m so glad you took part in this (Zinechat). I’ve heard about your magazine, but you’ve gotten my support now because I feel like I know you a little.

I happened to walk into the middle of a Twitter discussion yesterday, arguing the pros and cons of personal branding. Apparently, the article that spawned the controversy argued for a level of branding that I personally find not only annoying, but downright disgusting.

It boiled down to: don’t ever talk about anything but your book. If you say anything that isn’t your book, make it about your book. Every word should be about how awesome your book is.

If that’s what it takes to be a successful author, then count me out. Sorry, but that sounds like prime material for The Oatmeal to mock. That I’ll hate you if you send me any of these emails is a good template for what a write-up might look like.

Honestly, I don’t follow someone because their book is ‘teh BOMB!’. I follow them because they are human, and I get along with them, or they have good things to say.

An example: Neil Gaiman was one of the first people I followed. Run through his tweets some time. He posts about community, books, people, events, dogs, travel and Northeastern weather. And, you know what? I genuinely enjoy reading about those things. It’s fun to see what the life of a top-selling author is like.

I also follow Kari Lynn Dell. I don’t really recall why I started following her. Maybe because her blogs are hilarious, and because I relate to ranch life. Again, she doesn’t talk as much about HER BOOK, or book in progress, in this case. She talks about life. And I look forward to her updates. (Oh, and this is the woman who wrote romance that I ENJOYED. The world didn’t even end.)

But when I see an account where every tweet is some iteration of ‘OMG, MY BOOK IS AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD BUY IT!’, sorry, but I don’t have any interest in that. Sometimes, sure. I’m guilty of damn near spamming people during Rigor Amortis’ launch, and I own that. Constantly? No, thank you though.

Is there value to having a face, a recognizable name? Oh, certainly. Especially for small press or mid-list authors, or for editors. If I see the name John Joseph Adams on something, I’m going to be fairly certain that it’s good.

The best example, and the basis for this post, is that statement at the beginning of the post, made by a participant to guest Neil Clarke. The exact words were a little different, and I saved it somewhere, but that’s a sentiment I keep hearing. The same thing was suggested to editor Doug Cohen (Realms of Fantasy) at the latest zinechat. We like knowing who’s behind the tweets.

So, do I think a name is important? Oh, hell yes. Do I think that anyone should brand themselves so rigidly? No. Not at all.

Maybe I’m different. Maybe I’m the only one out there who doesn’t like having something shoved in their face 100 times a day. If I want it, I’ll buy/read/bookmark/comment the first time. If I don’t want it the first time, by the 30th time, I not only still don’t want it, I’m irritated and hitting the ‘unfollow’ button. (This is the same reason I dislike memes.)

But maybe I’m not that different from everyone else. Maybe we should all just be human, talk about what we love, why we love it, and how we’re going to create more of it, and leave the branding to the cows, eh?

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