Don’t Get Burned By Branding

Been thinking a bit about “brand” recently in terms of being an author.

For illumination, we turn briefly toward Wikipedia, that cultivated encyclopedia of the commons, and there we discover that the American Marketing Association defines branding as:

“Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

Of course, you might look to an older definition –

As a verb, you might mean, “To be marked with a branding iron.”

You might further look toward one of the synonyms of the word: “stigmatize.”

Suddenly, I’m thinking less about Coca-Cola and more about a white-hot iron pressing into a beast’s flesh, the fur smoldering, the skin charring, blisters popping up like the bubbles in bubble wrap.

Not coincidentally, I now want a hamburger and a cold glass of Coke.

But that’s really neither here nor there. What I’m trying to suss out is, where does this leave an author in terms of branding himself or being branded? Is this more a symbol of what the author represents to customers, or is it instead an indelible mark scorched into the author’s metaphorical flesh?

I gotta be honest: I’m starting to lean toward the crispy char-mark than the marketing strategy. Because here’s what can happen: you write a handful of books of one type, and then you, as an author seeking to explore new territory, seeking to grow and change and spread your penmonkey seed wings in other genres and styles and biblio-realms, discover that, uh-oh, you’ve been branded. You’re suddenly That Guy — you’re the Guy Who Writes Splatterpunk Horror or the Girl Who Writes Scientologist Steampunk Space Erotica, and soon as you want to do differently, even once, nobody wants to hear it. More specifically, publishers don’t want to publish it — you’ve got your niche, you’ve built your fence, so now isn’t the time to stray, little pony. Don’t make us get out the shock-prods. Bzzt.

That’s not a rail against specialization, mind you — you want to forever write Hard Sci-Fi in Epistolary Format, hey, fuck it, find your bliss, little word-herder. But the moment you want to do differently, you’re going to find that brand starts to itch and burn and next thing you know you’ve got the loop of a catch-pole tightening around your neck and dragging you back to where you came from.

I mean, in 20 years do I want to be the DOUBLE DEAD guy? Fuck no. I don’t want to just write horror. Or urban fantasy. Or writing advice. I want to write it all. I want to write YA and pulp and maybe something more literary and some creative non-fiction and screenplays and TV shows and games and Martian manifestos and vile tweets and thoughtful reminiscence and — well, you get the point. I don’t want to be kept away from any story I want to tell. Put differently –

I want to write All The Words.

What’s a writer to do, then?

A few things, I think.

First: diversify early. Play the field. Write multiple things across multiple genres and establish yourself as an author who can write all kinds of awesome shit. Joe Lansdale did this early on: that guy wrote insane pulp and hard crime and funny books and short stories about Godzilla. No end to what Lansdale could do. (And I’ll note that such early diversification is easiest with short stories — you can write a lot of them quickly and get them out there in short order.)

Second: embrace self-publishing to some extent — I’m not a fan of putting all your eggs in one basket because next thing you know, those eggs are hatching and now you’re holding a basket of angry pterodactyls. See? Don’t you wish you left some eggs back at the fucking henhouse? (I think that’s the point of that old saying.) Self-publishing gives you strong authorial control over your content. You want to write a horror novel, a teen drama, and a sci-fi satire? You can. You can write all three and give them to readers and say, “Ta-da! Look what I can do!” You needn’t be contained or constrained as a self-published author.

Third: ensure that any branding you do is less about what you write and more about how you write. Your strongest marker as an author is your voice. (In fact, I’d argue we need to stop talking about Brand and start talking about Voice.) Your name and your voice should be all that matter in terms of your fiction — you find a writer you love, you should be willing to read whatever that writer writes. To bring Lansdale back into it, I’d read anything that guy writes. He could write a poem about the goddamn phonebook and I’d buy three copies. Lansdale is Lansdale — anything he writes is his and his alone. His sound, his style, his skill, it creeps into everything he does, soaking it through like a sponge. That’s what I want from an author: not genre, not a reiterative protagonist, not a ditch in which they seem forever trapped.

Am I glad Robert McCammon no longer writes strictly horror?

You betcher penmonkey ass, I am.

Don’t be burned by branding — especially branding you don’t control. Nobody puts Baby in the corner. Baby puts herself in the corner, and then when she’s done with the corner, she karate-kicks her way out of it and goes on a crazy Roadhouse adventure with the ghost of Patrick Swayze.

…uhh.

I may have lost the thread there a little bit.

All I’m saying is –

Own your voice. Live up to your name.

That’s what matters to readers.

(Related: Joelle Charbonneau talks about writing what you want to write. She also notes that our agent, Stacia Decker, encourages us to write what we want to write, which is exactly what you want in an agent.)

59 comments

  • Another A+ post. I have often wondered if Lee Child would ever write anything but Jack Reacher. He’s certainly been branded. Not that it’s necessarily bad for him, but it warrants consideration.

    Chuck, sometime could you write about finding your voice sometime maybe? This, to me, seems like a most elusive task, although I ( maybe a lot of people) may be over-thinking it. Elmore Leonard has a voice. As does Cormac McCarthy. But, beyond the technical aspects of language usage, I can’t pinpoint what it is. Certainly you have a distinctive voice, but since I am used to it by reading this blog it is still something I can’t pinpoint. I bet the answer is probably obvious, but….still.

    I have been told I sound like Kermit the Frog. I’d rather sound much cooler when writing. Unless I really am Kermit the Frog. In which case BTFO.

  • I heartily agree with what you are saying here. I have plans on working in multiple genre. Sure, I’d like to have one or two main focuses in my fiction, but if I want to leave behind the grimm, perverted fairy tale land I’ve inhabited and go deep into science fiction or erotica, I shall do so. At least that is my intention. I haven’t thought about short stories being that tool to establish yourself in different fields, but seems like the most natural thing to do.

  • Honestly, I’ve thought about this a lot recently. I’m finishing up the final draft of a thriller. It’s a suspenseful political conspiracy type of thriller. And yet, I just self-pubbed a short collection of (mostly) humorous essays. And I really debated whether that was a good idea, considering how different those two things are and how potentially different the audience might be for each. I mean, *I* would read both, but I’m weird.

    I know, probably it will only sell to a handful of friends and family, so who cares anyway, but I finally decided that maybe one or two people who had never heard of me might read it and decide they like my voice and want more. It’s one more thing out there with my name on it, fighting through the cloak of obscurity.

    Plus I think if you’re going to digress wildly, you might as well do it early on and get it over with. Keeps people from expecting too much of you.

  • “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”

    Hahah.. Okay, but what authors want to do, if they don’t write a series of books (eg. Twilight, HP) is to give readers a sense that “hey, if you liked one of my books, you’ll want to read ALL of them”… that doesn’t have to mean ‘Just do one theme’. Look Stephen King is an awesome writer and he HAS branched out from just horror (er. about 20 years ago, I might add).

    Maybe that ‘wish’ (for your fans to buy everything you do) is just a stupid idea, and if you drop that faint dream, then you don’t have to worry about ‘brand’ so much. How about, “I love his style” or “I love his stories…”… After all, when rock stars branch out, they do it for their own creativity, usually pissing off a few fans. Let the creative guys stretch out a bit.

  • This whole issue of branding has seemed to become important to authors in the same way as all that spammy Internet Marketing bullshit. All the advice you read about making it online always resolves around ‘becoming a brand’ or ‘become a guru’. It’s all bollocks of course, and you’re right, Chuck, a writer should write what the hell they want, how else can you be honest with yourself and produce the best work?

    Back in the day before ePublishing, it was harder to break out because you were at the whim of the marketing departments of publishers, but it seems that isn’t so much of an issue now. Which of course is a great thing.

    I personally want to write in any area. I’ve kind of accidentally and stupidly ‘branded’ myself as a ‘dark-fiction’ author, but will soon remove that moniker and let my work speak for itself.

    • Curiously-timed (and thanks to Steve Weddle for the link) —

      Murderati has a post up that suggests the very opposite of what I say here today:

      http://www.murderati.com/blog/2011/12/21/the-predictability-factor.html

      From that post:

      “Is this a good thing? To have readers believe they know precisely what kind of fiction you write, and will continue to write in the future?

      I believe it is.

      Readers don’t like to guess what an author’s next book will be like, they want to have a reasonable expectation about it, and if you give them what they enjoy reading consistently, they’ll keep coming back for more. Seeing you go off on a tangent contrary to their expectations can often disappoint, and not every disappointed reader re-ups as a member of the fan club once you’ve let them down.”

      — c.

  • I’m just starting out, but my first novel (still editing) is a romance. I’ve got two other books floating in my head, definitely not romance. I was a little afraid at first about being branded as a romance novelist, because I don’t think I could ever be the type who wrote a lot of mushy gushy stuff. It’s nice sometimes, but I would much rather write what I actually wan to write instead of being pigeonholed.
    One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis, who very decidedly did not fit into a box. He wrote all over the map, and he is my inspiration for not being branded into one genre. I’ve read almost all of his fiction works, and I love them all, but each has a different flavor.

  • Murderati has a post up that suggests the very opposite of what I say here today

    Yeah, but read the whole thing. Gar notes that he hasn’t always followed that advice and he’s had a lot of fun not following it. And fun is good.

    Right now, I’m breaking from my mystery/thriller brand to write a vampire space opera revenge tale (think Kill Bill meets Firefly with non-sparkly vampires, werewolves and zombies, created by what Churchill called “the lights of perverted science”). My only real debate is whether to try to market it to print under a pseudonym (which would mean finding a new agent for that project at least) or whether to go straight to self pubbing and hope my fans come along.

    • @JD —

      Oh yeah, no doubt — and to be clear, I think that is a smart post, too, just — well, different. The most financially savvy initial strategy may be to brand yourself early and often (though in the long term this could screw a writer, one supposes). I liked the Murderati post — I just don’t know that I agree with all of it anymore. (But he’s right — it is more fun to stray outside the fenced-in area.)

      I actually used to be more in the “branding” camp, but over time, examining those authors I love, it seems to be I care more about the voice and the authorial intent and the story over hoping that author writes the same type of thing over and over again.

      Anyway, rambling comment, but there you go. :)

      — c.

  • I think you are right about how expectations play for an audience. And I’d also agree that what I like about particular authors has a lot to do with their sound, style and skill. But I wonder if an author committing to one specific ‘voice’ isn’t just a different level of branding. And if so, should we fear the skin charring and blister popping it leaves behind as well? Why should we choose it? Is there a rule that says you only get to express yourself in one voice, or that one voice is the most appropriate or natural form of expression? Is it convenient? Expedient? I’m just not sure.

    It seems to me that style and voice are really only a different set of cages we can lock ourselves into. For instance, do you use the same voice in your screen writing as in your novels? I suppose you could, but would it be necessary or even desirable? And why (other than familiarity) would it be important across different stories? I guess I’m suggesting that voice isn’t as important as craftsmanship, doing whatever you are doing well. Part of what I enjoy about my favorite authors will be their style, the voice they use, but what keeps me coming back is the whole package, that they consistently set high standards. A good voice poorly executed can be just as much a let down as an inadequately developed voice. Or so it seems….

    I guess having a well defined voice or signature style can be a zone of comfort, but I wonder whether it is necessary. To me it seems as much a branding as being stuck in a genre can be. I am always fascinated when artists stretch themselves beyond their previous successes and give us something unexpected, something against the brand. The opera diva singing country & western is a great demonstration of an artist not just jumping genre borders but using a different voice for different purposes. Some actors are woefully typecast, but the truly talented ones are able to embrace a variety of roles and assume quite different voices. And so on across the arts.

    So I guess I’m asking whether voice and style are just some of the tools we use to tell our stories, and that some of us use one set of tools for all purposes while others use multiple tools for multiple purposes. Does that make any sense?

    Any thoughts?

  • I am with you on wanting to be able to write what I want, but there is certainly nothing stopping me from publishing as Dick Upland (my porn name) or Todd Starbender or whatever, I think you catch what I drifting there. Perhaps branding those names for different genres, I know some authors commonly do this. I know you have to start from scratch with the new Nom De plume, but it is freedom if that’s what you are looking for.

  • I think the key is be creative first and business second. You have to write your passion. I see writers approach it as if there were a formula to be followed and a “right” way to do it. There isn’t. I’ve written across many genres from scifi to thriller to romance. And hit the bestseller lists in all of them. This has come in very handy in this age of self-publishing. My eggs are all over the place.

  • Stephen King did a nice job there, by the way. He wrote the Stephen Kingy stuff that got associated with his name early – after Carrie, of course – as Stephen King. But when it hit him and he wanted to get out some hard boiled man-to-man violence and make us think about society and politics, he put his other name on the cover – Richard Bachman – who went on to be nearly as successful as S.K. himself, and even got crappy mainstream movie versions of his fantastic books out of the deal.
    You might also look to Dan Abnett.
    The man writes awesome Black Library SF, but there were this ideas that were NOT Warhammer 40K, so he went to another publisher and got them out there, under the same name, but in a different house.

  • I really liked reading this, because it’s something that’s been floating in my mind. (amongst an awful lot of other stuff) As someone else mentioned, lots of “advice” I’ve read about writing tends to go in the direction of creating a brand for yourself. (and by the way, it is very popular advice for artists and illustrators also, and I’m in the process of questioning that, too)

    As a reader, I hadn’t realized until now, Mr. Wendig, that when I pick up a new book from an author I know, I’m not hoping for the same story but for the same VOICE. It had never occurred to me before, in that way.

    As they say in French, I will go to sleep less stupid tonight. :-) Merci.

    • @Ingrid —

      The key for me is that, when I seek a book by an author, I want that book to be a book nobody but that author could’ve written.

      That, for me, is what voice — and “branding” — is all about.

      Word.

      — c.

  • Ahoy Chuck! (I may have already submitted this, but I may also have deleted it rather than sent it)

    I think you are right about how expectations play for an audience. And I’d also agree that what I like about particular authors has a lot to do with their sound, style and skill. But I wonder if an author committing to one specific ‘voice’ isn’t just a different level of branding. And if so, should we fear the skin charring and blister popping it marks us with as well? Why should we choose it? Is there a rule that says you only get to express yourself in one voice, or that one voice is the most appropriate or natural form of expression? Is it convenient? Expedient? I’m just not sure.

    It seems to me that style and voice are really only a different set of cages we can lock ourselves into. For instance, do you use the same voice in your screen writing as in your novels? I suppose you could, but would it be necessary or even desirable? And why (other than familiarity) would it be important across different stories?

    I guess I’m suggesting that voice isn’t as important as craftsmanship, doing whatever you are doing well. Part of what I enjoy about my favorite authors will be their style, the voice they use, but what keeps me coming back is the whole package, that they consistently set high standards. A good voice poorly executed can be just as much a let down as an inadequately developed voice. Or so it seems….

    I guess having a well defined voice or signature style can be a zone of comfort, but I wonder whether it is necessary. To me it seems as much a branding as being stuck in a genre can be. I am always fascinated when artists stretch themselves beyond their previous successes and give us something unexpected, something against the brand. The opera diva singing country & western is a great demonstration of an artist not just jumping genre borders but using a different voice for different purposes. Some actors are woefully typecast, but the truly talented ones are able to embrace a variety of roles and assume quite different voices. And so on across the arts.

    So I guess I’m asking whether voice and style are just some of the tools we use to tell our stories, and that some of us use one set of tools for all purposes while others use multiple tools for multiple purposes. Does any of that make sense?

    Any thoughts?

  • Good post, balanced view. I’ve been lucky enough to expand my brand in the traditional world, going from legal thriller to zombie legal thriller. Self-publishing is giving me a chance to do some other things I love, like boxing stories. There’ll be a collection there sometime. It’s like the old pulp days in many ways, which would’ve been my meat in 1935. You’ve got to have some fun in this racket or it’s just a job.

  • Hell yeah, brother. Fight the power.

    I will only write what I want to write, ever. I prefer to do love stories, but I am going to do some YA material, and really- whatever the hell else I want. You’re not the boss of me.

    haha

    I fully agree about voice. I have had people say that they could read 20 anonymous manuscripts and pick out which one is mine, no question. I rather like that. Especially since they also worship me and stuff.

    Um, on a side note, every man has his price, and for a million bucks a pop, I could go the Nicholas Sparks route and write gooey crap over and over.

    My love stories have violence, death, dirty sex, and booze. Story of my life.

    We’ll see how well I do at the box office.

  • I love John Sandford’s PREY novels. Funny thing, though. The author’s real name isn’t John Sandford. It’s John Camp. He actually published a couple novels as Camp early on — also crime novels, but sufficiently different that his publisher thought the PREY series needed a new “author.” Silliness, it seems to me.

    BTW, Camp is also a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, so I guess he can write news, too.

    I’m working on a historical/crime/horror mashup now. Done a couple straight crime thrillers. Did the Shakespearean noir thing. I also like to write essays, but that’s just blog fodder at this point – doesn’t seem to be that much commercial appetite for essays anymore. Don’t know where that leaves me brand wise, but I figure I’ll just keep chasing my happy button around.

  • Great insight, Chuck! By diversify, do you mean switching genres after your first book? Or generally writing covering lots of varied topics, etc., prior to getting agented or published?

    Your blog rocks. Glad to have found it.

    • @August:

      Either/or. Or all of the above. Or something.

      Mostly it just means, “Write more than one type of thing, whatever that type of thing is.”

      Or, put differently, “What you love, no matter how far and wide that thing goes.”

      — c.

  • My thoughts on branding always come back to something I read in an interview with Steve Martin. Basically, he said that the secret to success is to be undeniably good. I also think Gerhard Richter said much the same thing.

    And those are 2 great people to look at in terms of breaking out of an imposed limitation or stereotype.

    In terms of branding, as long as you can always prove that you are doing a good job, then you can concentrate on how to get people to recognize it. Perhaps as others have suggested, you use a different name, or you find another way to re-present yourself to a new community.

  • You certainly hit the nail on the head but when you’re first entering the market you need to establish your brand and find the right proverbial ‘horse’ to hitch yourself to and often that means conquering your little niche. Finding your way out of that corner is ‘down the road’ issue when you’re still trying to find your way to that corner. No harm in creating a battle plan ahead of time though.

    • @PW:

      My fear is that, if you get into a niche early on, it becomes a lot harder to escape later. It’s like some authors build their own prisons. But if out of the gate you’ve established a diverse slate of material, it’s harder to pin any one “thing” to you.

      — c.

  • Being confined to a specific genre is something I worry about a lot — in the last year I’ve written psychological suspense, dark romantic comedy, and YA horror, and it’s not that I have multiple personality disorder…it’s just that I prefer to write something completely different every time I sit down. I don’t want to have to use a dozen pennames to write what I like. In a lot of ways, self-publishing seems like a good solution for NOT getting pigeon-hole to a genre, etc. As much as I’d love to find an agent and get a book deal through the big guys, I also would like to have the freedom to write what I want.

  • I surprised not to read any discussion of pen names here. I pretty much thought that was the de rigueur solution to handling different genres. Not any more?

    My favorite genre bender is the author of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.

  • I suppose I see myself taking the middle ground. I can’t imagine ever writing a mainstream novel, or even contemporary SFF, but on the other hand I’d hated to be limited to “Elizabethan fantasy with a side order of LGBT” :)

    I agree about your brand being your voice, or maybe it can be the kind of themes and tropes you tend to choose. Most of my stories seem to involve culture clashes, detailed historically-inspired settings, and a dash of romance and/or gender-bending. A broader definition than my currently contracted series, and definitely giving me scope for as many books as I have time and energy to write, but still pretty specific.

    Re the self-publishing, it’s a sound idea, but even that can be a no-no if your Big Six publisher takes exception to the idea, as one writer recently found out. I’m glad I’m with a smaller house that isn’t so possessive!

  • Excellent post.

    I’m always reminded and mindful of what musician, Charlie Daniels once said, “I refuse to be categorized because I think that puts blinders on you.”

  • Love your Joe Lansdale example. Lansdale’s a favorite of mine. You’re right about his voice. I’d read just about any genre if Joe Lansdale wrote it. He’s one of the few authors who make me laugh out loud.

    We do come to depend on authors for their unique voices. Stephen King definitely has one, and I’ve read a good many of his stories just for his voice. The stories by themselves would not have interested me.

    I also liked what you said about authors not tying themselves to any one thing–be it a style of publishing or a genre. Very interesting point…and one I hadn’t thought of before.

    Thanks for the great blog post. :D

  • I can’t quite shake the feeling that most of this “author branding” argument is a soon-to-be-fading holdover of the old publishing model, where the big houses wanted the author to be in a nice, easily-shelved-and-definable niche category, because it made things easier for the marketing department and the big vendors.

    “What the fuck? He wrote a thriller? BUT HE’S SHELVED IN SCIENCE FICTION!!! Now our entire system is RUINED!”

    The whole pen name thing grew as a work-around — but I really don’t see it as necessary any more. (Which means, in another 5 to 10 years, that reality will sink in and be reflected by legacy publishers — they learn, but the grind is slow.)

    • @Gareth —

      It’s not impossible this will be carried on by readers, to some extent — some readers seem very, erm, scorned when an author leaves his paddock.

      But the hope is, yeah, it’ll start to fade.

      — c.

  • The author’s name is their brand. One of my favorite authors writes in three different subgenres under three different pen names. When I pick up one of her books, I know what I am getting based on the name she used for that particular book.

    Another favorite author uses two pen names. I buy books written under one psuedonym, but not the other. The other one doesn’t interest me.

    So, if you want to write in multiple genres, then use different pen names for each one. And down the road, when a reader becomes a fan of pen name ABC, they’ll take a look at what has been written under CDE, XYZ, etc.

  • I also wonder how much the “paddock-scorn” will factor in a world with smaller audiences of more-engaged readers, who follow an author via social media, and hence have more of a “ringside seat” — know what’s coming, etc.

  • You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned “voice” over “brand”. I think your voice is a lot more important than the brand of genre you write in. Lansdale and King are both good examples, but also look at Neil Gaiman. Dude could write the copy for the back of a cereal box, and I would rush out to by it. Gaiman’s also written all KINDS of stuff. Graphic novels. Adult fiction. Young Adult. He’s all over the map, and yet when I buy something with his name on it, I know I am going to get the same sort of experience he brings to creating words.

    That’s what I think people who advocate branding are getting at: you want your reader to come to your novels like an old friend. If you jump wildly outside of your pre-established genre, the thought goes, how will the reader know he’s going to like the book?

    And I think the answer is your voice. Your style, the sort of things you personally like to write about. Genre can change wildly, but I believe every writer brings certain familiar elements to every book they write. A combination of reoccurring themes, motifs, types of characters, settings, and ideas all go into the book stew until no one other than that certain writer could have written it. I don’t read a book for the plot or characters. Most plots and characters have been done ad nauseum. I read a book to find out what THIS author’s take on said plot and characters is.

    Excellent post!

  • I am so down with this post. I am an urban fantasy guy. I love the damn genre. My first book (BLOOD AND BULLETS 2/7/12 from Kensington) is urban fantasy. Guns, monsters, insanity, I love it all.

    But I am also a hardboiled crime guy.

    And a horror guy.

    And an international thriller guy.

    And a sword and fucking sorcery guy.

    And a YA/romance/unicorn/mutant platypus/space opera guy.

    I am multi-fucking-faceted. There is no reason I can’t write what I want to write. I will write it all. The stories are mine to tell. They will all come out. They cannot be caged or contained or controlled.

    Damn the man.

  • Every writer fears they will eventually write their “Misery” and be indentured to write potboilers and crying into their silk hankies. On the other hand, we all dream of writing that book that inspires readers to be writers. We all remember that day when we read a book that made us sheepishly take out a sheet of paper and, shazzam, we become a writer.

    Sometimes, being branded isn’t a form of codification, but rather proof that you have a style that sells. Why resist that?

  • For those of us with a last name that makes a better first name (Elmore Leonard, Elmore James, pen names are probably mandatory. My candidates: Cochran Steele (also not a bad porn name), T Garrett Fuller (my grampy’s name), Dollar Farthing, Blackwolf Ravenhawk.

  • I don’t think “voice” is something you can fabricate or pinpoint. You have it. Your own voice is there and when you are writing a book you’re passionate about writing, something you’re excited about and completely consumed by – your voice is there. You can’t help it. It’s connected to your solar plexis, all those sealed boxes in your head, your skin, your deepest ditch, and the best thing you ever tasted – you can’t build your voice, you just have use it.

    I loathe the term “branding” when used to mean marketing platform. When used to mean burning symbols into skin it has more potential.

  • Brilliant–love the suggestion to focus on voice rather than brand. Great one, Chuck (but, God, you must be so tired of hearing that. One day I promise I’ll try to find something to criticize).

  • This is truly something to think about. I didn’t consider if I wrote one type of fiction more than another I would be put “in a corner” in terms of my writing. I will have to decide how to use the information in your blog, to get out of that before it happens. Thanks for the advice!!

  • Gotta agree… and disagree,, Chuck.
    Agree that we should stick a flagpole in our Voice and lay claim to it, and not let anyone else mess with it.
    But I disagree about the power of branding. You will be that writer of splatterpunk space bromances if you write 10 splatterpunk space bromance novels and 150 splatterpunk space bromance stories in a row. AND even then, only if you’re so good at it that you’ve developed a following and fan boys come running after you in the street screaming “Hey, there’s that splatterpunk space bromance guy!”
    For the most part, however, you’d have to be pretty fucking good and pretty fucking consistent in what you write in order to get branded that badly.
    Elmore Leonard is the king of pulp crime dialogue-driven stories because that is ALL he writes. If he tried anything else, does that mean the world will shun him? Not necessarily. He has, say, one million fans in this world. If he decided to write a post-apocalyptic romance about a saxophonist who travelled back in time after falling in love with Catherine the Great and her exploits, and he actually did a GOOD job of it, then, well… he’ll have his fan base in the pulp-crime dialogue-driven stories AND in the post-apocalyptic time-travel romance stories. He’d have MORE fans than ever before.

    My bottom line? If you are good at what you write, then you’ll be able to do anything. Branding happens when someone is too consistently good at ONE thing and doesn’t bother to try anything else.

    In a movie context, we could look at Adam Sandler, Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey. All started their careers as funnymen, and they’ve all ventured into serious roles as well and pulled it off magnificently. Now they’re able to go back and forth. Why’s that? Because they’re really fucking good at what they do.

    Bottom line: If you are a master at the craft you’ll be able to write anything.

  • You may lose the “fan club” by straying over the lines, but wouldn’t it only be that portion of the “fan club” that always wants the same thing? If

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