Sydney Smith On Author Branding

In this post, Sydney Smith, author and writing mentor extraordinaire, adds her words of wisdom to our previous Author Branding discussion (see last post)

sydney-smith_regular‘Different and yet the same. Whenever a writer submits their manuscript to one of the opportunities out there, like the Friday Pitch or Manuscript Monday, they’re asked who they write like. They have to offer the same thing, but with something in there that’s different. Jenny, you quoted a reviewer who likened Kath’s work to that of Janet Evanovich. There’s that point of similarity. But anyone who’s read the Stephanie Plum books will know that Kath’s work is also unique to herself.

When you set out to brand yourself you have to be very careful. Is the brand you choose the one you want to be defined by? I didn’t give a thought to branding when I approached Text with my memoir. All I was thinking was that I had a good story to tell. But I know now that it was the wrong move, strategically. I’m “branded” as someone who writes literary narrative. But that isn’t who I really am. I have a literary bent, sure. I love reading Tolstoy and Henry James, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, Ian MacEwan and Elizabeth Kostova. I love reading fiction that makes me think about the characters and feel potent emotions.

Crime FictionBut I also have a genre bent. I’m a crime fiction addict. I read five crime novels a week. No kidding! As a writer, I’m trying to access my inner psychopath in order to write about murder. This morning, I started my first murder story, having figured out that I might be able to get at it if I go by way of a missing persons investigation. Don’t ask me why that works for me and a more direct approach doesn’t. I’ve got no idea. I just know that I can work with a missing persons investigator, not with a homicide detective, even if, at some point, I have to get to a murder.

So what does that have to do with branding? Well, I suppose this is my brand. Or anyway, it’s the one I’m trying to create. It feels confining. I am a whole lot more than a single, narrowly-defined product. But there’s no way around it.

By the way, are there any crime fiction buffs out there? If you want to chat about crime fiction and crime TV shows, drop me a line.

Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She is currently writing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.

 

BB14

3 thoughts on “Sydney Smith On Author Branding

  1. I think it’s terrible that publishers want to know who a beginning author writes like. Be yourself is a better way to go and they should encourage that. The only narrowness should be in stating the genre (approximately) an author is working in. I love cosy crime novels, Sydney, and some TV shows, if you want to chat, but I love other genres too. I don’t go into gruesome or hot sex. The former gives me nightmares, the latter bores me.

    • I agree, Anna, writers should be encouraged to be themselves. The outcome is always better than following someone slavishly. In fact, we’re at this present stage in literature – with a multiplicity of genre modes to draw on – because writers of the 18th and 19th centuries were themselves!
      I used to love cosy crime TV shows – Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders. Watched them religiously. Then something weird happened in my brain and now I’m addicted to brutal crime in fiction and on TV.

      Do you watch Silk? I adore that show. I know it’s courtroom drama, not crime, strictly speaking, but it’s my favourite show on TV (not that I watch much).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s