OK, so as we have seen the first approach you can take if you want to have fun marketing is to concentrate on the type of writing you absolutely love to do. This pinpoints your most focused audience, the readers who will love reading it as much as you love writing it.
And narrowing that down helps you pinpoint your second angle: what is your writing’s personality?
You’ve probably read, and maybe experimented with, all kinds of things to do with the notion of ‘branding’. Branding is usually defined as ‘the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products’. An effective 'brand strategy’ is supposed to give you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
But what is a ‘name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products’ in terms of being a writer?
Of course, a writing ‘name’ seems obvious: that’s your name, or pen name. But what about ‘symbol’ and ‘design’? It’s easy for writers to get these confused with the symbols in their fiction or the design of their covers.
Writers need to take a step back and look at what they are trying to do — and even more important, what they want to do, what they really enjoy doing. Because answering those questions reveals who they are as writers, and opens the door to names, symbols, designs and all the rest of it.
Your Writing Personality
What is it about your writing that makes it stand out from the crowd?
Vitally, what is it about your writing that you particularly enjoy?
You took a look at this when you examined your target readers earlier: there, you were breaking down your readership based on what you most enjoyed writing. You perhaps listed out some qualities that your fiction possesses.
But now, zoom in even further.
What exactly do you get the most buzz from when writing?
Is it devising characters who become lovable?
Tracing out plots with their twists and turns?
Just writing one word after another and seeing where it all takes you?
Finally revealing all in a thrilling climax?
Or some combination of aspects?
There’s a peculiar relationship here which may become evident to you as you do this:
Those parts of the writing experience which you most enjoy most probably correlate to the ones you are best at.
The corollary is that the aspects of writing you most dislike are probably the ones you are worst at. (It’s very likely that that includes ‘marketing’ — you don’t like it and aren’t very good at it, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this.)
But what we see here is a kind of universal law: those things about which we have the most knowledge, we also seem to have the most control over; those things about which we know little seem most often to be out of our control.
Knowledge empowers us to be responsible and causative in an area.
And ‘knowledge’ in this sense can include ‘love for’ — when we love writing certain things, we ‘know’ those things, and are able to pull them off.
Developing a writing personality is all about defining more and more what makes our writing ‘tick’ — what precisely are those aspects which ‘turn us on’ as writers?
Define them, and we define who we are as writers.
And that helps all our decisions easier in the future. When you are clear on your writing personality, a marketing strategy becomes child’s play; choosing covers is easy; deciding what to write and where to submit it becomes clearer, as does the approach you use to publishers, editors, and readers.
Let’s look at an example.
Jane is a novelist. She focuses on historical novels, set in the Regency period. What particularly fascinates her is zooming in on the subtleties of conversation and relationships in quiet, indoor settings. She loves exploring nuances of character through detailed observation and dialogue. Instead of contextualising her stories in a wider social setting, it’s the smaller world of one or two families and the tiny frictions and frissons of their interactions which delight her. Yes, we might be talking about Jane Austen — the point is that she has very much defined her tiny niche of interests as an active writer. She adores penning these stories, and it shows in her careful style.
What does this reveal about her writing personality?
Everything. It tells us, the readers, exactly what she admires and enjoys, and who she therefore must be as a writer. And that immediately defines her potential audience.
Not for her the action lover, the admirer of historical dramas set in the battlefields of Europe, the follower of heroes and villains fighting it out in outdoor settings — no, her audience is much like her: quieter, indoors, observant, delighting in the smaller things of life.
That personality immediately acts as a guide to the kinds of cover designs, blurbs, symbols, and even names that she would use to market her work.
Once she isolates her writing personality, Jane can can step outside herself and her wider personal tastes and preferences and make decisions objectively. It’s no longer ‘just writing’ — it’s her brand. When she looks at marketing, she can ask herself ‘Is this something Jane would be interested in?’
Your writing will have a distinct personality regardless of whether you consciously create one as above. But unless you put some attention on it, you’ll drift towards the stereotypical ‘romance writer’ or ‘science fiction writer’ or whatever — you’ll blend with the crowd and become forgettable.
Find out who you really are as a writer -- don't become forgettable.
Here’s a further tip: you will stand out even more if your own writing personality — your brand — is somehow slightly out of alignment with the field you’re in.
For example, Jane above: she might have faded into the background of all the other writers writing Regency romances. But her stories are so minutely focused, perhaps, on the extremely subtle and occasionally suggestive dialogue between the characters that they stand out from the general crowd.
Another example might be a science fiction writer whose stories fit all the requirements of an exciting science fiction adventure tale, but are told using the language of the Victorian age, like a kind of rejuvenated Jules Verne; or the literary author whose tales wind in and out of complexities like much other literary fiction, but are told through a compilation of text messages or social media threads rather than straight ‘book text’.
You might look at your writing with all this in mind and think ‘Well, this is all very well, but there isn’t anything particularly special or unique about what I write compared to what everyone else is writing.’ Ah — then in some ways, your position is one to be envied. Because you have yet to go on that inward journey to discover exactly what it is that makes your writing different. The thread to follow will be those aspects of writing that you get an especial thrill from writing — that’s the treasure trail that leads you to a writing personality that you can build into yours alone.