Becoming a Reliable Shapeshifter: The Ever-Changing Nature of Brands

Original photograph by Nandhu Kumar
When teaching creative writing students about brand, the hardest part is convincing them that their brand is malleable. Your brand, which ties into your persona but has much more to do with the marketing side of things (i.e.: your genre, how you communicate on a professional level, the first thing people think about when they see your name, etc.), is entirely under your control. Since this seems to be either hard to understand or controversial, I decided to put together a short guide to branding and rebranding. Here are the things you should keep in mind.
 

Genre doesn't matter all that much

I think folks who only write romance or YA have it easy. They do one thing and one thing only. Their brand obeys the expectations of their genre. On the other hand, writers who work in several genres have a harder time thinking about and presenting their brand, because they think it is tied irrevocably to a genre. It's not. You can work in a plethora of genres and have a superb, clear brand. Genre is an element of it, and you can work in more than one without a problem. What matters most is the quality of the writing. Let's say we meet at a bar and start talking books. You call Brian Evenson a science fiction writer. I call him a horror writer. The bartender calls him a literary fiction writer. Who's right? We all are. Genre is nothing in the face of a talent that likes to play with all of them.

A professional brand and a fun persona can coexist

I'm okay with every editor, publisher, readers, and agent out there checking my social media and seeing me telling certain folks to go fuck themselves.

I'm a professional. I write professional emails and behave like a professional whenever I'm talking to people. That said, my persona is...different. I say fuck a lot. Like, a LOT. I talk politics and publishing passionately. I love dirty jokes and memes. I'm not going to reply with "Sup, bro?" to an editor asking me to be part of anthology. On the other hand, I won't say "I'm so, so sorry!" whenever I say fuck this or fuck that on Twitter and someone clutches their pearls and replies to me saying that "use of the F-word was unnecessary." See the difference?

You should never follow trends

Trends come and go, but your brand should have permanence. If some new thing pops up, don't change what you do in order to try to ride that wave. That's the worst thing you can do.

Rebranding is possible

I had a student who spent about a year and a half developing a brand as a YA author. Then she realized she wanted to appeal to women her age and wanted her writing to be an empowerment tool for them. The change made her happy and reflected what her work had become, so it was necessary. You don't have to stay where you started. In fact, I think writing is a gig where you should always be changing and becoming better. That said...

Rebranding is not underwear, so don't change it too often

If I told some racist to go fuck himself yesterday and announced today my switch to a fully YA-friendly brand, things might get complicated. If the next day I tell folks I'm only going to write about rape because I'm a "hardcore horror author" from the School of Hard Knocks or Miskatonic University, problems will ensue. If you found your voice and have a persona already, only rebrand if it makes you happy and you think what you do now is very different from what you've always done.

You control this

Your brand is, like your persona and the amount of hustle you put in, one of the few elements of your writing career that is 100% under your control. You have the power to shape it and reshape it as you go, as you learn what works best for you, as you become more knowledgeable about publishing. Embrace and use that power wisely. 

Remember that everything is intertwined

Here is my final and most important piece of advice.

I'm constantly fighting for POC, Native American, LGBTQ, women, Appalachian, and all other minority writers. That bleeds into my brand. If I were to get on Twitter and start saying Trump-level shit against trans folks, that would also bleed into my brand. I'm okay with every editor, publisher, readers, and agent out there checking my social media and seeing me telling certain folks to go fuck themselves (hell, I have said it a few times in this article!). I'm aware that everything bleeds into everything else, and you should keep that in mind at all times.

Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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