When I started self-publishing back in 2008, I came across an interesting concept: The writer as a brand item and marketed as such.
It seemed a little odd to me at the time, but I see the logic of it now: Your readers see very few images of you, or even better, just one. Think of McDonalds and you think of Golden Arches and wheat field yellow and red, for instance.
Quite a few years ago, Stephen King decided he wanted to sell books under a different name, for a variety of reasons. So he quietly sold books under the name Richard Bachman with minimal publicity. One book sold about ten thousand copies or so…but when he re-published the book as Stephen King, it sold an order of magnitude more. That’s the power of a writer as a brand, as a consumer item.
So all writers do it, even the big six. They all have a Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag, a YouTube channel and countless other ways of getting their name out there. We’re all waving our arms and shouting as loud as we can, after all. And it helps that everywhere you go, it’s always the same thing you’re looking for.
I’ve seen this again and again from writers…they’re asked to be A Brand. To promote their books themselves as part of that brand, go on lecture tours, do readings from bits of their books, and so on. To give people a face to attach to the name.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, a few weeks ago I changed my author picture from this 2012 pic (A very hot day in Washington State):
…to this 2015 one (Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire)…
Doesn’t seem like much of a deal, does it?
But think about it again…this author picture is the virtual image I send out to the world and the one that sits on my little business cards I give out to people. What do I want it to say about me? What brand image do I want to have?
It’s a serious business when this picture is how most of my readers see me most of the time. After all, ninety-nine percent of what I am as a writer is virtual; I’m mostly just binary.
So I asked for comments on Facebook before I went with it, and someone suggested I lighten the pic, so I did that. I cropped it a little as well and I cut off my feet (Hurt like hell). The same person also commented the stones and the countryside make me look like a writer of fantasy…see what I mean about branding? I decided I could live with that though.
There are also technical considerations. How does this picture look when it’s shrunk to a thumbnail or on one of my little business cards, for instance? How does it look on a mobile device?
And there are also the number of places this picture has to be updated: Goodreads, Booklikes, Twitter, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Facebook, Amazon US, Amazon UK. My Gravatar avatar. Two places on my website. Physically, I’m going to have to change my business cards as well.
It might look like a small matter – changing one picture to another – but even for a small writer like me, that’s a dozen or so places. If I get it wrong or change my mind, I’ll have to do all those pictures again. There are places I can’t change – reviewers who have my old picture on their site, for instance – but you do what you can with what you’ve got.
Why does it matter? Being Tony Talbot, The Brand means everywhere you find me, I look the same.
Just like McDonalds: You’ll always know what to look for.
(Reblogged from Musings – The Blog of Tony Talbot)