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I’ve been reading a lot lately about why and how authors should develop their brand. Like many of you, my first thought about branding had something to do with red-hot iron and pissed off cattle. After some of my research, I’m not entirely sure it still doesn’t mean that, at least in the metaphorical sense. No, this newest version has to do with authors developing a presence or package of what they represent, of what the reader can expect when picking up one of their works. It entails marketing strategies and social media and business plans and a huge amount of savvy and energy that I don’t have.

Wait, let me dust off my cane here. See, in the old days, authors wrote books, attended book signings and writer’s conventions, and answered the occasional fan letter. Mostly though, they wrote books. And stories. And articles. And poetry. And limericks. And… and… and… The brand was developed by having stuff out there for the masses to read. It took a lot of time and effort and a little bit of luck to get that “name recognition.” But thousands of them did it without any of these modern day contrivances. Just about anybody who reads knows exactly what they’re going to get when they pick up something by Shakespeare, Poe, Tolkien, Asimov, Herbert, Bradbury, or King. And those greats all had that recognition long before today’s FaceTwitGrams were even thought of. Or their respective developers, for that matter. All that marketing stuff was for the publisher to deal with.

But with the advent of indie publishing, a new breed of author has evolved. With the youngest among us practically born with a smart phone in their hands, it’s nothing for them to jump into this whole branding idea with both thumbs. They live on social media anyway, so it’s totally natural to just continue that existence with their writing. Where they find the time to write in between all the updates, tweets, selfies, shares, cute cat videos, and drunk fails, I’m not sure. Those young’uns are moving a whole lot faster than I did at their age, in a world that puts me into sensory overload and makes me want to hide under my bed, but seems to energize them to new levels of thought. I wish them well, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s good for them. Or the rest of us.

Maybe that’s just the old fogy in me talking. Maybe I’m just jealous because I know I can’t keep up with them when it comes to 21st Century media. Maybe I’m afraid the world has passed me by and my window of opportunity to be an actual paid writer has long since closed. Or maybe, just maybe, I know something they don’t know.

You see, there are certain advantages to being in the age and treachery division of life. One of them being that there are LOADS of us out there. Why do you think Mick Jagger is still rocking across the stage as a great-grandfather (besides that deal with the Devil, but that’s a story for another time)? Being middle-aged (or better) has an entirely new meaning with this new century. For one thing, we’re healthier as a group than the same age dynamic of previous generations enjoyed. And we’re not content to simply go to work, take the kids to ballet class and watch football. We want to play and explore and learn, too. We’re young enough to take on bungee jumping, zip-lining, white-water rafting or any number of other adventures, but old enough to know we need medical and life insurance first.

We straddle the line between the analog and digital ages. We look forward to the fascinating things to come, while sitting comfortably on the tried and true of the past. And we have certain expectations. We still want a well-written book to curl up with by the fire, even if we’re reading it on a tablet.

And that’s when I realized I already had my brand. I’m a middle-aged chronic depressive science fiction writer who plays with string and pretends to be somebody else on the weekends. I can text just fine, but use proper grammar and spelling because I just can’t do it any other way. I’m on Facebook, but I use it to actually keep in touch with family and friends instead of playing games or trading political memes. I know about Reddit and Tumblr and Instagram and Pinterest, but I’m not interested in spending more time in the digital world than I already am. And there are 76 million more like me in the US right now.

Let me be your favorite brand. I speak your language. I can be irreverent, judgmental, thoughtful, hopeful, angry, determined, educational, passionate and pointed. I know what it’s like to deal with the daily office grind, and then face the fear of starting a second career because you couldn’t retire from your first. I get Star Trek as well as Steampunk, love classic muscle cars while delighted by Tesla, and was doing cosplay way before it was a thing. I can give you well-crafted characters in a strong story line that simmers along with a quiet rage that leaves you satisfied and yet wanting more at the end. Let me be the one that helps you understand and enjoy the future while giving you the security of your past.

And if any of you young’uns want to come along for the ride, hop on board. There’s plenty we can teach each other.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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