Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Branding: Writers You Need This!

Branding yourself as a writer, whether you write for adults or children, is a career enhancer, and one that most writers ignore. 

I first learned about it in a class at Writer's Boot Camp (WBC), Santa Monica. Our teacher explained that, "you, the writer, should be able to go to a workshop or conference and be remembered by others there." 

  • Are you memorable? 
  • Do writers come up to you at other workshops and say they saw you before?
  • Do writers email you after conferences to keep in touch?
  • Do writers find you on SCBWI or facebook?
  • Do you gather more followers for your blog?
  • If not, why? 

The number one reason is - You are not branding yourself. 

To understand branding better, close your eyes. Can you picture your favorite writer? What are they wearing? How do they sound? Eye wear? Hats? A certain necklace? A cane? Do they have a mustache? Is their hair always the same? How about approachability? Are they comfortable with others? Do they speak a lot or stay quiet?

These are all things that can help to brand you. Another way of seeing it is to search your favorite authors websites. Do they always wear that same hat? Do they always smile or frown? Do they have a special pen or notepad with them? Is their a feeling from the website that you get? Is it serious? Silly? Hopeful?

My teacher at WBC had us do an exercise that helped me to better understand branding. He told us to list the top 10 things that made us who we were. 

Here are mine:
  1. Grandfather: Legs were amputated due to diabetes. He was strong, so strong.
  2. Lifeguard: I have many stories about being a lifeguard and they all changed my life. 
  3. Firefighter: Going through hazmat training and fire school was intimidating because I was the only girl at our firehouse. Even though I was quite young when I started (15), I still felt the awkwardness of boys vs. girls. 
  4. Sister Rivalry: My sister and I still have an estranged relationship and it's been this way since middle school. Of course this molded my views of sisterhood and family.
  5. Elephants: Working with the PGH zoo elephants was an amazing experience. 
  6. My husband: We married young (22 & 23), and we've been very lucky to have grown up together. 
  7. Blueberry Farm in Big Beaver: Growing up on a small blueberry farm was fun and infuriating at the same time.
  8. Acting: I acted for about 12 years - theatre, commercials, TV. 
  9. Monkey attack: My husband and I had two monkeys during our dating period. One of them attacked me. I never got into a real fight until that monkey!
  10. Moving away: Lived most of my life in Pgh, then moved to LA, then to SF.
These ten things become a way to brand myself when meeting new writers at a conference. Can you pick out the ones that might make someone be able to remember me? If I had a conversation with you, and the elephant story came up, would you remember that?

Using stories from your past is a great way to brand yourself. Remember to pick your most interesting, not everyday story. People will remember you. I even have #7 as my twitter intro. I grew up on a small blueberry in a town called Big Beaver. It's memorable. 

The next way to brand yourself is with clothing. It's easy and can be fun. Do you have a lucky hat? Shirt? Tie? Do you like to wear jackets? Bright colors? 

When I go to a conference I wear a hat at least one of the days I am there, and usually more often. I've chosen one that I think is memorable, without being ridiculous. You can go the clown route if you like, but that's more gimmick than branding. And beware of meat-dresses too. You don't want to go too far!

Simple clothing/accessory choices:
  • hats
  • scarfs
  • special necklace
  • special tie
  • bow tie
  • brightly colored briefcase or bag
  • wearing polka-dots or stripes 
  • glasses
  • ripped jeans
  • dress pants that are unique to you
  • an interesting good luck charm or pen
  • specific business cards
Play around with your wardrobe. Start to put together your "writing wardrobe style". Think about what you write. Are you a MG/YA writer? Do you write dark or light? Or are you a PB/CHP writer? Do you write light and airy, funny, happy? You can tailor your wardrobe to your writing style. 

I write MG/YA, usually on the dark, adventure, fantasy side. I like to darken my make-up, wear my hat low over my eyes, and style my clothes in blacks and grays. 

If I was work shopping one of my PB's - I would wear bright colors young kids love. I might even add a fun necklace with a Disney character or sparkly shoes kids would want to look at. 

Branding does not begin in end with your personal style. You need to brand your career. What genre do you write? What plots do you write well? Are you a dark writer or light and airy? Do you write fantasy or history? 

I know many writers write in all genres, but there is one that you are most passionate about. If you are a newbie, brand yourself there. Once you make it, you can tell everyone that you can write all genres. But if you say that now, it sounds like you lack focus. Pick one and stick with it for now.

That means, read in your chosen genre only. Write in that genre only. Twitter about that genre only. Blog about that genre more than others....keep your brand building. That way on the Internet as well as in person people get a good sense of who you are as a writer. When people know who you are, they are more apt to promote you.

Example 1:

Newbie Writer: "Do you know anyone who might want to point me in the right direction for my book?"

Workshop leader: "What do you write?"

Newbie Writer: "I don't know. Everything I guess."

Workshop leader: "Check the site, I'm sure you'll find someone you'll like."

Example 2:

Newbie Writer: "Do you know anyone who might want to point me in the right direction for my book?"

Workshop leader: "What do you write?"

Newbie Writer: "I write MG, action, adventure, fantasy."

Workshop leader: "I know someone perfect for you, and she's here. Her name's Angie Azur."

Do you see the difference in the help? Do you see how the second writer will get a better introduction than the first one? And because I've branded myself as a MG/action/adventure/fantasy writer, I get the connection too.

So the next time you pack for a conference, brand yourself with the right wardrobe, and accessories, and stories so that you will be remembered. Good luck!

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