Pigeon-holed or Just Right?

As I’ve been delving more into the guts of crafting a business plan (actually TWO: one for ‘Shadowland’ and one for being an author overall and the next several projects) I had to reconcile two different things that I honestly hadn’t taken into account before: Who is my audience, and who am I?

As I’ve been discovering throughout this process, there is what’s considered your natural audience, such as friends and family who will automatically support and likely purchase this book simply because of their connection to me, but there is also the greater audience: the folks who I would like to get this project in front of who might enjoy it and maybe even purchase it.

For some reason, who that greater audience is has been hard to answer, and I’m realizing that it’s because I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate who I am, as a creative and as a person, that would draw and inform the casual browser of who I am as an artist and why they should keep reading the description for more then two seconds.

Basically, I have to figure out my “Brand.” I know, I’m cringing right along with you.

The past several months, I’ve been trying to figure out how authors and writers have been getting the word out about their books and I, like many have become sucked down the inevitable rabbit hole of what I’ll term “business wizards.” These of course are those individuals that have popped up everywhere with their “five tricks to selling a million books” or some such other tagline to entice you into watching their slickly-produced, peppy videos regarding how the process or methods or programs they’ve developed will lead you to an endless stream of ways to expand the reach, grow your followers on social media, and consequently, your wealth.

Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate folks out there that I’ve discovered who are genuinely excited about sharing with others what they’ve learned about the industry, and who aren’t trying to sell you everything and anything under the sun that they can monetize. They want you to actually get better at your craft and have a better handle on how to improve yourself as an author and as a business owner, if that’s in fact what you are aiming for.

Anyway, all of that to say that, I’m generally turned off and irritated by the whole “Branding” and marketing thing in general.

Why should I have to try to trick or dazzle you with piffy catchphrases and slick photos to entice you to read my book? I’m an Iraq War Veteran who’s chronicled his metempsychosis from a placid, idealistic Christian to a disillusioned, bitter and often cantankerous Antiwar Humanist, with some love-sick vignettes for a little pick-me-up to break up the acrimony and heaviness! I’m the shit, man, just ask my neighbor Gary.

And that’s when I realized: this is why I need to figure out my “Brand”: my poetry isn’t meant for everyone, this project isn’t meant for everyone, and how unfortunate would it be if someone stumbled across it who was ready or prepared for it?

While writing this post, I’ve just realized that this was perhaps the first time I actually wrote down what I somehow assumed that others would just know about me. This is why I need handlers.

So, I think some big takeaways from this post should be that, yes, as some point you need to figure out who is and isn’t your audience for your book or art, and perhaps like me you will also discover what your “Brand” is as well in the process, because it’s very important to find the way you are going to present yourself to your potential audience and the to the world. Will my “Brand” likely shift and expand if I’m hoping to write something that doesn’t necessarily fit into the niche that I’m currently writing within? It sure as shit will, and hopefully my “Brand” will be something that works for me across the entire spectrum of artwork I intend to create, from poetry to children’s picture books.

Also, when you start searching around for ways to build your business and write that business plan, stay away from the smarmy, slick business men and women out there who insist that they can make you a bestseller over night or some such bullshit. Find some good people who, even if they have a subscription program or something that’s not too outrageous are doing it for the right reasons and are providing what you actually need as far as advice, resources and community goes, not a bunch of bullshit that a little extra googling for free could have gotten you to. It takes time and patience to avoid the pitfalls out there, and time and experience will tell I’m actually learning the right way to go about this whole process, but at least I’m trying and sharing what I’m learning along the way FOR FREE.

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