Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Writer's Identity

How do you determine your identity as a writer? We hear words like brand and platform, but what do they really mean? And how important are they? I had heard the terms for so long that I wondered if I would ever figure out what my identity was.

It boils down to a theme underlying your work on which to hang multiple approaches; writing, speaking, and recognition, possibly as an expert in that area, but first you have to identify what that is.

I understood how my husband could develop a platform. As a retired veterinarian he writes about —as he puts it—pets, owners and other animals. This is a subject on which he can talk or write. But I write about many things.

At a book fair last week, a woman at a nearby table had a six foot high poster on a special stand, and for sale: stuffed toys to go along with her books, t-shirts, notebooks fabric bags with her book cover on them, and, last but not least, her books in a metal display case. Plus free candy canes. All very professional looking. Slick, Madison Avenue stuff. I thought, this woman knows what she’s doing.
But although she had a marketing approach it did little to establish her in other areas
For the rest of us mere authors, we had stacks of our books, some had regular sized posters. A few had candy in a bowl.

So, who drew the most attention? The small press publisher’s tent, and the lady with all the stuff.
Who sold the most books? I think, in the end, it was about equal. Three or four sales for each author.
What I learned from this experience is that you can do things to draw attention to yourself, but it’s still the story that counts.

A man to the left of me sold quite a few books, probably more than the average for the day. He had a pleasant demeanor and displayed pride in his story when people asked. Otherwise, he sat there quietly behind his table with only a stack of his books in front of him. But he had established himself as an expert on life in the sixties.

Before we went to the fair, I received a request to speak at a college writers conference in February. I asked what they wanted me to talk about. The response was, “Writing strong female characters.” I wondered where they got that idea until I noticed what I had written as part of my email signature: “Writing about historical, humorous, adventurous, and always, strong women.”

Then I looked at the titles of my five books in print and their tag lines. Every single one contains a female protagonist who may not start out very strong, but the challenges she faces lead her to grow into a strong, self-reliant woman. The books range in time period from mid-nineteenth century through to the twenty-third century, but they could all be sisters. There’s my linking element, my theme, my brand. Now to create a logo that celebrates strong women.

This is my identity—understanding and writing about strong women, their motivation, their drive, and their achievements.

What is your identity? Did you always know what it was? Did it evolve as your writing evolved? Do you promote yourself as an expert in this field?

Veronica Helen Hart is a Champagne Books author as well as Double Edge Press. Her books are available in all the usual places: Amazon, B&N, Kindle, Champagne Books, and in bookstores. 


January Bain said...

Good Blog! Yes, there is always an underlying theme. A good friend who is a writer pointed mine out. My need to heal others. Thanks Julie!

Also, I write about issues dear to my heart like most writers: having your characters grow as human beings during your storytelling.

Liz Fountain said...

I put a lot of thought into this topic a while back, then let it slide a bit. Thanks for the reminder to get back on it!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

My issues,both historical and contemporary are of a secure family dynamic. They haunt my writing.

Ronnie, I see a lot of escape themes in your works, changes of venues and travel to find...?

KMTolan said...

Being a veteran of many a convention, I find that what sells my books is a combination of two things - eye candy to get them to glance at you, and then (and most importantly) the books themselves. I don't distract with other merchandise and it serves me well. In all cases I generally emphasize strong characters, followed by immersion. Both define my writing, so it sounds like you're hitting the mark just fine.