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Keeping the “You” Out of Your Brand

Last year I wrote a blog post about the importance of protecting the author brand. While I had a lot to say, one reader said it best:

In my opinion as a reader, expressing views or complaining as an author is such a slippery business. Indeed, I unfollowed authors (you probably know by now I do reading like other people do opiates so yes, I follow a number of authors) because their personal views on controversial matters shone through and I suddenly began to see the PERSON instead of the BRAND. Now, that’s bad and very dangerous. People identify with your writing; they INHABIT your stories when they read them, they internalize them, they read them with their own inner voice and make your stories THEIRS. That’s why they buy your stories. When you, the author, become a person, then you kick the reader out of the stories and inhabit them yourself. This is how I honestly feel about it. I’m also a writer, but I’ve been a reader for much longer, and felt the need to express my view as a reader here.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have personal views on controversial matters of course, but personally, I’ve alway been cautious about sharing my personal life and personal opinions in business situations and this is the one of the many reasons why. To put it simply, I don’t want to complicate things. I want people in the business world to think of me as the business person and the agent I am. I’ll keep religion, politics and opinions on potty training to my personal Facebook account.

Category: Blog

15 comments

  1. This is such a timely post!

    I am getting ready to query, and have been narrowing down agents who would be a good fit for my work (and vice versa, me for them) – and unfortunately have crossed several off the list for this reason. Agents I otherwise would have queried had I not looked at their Twitter accounts.

    In my view, an agent will be part of my author brand and a business partner. Seeing very heated rants/personal viewpoints/etc. from them on Twitter has definitely affected my decision making process on who I want as a professional on my team. Does everyone have opinions? Of course, but it becomes very hard to see the business person over the personal diatribes, especially when it is a somewhat combined account (Agent at X Agency), even with the disclaimer ‘personal opinions are my own.’

    Such a good point!

  2. I knocked quite a few agents off my query list because of continual Twitter ranting. (Though they might not miss my query, and in fact be grateful it didn’t make their inbox, they might miss my friend’s or colleague’s – or even miss the fact that I don’t get back to their client’s PR person’s pitch just because that agent has left such a bad taste in my mouth. Another reason to be professional and get back to your full requests.)

    Even if a tweet isn’t about authors who, perhaps misguidedly, send them queries they find laughable, but about politics or something else, it gives the impression the agent has way too much time on his/her hands. This may not be the case, and perhaps a ten second tweet is just what the agent needs in order to blow off some steam and then re-tackle that slush pile, but it’s about impression. I suggest if agents (or any professionals) want to complain and opine, keep a private Facebook page and do it there.

  3. This is off topic, but it would be great if agents tried to fill out their own auto forms. So many of them strip the copy of italics, paragraph spacing, etc. I got one that gave you 2000 characters for both your query and the first page of your book. I gave up on that one – perhaps that was the intent. 🙂

  4. I don’t think it’s fair to ask an author to keep “THEM” out of their writing. I’m a romance author and there’s ALWAYS a portion of me (even if small) in every one of my female characters. Besides, just be someone is an author doesn’t mean they should be silenced. Me, personally, would rather NOT silence my favorite authors. If we lived in a world where everyone had the same view it would be bored. Regardless what some may think, authors aren’t perfect. We’re human. We have minds of our own and opinions. I know I’ve probably been unfriended because of some of my not so popular opinions. BUT I’ve got readers that were adult enough to say they loved my writing enough to be able to separate the author from the PERSON.

    1. I think Bobbi, what I’m trying to say, is it’s how you present yourself. You can and should express opinions, but if you’re constantly ranting and angry with no clear direction you aren’t going to impress anyone. Or make a difference.

  5. I’m not sure keeping it’s very realistic to keep the author out of their writing. I know for MY characters there is alot of me in them. Why should authors be put on a pedestal? We’re human with opinions of our own. If you’re looking to surround yourself with people who ONLY share your opninion it will make for a boring circle. Why should authors stay hush hush about what THEY feel passionate about? If you, as a reader, can’t separate the author from the HUMAN it shows how judgemental you are. Authors aren’t perfect. We have bad days just Jane Reader. We laugh, cry, rally, and rage just like readers do. If someone unfriends me or stops reading my books because they don’t like my opinions then they aren’t the kind of reader I want. I’d only ask this. Did you like the book? Did it provide the escape you needed? Did the book m9ve you or scare you or basically just entertain you? Then what doeanit matter if that author voices their opinion? My mama always said opinions are like a $$holes, we’ve all got one (my mama is blunt). So idolize your favorites for their WORK not their ability to keep their mouths shut.

  6. Perhaps passion is the point. By concentrating on the author brand, you’re in danger of becoming the author bland. If you don’t care deeply about that which moves you to write, if you don’t rage, if you don’t have opinions, why bother? Dickens saw the poverty and deprivation around him and created great works of art because of it, not in spite of it. He didn’t hide his opinions. He put them out there on the page. Those who don’t do that aren’t writers. They’re typists. And you know what? They’re NOT your stories. They’re mine. You’re a passenger on the ride. If it’s not going where you want, you’re free to get off any time you like. It might not be a model for monetary success, but if you’re in it for the money or the adulation, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

    1. J. Wheeler, you have an excellent point, and I certainly didn’t cross anyone off my list for expressing their political opinion unless it was done a zillion times a day, in which case I thought perhaps they could be better spent serving their clients during that time. Mostly, it’s the complaining about queries they don’t find up to snuff that bothers me. Yes, some of them are ridiculous, but some of these people (especially the ones saying God told them to do something) might be a bit disturbed and I see no reason to poke fun of them. If you’re in the biz of getting 100 emails a day (and I am too), a certain percentage of them will be kind of wacky and you just should accept that and have some empathy.

  7. Love the debate and the different points of view, it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse into other people’s minds. This is a sensitive topic for writers, I think, and it can spark heated discussions.

  8. I’d be surprised if any writer’s politics weren’t already clear from what and whom they choose to write about, and how they portray those topics and characters. All writing is political. Even trying not to be political in your writing is a political choice – the choice to be silent.

  9. I’m really not sure this works at all for those of us who are inherently “other.” By virtue of just being queer, I’m already “controversial” as far as some readers are concerned, and I refuse to lose sleep–or not speak out about, say, a president nominating an entirely anti-queer cabinet–for fear people will find me too negative. I’ve bled on a sidewalk. That’s part of my damn brand.

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