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Author Branding Lesson 3: Taming the Dragon Part II

As we begin taming the marketing dragon, we’ve been looking at who we are: what stories we enjoy, what stories we write, which authors we admire, what people say about how our writing affects them. Although it doesn’t always come directly into play in marketing an author and their books, there’s another piece that is more important today than ever: your personality.

Yes, I’m talking about who you are, as a person. As a Facebook friend. As someone to bump into at a conference and strike up a conversation with. As someone to follow into battle against monstrous dragons far wilder than the ones we’ve already tamed together.

Ha ha — yes, I’m talking about Hiccup again, and this time using an example from How to Train Your Dragon 2. All of his life, Hiccup felt out of place and disconnected from the others in his village, and especially from the one he most wanted to know and love him: his father. This undermined his confidence and produced doubts that plagued him throughout his young life. And then he made a startling and wondrous discovery.

Hiccup's Mom and Toothless

His mother was alive! (Oops, sorry. Spoiler, huh?) And she understood and loved dragons even more than he did! As they got to know each other, Hiccup began to see why he was who he was, where his temperament and tendencies came from. It gave him confidence and strength.

You are not alone

No matter what kind of personality you have, the Internet and social media has made it easier than ever to find “your people”. Are you the eternal optimist, a lover of romance and happy endings, always looking on the bright side of life? Perhaps you feel most comfortable in the dark, a lover of the night and creepy crawly things that hide in the shadows, always certain that the cake is a lie? Do you enjoy cat videos? (Come on, we all know there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who smile at cat videos and those who admit it.) Are you a master of sarcastic snark? A proclaimer of doom and gloom? A fount of kindness and love for all?

You don’t have to hide who you are in order to be successful. You don’t have to be like that other guy or gal. Many, many different kinds of people have found ways to connect with fans and sell their work. From the cutest fluffy bunny personality to the snarkiest in-your-face critic, there are successful creatives whose personality infuses their work — and their brand. Their authentic self (sometimes amped for effect) is part of what attracts their audience.

Find your unique combination and unlock your brand

Many times, it’s not just one thing that makes a personality brand pop and sizzle. It’s two or three contrasting and/or unique things.

Fearsome enemy -- or loving mom?

Hiccup’s mother, Valka, was not just a Viking mom. Not just a bleeding-heart dracophile. She was also a fearsome hunter and formidable foe. And, to the relief of all those rooting for a reconciliation with Stoick, she was a woman whose heart could still be wooed with the songs of her youth and the love of a man willing to forgive her failings.

The contrast of her three major roles (wife, mother, dragonrider) made her unique and fascinating, and drove the plot of the second movie. Not everyone appreciated the choices she made in her life, but that’s another good lesson for you: You’re not going to please everyone. No matter how hard you try. So don’t try — you’ll only lose the ones who resonate with you the best. As you pursue who you are and what you want to stand for, you may need to leave some people behind. Even when this is done in love, it can be painful. Be strong.

Action Item

Time to add to your lists! What are the three most common things people say about you? The three most common words they use to describe you?

What are three topics that you are passionate about? It doesn’t have to be world peace. It could be coffee, and getting the perfect grind on a perfect roast. Pick three things that you never tire of. Ideally, find something that is different, unique, or interesting. A passion for medieval castles. Fixing old cars. A love of lost languages. A fascination with pretty things, like roadkill and praying mantises. Oh, wait, that’s me. Go find your own!

And don’t forget to leave a comment and share your three words and three topics!

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11 Responses to Author Branding Lesson 3: Taming the Dragon Part II

  1. Suzanne October 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Probably the 3 common things said about me are also easy to combine with the 3 most commonly used words I have heard through the years. I’m intimidating, funny and quick witted.

    The three topics I’m passionate about vary in complexity but I guess come down to faith, youth and justice. There are a lot of sideroads involved with these topics. I love back stories, figuring puzzles out about people and why they do the things they do. It’s only natural I love history and art and connecting the present with the past.

    • #SpecFicCollective October 11, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      Ooooh, those are some fun things about you, Suzanne! You might find some interesting contrasts between humor and justice, being intimidating and full of faith, for example. Throw some history and art into the mix (along with bits of your other ‘sideroads’) and there’s a rich tapestry you can weave.

  2. Teddi Deppner October 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    The three things I’ve heard reflected back about me the most are probably: enthusiastic, knowledgeable, encouraging.

    Although I would not have thought to include these interests before, after using Facebook for years, I’ve discovered that I enjoy sharing about these interests: geeky humor (spec fic fandoms, especially), nature photos (especially praying mantids, spiders, and other bugs), and living a life of creativity.

    Because of my background in web design and Internet marketing and my deep and daily connection with my Creator, other things leak out: tips on technical subjects and encouragement to seek spiritual experiences with your Maker. Not sure how that fits into my brand yet, or whether it does, exactly. I have so many projects going in so many areas that I wonder at times how to encapsulate my brand into a cohesive, concise Thing.

    Other things may come out as I dig deeper and get braver about sharing the things I care about, too. It will be interesting to see how we all express ourselves as we move forward!

  3. #SpecFicCollective October 11, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    EDITS TO THIS POST: Realized belatedly that I included a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie; included an offhand apology. (Heh.)

    Found a better YouTube video of The Dancing and the Dreaming song with Valka and Stoick and changed the link.

  4. Janeen Ippolito October 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Three things about me: driven, knowledgeable, and very irreverent. I’m both super-focused on getting things done well, and never take any of it too seriously, because it’s all stuff anyway.

    I’m passionate about books/stories, world cultures, and humor. The last one surprised me, because it was just such a part of who I am and how I write that I don’t really think about it–plus, actually ‘doing humor’ can be risky business. Besides, I figured because of my Christian faith, I had to do a super-Christian blog (like, isn’t that some law? 😉 ). But while Christianity is my foundation, I don’t feel called to write devotional posts every week.

    However, I’ve been having a ton of fun with humor writing in my Monday Mirth series, and using that as a lens for life. I think that’s part of what platform building and marketing should be: fun. Because even though we do have to clean up some bits to be user-friendly, if we’re not having fun, the readers won’t either. I’m going to be releasing a blog post soon, “How NOT to Market Yourself” (based on my fails) and one of them is spending six hours on a ‘prim and proper’ blog post that you really don’t want to write! 😉

    One of my missions is finding the fun in life and speculative fiction. And it’s been a blast. 😀 I’m excited for what the future holds!

    • #SpecFicCollective October 15, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

      Fun is really important. Readers want a positive emotional experience, and what’s more contagious than someone else having fun? When they enjoy your delight in a subject, it whispers to their hearts, “I might enjoy reading this author’s books, too.”

      Authenticity is important, too. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to face is this: only authenticity works with an audience. If I’m not being real, they know it. Which means that if I’m boring and mundane and always focused on business, then THAT’s what the audience will sense from me. It actually forced me to embrace my inner child again and start taking the time to enjoy the things in life that make me smile. Like praying mantises. And Japanese anime. Even reading novels again. (Yay, Pierce Brown his Red Rising trilogy!)

      In creating this site, and including references to speculative fiction movies and books in the posts, I’m rediscovering my inner fan. It’s a glorious feeling.

  5. J. L. Mbewe January 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    Introspection like this is sooooo hard. When I first read this post, it was like looking into a black hole. And I realize that most of my life I’ve been a chameleon and I’ve shifted colors so much, I’ve forgotten what I truly look like, because I never knew what I “looked” liked in the first place. Blah.

    But the past 10 years I’ve been living my second childhood, so I’m slowly figuring it out. ha!

    That said. I love rocks. Not much I can do with rocks. Ha!

    • #SpecFicCollective January 4, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      Rocks, eh? Tell us more. Do you like collecting rocks? Photographing them? Admiring them, exploring places and seeing different kinds? My dad loves going to beaches and finding agates. I enjoy photographing rocks. I think there might be more you can do with rocks than you think…

      • J. L. Mbewe January 4, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

        I grew up in Minnesota and a lot of that time was on a farm or out in the country somewhere where we had to prepare a field for planting by plowing, disking (?), and removing rocks. My dad would show me what some of the different types of rocks were and I would keep the agates. Then every time I walked down the road or driveway, I was constantly picking agates. I even had someone stop by the house asking to purchase them and I was like no way. My dad used to joke that our trailer house would tip over from my rock collection. I used to take them out periodically and wash them. I still have them! And they decorate the shelves above my kitchen cabinets. I do enjoy photographing cool rocks or plants/leaves/trees I’ve found now. But where I live here in TX, there is nothing for rocks!!! EXCEPT these cool looking fossil thingies. But once I’ve collected a bunch of those, they all look the same to me. Ha! Perhaps that is the adult in me.

        But how am I supposed to use rocks with this whole branding thing? Also LOVE water, the stars, and horses. And I don’t mean drinking water. I mean the feel of it on my skin, the sound of the rain, that kind of thing. (Even wanted a waterbirth)

        • #SpecFicCollective January 4, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

          That’s fantastic stuff, Jennette! Maggie Stiefvater, a YA author, posts comments and pics of her car obsession (among other things). She delights me, even with oddball little details of her life. The thing is to tell a story — just like you did here, talking about your history with rocks and your dad and the trailer tipping over. It’s charming, it offers a glimpse inside you and your past, and readers can relate to it (or at least laugh at it). It’s slightly eccentric, but relatable, which is a sweet spot.

          Stars and water and horses are also great subjects. Good ones to photograph and share. Lots of little tidbits (tips or factoids) that you can share here and there in tweets or posts. The key is to realize that your personal fascination is worth sharing. To believe in the idea that others (some of them) will want to share your journey with rocks, stars, horses and water.

          If you trickle out little bits here and there about these interests, people may not even realize at first that those are the four “random” things you tend to post about. Some things may get more popular than others, depending on exactly how you approach each one. See what resonates with people.

          One of the things I’ve been learning is to set free that inner child — the one who investigates things with wonder. The one who spends an inordinate amount of time watching bugs and photographing frost and roadkill (in my case, that is). The one who doesn’t have the equipment to capture the glory of the moonrise but who won’t stop trying. Allowing myself to be a fan of things again has enriched my life AND my social media presence.

          So let yourself express those joys and passions. Let the “little things” that you love have the spotlight part of the time. Trust that it will attract others who will resonate with you and your writing.

          • J. L. Mbewe January 4, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

            I think what you’ve shared goes hand in hand with what I’ve been learning the past two years. Learning to live again. Along with the whole second-childhood thing. 😀

            And I think…just maybe…you might have confirmed my word for 2016. We shall see. 🙂

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