Saturday, August 30, 2014

Do You Have to Become a Writing Brand to Be A Good Author?

It's been way too long since I updated this blog. Last spring I did a weekly post for the WIFYR blog. At first I re-posted here, then I got busy and didn't even do that. Now it's time to re-post some of those blogs, and also to report on SCBWI/LA 2014.

 The word brand got a fair amount of attention during the SCBWI/LA 2014 agent panel. What is a literary brand? How you represent yourself to the public, including maintaining a respectful and professional online presence.

The agents spoke of looking past one project to the person behind it, considering his/her potential for longer career. Some said brand is best developed when a writer sticks to one genre.

 One great illustration is the way Laura Rennert describes a favorite client, YA author Maggie Stiefvater. This bestselling author had a strong online community even before she published SHIVER. She relates to teens because she’s young enough to think like one, and is a talented artist and musician as well. Stiefvater composed and produced her own music for the audio of THE SCORPIO RACES, one of my new favorite books.

 Laura Rennert called Stievater an author who’s managed to find the “sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction.”  If you read Stiefvater's writing, you'll understand why her agent raves about her.

 And then there’s me, a middle-aged mom who can’t even name Celtic instruments, let alone play them. By the end of my second day at SCBWI, I felt tempted to go home, give up, and learn to knit.  But not only would I be hopeless at knitting, I can’t quit. It’s too big a part of who I am. And just as every story is unique, so is each author. Even me.

An agent told fantasy writer Lloyd Alexander, “You have no future in fantasy, young man. Stick to nonfiction.”   And Judy Blume was told, “You’re a nice girl, but you can’t write.”  What would have happened if Lloyd Alexander and Judy Blume had given up?

These examples prove the words of another conference guest, Editor Justin Chanda: “Taste and talent are different things.” Not everyone is going to love your work, or even love you. I found further encouragement during Judy Blume’s closing remarks at the conference. “Don’t let anyone make you discouraged. And if they try, don’t get depressed, get angry.”

For me, determined is a better word than anger. The whine-to-husband, cry-to-writer-friends, then keep going kind of determination. Maybe I’ll make that part of my brand.

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