Phyllis Zimbler Miller – Branding Yourself as a Writer
As writers we want people to think of us when they have a project for which they want to hire a particular kind of writer or when they want to read a particular kind of book. And we want people to think of us in specific formats – fiction books, nonfiction books, screenplays, playwriting.
Yet branding ourselves as a specific kind of writer is not so simple. We may want to legitimately present ourselves as one type of writer in certain circumstances and another type of writer in different circumstances.
Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.
Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.
She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.
And I have now been pondering this advice.
What does it mean to remain the same lens across different formats and different genres? It may mean to have the same worldview whatever you write.
Perhaps it is as simple as being pessimistic or optimistic in your writing. Imagine a comedy that is pessimistic or a serious piece that is optimistic. Both can surely be done.
Or a worldview that only important people have value or a worldview that every single person has value.
In my own case, I am a writer who has an underlying (although not necessarily the same) agenda in everything I write. Often my agenda is to portray women in roles in which traditionally only men are portrayed, such as Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders in my co-written screenplay and novel adaptation MOLLIE SANDERS.
I am also conscious of portraying social responsibility in my writing, such as safer sex, safety belt usage, NOT sliding down banisters. Plus I know the topics on which I personally wouldn’t want to write, such as incest or sex trafficking.
Yet I don’t see how this POV of mine would make for a brand in terms of the writing world.
If as a writer you were to be asked your brand, what would be your reply? For purposes of this discussion, the answer can’t just be: “I write romance novels.” It would need to be more, such as: “I write romance novels in which the heroine discovers something life-changing in herself from her encounters with the love interest.”
If you don’t know where to start in thinking about your own brand as a writer, perhaps thinking about some of your favorite writers in terms of brand would be a good starting point.
For example, I really like John le Carré spy novels. Yet I might go further and say that I like John le Carré spy novels because he digs deep under the surface spy story to peel away successive layers of his main characters. I believe that this “peeling away” in every novel of his is a specific brand that greatly appeals to his legions of fans.
I’m still working on defining my own brand. If you would like to share your brand, please do so in the comments below.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is an author and screenwriter in Los Angeles. She can be reached through her website at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com
I’ve been writing poetry by borrowing over people’s feelings. I can sometimes imagine what it would be like to be be someone else. I don’t know that I have an authentic self that’s not empty and could be used for writing purposes. However, I’ve discovered that selling poetry is futile unless one is dead or famous or both.
So, recently, I’ve started on a parody of Pagliacci about the lockdowns of restaurants in California, hypocrisy, and the recall of the governor. I started with a play format outline to tease out a plot line and have been slowly adding poetic elements dramatic and lyrical. I don’t know if I can pull it off but I intend to rhyme the stage directions. I’m a little uncomfortable with an outer omniscient narrator and the inner various persons within a play within a play within a play (actually it’s not that complicated). I suppose I’m into or searching for the desperation brand: whatever gets noticed. At the moment I have the invisible brand, and it’s not efficacious unless a whisper has a name.
What an interesting article, Phyllis. Thanks for it. I have written memoirs, short fiction and children’s books (Myrtle the Purple Turtle series). As I read the start of your post, I wondered if I was breaking an unknown rule. So I was much relieved to read about the idea of bringing an (authentic) lens to one’s books.
In a way, everything we write is a reflection of who we are as people. For example, I started out writing user guides for computer software, but the other two great loves of my life are psychology and biology so now I write character driven speculative fiction. Sometimes my fiction edges into fantasy [aliens with some supernatural powers], but mostly it revolves around how ordinary people deal with major challenges caused by science and tech. And politics, mustn’t forget politics. Rats, I forgot about gaming, and music and food…
Consciously turning my passions into a marketing tool is what branding is all about. On my blog, I try to indulge all of my passions so that when people read my posts, they will get an idea of what kind of person I am, and what kind of story I’m likely to write.
I can’t say that I’ve been wildly successful as an Indie writer, but my ‘branding’ has brought a lot of kindred spirits to my blog – some writers, some not – but all of them are people I’m proud to call friends.
I figure at this rate I should be a best selling author by the time I’m 95. 😉
I just learned that branding could be a logo that fits a blog site and a book genre. Now, this post points out a brand is what you are as a writer. I came up with this. I write historical fiction that centers on the real or imagined complexities of family relationships and the main character’s life changing encounters with love interests. I liked Joylene’s “centering on complexities.” And Phyllis’s “encounters with the love interest.” Thank you both. You made me think. Christine
“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”
I love this!
Not sure I understand this at all. What about those authors who write many genres?
And is that why some of them write different genres under another name?
Wow, I had never heard of branding put in that way before, ‘the same lens and perspective across genres.’ That’s really great and will give me something to think about for a while.
The tagline for me as a writer is “Get inspired to achieve your dreams” and that has come through and been true of both my fiction and non-fiction books.
I appreciate your noble branding, Diane. Especially in this world where so many seem bent on noticing the wrong. Much better to inspire joy.
Thank you for this valuable post, Phyllis. It took me a long time to even realize what branding meant. I’ve narrowed it down to branding my novels as suspense and centring on the complexities of the parent/child relationship. I had to pen five manuscripts before it became clear that I was writing these types of stories subconsciously.
Suspense novels of complex parent/child relationships is an engaging specific brand with a very wide audience!