I wish I could say that this post was going to provide the insights and ideas that any self-publishers might need or want, in seeking to distill the brand that they would like to create for themselves. Nope. This is more by way of a question to the Cosmos: Help! I don’t know what to do!
So there are a lot of challenges in self-publishing. There’s kind of an ideal convergence of factors that have to come together, in order for such endeavours to thrive–or even to achieve some modicum of success. Things like putting together a professional package, marketing it to the right people in the right way (and the fact with that is that what worked last year might well not work this year because we’re already inured to that novelty). This is the stuff that the publishers offered–or tried to.
But the challenge that is plaguing me right now is that of branding. So I like the Crow Girl brand (obviously–or I wouldn’t have chosen it). For me it’s a little bit creepy, a little bit tricky, and a little bit plain. It intrigues me, and since blackbirds, crows and ravens have fascinated me for a very long time indeed (one anniversary, my husband got me a carved ring from Tofino, depicting Raven in all his glory. I love it and wear it always–and even that was just the marker of a far older affinity).
But what about the rest of it? The other stuff that needs to be figured out–viz. the branding for the book? See, here’s the thing: I have written this book that I love. And sure, that’s a good start. I can even edit it–I’ve developed the skill over the years of being able to cut stuff, and shape things and be reasonably ruthless with my own prose.
But how the heck do I brand it? This is terra incognita.
This is what the publishers do. This is what, until about 1.5 weeks ago, I had figured I didn’t need to know.
I mean, even though you hear stories about the disastrous branding of some book or other, of the author who is deeply chagrined by the chosen branding of the so-called “experts” in the industry, the fact of the matter is, they are as expert as anyone out there can be in this. They know what they’re doing. If the brand is off, it’s a miscalculation, perhaps, but they have a lot to lose too, if it doesn’t do well. And often as not, they actually get the branding just right. And people are drawn to those books. Nor is it just people in general–it’s the audience they want. The target audience.
But now, I’m the publisher. And, in publishing myself, I have to figure out how to brand this book of mine, that I created and that I like, knowing that the wrong choice will do the book a disservice. I have to become expert in something I’ve never done before.
I have severely limited means (like seriously–law school is expensive. I have NO money and am unlikely to have any for a good few years to come. I’m living on air and borrowed sums) and resources, and I need to figure this out. Any suggestions would be most welcome indeed.
And yet, though I want to do right by this book, the stakes aren’t as high as they used to be. I won’t have a basement full of badly branded books, if I find that I misfired on the first try. Maybe I’ll incur some added expense for cover art, some time spent uploading new cover files. But ultimately, it’s a flexible medium.
And as my own publisher, I don’t need to give Kat Anthony the author’s book a fixed deadline to start performing, before I oust it from the shelves in favour of the next title in my catalogue. I can keep it out there indefinitely. I can build and grow an audience, slowly, one reader at a time, just like authors used to do back in the day, at the various indie bookstores, where the books would sit on the shelves for a while and get a chance to catch on. Before the innovations of computerized tracking of sell-throughs and all those other efficiencies that clamped down on the authorial window of opportunity to capture an audience. So maybe I don’t have to be expert right away.
Maybe I can just do my best, then see what happens, and adjust my course as and if necessary. Though the nice thing about navigating into the unknown is that the course has yet to be charted, and so long as I go forward with an open mind, I will be enriched by this experience, no matter how the book fares and whether the brand falters or not!