Friday, September 25, 2015


Shortly after I began publishing books, someone advised me to brand myself. (We didn't use the word brand back then.) She said that those who write in only one area build a reading audience and are more likely to achieve success. It was good advice.

At the time I was writing a number of articles on marriage (and had already sold one book on the topic). I could have made that my focus. But I asked myself, "How much can I say about marriage?"

The problem with branding is that, once established, it's difficult to move out of your little corner of the publishing world. As you build audiences, they choose to read you and stay with you—but they don't move into new genres with you. For example, fiction readers rarely shift when their favorite novelist writes nonfiction. They simply find a new favorite who writes in the areas they like to read.

I understood that, and I took a big risk because I decided that I was going to write whatever touched me, regardless of the results. I'm an anomaly, and I recommend others to take the advice I rejected.

I fell into ghostwriting because an editor read something I wrote and asked me to ghost for his publishing house. (I did 35 books for them.) In one sense, I branded myself, but I also wrote on a variety of topics because I ghosted everything from autobiographies to diet books to business.

I've written fiction (including three cozy mysteries), and even in nonfiction I've moved into a wide variety of genres. Yet my own work hasn't sold as well as books I've done for other people. Years ago I assumed that would be the way, and I was correct.

I write this because some beginning writers think they'll impress agents or editors by saying, "I have a romance, a YA novel, and a self-help for housewives who need easy ways to simplify their lives."

They don't grasp the concept of building a consistent following. Think of any celebrity in any field. A few years ago I was in New York City and got tickets to see Chicago with George Hamilton. He had a nice suntan, but I doubt that he'll ever make it as a singer.

Get the idea? Your fans like what you write because you write what they want to read. It's that simple. My advice, brand yourself. Find your area—the genre—where you write with the greatest passion.

Maybe it's possible to move to a new genre once you're established, but . . . for now, mark your spot in the publishing world, and write the best you can.

You might want to move on later. And that's the significant word: later. Focus on the word now.

I seek to find my genre
and then become the best I can in my chosen area.

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