“Branding” is a buzz word in writing. To be honest, I’ve avoided a lot of the conversation about the subject because I didn’t want to be distracted by it. It seems to me that adopting a brand is like playing to what you think the audience wants. That’s another way of saying guess work. Guess work and people-pleasing.

I bring up the subject because of American Idol. Yes, three years ago, I caved and started watching the highly popular music show. And I’ve stayed with it, though I don’t vote and can’t seem to pick the winners.

But here’s the thing. The judges, who at this stage of the competition are actually critics or advisers, are constantly telling the performers they picked the wrong song. Or that they need to dress younger, sing younger.

One young thing who was eliminated early was the youngest of something like 7 or 8 in her family. She was 17, I think, so that meant her siblings were all adults. I thought, here’s a girl who spends most of her time with adults and probably has “an old soul,” but these judges want her to be who she is not.

Another contestant admittedly shifts between rock and R&B in his performances, because he wants fans to know he has a range. Another singer wanted to show her softer side and got harsh comments from the judges. But when one musician played the piano for the second week in a row, he was told he needed to not be one-dimensional.

So it goes. Brand, it seems, for these musicians is somewhat in the eye of the judges. They don’t want variety until they do. They want the musicians to be themselves until they don’t.

One contestant wore a dress with a big flower-type adornment and was ripped. Two weeks later she wore an unadorned floor-length gown and was told she was dressing too old.

But the mode-style girl with the spikey hair and very with-it attire was equally ridiculed. Not the mode-style guy with black fingernail polish.

So what do I learn about branding in all this, especially as it applies to books?

I learned I should be myself, because you can’t ever please everyone and maybe never please the ones you most are trying to please. For me as a Christian, being myself means being who God has made me, being who He has called me to be.

So I keep writing fantasy. Epic fantasy that is four books long. For good or ill, it’s my brand.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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