Over the past few months I’ve had one of those gradual realizations at the core of my being that creates a sea change in how I look at things and how I see my place in the larger scheme of things. This isn’t one of those sudden epiphanies, nor is it one of those things that you understand logically but still can’t embrace on some deeper level. No, this goes way beyond that and to the level of acceptance of how things really are and how best to function in terms of how things really are.
Kristen Lamb’s recent post, Why Our Author Brand is More Important Than Ever Before, lays it out succinctly: People buy more books via Amazon, both ebooks and print books, than via any other means. Shopping and browsing for the books that will appeal can be pretty overwhelming, so there’s a point past which most shopping readers won’t bother to look or make a decision. Getting the attention of one’s target audience requires a certain kind of approach. The base line of this approach is branding.
Lamb’s followup post, The Secret to a Powerful Author Brand, puts it in actionable terms. In a nutshell, you’ve gotta make the most of your own style and then give yourself permission to express that style, not only in your books but in your social media–even if it means putting up a lot of posts or tweets or statuses about cats.
That’s right–I ought to be sharing more of life at Chez Meg and about quirky or interesting things that I discover while in the course of researching for my novels–and much less about the writing process itself or the availability of my books at occasional discounts. Those are the posts that are most likely to be shared by readers, which in turn can engender more readers. Makes sense. It probably explains why I don’t post more often than I do, since I am trying hard to keep this a writing-oriented blog–and there’s only so much I can say about the writing process that doesn’t actually take away some valuable writing-process time.
Another related thing that’s become clearer to me over the course of the summer is that I write traditional mysteries–murder mysteries that involve research, philosophical considerations, and puzzle-solving, and not, strictly speaking, cozies. Amazon doesn’t give a lot of options for sub-classifying one’s mystery as traditional, although that option is available for British mysteries. And I write my heroine in the manner of women’s fiction.
Some authors that also write philosophically about a sleuth’s personal dilemmas and tough choices while she is compelled to discover whodunit and why–in varying styles–would be Elly Griffiths, Caroline Haines, Susan Wittig Albert, Katherine Hall Page, Mary Daheim, Louise Penny, and, in his Isabel Dalhousie series, Alexander McCall Smith. There are others, too, and if you think of any, let me know.
Understanding the finer distinctions in approach also helps with branding. As a fairly new novelist, I’m developing my own way of writing, and my sleuth and her world are becoming less amorphous and more fleshed out with each book. I guess it just takes time to know what I’m all about, since I’m developing my work from the bottom up, and allowing it to evolve.