A few years ago a couple of the biggest summer fairs rebranded themselves. Buffalo Days in Regina became the Queen City Ex and Edmonton’s Klondike Days turned into Capital Ex.
- The events had “outgrown” the current names that were related to historical times in favor of more upscale perspectives
- Related parts of the city were going through revitalization
Writers often encounter exactly the same problem of deciding when and how to move beyond an historical brand they’ve realized has grown up over their career. That’s when it’s time to decide whether rebranding or refocusing is the best move.
Rebranding results in a full makeover just like the Rowdy Gang, Pemmican Pete, Pemmican Pearl, and the Heritage Fashion Show disappeared from the Queen City Ex. Refocusing, on the other hand, selects existing elements and puts a new spin on them.
The key way to rebrand is to select a new name like these summer fairs. It’s a time when writers adopt a pseudonym for some, or all, of their work. The writer is reborn without any bad reviews, failed series, incompatible genres, or anything else they’d like to leave behind in their careers or personal life. But I’m not going to talk about pseudonyms today—that’s a topic for a whole different article. Instead, I’m going to explore the things you can do to refocus your brand on the “new” direction you want it to take.
To refocus, the first thing you’ll need to do is separate the brand elements you want to keep from the ones you’d like to leave behind. Go through this checklist, identifying the changes you want to make.
- Vision for your publishing career
- Target readership/audience
- Domain names, social media handles, other promotional online material such as interviews
- Outreach (brand authority you’ve developed in the face-to-face world through education, teaching, speaking, volunteering, the press and more)
- Mentors and professional connections
- Reputation (book reviews, Amazon stars and recommendations, GoodReads comments, awards, and more)
Okay, so what happens if this gets messy? Can you pick and choose, and if you do, how do you pull the new brand together out of the ashes?
Let’s start with the all important vision. Where would you like to be in five years? Somewhere in your career you may have noticed a gradual shift, where you moved towards some markets and away from others. That’s a natural point to reassess your vision.
I always say I can’t get there if I don’t know where I’m going. Jonathon Swift said it much more poetically with: Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.
So, ask yourself what you enjoy writing and who you want to read it. I’ve often fallen into the trap of asking what will I make the most money writing instead—and that’s how I’ve ended up refocusing my brand again and again. Today, with the Internet, where writers have a lot more control over their careers, it’s the passion you put into the writing you want to do that will get you to the money most of the time.
Putting the Pieces Together
Pulling the best pieces of your writing career together is a scavenger hunt rather than a treasure hunt. With treasure hunts, you get a series of clues that lead to the predefined treasure. However, with a scavenger hunt there’s no set path and every player brings back a unique package made up of materials that already exist.
So, pick out the best-of-the-best that fit with your new vision from your checklist of outreach, mentors, and reputation and write them down. Unlike starting over, you’ve got a pile of things to get you started.
Generate a great one line statement or description. Here are a few from the Web. [Not only do these define the writer, but they come up much higher on Google!]
- Paul Lima: Toronto-based Freelance Writer, Copywriter, Business Writer and Business-Writing Trainer.
- The blog of Romance Writer, Mary Morgan: Writing passionate stories with magic (in 2015), rebranded in 2016 to — Be swept away by battles, ancient curses, and magic.
- Silliman’s Blog: A weblog focused on contemporary poetry and poetics.
Spread the Word
To refocus your brand you have to spread the word, and there’s no better way than with social media and Web publishing. The idea is to pick out and emphasize what you want, giving less weight to everything else. How? Let’s look at three ways.
First, revise all of the Web content you have control over. If you have a website, for example, and you want to focus on your contemporary poetry rather than the copyediting you’ve been doing for a decade, redesign it. The new blog or site doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should reflect the mood (copyediting would use a simple design, while poetry may have softer colors, serif fonts, and more imagery). You don’t have to remove the content you have on copyediting, rather you can move it to the background by changing your navigation. Instead of giving it a main heading, put it under a subheading such as an About link.
The same thing is true with other websites where you have information about yourself and your career. Take a good look at your LinkedIn page, for example—does it reflect where you’re going? Go through your SWG profile page and make sure it’s up-to-date and has the right focus too.
Second, if you’re on social media, focus on developing a follower base interested in your refined brand by following others with similar interests. Unfollow anyone who doesn’t fit your new direction. If you’re not on any social media, pick a few, and register with your name or a handle consistent with your refocused brand. You can make sure you’re selecting something original that’s available across many services by using http://knowem.com/.
And finally, set some publishing goals consistent with your new focus. Try new markets, even non-paying ones—think of these types of opportunities as free advertising rather than giving your work away for free. And if that’s not an option, visit sites around the Web that reflect your new brand, leaving thoughtful comments and spreading the URLs on your social media. As Oscar Wilde said, “One has a right to judge a man by the effect he has over his friends.”
[box type=”info”] This article was originally published in Freelance, a print publication of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, in March, 2016. [/box]