Friday, April 29, 2016

Self-Publishing A to Z: World Building vs. Brand Building

Welcome to the Trogloblog--for April, I'm participating in the epic A to Z Blogging Challenge, where Monday through Saturday, I'll be posting a letter-themed article about Self-Publishing...


If you're an Author, you've no doubt heard the term "world building" before. It's often used to describe the meticulous planning of fictional worlds for works fiction works. I think there's a much greater usage of the term. One that involves building up your fictional work in a manner similar to "branding". 

What is branding? It's some crazy concept that you need to sell readers on YOU, not your work. Be cool, clever and funny. Be likable and people will become interested in what you write. This may just be the stupidest advice I've seen yet in the self-publishing world...

No matter how much you like an Author doesn't determine if you'll like what they wrote. I like Adam Carolla, but I'd rather hear his standup routine than read it in the form of his non-fiction books where he waxes angrily like a modern-day Norman Rockwell with 'roid rage. Yes, Carolla is funny, introspective, and makes several good points per minute. But I don't like reading that kind of stuff. I like reading ACTION. Fictional Action. Like James Bond, Doc Savage, or The Destroyer. 

And what about the reverse of author branding? If I really like someone's work, does that mean I'll like them? No. I've read countless books that when I researched the author I was like "Oh. I see." I'm not a fan of the person, I'm a fan of the product. The same can be said about actors and musicians--they produce something I like, but I'm not particularly fond of them or their need to spew political diatribe all the time. 

Author branding is wasted effort--something those publishing for the ego stroke, not as a business, might chase after. It's also targeting the wrong demographic: sheeple. I don't want someone to buy my book because they like me (if I did, I'd probably only sell to my friends). I want someone to buy my book because they enjoyed something else I've written. That way they'll actually read it, and be excited about the next project. 

And that brings me back to world building, also called "Product Line." If fans like what you wrote, don't move on to something else and bury the world you just made. Expand upon it. Movies and TV series prove customers want more of the same. Can you imagine if there had only been one Harry Potter book? There'd by no movies or merchandise. Harry would be an obscure character long forgotten in one of a plethora of fictional universes. He wouldn't even qualify to be a question on Jeopardy.

World building means just that: build your world. Not by writing thousands of pages of background information you will only ever see. Build your world by writing more and more sequels. Expand into movies, trading cards, t-shirts. Give the reader a world of stuff related to the fictional universe you've created. The more stuff you churn out, you might just increase your sales. Readers do tend to favor series over standalones. 

So relax, fellow introverts. No need to throw yourself into the spotlight and beg for virtual friends. Write good, often and a lot, and sell your product, not yourself. 

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