The unbranded product.
My far flung rabbi and I have been discussing the relentless self promotion that is part and parcel of writing these days. Authors must do a great deal more than produce deathless prose. They must post film clips on Youtube, blog like crazy and maintain a web site that markets the writer as well as his product. They must also post at least one free book on Amazon.com's Kindle and hope that the freebie will convince the reader to buy other works. One puzzling aspect of this Kindle business is that an author can make Amazon's bestseller list without selling a single book. Puzzled? So am I.
My rabbi reminds me that self promotion precedes Youtube. Mark Twain, Dickens and Oscar Wilde went on books tours to publicise their work, she says, forgetting that to compare book tours to today's aggressive self marketing is akin to comparing apples and oranges. Self marketing. That is a scary expression. According to a cyber guru, human beings--authors included--are products in need of branding. "And branding isn't just for products anymore."
This little gem by product Tom Peters--does he have a bar code and expiration date?--frightened the bejesus oit me, Management guru Tom Peters, writing in his book The Brand You50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an "Employee" into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion! states: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are the of our own companies: Me, Inc.” Who knew?
Reading this sort of advice creates havoc with my stomach. Whatever happened to the honorable old way of relying on a combination of skill and talent? Was Pascal a product? Was Rabelais? I don't think so. Georges Sand , whose dreadful potboilers no one reads anymore and Balzac, who wrote like a cherub, did court public attention in a big way. Sand wore trousers and smoked cigars, Balzac flaunted fancy clothes, fancy carriages, and a spurious de to make folks think he belonged to the French nobility. How sad that he could not see that his genius placed him above the inbred, predatory people who won the privilege of attaching the aristocratic de to their surnames by exploring the poor and the weak. Balzac had what is known in contemporary parlance as "issues." he did not empower himself, he failed at self branding and he entirely missed Youtube. Even so, his books endure.
But ours is a brave new world where the money equals success. Wanna be successful? "Ramp up the self marketing," and "'generate ideas in moderation," as a certain Scott Belski advises. Good enough. If you don't mind, I'm off to identify my passions, build my knowledge base, find a niche audience and engage with people in a meaningful way. See me at Youtube.