There's a lot of pressure on writers these days. Not only do we have to come up with great stories, perfect prose and wonderfully constructed sentences, we also need to think about our brand. Yuck! That's what you're thinking, isn't it? The personal brand. What a load of old nonsense. Or more precisely, what a load of new nonsense. That's not for me. Not a chance.
But it's not a new concept at all. Having a personal brand effectively translates to behaving consistently and in a way that reflects who you are and what you do.
Here comes the fear
The reason all this has become more important is because writers are now expected to help market their work. And it so happens that the place to do this is through the internet and very much in public. Naturally.
Selling yourself as a writer can be quite daunting, but it isn't complicated. Getting it right is almost entirely down to how you behave. You can post as many links on Twitter as you like, but if you don't behave properly, no one is going to give a jot about you or or your writing.
Building a brand is important and nowhere near as unpleasant as it sounds. It's a case of common sense. Here are my three simple suggestions.
Tell the truth
This is pretty straightforward, but incredibly important. Don't say that you are something if you are not. And don't say that you have achieved something that you have not.
Don't put yourself in a situation where, at some point down the line, you have to sheepishly come clean and look like a complete and utter twit.
Of course, it's only natural that you should want to try and stand out from the crowd and sell yourself as much as possible. That's fine. But you have to be straight with people.
Wild exaggeration might get you so far. But integrity and honesty will have a lasting effect on people. Plus you'll feel much better about yourself if you don't have to keep up some facade.
If you're not a best selling author, don't claim that you are. However, if you're a working writer with knowledge and experience, share your thoughts and tell us what you know. We're all ears. We trust you.
This can be difficult. We writers can often feel like the world's against us. If we're not battling writer's block we're having to deal with the injustice of all those ghostwritten, bestselling celebrity memoirs.
Gosh, we have it tough.
Whatever you do, don't repeatedly vent your spleen in public. If you have something to criticise, feel free to be critical, but make sure that what you write is criticism. Don't fall back on whinging.
I say that for two reasons. First, speaking personally (and I think for most others in the online writing community), I don't read articles by other writers to hear them moan. I want to be informed and made to think. Like I say, insightful criticism fine. Whinging bad.
Ultimately, this goes back to the idea of building your brand. You don't want to be labelled a whinger. You don't want it to be part of how other people see you or what they remember you by.
Instead, be considered. Be thoughtful. Be positive.
Just before Christmas I was talking to my agent about Twitter and Write for Your Life. We were talking about building a platform and, well, the things I'm talking about in this post.
We came to the conclusion that a good aim is to try and behave online in a way that, should you then meet a cyberpal in real life, they get pretty much the same person.
I think that's a good rule of thumb. You never know where your online relationships will lead, so don't worry about having to live up to some persona or perceived ideal. Just be nice, be polite and be yourself.
Worrying about how you think you should behave will only stifle you and give people the wrong impression. In my experience, the internet doesn't bite. The writing community is a friendly, supportive place to be.
It's okay to say hello. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to share your ideas.
Is that it?
You know what, I think it pretty much is. There are thousands of articles that will try and tell you how to build your personal identity or sell your whatever. It's really not that difficult.
Integrity is the key. Don't tell fibs, be constructive and don't be anyone else but yourself. Have conversations. Share your work. Enjoy the work of others. Get stuck in. Don't look back.