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Self-publishing electronically, not in vain

Lament of the Eclectic Author

I’m a bit at odds and ends.

The theory is, you’re supposed to write the same sort of thing, all of the time, so that readers will follow your “brand”. As in, you have a very good idea what you’re getting if you pick up the new John Grisham book, the new Stephen King book, or (god help you) the new Stephanie Meyers book, even if you know nothing at all about that particular book.

This, for me, is a problem. Why? Well…

The book I’m working on is sort of a modern-day vampire western (without an ounce of the supernatural, except perhaps by implication). You could even view it as the anti-Twilight, given one prominent subplot.

After that, I’ve got a few things in the hopper.

  • A post-WWII literary thriller set in Shanghai.
  • A science fiction mystery.
  • A juvenile period mystery-adventure set against a vaudeville background. (First of a potential series!)
  • A modern-day Sullivan’s Travels, but more of a thrillerish thing, not at all a comedy.
  • A re-working of an old Fringe spec script, recast as a one-off novella. (I stopped watching Fringe early in the third season, it just got too baroque and drawn-out in its over-story.)
  • A highly experimental novel that examines the psychology of sudden fame thrust upon a musician ill-prepared for dealing with success. (Starting from a real-life example from my youth, but going different places than life did.)
  • And another thing that, from the outside, would look like a mystery-thriller, but is neither.

Is there any kind of a through-line there? Because I’m not seeing it. Granted, “mystery” and “thriller” pop up a few times, but the vaudeville mystery will have very little in common with, say, the sf mystery. Different tone, different intended audience, different everything.

Now, I have a pretty distinctive voice, even when I’m trying to suppress it and keep out of the way of the story. (I’m not complaining — I like my voice, and enjoy reading my old work. Yup, I’m a narcissist, what?)

But, in terms of typical book marketing theory, how the hell am I supposed to “brand” myself? Strangle my muse and stick to the same sort of story, over and over and over? Do different pseudonyms for each genre? Push the publishing brand rather than Me? Or just hope that, whatever genre, my distinctive voice will attract regular readers to the rest of my books?

Frankly, no idea, but I am not strangling the muse.

Ever.

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2 responses to “Lament of the Eclectic Author

  1. Catana 18 April 2011 at 7:37 am

    That kind of branding supposes that everyone wants predictability in their reading. The most popular books are undoubtedly the ones that fulfill readers’ expectations — formulas that they’re familiar with and want more of. The publishing industry operates by one rule: keep doing what’s been successful. If you now have the freedom to self-publish, why would you limit yourself to such old thinking? Are you writing for a mass market? If not, then find your own “brand,” assuming that some form of branding is a necessity. It could be your voice, the themes you explore, the unexpected twists you pull off. The market for the unusual, the unexpected, may be smaller than the profitable mass market, but it’s there.

    • D. Jason Fleming 18 April 2011 at 9:51 am

      Catana:

      I’m getting into self-publishing more because of the low overhead and the prospect of controlling how my writing gets out into the world than as any sort of indictment of The Industry. I actually see a lot of value in genre and even “formula” as storytelling tools. It’s just that my own interests are too eclectic to really chain myself to any one thing.

      As for the market I’m aiming for, I’m hoping it will be mass enough to be able to support myself solely off of my writing once I have three our four books available. I don’t expect to get rich, but making the equivalent of a nice lower-middle class salary off of my writing would be very nice, and I’m trying to figure out how to do that. Time will tell, I guess. 🙂

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