Author Branding (Part Two) Developing a Brand Voice

by | August 6, 2021 | General | 1 comment

Ashley Lister

I’m going to put the word consistency in this first sentence as a piece of foreshadowing because, in talking about developing a brand voice, the key is to be consistent.

For example: you’ve written a witty erotic romance that shines a new light on the well-worn fabric of the heteronormative BMG (Boy Meets Girl) story. You’re wanting to shout about it on social media because you believe everyone will get a thrill from this narrative. All sounds good so far.

But, with author branding, you’ve got to keep your brand voice consistent.

Why should we care what others think of our brand voice? Is it worth being political? Is it worth supporting a cause? Should I stop swearing? Are you suggesting I should stop being me?
I’ll answer each of these questions below.

Why should we care what others think of our brand voice?
Whilst we’re trying to sell our books, sometimes this involves selling ourselves: which means making our brand voice an attractive package.

It’s easy to forget that, as writers, we are trying to sell ourselves on a daily basis. But writers do this all the time and we buy into this transactional mindset. I’m looking forward to buying the latest Stephen King. Later this month I’ll be sitting down to read one of my favourite Lisabet Sarai’s. There’s a new Mitzi Szereto just been released that looks like a lot of fun. I often buy books based on who the authors are and this has substantially come about through their personal brand voices.

I appreciate some authors are reading these words thinking, “If someone doesn’t like my brand voice, they can fuck off and read someone else’s books.” This is a wholly appropriate response – and people with that attitude clearly have a forthright brand voice already. It won’t be appealing to everyone but the air of independence and insouciance is attractive to many readers and, if it’s working for you, keep it working.

For the rest of us, the chance to gain some favour with a larger audience doesn’t usually come through telling readers to fuck off. It involves being on our best behaviour, as though mummy has just sent us to a children’s party and we’ve been told to play nicely with the other children. We remember our please and thank you and we only speak after considering those three pillars of communication: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Why should we care what others think? Because, if people think I’m an arrogant piece of shit with a crappy attitude before they’ve learnt that I’m an author, they’re unlikely to throw money at me to read my fiction.

Is it worth being political?
No. But don’t let that stop you if you feel passionately about the subject. I constantly post political material on my FaceBook page and Twitter feed. I have left-wing politics, and there’s a strong chance this is alienating any potential right-wing readers, so I’m thinking of pulling back from such things. Partly, this is because I want to increase sales for my material and I don’t want to antagonise potential readers for something as irrelevant to my writing as my political beliefs. And, partly, this is because I don’t think anyone has ever read one of my shared memes and thought, “Goodness! Ashley’s right. I must change political allegiances.” I’m clearly preaching to an echo chamber of people who share my personal beliefs and I can think of more fruitful things to share on social media.

Is it worth supporting a cause?
It’s always worth supporting good causes. I’m not suggesting this should be done as a way of capitalising on the good name of any charity to improve personal sales or promote brand identity. But if you want to use your work to benefit others, that’s admirable and deserves to be applauded.

Should I stop swearing?
Do you swear in real life? Do expletives and epithets appear in your fiction? If swearing is a part of who you are and what you already produce, then swearing should definitely be a part of your brand voice. Admittedly, this is going to be a turn-off for some potential readers but it saves them being pissed off and giving a one-star review after they’ve bought your book and then being butt-hurt from reading the word shit-weasel. (I used the word shit-weasel in my novella Fearless, although I’ve only heard good things about this from people saying they want to use it as their go-to expletive).

However, if your witty heteronormative BMG story contains no swearing, and is aimed at a readership who eschew taboo language, then I’d say give it a miss.

Ricky Gervais once commented online that people who don’t like the word c*nt, wouldn’t hear it so much if they didn’t keep acting like c*nts. This is a comment from a celebrity whose admirers understand that he swears and they take no offence at the taboo language. Similarly, those people who are offended by his use of the C-word are reminded to avoid Gervais and his particular brand of comedy.

Are you suggesting I stop being me?
Never. Developing a brand voice is all about presenting the version of you that most accurately reflects how you best want to communicate. Are you a witty person? Share jokes and make people smile. Are you an inspirational writer? Share inspirational thoughts and words of wisdom. Share material that reflects the side of your personality that If anything, I’m suggesting we go back to those three pillars of communication I mentioned before and add a fourth one: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Does it reflect the way I want to be perceived? If you can answer yes to all four of those questions, I’d say you’re definitely developing your brand voice.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.

1 Comment

  1. lisabet sarai

    Hi, Ash!

    First of all, thanks for the plug!

    The first time I read this and saw the word “consistency”, I thought “No way! I don’t have a brand voice because I write in so many different styles and genres.” Then, upon re-reading, I realized that variety and unpredictability are actually important aspects of my brand voice.

    About politics… I am often tempted to air my political views, but I usually suppress that urge. You’re right… I’m not going to change someone’s mind. In any case, I have to respect other people’s rights to their own views, even if I vehemently disagree with those views. After all, I want that same respect.

    Anyway, we can disagree about politics… but sex might bring us together!

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Hot Chilli Erotica


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