As part of my strategy to expand my book sales to more people who will like my books, I have been researching author branding again. There is plenty of advice out there about engaging with the audience: some of it so proactive many might categorise it spam; some so restrained even people who already know about you probably won’t notice. One of the debates that especially caught my eye is: avoid politics, religion, and other controversial topics. Which to me appears both harder than it seems and possibly unnecessary.
At the heart of the branding discussion is agreement that authors need to be interesting to their audience, and – whilst the method differs depending on where the person lies on the spam vs silence spectra – that this involves having a personality beyond the books themselves.
Although there are some who suggest pretence, this interesting personality is generally accepted to come from talking about the things that most interest you: your enthusiasm will make any topic more exciting; whereas lack of interest will infect the most thrilling events with tedium.
The case made by the uncontroversialists is some topics are vastly polarising: there is only so much interaction you get with a potential member of your audience so you will gain a greater audience from talking about your interests than being noticeable for strong opinions.
The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
– Harper Lee
Their advice for authors who blog is – when not blogging about their writing – to write articles about their job, their hobbies, and other things they do when not writing.
However, I have worked in law for most of my adult life; a significant proportion of the time I spend with friends is spent discussing politics or morality; I am a member of the Green Party.
Much of what I do when not writing is politics and other controversial topics.
I am also uncertain about the underlying assumption: people will not read my books because they do not agree with everything I say. I do not know the politics of every author I read, but I have not turned away from a book because I know the author does not share my beliefs; and, I suspect I am not alone in reading both Heinlein and Doctorow, both Moorcock and Lovecraft.
I might be wrong, and I might change my mind in the future, but for now I will not be keeping silent in case it puts a potential reader off.
Are there topics you are passionate about that you don’t blog about? Do you believe readers deserve to know the real you?