Branded by J.L. Murray

Author J. L. Murray

In my travels in the last year as an indie writer, I’ve learned a thing or two about selling my books. I’ve also learned what not to do. What to do and what not to do are what you always hear bloggers and writers screaming from the rooftops. It’s mostly people getting their panties in a bunch about spamming and establishing your brand. After a while, it makes your ears bleed, you hear it so many times. Spamming I get. It’s annoying. People don’t like to have their nose rubbed in your book. But branding? It just sounds painful and unnecessary to me. Like professional wrestling. Or dating Donald Trump.

No matter how many times I hear it, building a brand sounds more and more like a race car driver, plastering Pepsi and Conoco stickers all over his car and his person. This is what I think of when people talk about brands. Like writers are walking around with stickers all over their nobbly sweaters reading Paranormal Romance and Rock and Roll Horror Fiction and Zombie Erotica. Which makes me think that maybe the so-called gurus that tell us what do do may not have it right. What if these people telling you what to do are (gasp!) wrong? That would mean, of course, that I’m probably wrong, but if you’re familiar with my brand, that might not surprise you.

Maybe, just maybe, we should worry less about the brand and more about the writing.

Go onto any ebook list on Amazon, and you’ll find a lot of crap. Consumers don’t know what they want. They just see the shiny book with the pretty girl making out with the werewolf and they buy it because it looks pretty, or interesting, or the description sounds different than the other books they’ve been reading. Then, if they like it, they buy something that looks exactly the same. Maybe as writers our responsibility isn’t to build our brand. Maybe our responsibility is to write something wonderful, something lasting. Something that spends less than 75% of the book having sex with fairies. Maybe our brand could be good writing. People would buy that, right? Damn right. Put a shiny cover on that bad boy, a sparkling synopsis, and people will buy it.

I propose a phenomenon. Stop building your brand. What are you a billboard? Just stop. Right now. Go to your computer and write something meaningful. Stop trying to figure out what’s going to sell and just write. And when you’re done, write something better. There’s your brand right there. Literature, remember that? Good luck. By the looks of things, we’re going to need it.


J.L. Murray is an indie writer through her own publishing company, Hellzapoppin Press. She is the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and the upcoming The Devil Is a Gentleman, as well as many short stories that no one will ever, ever find. You can catch up to her at her foul-mouthed blog, or check out her fan page JL Murray on Facebook. She uses Twitter under the handle of @jlmurraywriter.


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35 thoughts on “Branded by J.L. Murray

  1. I'm probably making a huge mistake, but I write only what I want to write. I don't write for any particular genre; the genre (or lack thereof) gets defined only after I key in "The End."

  2. This line says it all: "Maybe, just maybe, we should worry less about the brand and more about the writing."

    Absolutely! Great post, J.L.

  3. Amen, JL. I've been wondering about this. Seems there is a lot of hype about brands, but not too much about writing more, concentrate on your writing, etc. Great post.

  4. My mum could knit sweaters with the brand as part of the stitching – no need for those irritating stickers on the front. She once made my husband a sweater with his name all around the bottom, and a hat to match that said 'Who's a Good Boy?' I reckon 'Vampire detective romance' would be no trouble at all.

  5. A bottle of wine is always good. Meanwhile, I love your Hellzapoppin Press name. Reminds me of a Louis Armstrong, the Jazz great and his song.

    Your a breath of fresh air in our group.

  6. Ah, yes, more writing, less branding/marketing. I could certainly dig that. I have far too many books completed and not published, maybe I meed more time to edit/format. Too bad I can't teach the horses to muck out their own stalls…

  7. J. L. I am a photographer as well as an author. Please allow me to suggest that you edit the picture above to cut out those parts that add no meaning just as we edit our books to cut out unnecessary verbiage. Crop, or edit out with a photo editor, the door chain and the white space to the right. If you merely crop the picture and maintain the square format, that will cost some of the air over your head and some of your body from the picture, both of which I like, but are not necessary to convey your intent.

    So, beyond that, I agree with you. Bob

  8. A writer can err at both ends of the spectrum: closeted artists with too little concern for the public, as well as brandomaniacs with too little concern for their craft. A happy medium is the safe bet… I mean, we don't have to choose between thinking and talking, right?

    1. Russil, that is perfectly stated. I think Lois Lewandowski has a great formula for branding AND writing – she takes advantage of the tools which are made available – in a subtle and convenient way. I hope you've had time to check out her posts here at IU as well. 🙂

    2. Probably a non-sequitur but that's how my brain works. This reminds me of the quote from the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz " But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?":-)

      Good post.

    1. I will try to curb my penchant for the fae. That said, the zombie erotica is okay but the fairy sex is not? You have issues, my friend.

  9. lolz – this post and the comments were very funny and I enjoyed them immensely but…in a world where one shiny cover looks like every other shiny cover, how does even the best of writing get noticed? I've now stumbled across some extraordinary indie authors but all of them are struggling to be 'heard', not because their work is not good enough but because there are so few places where they can be found. Amazon is a black hole unless readers already know your name and bookshops are closed to indies. So if branding is not the answer – and I don't think it is – then how does a good product distinguish itself from all the other shinies out there?

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