The things we do – or don't – for an audience

If you’re the kind of person who likes to make money, like me, and you run a blog, like me, and you’ve considered the possibilities of doing the two at the same time — or at least having one lead to the other* — like me, then you’ve probably run across one of those internet advice columns that tells you that what you have to do is define yourself as a brand.

It’s only in this way, they say — only if you can clearly say, this is what I’m about, and consistently and constantly reflect that in your blog and your tweets and your Facebook page — that you will gain a loyal following who will read your content regularly and maybe even click on an ad or two, or buy whatever it is you hope to sell (music, books, your soul).

Author Maureen Johnson had a thing or two to say about that. In a Manifesto that was going around the internet**, she spoke out against that whole crusade with the statement that she is not a brand. She doesn’t want to be held to one idea that defines her, nor does she want to be dehumanized in that idea. She’s a person and she’s multifaceted and she’ll write about whatever she wants.

It’s a bit of an interesting debate. On the one hand, it’s true that I’d like to attract an audience of loyal followers, people who might eventually give me money, spread word of my writing, etc. But I don’t just have one thing to say. I don’t want to be restricted in what I can write about. That’s not why I started a blog. It’s certainly not why I became a writer. That way lies madness!

I had the same conflict a couple weeks ago. A few somewhat-high-profile people/groups have started following me on Twitter over the last few weeks, I guess based on a couple of my more popular posts. And I felt like I had a duty to them to make their following me worthwhile, to tweet and blog about Important Issues. But I came to basically the same conclusion as Maureen Johnson. Yes, I started a blog partially to find an audience, and I started tweeting to help do the same. But I’m not going to restrict what I write about for that.

It just wouldn’t be honest, for one thing. It would be saying “This is Lucas” of one facet of me, and I wouldn’t be able to express any other facet for fear of losing my audience.

So, maybe it won’t help me find a larger audience. Maybe I’ll be stuck with a small few readers a day for a long time — until, say, my first book comes out one day. But those readers will see that I’m a real person with many facets. They’ll know that I’m interested in writing, education, being gay, YA, speculative fiction, publishing, transmedia, music, geekery, and everything else that makes me me.

*Not that I know how making money might lead to writing a blog, specifically.

**Which is to say, I saw it linked to more than once in the internet circles I frequent.

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  1. Cynthia Feldmann

    Hi Lucas,

    Re: Last paragraph, last sentence above: What is/are YA?

    Cheers, Cynthia

    • Lucas J.W. Johnson

      YA is “Young Adult”, the broad designation for books aimed at (approximately) 12-18 -year-olds.

  2. Pingback: The battle of the brands « Words and Things

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