The Negative Side of Branding

"Not what I expected!"


Recently, an author made an appearance at a pay venue to discuss his new novel about the New York art world.  The interview went so “badly” that the venue offered all ticket holders a $50 gift certificate, essentially giving them a full refund. But what was so terrible about it?

The author was discussing…. art.

And he wasn’t funny.

Now, I haven’t actually read his book, but from the reviews I’ve seen on it, the book isn’t exactly a laugh a minute, nor is it meant to be. So, why would the audience being so angry that they’d want a refund?

Because the author was Steve Martin. And, what is Steve Martin known for? The funny, of course. Never mind that his novel, An Object of Beauty, isn’t particularly a humorous book, ticket buyers still expected to laugh because it is Steve Martin, after all.

We’ve been discussing author branding lately and, in my opinion, this is an example of extreme branding. Steve Martin is known as being funny and when he went outside that sphere,despite the fact that he was on topic, his fans didn’t like it. People get to know you as one thing, and that’s what they expect from you and when you go outside of that you run the risk of negative reactions. Sure, the 92nd Y probably won’t be offering a refund to your fans, but Amazon just might.

(link to original article)

30 thoughts on “The Negative Side of Branding

  1. Ruth Ann Nordin December 7, 2010 / 1:23 pm

    This is awful. I watched a movie based off something he wrote which was a drama that he also acted it about a little girl whose adopted parents were fighting a lawsuit from the birth mother to keep. He has a lot of serious moments in him, and it’s rude and stupid that those people acted this way. The man is entitled to wear two masks instead of one.

    You know what I think? I think people are to fickle. They get all bent out of shape over things that don’t even matter and make life miserable for the rest of us. You know what I became known as, ‘The author with free reads.’ Now I’m dealing with a backlash in my inbox because I’ve now put a price tag on my books. Meanwhile, these people who claim they absolutely cannot afford $2.99 for my book are spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas trees and gifts. Yeah, I’m just a little peeved.

    Author branding downside is the childish response of the people, not anything the author did that was wrong. Why in the world do we, as authors, have to cater to their whims? I’d rather stop publishing altogether than deal with that mindset. (Can you tell I’m having one of those ‘Maybe I should quit?’ moments?) Still, I think it’s disgusting they treated Steve Martin that way.

    • Maureen Gill December 7, 2010 / 4:44 pm

      Good God, don’t quit… I know the feeling but let it pass… it will.

      I think we’re all longing for the past… when a writer could do just that: write. Not Tweet, Twit, Frit, Friend, Blog, Brand, Market, Tweet and Twit again.

      The demands of social networking are wearisome.

      As for Steve Martin; I’m appalled. I would love to hear what this guy really thinks about a wide world of things. Such idiots…

      • Ruth Ann Nordin December 8, 2010 / 2:22 pm

        I had to search long and hard yesterday, and honestly, I’d rather cut back on all the marketing I’ve been doing. I know it means less sales which means less money, but I’m not happy where I’m at. I was happier last year when I made significantly less. I just might have to realize that being the next Zoe Winters or JA Konrath, etc is not for me. I might be the woman who works at the local school in her daytime so she could come home, help her husband put food on the table, and then goes off to write when the kids are all settled for the night. And if that is the lot given me, there are worse things that could happen.

        I couldn’t stop writing. It’s in my blood. I just won’t write as much as I do now if I work outside the home, that’s all.

        And this makes me appreciate Steve Martin even more. It’s refreshing to see this side of him because he feels more human to me.

        • Stephannie Beman December 8, 2010 / 7:41 pm

          I think you should do what makes you happy and screw the rest of the world. It’s your life, and your books. Like you said, you write because you enjoy it, take the fun out of it and it’s just another job.

          • Ruth Ann Nordin December 9, 2010 / 5:52 pm

            That’s so true. It does become just another job. It’s also been harder for me to know what ‘I’ want to write vs. what other people want me to write. I didn’t have that problem before I began to worry about all this marketing crap.

    • Joleene Naylor December 8, 2010 / 9:13 am

      I agree with you. I was shocked when i read that. For crying out loud, he has a right to do whatever he wants at his show you are paying to see HIM, not the other way around. I would pay to see Ville Valo just sit in a chair. I don’t even care if he talks, and if he wanted to talk art, more power to him. It’s HIS show. The entertainment consumer has gotten out of control in some instances, and I think this was one of them!

      One thing, if they are fickle then that means the backlash is temporary! I think it’s a matter of reaching new readers, though don’t ask me how to do that. That’s one of my shortcomings….

      • Ruth Ann Nordin December 8, 2010 / 2:17 pm

        Well, I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about trying to reach out for new fans anymore. It’s too time consuming and stressful. I started self-publishing because I loved to write. Now I spend so much time trying to appease everyone because I get lodged with complaints, esp in regards to the free reads. Yeah, I trained those people well. But I’ve decided I’m not going that route anymore, and if paying customers get ticked, then so be it. I still have a couple things up for free, but it’s no longer going to be like it was. So reaching new readers on my part would probably take doing blog tours, guest posts, a ton of marketing in yahoo groups, etc, but in all honest, I’d rather just sit back and write because that is what I started this all for anyway.

        I’m sure Steve Martin has a love for the finer and more sobering things in life, and a part of him wants to share that aspect of him. If those people can’t appreciate that there are more facets to him than that narrow box they stuck him in, then it’s their loss. I think this whole fiasco may lead to more sales for him because some people will be curious at what that side of him is like while the people stuck on ‘comedy mode’ for him will lose out.

        What I find so ironic in this whole thing is that these people wouldn’t like it if someone only labeled them as a ‘mom’ or a ‘dad’ or a ‘daughter/son’, etc. No. They want people to understand there are many layers to them. But then, that is how some people are. They are unable to see their own shortcomings while judging others.

        This was an awesome post, Jo!

        • Joleene Naylor December 9, 2010 / 3:39 am

          Yeah, i was just telling a lady today who has had no sales wanted to know if I also did marketing for my book cover clients (?) that unless her book is set to free, she will have to promote it and that promotions can take longer than writing. This is why I don;’t do much on it I have low sales numbers, but i never intend to make a living at it because I find that the poeple who do are… well, let’s just say I am not on the same page as many of them, who I think take themselves and their work far too seriously. Valuing your work is one thing, but there’s a line that some cross where they get into the realm of pompous, and I don’t ever want to wake up and find myself there!(okay a bit unrelated, but, oh well 😉 )

          • Ruth Ann Nordin December 9, 2010 / 5:57 pm

            I agree. I’ve noticed the same thing, and those people are highly unapproachable. I don’t want to get that way either. Even if the bad times this year have been horrible to go through, I look back and am thankful for them because those were the times that kept me level. I’d rather be a penniless nice person than a rich jerk. Everyone wants to befriend the rich guy, but it’s only your real friends who befriend you when you’re nobody, and I’d rather have real friendships.

            • Joleene Naylor December 10, 2010 / 2:21 am

              Yeah, me too! I went through a bit last year where it was like “I need to become one of these people so I can be successful” and then i stopped and thought about whether this “success” was worth it. In the end I decided not so much. Besides, they say slow and steady wins the race…

              • Stephannie Beman December 10, 2010 / 4:00 pm

                Or builds a stronger, better, and firmer foundation. 😀

  2. ascensionforyou December 7, 2010 / 3:37 pm

    Agree with you Ruth….there’s nothing so quaint as folk…. enlightening / alarming article Joleene….thanks Dave

  3. Alannah Murphy December 7, 2010 / 3:41 pm

    People like to typecast others. Once you get known for something, that’s it, you’re expected to be that person ALL the time. It’s a bit silly really. How pathetic of the audience. I experienced the same thing when I went to see Peter Murphy last year. Lots of idiots were yelling at him to ONLY perform Bauhaus songs, as if his 20 plus years of his solo career didn’t count for anything! He told them off, good for him.

    You do raise a very good point you know. One of those things that really makes you think….

    • Joleene Naylor December 8, 2010 / 9:23 am

      Yeah it is so easy to put someone in a box and expect nothing but “that” from them. I’ve noticed even just from blogging that it happens to me in a smaller way. I’ve had many blog subscribers leave because I “do too many different things” while many other are only interested in one kind of thing, whether it be short stories, poetry, photography, art work or what I call my “random posts”. I notice there is/was a different crowd depending on what I posted. (I say was because right now the whole Myspace blogging community is gasping it’s last, so it looks like it’s going to be a matter of starting the personal blog somewhere else… eargh!)

      • Stephannie Beman December 8, 2010 / 9:24 pm

        I know authors that create accounts for every new subject instead of losing readers. You can just create another blog with wordpress to act as your personal blog and not have to worry about creating a new account. Then all you have to do is post your stuff. You can also make it a private account and share it only with friends. I have about 5 wordpress blogs. You might be able to export everything from MySpace and bring it to your new blog like I did with LiveJournal. Kids are yelling in my ear.

        • Joleene Naylor December 9, 2010 / 3:42 am

          There is an exodus project going on right now where we are all”supposed” to go to the same place once it’s chosen.

          how did you transfer your stuff from Myspace?

          Hee-hee, yeah I have more than one wordpress blog under this account – it’s soooooo convenient that way!

          • Stephannie Beman December 9, 2010 / 8:22 pm

            I don’t know if you can. I never really did much on MySpace so I didn’t have to do that. I’d look at the Myspace settings and see if you can export your posts and comments as a file and then import it to WordPress.

            • Ruth Ann Nordin December 9, 2010 / 9:52 pm

              I don’t see anywhere on the import setting for WordPress to import myspace posts. I manually copied my old posts that I felt I might use again into my new WordPress blog before I closed my myspace account.

            • Joleene Naylor December 10, 2010 / 2:30 am

              Oh! I thought you meant you had exported from Myspace to LiveJournal… i see now it was from LiveJournal to wordpress. D’oh!

              Yeah, I’ve looked everywhere and tried every trick to export, but the codes aren’t compatible because, being the spaz’s they are, MySpace couldn’t have a blog system that gelled with anyone else….

              I think I’ll end up copying and pasting any relevant ones, though I have over 800 to weed through *groans*

  4. Stephannie Beman December 7, 2010 / 3:59 pm

    The idiots didn’t get the point. They couldn’t distinguish the actor brand from the author brand. This is why diversity is good for actors as well as authors. It’s also why authors take numerous pen names, they don’t want to turn off their potential readers. If you specialize your brand you are trapping yourself. If you generalize, you leave yourself room to move. But wether or not you brand yourself, your readers have already done it.

    • Joleene Naylor December 8, 2010 / 9:26 am

      Yep! The first thing I thought of when I saw that was “pity he couldn’t have used a pen name”. But being Steve Martin, I’m sure the publishers want/need his name attached to it rather than a pen name.

      Oh yes. Even no authors are branded. If you’re good at something and become known in any circle for that one talent then you’re branded. My hubby is known as the “guy who fixes computers”. he does a lot of other things, but when someone in his circle needs a PC fixed, they think of him automatically, and when they think of him they think of someone who fixes computers… I think it’s a strange human desire to classify everything in an effort at organization…

      • Stephannie Beman December 8, 2010 / 9:01 pm

        The need to label things is a very human thing, but labels can be dangerous or lead to some fun surprises later.

        Like you husband, I was labeled by my mom’s family as the shy, not so brilliant, bookworm (if you’re wondering, yes I was told that to my face a few times). If you wanted to know a good book to read just ask Stephannie. But revenge is sweet when you can shock the hell out of them. When I was 17 we went to Thanksgiving dinner at my aunts house. Long story short, I had a cute Thanksgiving poem that I memorized in 3rd grade and recited with flare. You would have thought that I was a dog that had stood up and talked. It was the best.

        I would rather give myself the brand or label then have others do it and mess it up. I’m always reminded of Anne Rice. She’s know for the vampire novels, but also wrote witch and saint novels. Or Stephenie Meyers with the Twilight Saga, although she’s written the Host and that other book that I can remember the title of.

        I don’t want to be know as the writer that just writes books dealing with Greek myths which is why I added my tagline/brand to my website and started two different series with the hope to adding another. All deal with myths and legends. Unlike Steve Martin, it gives me room to move and grow.

        • Joleene Naylor December 9, 2010 / 3:46 am

          I feel your pain on the youth labeling. I was “the girl who could draw” – period. I have some old classmates on Facebook and most of them are shocked at the idea that I can write *gasp* despite the fact I was writing novel length works in sixth grade. If you wanted something drawn then you went to sweet, quiet little Joleene and she;d do it for you. the fascinating thing about those kind of labels is that people will hold onto them even if they need to ignore what is going on to make it work. when I hit 17 I went a bit nuts and would show up to school with hickies, started smoking, drinking, etc etc and even once got in a screaming fight full of obscenities in the lunch room, but somehow no one noticed because it didn’t fit the box I was in.

          • Stephannie Beman December 9, 2010 / 8:06 pm

            LOL My parents would have checked me into a padded room at the insane asylum if I had done that. They still haven’t acccepted the fact that I “acted” out at 24. And it wasn’t anything major either.

            • Joleene Naylor December 10, 2010 / 2:31 am

              Ha ha! They’d just gotten divorced and we were living with my dad who worked ten hour days, so they were mostly unaware….

              • Stephannie Beman December 10, 2010 / 4:08 pm

                Your parents have an excuse then. My parents are married, my mom worked at night, and they still manage to be mostly unaware. *roll eyes*

Comments are closed.