October 29th, 2014

Branding for the Multi-Career Author

Sierra Godfrey

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photo credit: Urban Woodswalker via photopin cc

Most authors have a day job, and sometimes we’re lucky enough for that be writing-related. They say that the creative brain has the ability to be creative in multiple ways, and you’ll often find those who write also paint, act, sing, compose. In my case, I’m both a writer and graphic designer –and I do a lot of different types of writing.

But the audiences for those things are not the same.

In the design world, one of the most important ways to ensure a successful brand or identity campaign is protect your brand. That means making sure nothing competes with or dilutes your image or message. Examples of this might be using another logo alongside yours, or talking about another service or business while promoting your primary business.

It’s the same thing if you write technical material for a living while promoting your fiction. The audiences are different, and so is your conversation and message.

Of course, there are situations where combining your online presence (website, Twitter, Facebook) for all types of writing makes sense—or at least, isn’t detrimental to either business. And let’s face it – maintaining separate accounts for your different businesses could get exhausting.

But would it serve you better?

In my case, I had a situation that required some choices to be made. I’m a big soccer fan (or football as it’s called outside the U.S.) and this year I began writing articles for football sites. I also followed a lot of football supporters on Twitter, and they followed me back. When my favorite teams played matches and I happened to be on Twitter (and really, when am I not on Twitter?), I was a bit….well, exuberant. A completely un-scientific poll of some of my followers on Twitter said that no one cared about me tweeting with a million exclamation points about teams my fellow writers didn’t know or probably care about. But as time went on, I felt increasingly uncomfortable.

I was having two separate conversations with two separate audiences.

I thought about it for a few days. Setting up another twitter account would be easy enough to do, but how much time and energy would it require? Would it really matter that much?

Eventually, I decided it would matter. Twitter, of course, is for having conversations and engaging with others. That’s why it’s such a terrific way for anyone with a business to reach out to people. Building my profile as someone who can write reasonably well about European football is a different goal than being an author of women’s fiction. I wanted to have different conversations with the two audiences.

It sounds sort of crazy to separate out parts of yourself, but as it turns out, it wasn’t that hard. If you have multiple sides to your career, give some consideration to this idea. Here are some pointers:

Twitter

I created a new Twitter account for the football. It is only semi-annoying to switch back and forth between accounts on my mobile devices—but the Twitter mobile client makes this fairly easy with just a click. It was even easier on the laptop through Tweetdeck, which allows you to view a bunch of accounts all at once. Is it a lot of noise? Yes. But in a way it was also much quieter, because each stream is devoted to its topic. I also found I was able to really focus my message because now my tweets were consistent for each account.

Make sure that if you operate a tandem twitter account that you are willing to switch between them and tweet in each when required – I also found it good practice to include my twitter handle for each account in my profile. So for writing/publishing, I’m @sierragodfrey and my profile includes, “football writing is @sierragfootball.” Likewise for the football account.

Yes, people look at this. Yes, it matters because you’ll catch the cross-over people this way—those interested in both sides of you.

Facebook

For years, you couldn’t have multiple Facebook accounts, yet Facebook didn’t have a way for people to segment out their interests. This was especially problematic if you had a business or interest that you wanted to keep separate from all the pictures of your kids rocking out to music in their pajamas.

Now, Facebook lets you have fan pages for just about anything and you can switch between them with a single click—all on one screen. I have one for graphic design and one for me being a writer for posting all my published items. Those are in addition to my main (private) Facebook account where I put all the pictures of my kids.

Again, this is extra work, but setting up a separate page for your pig-farming business is going to ensure you can focus your marketing to bacon buyers, none of whom care that you write steamy erotic romance.

Websites

This is trickier, but I’ve seen this issue with a lot of authors: they have day jobs or other careers that they want to promote through their site, and yet want to promote their books. I also see that people probably wonder who in their right mind would have more than one website when it’s hard enough having one?

Again, it all comes down to focus and opportunity.

Whereas you can get away with diluting who you are on Twitter or Facebook, websites really must focus on one thing only in order to be effective and that’s because websites largely function as a billboard – visitors pass by and glean the purpose of the site in one go. If it captures their attention, they stay. Having one focus means a better chance of capturing attention.

Because my website is set up to house my published writing, I simply added a page that listed all my football articles to date. But…the site as a whole isn’t set up for that audience, and what would happen when I have a book to promote? What would happen when I want to interact with readers? My web traffic statistics showed that I was getting traction for the football writing. People wanted to see who I was. What would they make of my fiction writing? Would that be relevant to them? I decided it wouldn’t and that I needed a second site. Especially if I wanted to showcase my football journalism later in order to query other blogs.

This was easily done. Most web hosts allow you to have a free subdomain – so I added one: football.sierragodfrey.com. Simple, focused, and separate.

Now, if you’re not a graphic designer and can’t throw up a site in a day, then you’d have to pay for another site or at the least set up another template. There are a bunch of inexpensive options for this—Blogger or WordPress.com. But again, if you have two businesses, you really, truly, have to stop and think about marketing for yourself. The purpose of splitting out your sites serve is to better serve your audience. And what does that get you? Future opportunities.

I hope this discussion opens up possibilities for you that you might not have considered before. No solution is easy or simple – but then, neither are we with our varied talents.

Have you split out your interests or businesses? Or have you chosen to consolidate everything? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Sierra-Godfrey-180x180About Sierra:

Sierra Godfrey writes fiction with international settings and most likely a mention of football (soccer) or two. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a quarterly contributor to the Writers in the Storm. Her non-fiction essays have been featured on Maria Shriver’s Shriver Report and Architects of Change website, and in the anthology, Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions (Nothing But the Truth Press, 2014). She writes for the football blogs Back Page Football and Retain Possession, and is also a freelance graphic designer. She lives in the foggy wastelands of the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Laura here – Sierra wouldn’t dilute her brand by talking about her graphic design expertise here – but I can! We at WITS can vouch for that expertise; she designed our beautiful new website!

Come visit her at www.sierragodfrey.com (or, you know, football.sierragodfrey.com) or talk with her on Twitter @sierragodfrey (or, you know, @sierragfootball).

23 comments to Branding for the Multi-Career Author

  • I’ve wondered about this, Sierra, and was very interested to hear what you did. I was a PBR (Pro bull riding) fan before I began writing about it, so I was known in that community on Twitter. That was a good thing. But when I began Tweeting about writing craft, etc., I worried that I’d estrange the farmers, rodeo people, and bull riding insiders I’d fostered.

    But setting up another account makes me want to go take a nap instead, so I didn’t.

    So far, it’s been okay.

    Thanks for your insight!

    • Thanks Laura — I do think that the idea of separating yourself out is totally daunting but the reality has not been bad at all for me. Think of it this way: you’re already doing it. If you separate, it’s apparent to your readers. But you have to come to the decision on your own, based on whether the audiences are truly different.

  • I felt like you wrote this just for me, Sierra. I’m a college football fanatic and frequently tweet and post about my team. Sometimes I wonder if people who don’t have the good sense to recognize the superior talent of the Alabama Crimson Tide might get annoyed. Especially those who root for opposing SEC teams. I’ll consider this. Thanks!

    • That’s so great to hear!! I would say that if you have a further purpose to your football support, then separating out is a good idea. I had a further purpose: I wanted to write more articles on different sports sites. Positioning myself as a football writer was a different goal. I think separating out your accounts comes down to whether it will ultimately serve your goals.

      FWIW, I never looked back once I separated my twitter accounts and the new football account grows every day.

    • P.S., Debbie….your team sucks.
      Bahahahahhaa!

      Yeah, and I know you beat the feathers out of us. There’s always next year.

  • Very timely post for me! I have a web site for my freelance copywriting career and a web site for my romance writing career. My social media is more skewed toward the romance. Then I started teaching writing at a university two years ago and recently realized I should probably have a web site for that part of my identity too — my CV, non-romance fiction and non-fiction, teaching philosophy, etc. Haven’t figured out how to squeeze that onto my to-do list however!

  • angelaackerman1

    This is a great post, and something many of us struggle with. I have a large platform for my writing help side, but have been wondering what the heck to do when I get back to writing Children’s Fiction. Totally different audiences in many different ways. Thanks for the advice and leading us through what you did.

    • Thanks for your comment Angela! I hope it gave you something to think about. The idea of more than one account is horrifying to most of us (it was to me, too) but it has been a great solution for me. It won’t work for everything.

  • Wonderful advice, thank you!
    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

  • Thanks so much for this post, Sierra. I don’t truly have divergent careers … that is … my writing is in the development stage, my blog is more like a once a week jaunt through my comic view of the world and my FB page has always been more personal … pics of the kids and grand kids and what my children’s friends are doing.

    In another life I have two shops on Etsy and that alone poses many problems. How to promote each shop since they offer so many different items. Should I cross over and include items on both? How many hours a day am I willing to spend with each shop?

    I have been debating either a craft blog or craft page on FB so I can at least try to reach more of those interested in my handmade items. Then I hear stories about how FB has been limiting exposure with the same person having two pages and I break out in a cold sweat wondering how I would find the means to do both.

    If I added Twitter on either my crafts or writing, I wouldn’t know where to go when. The hair-raising idea that sometime in my future I would also need to promote my writing gives me a rash. How on earth do you find the time? Your mind set must switch a dozen times a day.

  • I have social accounts for my writerly self, but I am also beginning to branch out into photography and am a hobby dog breeder. Each one is separate and the thought of doing the same amount of work for the other things as I do my writing is daunting indeed. I don’t think I’m ready for that, but will be saving this post on my computer for when I change my mind.
    Thanks for breaking it down into easy-to-read thoughts.

    • Thank you, Kate! I think the nice thing about having multiple accounts is that you have the option of a focused message. Eventually, the cream will rise to the top — you’ll see which account you use the most and feel most comfortable in. I can honestly say that in my case, I spend equal amounts of time on both my twitter accounts.

  • Interesting post. I wrote one of my own just the other day on a group blog, about how I consolidated my four cozy mystery series and three pen names on my new web site: http://wickedcozyauthors.com/2014/10/27/branding-multi-everything/
    Since it’s all cozy mystery, it works, at least for me. (www.edithmaxwell.com)

    But for twitter, my understanding was that it’s overlapping concentric circles, and if I tweet about the Red Sox or Quakers, someone reading that tweet might also be a mystery fan.

    Thanks!

    • It’s a good point Edith — if there is any chance of overlapping concentric circles, is it worth separating out? It comes down to who your audience is, I think. Guys who follow European football, I decided, weren’t likely to want my fiction. Even though they SHOULD, of course. 🙂

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    Great post, Sierra!
    I’m about to redo my website and you’ve touched on a number of the things I’ve been noodling lately. 🙂

  • Thanks for some thought-provoking comments. I’ve got two online identities — one as a resource for fiction writers who want to use the law accurately in their stories, http://www.lawandfiction.com — and one for my cozy mysteries — http://www.LeslieBudewitz.com I’ve decided to merge the two, but keep the lawandfiction domain name, since that’s where my blog is, with a small but dedicated audience, and use a pointer to the lesliebudewitz site. I think it will work, even though some of the writers who read the lawandfiction site are more interested in what I have to say about law than the fiction I write. But I’ve discovered there IS a lot of overlapping interest, unlike, say romance and soccer! After all, the name is law AND fiction!

  • Something I definitely have been struggling with this year since I revived my jewelry making. Do you know if WP has free subdomains you mentioned if I own my domain name on one? Can you email me with more info on that topic? calisa.rhose@gmail.com Thanks for the insight of this post.

  • Yes, Thank You! Great posting. I have been attempting to diversify myself and I thought I was doing something wrong by having multiple social media/websites.

  • Great topic. I separated long ago, but struggle to keep up with it all. I have a day job, I am an Author and a Tarot enthusiast/reader. Separation seemed the best way to go, but now I’m wearing thin. It’s great to have multiple interest, but really how much can one handle? Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • Cher, thanks for your perspective. I often wonder if tiring out will happen to me. Again it comes down to positioning yourself and future opportunities and if you don’t see growth in either persona then I would reconsider the identity separation.

  • ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist)

    This is really useful information for everyone. As authors/writers, I think we have a lot more leeway in our branding due to the idea of reader connection. Readers want to find common ground with authors. I think actors and athletes are similar. (ie: celebrity or wannabe/would be celebrity). Jennifer Weiner, for example, is a big fan of the TV show, The Bachelor, and live tweets the episodes. John Green is a big footy fan himself and created a separate account to tweet about Liverpool. He also indicates that he swears on that account, which is a pretty interesting decision he makes in distinctly deciding not to on his author account, given his reader audience.

    I think a consideration to make is how often you intend to tweet about that second brand or interest. My husband is a university physics professor and he rarely tweets anything personal, because he knows his audience doesn’t care about that. (Interesting side note: neither he nor I follow each other, haha. What does that tell you about how some people develop audience and how they follow?) As a teacher and technology person myself, I only tend to tweet out a comment every once in awhile about these topics that I think will be universal. I do know a lot of my audience, and do think about that with what I tweet.

    Of course, if you have a following like John Green or Jennifer Weiner, you can pretty much do whatever you want and it won’t matter, but for the rest of us… 😀 I really appreciate this middle ground post that reaches the masses who are already pretty social-media savvy.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this Janet. Interesting about John Green…I don’t follow Liverpool but I do like to stay aware of all European leagues so I’ll go follow him 🙂 It’ll be great to see how he does it.