Broadening the Brand

How can fiction writers adjust to the new realities of publishing? That is, how can a writer who isn’t a businessperson with a service or message to sell connect with fans and build a brand?

John Green seems to have figured it out.

And a multi-pronged approach to building a personal brand seems to be the key.

Green is the author of the critically acclaimed, bestselling young-adult novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” among others, and he and his brother, Hank, recently performed at Carnegie Hall in New York to a sold-out show. The two performed sketches, songs and John Green read passages from his book. They also answered questions from the audience.

It is rare for a fiction writer to draw many people to a bookstore reading, let alone one of the most prestigious performing-arts halls in the world. But Green has diversified: he has taken advantage of the power of the Internet and of video to help build his brand.

According to the New York Times article,

The sold-out show put on full view Mr. Green’s uncanny knack for channeling the voice of marginalized but smart, self-identifying nerds, a gift he has turned into a YouTube empire. The core of his online presence is the VlogBrothers channel, where once a week he and Hank exchange slightly manic but humorous and sincere riffs on science and life.

He and his brother also use the Internet to raise money for charity and broadcast “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a video adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” They also teach what they describe as advanced courses aimed at high school students online.

How’s that for building an audience?

Most writers of fiction leave it at that: writing. But as any entrepreneur or thought leader knows, you’ve got to do more today.  Sure, there are a few super-successful authors, such as Stephen King, whose vast amount of work, long career and already-sizable audience, guarantees readers. But Green, at 35, has gradually become someone whom fans will want to see in person (in addition to buying his books), because he gives them something “live” that they can’t get from the printed word or from the videos.

That’s important. It’s important to think beyond the book, and how to bring readers to your book by being true to yourself, but also broadening your appeal. Green does a series of entertaining videos – personal, humorous and informative – and this has helped him become the kind of author many people dream of: someone who not only connects with readers, but with an audience.

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  • Anonymous

    How have I not read this yet? :) Not at all surprised he has build a strong following. His videos are hilarious. Thanks for the recommend. I think I’m already addicted.

  • Jamie Moran

    He has the same spastic and frenetic delivery that Ze Frank has, keeping your attention on him with vivid imagery through dialogue, flipping your waning attention span on its head every 3-4 seconds. I can see how he developed an audience so effectively!

  • Michael Drew

    Good writing and power of Personality help. But what’s most impressive is his use of technology to build a platform. Clearly something we support and advocate :)

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