The Author as Brand

I started this week thinking about some updates I’d like to do for a website that promotes my science fiction novel, The Solar Sea. SummersSolarSea As the week progressed, a possible book signing opportunity for my vampire novels came up, which got me thinking about those stories and what kinds of things I’d like to do as part of the event. Yesterday, a letter arrived which had a nice review of my steampunk novella, Revolution of Air and Rust. It’s been something of a fun, but dizzying dance and it’s caused me to think a bit about the notion of the author as a brand.

If you pick up a book by Stephen King, you know there’s a good chance you’ll get a strong, character driven horror story. If Diana Gabaldon wrote the novel, there’s a good chance it involves time travel, romance, and Scotsmen. At some level, I’m not so easy to pin down. I’ve written about space pirates in the far future, vampires in the present, and mad scientists in the Arizona desert of a century ago. I have fun exploring all these things and I’d have a difficult time picking just one topic to explore in my writing.

I have to admit, thinking about myself as a “brand” always feels a little weird. Revolution of Air and Rust That said, I think there are some common features among all David Lee Summers novels and stories. I see much of my writing as a search for the magic within science and conversely a search for science within magic. Specifically, I like to find ways of making magical things seem plausible and explainable, but I temper that with a sense that science is a process of learning, which means we don’t always know as much as we think!

In various conversations, it’s clear that not everyone who likes my science fiction is interested in my horror. Not everyone who reads my horror is interested in my steampunk. That doesn’t bother me at all. My own reading can depend on a lot on my mood on a given day. Still, there are some people who seem to like it all and find those threads that link the books together.

I’m not the only writer who has an interest in several genres. Some take on pseudonyms for the different genres they write. Others, such as Cherie Priest and Jane Yolen, have found some success writing for multiple audiences and in multiple genres under their own name.

One reason I raise this topic is that I’ve been thinking about setting up more of a presence for my books in venues like Facebook. Dragons Fall An easy solution would be to set up a page for “David Lee Summers, Author.” As I mentioned earlier, though, I find it a little strange to think of myself as a “brand.” It easier to think of “The Scarlet Order Vampires” as a brand or “The Clockwork Legion” as a brand. In fact “The Scarlet Order Vampires” have their own blog and page on Facebook, which leads me to wonder if it would be better to create pages for my different book series. The problem then, is providing new and fresh content regularly for all the pages!

So, I thought I might throw this question out to those who read the ol’ Web Journal. Do you prefer to follow one author’s site or Facebook page, even if they write series that don’t interest you? Or, do you prefer to simply follow those series which interest you? I’m guessing there’s no one right answer, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

A Full Head of Steam

I just spent a busy weekend tearing my latest novel-in-progress apart, putting it back together and then moving forward again. Basically, I had a couple of story threads that just weren’t working for me and I needed to figure out what to do about them. Fortunately, the fixes weren’t too difficult and when I made them, I was able to continue the story easily.

I like to outline my projects. The reason is that I sometimes have to write them a little bit here and a little bit there when I get the opportunity. The outline serves as my road map to help me remember the plot threads that run through my books. That said, I think it’s important to let the characters grow and develop naturally. The issue I had to address was essentially a case of the outline and the characters wanting to go in different directions. Even though I believe in outlining, I also believe it’s important to be flexible. My outlines have a habit of changing considerably from the point I begin a project to the point I end it.

What’s more, in the process of tearing my novel-in-progress apart and putting it back together, I discovered a new title I liked. The novel in question is the sequel to my wild west steampunk adventure Owl Dance. I’ve been using Wolf Posse as a working title, but the title Lightning Wolves started speaking to me. Just as a little background, the lightning wolves are a set of machines built during the course of the novel. The wolf posse of the earlier working title were those who used the lightning wolves to bring others to justice.

I took the title choices to Facebook and asked for people to comment on them. Lightning Wolves was hands-down the most popular of the two titles. Although I have essentially decided to make this change, I would be happy to hear your thoughts on the two titles, especially if you haven’t already weighed in on Facebook. Which of the two titles do you like and why?

Keplers Dozen

I’ll wrap up this week’s post with a couple of updates. We’ve just finished edits on the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the NASA’s Kepler space probe, which is looking for Earth-like planets around other stars. The book is being sent to press this week. You can learn more and pre-order a copy at

Now that A Kepler’s Dozen is nearly finished, I’m turning my attention to finishing the second special steampunk issue of Tales of the Talisman. The layout is nearing completion and I’m just waiting for illustrations. The issue features stories by O.M. Grey, Douglas Empringham, Christine Morgan, and Lyn McConchie. There’s also poetry by such luminaries as Denise Dumars, Simon Perchik, N.E. Taylor and W.C. Roberts. This is an awesome issue and I hope to get it to press just as soon as possible.