Write it now: classy styling means classy branding

Style is one of the most important parts of any writer’s work – it labels their writing, makes it distinctive, makes it identifiable. Styling is as important as content or subject matter.

sleeping-man-with-newspapers-mdIt is, in fact, part of any author’s brand. And that’s perhaps the first and most crucial role of styling. And these days, as the publishing paradigm changes, that’s getting more important. With distinctive styling, an author can lift their work above the white noise of the masses clamouring to be heard. Hopefully.

If it’s done right it can be a powerful tool. Anybody remember Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music? Back in the seventies he stood out from the rest. At a time when every rock star was descending into a homogenous blunge of flares, platform shoes and sequins, Ferry oozed style. He stood out, and a large part of the secret was that he didn’t just do something obviously different – he did it with class.

Ferry’s pseudo-military look of the mid-1970s harked back to the age of deco and stood against the usual themes of the day. Absolutely classy. Absolutely stylish. And absolutely influential. When the BBC introduced Brian Croucher as ‘Travis II’ in Blake’s Seven, made circa 1978, their designers apparently based his ‘look’ on Ferry’s distinctive brand.

Distinctive styling with class is absolutely true for writers, too.  No, I don’t mean clothes. (I’m slobbing around in un-ironed cargo trousers and T-shirt as I write this).

Styling doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘good’, though it helps. One or two authors get away with just being distinctive. You’ve probably guessed I’m thinking of Dan Brown, whose style is pretty unique to him – and unquestionably integral to his brand. The only problem is that this particular brand is popularly defined by gaffes. Reviewers queue up as each book is released to find the ‘Brownisms’. His styling is chokingly inept,  mind-numbingly incompetent; rule-breaking that is so profoundly badly done and apparently random that I am left wondering whether he is actually aware of the principles.

Sure, it hasn’t stopped his stuff selling. That’s for other reasons. But his relentless Grammar 101 gaffes have not only opened him up for ridicule – they have become one of the defining characteristics of his writing brand. And maybe that’s part of the schtik. But I doubt it.

Probably it’s better to be known for great styling. I can think of a few authors right now who stand out – Hemingway, one of my favourites of all time, is among them.

Styling, in short,  is integral to author branding – but it has to be done right to work properly. Like Bryan Ferry’s stage costumes.

More soon.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

9 thoughts on “Write it now: classy styling means classy branding

  1. Style (or voice, as I more often say) is the most important aspect of writing, IMO. It’s easy to get caught up in other parts of our careers, but I think allowing our uniqueness to shine should be our top priority. Good points here!


  2. For me as a reader or writer, style or voice (like August, I use voice more often) is everything, which I know sounds rather sweeping yet when I pick up a book, if that voice does not pull me in, I probably won’t read the work. That said, I have read books whose style bothered me–some right up there with Dan Brown but for different reasons–but in my later years, I generally don’t. As a writer, I know when I publish a post that is not quite there for it nags. In my current WIP, I leave sections and return to them until the voice is there. It is fair to say that whether reading or writing, examining style/voice is ongoing with me. And yes, sometimes it exhausts me! Another fine post, Matthew!


    1. On my own experiences I am quite certain that what we often see and admire in other authors – an apparently natural flow of glorious tone – is far from natural, but worked at – and worked, and re-worked. Even Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, that three-week explosion apparently erupting full-formed from his mind, fingers and typewriter, was polished, largely for ‘voice’, afterwards – I’ve seen facsimiles of the pen-and-ink fixes he made to the “scroll” MS. It is, I guess, part of the deal. I’ve read Tolkien;s “famous first drafts” and the voice differences are significant between that and his final. And as you say…it is exhausting!


  3. So true about Dan Brown! Egregious – not a term I use lightly!
    I’m not ashamed to confess that my absolute favourite voice/style is Agatha Christie’s. If her writing could be bottled, I’d be drunk on it 24/7. Um, not sure what that last sentence says about my own (life)style lol. I know I’m risking some serious blog wrath by saying this… but I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of Harry Potter because Rowling’s style put me off. Sigh… there will never be another Narnia.

    Of course, you’re perfectly qualified to write this post because you have such a great writing voice 🙂 Just please don’t tell me you ever actually iron your cargo pants!


    1. OK…I don’t iron my cargo pants! 🙂 Apropos Rowling – I agree. I HAVE read her stuff – and to my mind C S Lewis beats her hands down on all counts.

      Agatha Christie was an extraordinary writer. Curiously, I discover, she was dyslexic, which sounds like a contradiction for writers…but isn’t. I really should post about that.


      1. Dyslexic? Who knew! (apparently you) Learn somethin’ new every day. You’re really baiting us with “…but isn’t.” Love to read a Wright post about it. Wait a sec! I just realized you have the punfect name for a writer lol.

        ps. so relieved about the cargo pants! I was getting a little worried there 😉


        1. I was trained formally as a writer (fiction writing, in fact) – and my teacher said “Matthew Wright well”. It took me years to get the pun… 🙂

          I am definitely going to post on writers with dyslexia. It’s interesting & proves what I’ve always thought anyway, which is that writing isn’t about words and letters…it’s concepts, shapes and patterns that the author somehow has to convert into an imperfect vehicle for conveying them.


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