On Mission Statements and Brand Alignment

This is part of the Bittersweet Book Launch case study, where Dan Blank and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore share the yearlong process of launching her novel. You can view all posts here.

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

In our phone meeting on Friday, Dan asked a tiny question that opened up a can of worms (he’s good at these). “That background photo on your Twitter profile—the one that’s the outline of your son flexing his muscles—does that really align with your brand anymore?”

See what I mean?

The picture, taken at a family excursion to the White Flower Farm, is of my superhero-obsessed kid’s shadow flexing against a sheet of filmy plastic. I took it, then posted it to Twitter when I first overcame my fear and signed up back in the fall. I suppose I used it because the image was aspirational; it said something private to me about where I wanted to be in my life and career—brave and bold as my kiddo.

Half a year later, I’m nowhere near as bold and brave as he, but I’ve sold a book in the meantime, a book about, among other things, a family retreat at a lake in Vermont, a photograph of which would probably be much more apropos.

But Dan’s question went even deeper than that. It made me rethink my Twitter profile (“novels about the American family”) because a Twitter profile, in my opinion, should be a distillation of my brand—personal or professional—a nugget of truth about myself. The truth is, my Twitter profile doesn’t reflect what Bittersweet is really about, and, as I think about it, not really what The Effects of Light and Set Me Free are, at their core, about either. The two other books I’ve written but haven’t published help me see what my work has in common with itself, despite my books’ vastly different subject matter (life in a West African village, nude art photographs of children, life on a reservation, writers plagiarizing each other, and, now with Bittersweet, a summer in a seeming paradise); thematically, every book I’ve written is about outsiders desperate to fit in.

I said as much to Dan, adding that I realize that’s actually my life’s mission statement in many ways—an outsider who longs to be an insider but can never quite get there (I suppose that’s exactly what makes me a writer, and what I share with many other writers in spades).

“Well then,” Dan said, “why don’t you make that your Twitter profile? Just say something that means, ‘I’m an outsider who’s always wanted to be included, and that’s what my novels are about’?

And I thought “Yes!” And I thought “Am I allowed to do that?” And I thought, “That’s going to be really scary.” And I wondered why I felt that way.