Quick, what white-suited, stogie-smoking, joke-telling wise guy delayed the publication of his autobiography for 100 years? And how could that bio, produced by a university press at 700+ pages—with more than 200 of them devoted to scholarly footnotes—how could such a moldy thing possibly be a best-seller?

Easy, because the writer made it richly public that the autobiographical materials were too hot to be published in his lifetime.

That, my friends, is marketing.

And the writer, over the long course of his career, became by virtue of rendered personality and poised presentation, the most recognized man in the world.

That, my friends, is branding.

No need to stop to see whether you can come up with the answer, because it's too obvious: Samuel Clemens created the cherished celebrity known as Mark Twain as surely and craftily as he created Huck Finn. The man had "platform" a century before the concept had circulation.

How did Twain get his cred? By skillfully employing the marketing and branding techniques of his time—and making up a few of his own. (Oh, being his country's greatest writer probably did him more than a lick of good, too.)

"In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language." Read that, and you know that Twain knew his way around a good line. If I dragged a net through all 700+ pages of my copy of Twain's autobiography, I could probably find 700 zingers that capture Twain's understanding of his own brand and his marketing.

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Tom Bentley is a business writer, essayist and fiction writer, and author of Think Like a Writer: How to Write the Stories You See. See his lurid website confessions at The Write Word.

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