Writers! Want to know the single best way to become a household name??? Brand the right name! Yep. That easy.
This might sound silly, but I think writers love handles and monikers more than any other group. Building a platform/fan base is hard work. As we discussed last week, we can make it easier by recruiting key people to “help with construction.” But there is one key mistake that can totally undermine all your hard work building a social media platform. Branding the wrong name.
There is only one acceptable handle for a writer who seeks to use social media to build a platform, and that is the name that will be printed on the front of your books. Period.
I can already hear the screams of protest, but I am going to save you a ton of hard work and needless duplicated effort.
Part of the reason I decided to teach social media to writers is that I actually have a highly unique background for a writer. Before I was an editor/writer, I worked in corporate sales. Most writers, especially fiction writers, cringe at the word sales. I don’t blame you. But too many writers forget that the purpose behind all of this twittering and FB and MySpace time is for one main purpose—driving sales.
Being published is not the real end goal. Being published is only the means to your real end goal—SELLING BOOKS.
Kristen! Must you be so crass?
Plain truth is this. Great, you get published. But, if you don’t sell enough books, you cannot quit your day job. If you fail to sell out your print run, you hurt your chances of another book contract. In order to do what you love–WRITE–you must learn to do what you hate–SELL. It doesn’t have to be as hard as a lot of people make it. Brand your name, then your name can do the selling while you do the writing.
In order to maximize sales, your goal is to become a brand. Brand=Big Sales
If I want a good thriller, I pick up a James Rollins. If I want a good YA book, I pick up Stephanie Meyer. A good legal suspense, read John Grisham. Amy Tan will have to change her name if she decides to suddenly start writing novels about the Italian Mob. These authors are the designer brands of writing.
People dig brands. Why?
Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are prone to rely heavily on brands. Brands let us know what to expect. When we buy Dolce & Gabbana shoes, we expect a certain quality. We go off the name and do far less inspecting and road-testing than we would for a designer/manufacturer we’d never heard of. We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Coach, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, BMW, Mac Computers, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.
As a writer, your goal is the same. Your big goal should be to link your name interminably with your content for the purposes of selling books.
Produce enough good content and eventually readers won’t need to read every review about your latest book before they buy. They will trust you for good product and will pre-order your books because they have confidence you provide content that is entertaining, interesting, or informative. They will default to buying books brandishing your NAME because they trust your books are a wise purchase. No more hand-selling–whoo-hoo!
This is where YOUR NAME becomes vital in social media. Your NAME is first and THEN linked with your content, NOT the other way around. We heard Xerox enough times that not only did it become synonymous with copy machines, but ALL copy machines eventually became Xerox machines. Xerox was said enough times in conjunction with the act of copying that it became its own VERB.
This is what we in sales call “top of mind.” A name that is top of mind will be the first we (consumers) will default to when we need a product—name recognition.
I have made all the mistakes, so I can speak from experience. I spent two years under the moniker writerchik. After two years, I had good news and bad news. Good news was that I was smart. I started building a social media platform for my work before I was published. Good news was that thousands of people knew I was a writer and that one day I would be releasing a book. I could actually pitch to an agent that I had a vast platform already in place for when my book hit shelves.
Or could I?
Bad, bad, super bad news was that these thousands of followers knew WRITERCHIK was a writer. My fans/following couldn’t go to Barnes and Noble and buy a book by writerchik. They couldn’t go to Amazon and order the latest and greatest by writerchik. I had spent a lot of hard work and posted a ton of great content….to build the wrong brand.
We must realize that we serve the reader not the other way around. Successful writers think like successful companies with good customer service and make the purchasing decision as easy as possible for the reader.
We must appreciate that people are tired, overworked and a lot of times lazy. If they are in a book store, they will default to what they know. We cannot expect that rather than pick up a branded author that our potential reader will instead:
- Go to their PDA or borrow the computer at Barnes & Noble
- Where they will then log into Twitter
- And scroll to one of our tweets
- And click on our profile
- To get OUR NAME
- In order to buy our book.
Maybe they will, but likely they won’t. We MADE IT TOO HARD!!!
When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind. Every time you “tweet” or send out a status update, you want those following you to see your name. It is like your very own commercial playing over and over and over, scrolling down the news feed.
There are far too many writers using cutesy handles (I was guilty). I have a ton of writers in my following who, if they released a book tomorrow, I would love to buy it, but I cannot find books written by VampireChick or BookLover_88. I have people I love chatting with on Twitter and FB and MySpace…but I haven’t the foggiest idea what their name is.
Your handle/username is not the time to be clever and creative. Save that for books and blogs and content. We followers will catch on pretty quickly what you write.
If Maura Devlin (made up name) regularly posts blogs on fantasy and links to other fantasy events and talks about her latest fantasy novel that will soon be released, guess what? When I run by a bookstore, I will default to what I know…and now I KNOW Maura because I have basically had scrolling commercials from her every day I am on Twitter.
I also feel like I am Maura’s virtual friend, and I like to support my friends first. So if I am going to try something new in fantasy beyond staples like J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony, or Anne McCaffrey, I am going to try Maura Devlin because she has focused all her social media energy to making her name synonymous with good fantasy entertainment.
Let’s use Maura as an example.
Scenario 1, Maura is Dragon_Girl
On Twitter, I see a lot of:
@Dragon_Girl New “Wizard Woman” blog post. Where did the legend of dragons begin? (inserts link here)
@Dragon_Girl Book coming out soon. Should be here by end of May
@Dragon_Girl I love the cover. What do you think? (She attaches the cover here)
@Dragon_Girl Book signing is this weekend. Make sure you are early before we run out of books (attaches information on how to get to book signing)
***Notice I NEVER see Dragon_Girl’s NAME. She is always top of mind, but using the WRONG NAME. Even if I wanted to buy her book, I would be at a loss and would have to go do research. If I have an antsy husband who wants me to hurry and get my book so we can go to Costco, and a baby who is teething and starting to fuss, I am not that motivated to figure out Dragon_Girl’s real identity.
Scenario 2, Maura Using Pen Name Maura Devlin
On the contrary, I SHOULD see a lot of:
@Maura_Devlin New “Wizard Woman” blog post. Where did the legend of dragons begin? (inserts link here)
@Maura_Devlin The dragons are near! Book coming out soon. End of May!
@Maura_Devlin I love the cover. What do you think? (She attaches the cover w/dragon art here)
@Maura_Devlin Book signing is this weekend. Make sure you are early before we run out of books (attaches information on how to get to book signing)
Maura Devlin doesn’t need to be Dragon_Girl for those who follow to get that she writes fantasy. We are actually pretty sharp. This second scenario keeps Maura’s name continually top of mind so that those in her network see a scrolling stream of, “Maura Devlin, Maura Devlin, Maura Devlin…always linked with her content—dragons/fantasy.”
So, what if you have used the wrong name, what now?
Don’t panic. It is pretty simple to remedy. Go change your username as soon as possible. Those following you are clever. They will “get” that this is a change to your pen name. If it makes you feel better, send out an announcement that you are now focusing on building your brand. Likely no one will blink an eye.
Professional authors use their names and so should we. Using our name sends a message to others that we believe in ourselves and have confidence in the future of our work.
On Twitter and MySpace changing your user name is relatively easy. Facebook is less moniker-friendly, so most of you should be okay unless you started your FB page under any other name than the one you want printed on your books. My advice? Start over. Create another FB page with your pen name and transfer your friends over.
If you cannot get your name, be creative. Kristen_Lamb can easily be The_KristenLamb, KLamb, KristenLambTX, Author_KristenLamb. THIS is a good time to be creative, ;).
Time is precious, so make sure you maximize your efforts by focusing all your energies behind the name you wish to brand. It will save a lot of time for you and confusion for your fans. Branding the right name will help you work smarter, not harder. You need time left over to write great books.
Happy writing! Until next time…
By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.