Fail to Plan & Plan to Fail

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. Today’s topic might be familiar to some of you, but I believe it is one I can never preach on too much. I am on a mission to rid every writer moniker from social media. Every time I see a @Book_Luvr or a @Fiction_Mama go floating by, you know what I see? A writer allowing fear to steal her future. I see a writer doomed to fail. Think I am being hard? Well, maybe. I want people to succeed, and sometimes that requires some tough love. The day we land an agent or a book deal is NOT the time to build our platform. That’s kind of like waiting for the week before the retirement party to begin investing in our 401 K. Not a good plan.

Platforms take time to build. We cannot control the future of publishing. We cannot control if vampires are in or passe. We cannot control when we will get an agent. We can only control two things, and they happen to be the MOST VITAL components of our writing career. We can control the writing, and we can control building our platform. Nowadays, more and more agents are expecting a writer to be able to present both excellent writing AND a solid platform with the power to drive sales. Many agents are refusing to sign a new writer unless she can demonstrate a viable social media platform (that is code for name recognition, btw).

We are now well into the 21st century. Technology has opened all kinds of new publishing opportunities for aspiring writers. But, with increased opportunities comes increased competition; thousands and thousands of writers all clamoring for the reader’s attention, time and money. With so much competition, how can a writer hope to stand apart?

We create a brand.

How do we create a brand?

We understand the power of our name.

Donald Maass, in his book “Writing the Breakout Novel” stated that ,”The fact is roughly two-thirds of all fiction purchases are made because the consumer is already familiar with the author.” This statistic hasn’t changed. Readers buy books from who they know first. The next largest driving force in fiction sales is word of mouth. Yet, only 1 out of 10 authors will ever publish a second novel and 93% of fiction titles sell less than 100 copies (per BEA statistics and, yes, this includes all published works).

Social media is a tremendous blessing for authors. For the first time in history we writers exercise some control over our future success. We have the ability to build a platform of fans before we ever type a single word of a novel. Aside from the writing (content), the single most valuable possession an author has is her name. Sandra Brown, Stephenie Meyer, John Grisham, Stephen King, David Baldacci and Amy Tan all rely on their names to sell books. We are wise to take a lesson from the best. These authors are the designer brands of writing. Their name alone tells consumers the nature of the content and offers a certain promise of quality.

People dig brands. Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are inclined to rely heavily on brands. In fact, the more choices we have, the more prone we are to gravitate to who and what we know. Brands let us know what to expect. When we buy a BMW or a Mercedes, we expect a certain quality to go along with that name. 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.

Our big goal as authors should be to link our name interminably with our content for the purposes of selling books. Want to know the writer’s formula for success? Simple.

Your Name + Great Content = Your Brand

Produce enough good content and eventually readers won’t need to read every review about your latest book before they buy. They will trust your name and will pre-order your books because they have confidence you provide content that is entertaining, interesting, or informative.

Ah, but here is where I see the problem. Writers seem to love clever monikers and handles more than any other group. I have said this before, and will say it again and again and again. 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.

I can already hear the screams of protest and great gnashing of teeth, but I am going to save you a ton of hard work and needless duplicated effort. Most writers, especially fiction writers, break out in hives at the words marketing and sales. I don’t blame you. But we must always be mindful that the purpose behind all of this twittering and FB and blogging time is for one main purpose—driving sales. If you aren’t yet finished with a book, agented or published, then the purpose of all this twittering and FB and blogging is for one main purpose–driving future sales. Plan for success.

Plain truth is this. Great, we get published. Nowadays, that isn’t nearly as hard. Writers have many more options. But, if we don’t sell enough books, we cannot quit our day job. If we fail to sell out our print run, we hurt our chances of another book contract. In order to do what we love–WRITE–we must learn to do what we hate–SELL. It doesn’t have to be as hard as a lot of people make it. If we will brand our name, then our name can do the selling while we do the writing.

This is why monikers will devastate your platform.

Readers cannot walk into a Barnes & Noble and buy a book by @FictionDiva, @VampyreWoman, @Book_Luvr or @Dragon_Girl. By using a moniker, we make it difficult for potential readers to support us. They may love our on-line content, but we are making the consumer do research to find our name. This will cripple all our efforts for creating a brand.

Additionally, every time our name floats across Twitter or Facebook, it is like our very own advertisement. We need to capitalize on that precious “air time” by using the name that will be printed on our books. When we hide behind monikers, we undermine one of the most powerful marketing tools in our arsenal…the “top of mind.” Corporations spend millions to have their names repeated over and over so their brand can lodge in the mind of their potential consumer.  Do your followers have the right name floating around their subconscious?

With the Information Age upon us, there are many more avenues of publication. Self-publishing and indie publishing are becoming more and more popular, but that doesn’t change the hard reality…we still have to sell books. I recently was on a book marketing forum and one self-published author in particular was complaining how hard marketing was and that it took so much time…yet she was using a moniker and absolutely refused to change it. I cannot count how many times in later weeks I saw her “@zanyauthorgirl” (I made that up, btw) go floating by. She was convinced that it was okay to have a moniker so long as her real name was in the bio. So basically she wanted everyone following her on Twitter to care enough to stop everything in their busy day to go look up her name. Um, and she was curious why she wasn’t selling any books?

Businesses make it easy for consumers to buy their products. We are smart to follow suit. No one will drag us to writer jail for hiding behind a moniker, but we must face the cold hard truth. There is more competition now than ever before. We are up against writers who have no  problem blogging multiple times a week and who are smart enough to use their name. They are making it easy for readers to purchase their books.

If you are currently using a moniker, there is no need to panic. Just change your usernames and send out a general message to your followers. You might have to settle for a variation. Your last name is most important because that is how a reader will eventually locate your book.

Time is precious, so you must 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. After all, you need time left over to write great books.

What are your greatest fears about using your name? Do you guys have questions? Toss them out there. I love hearing from you. Oh, and I hope everyone has a wonderful, awesome and amazing Thanksgiving. I know I am very grateful for all of you who take time to read this blog.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

If you want to build the kind of platform agents are looking for, then buy the book agents recommend. We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is an essential for every writer who wants to succeed in the new paradigm of publishing. My book will show you how to build a platform designed to connect with READERS and still have time left over to write great books….oh, and sleep and bathe and have a life,😀.

Due to time constraints with the holiday week, The Mash-Up of Awesomeness will resume next Wednesday.

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  1. #1 by Derek on November 24, 2010 - 2:27 pm

    My problem is I share a name with a fashion designer.
    I may even need to check with a lawyer before I write my name on my underwear~~~

    FYI. I almost share a last name with you as well.

    • #2 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 24, 2010 - 2:31 pm

      Well, then pick your pen name and sally forth!😀 And just feel free to leave me dying from curiosity, LOL.

  2. #3 by Carrie Clevenger on November 24, 2010 - 3:32 pm

    Let me point out DO NOT make the mistake as me and use your real name if you don’t want to be contacted EVERYWHERE. Change your last name, first name, whatever. Using my real name has been a harrowing experience and I can’t undo it because it is the name printed on my books.

    Otherwise, excellent article. Excuse the hand of d00m, I’ll let myself out.

    CC

    • #4 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 24, 2010 - 5:32 pm

      I use my real name. Sorry you have had a bad experience, but truthfully, these days with the freedom we have with information, you cannot hide behind a pen name like in the old days. Someone can find your real name in less than ten minutes using the Internet. That has been one of the ongoing issues, particularly with Google. But that might make you feel a little better. People would have found you anyway and it is easier to keep up with only one identity, LOL. Thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to comment.

  3. #5 by Piper Bayard on November 24, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    Great advice. Thanks so much for your precious time in sharing it. As for Derek’s comment about sharing a name with a fashion designer? I share a name with a gun manufacturer, and it’s actually driven a fair amount of traffic to my blog. People google some spelling of “Piper Bayard” for the shotguns and see “Author Piper Bayard” at the top of the page. Many of them check me out. Also, while I am definitely, absolutely, positively not forthwith offering any form of legal advice, legal opinion, legal analysis, or binding statement to any person, his heir, or assigns, by communication of my experience, acts, or deeds, I will say I do not, as a recovering attorney, anticipate any legal issues around my own use of the pen name, Piper Bayard. Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. #6 by Marilag Lubag on November 24, 2010 - 5:30 pm

    Everything you said totally makes sense in marketing point of view. I mean, I rarely look up author’s about page. And guess what? Technology makes it easier for people to spread your name out there. Most people do not even have to go at every fair or book show if they build sturdy public platform.

  5. #7 by elisajeglin on November 24, 2010 - 5:51 pm

    Darn it, now i feel stupid using my moniker I love so much, (wheres my pencil)…can you publish books using your moniker? ;p Ha ha that would be funny to see ONSALE NOW NO WAY OUT BY WHERE’S MY PENCIL. Oh, well, I guess I’ll change it. Spoil sport. lol.

    • #8 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 24, 2010 - 5:57 pm

      LOL…Hey, I am with you. I was TexasWriterChik for three years then one say realized thousands of people knew me…but didn’t know my name *slaps forehead*. So I have dedicated my life to sparing writers the years it took to for me to rebuild my platform.

  6. #9 by Amy Rose Davis on November 24, 2010 - 5:54 pm

    Excellent post, Kristen. Bottom line: Writers are in a business, and we have to act like it. The writers who make a living writing treat it as a business. I doubt Jack Walsh would hide behind the name @Lightbulb_guy.

    Amy

  7. #10 by Amy Rose Davis on November 24, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    Sorry, Jack WELCH. Not enough coffee yet… Sheesh…

  8. #11 by John Wiswell on November 24, 2010 - 5:56 pm

    Most people think my name is fake anyway. I’ve got no problem promoting everything behind my one name.

    Paragraph 7, I think you mean “Maass.” Unless he’s come up with a moniker.🙂

    • #12 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 24, 2010 - 9:43 pm

      Thanks. I think spell check “corrected” it for me, LOL.

  9. #13 by darboria on November 24, 2010 - 6:35 pm

    I use a moniker because I’m a “young worker” and want to build my professional reputation before my “writing career”, which I don’t expect to come to life in a few years. So no special fear about giving my name out, but I want these two worlds to stay separate for a while. But as for my moniker, I use the title of my novel (I created this name, I’m pretty sure to find it available everywhere I want ;)).
    Great post! I really benefit from your Mondays and Wednesdays sessions (and hopelessly try to find something like your blog in French, to be adapted to the French publishing system… Maybe when French big authors and editors won’t think anymore that writing is a pure gift…)

  10. #14 by Terrell Mims on November 24, 2010 - 7:35 pm

    I like my name. Sometimes, I think about changing it to Terrell Crane. I thought it was common sense to use your name to brand yourself, but I’ve come to realize common sense is in low demand. Thanks for writing this blog.

  11. #15 by Cindy Knull on November 25, 2010 - 2:31 pm

    I never minded using my name for writing, but I did struggle when it came to photography. My name seems so boring.. Cindy Knull. I wanted something fancy and colorful and flourishy. HA! And honestly, for lack of better creativity I kept my name. I’m so glad I did. I don’t have to worry about trademarks or copyrighting my name..because it really is mine. And I feel a strong connection to it now. I’ve been reading The Brand Called You by Peter Montoya. It’s so good. But I completely want to gnash my teeth, because I really struggle at marketing myself and all the “business” part of it. I’m still trying to overcome that fear of self-promoting. Thanks for sharing this post. Inspiring, you are.

  12. #16 by mikidemillion on November 25, 2010 - 4:48 pm

    Your post is a useful reminder to writers that an easy first step into marketing is the choice of name that will identify content connected to it. A name is a great marketing tool in this online world and judicious use of it can help build recognition. But, I wonder about writers who are still in the learning curve, as I am, and have limited time to post consistently, is it a hindrance to post content that’s sporadic and not fully developed yet?

  13. #17 by the sweater curse on November 27, 2010 - 7:11 pm

    As you can see I use a moniker. Although it is a moniker that will be appearing on the cover of my book. It’s the title. I don’t know about you, but when I hear of a new book–especially by an unfamiliar author–what sticks in my mind is the title–not the author name.

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 27, 2010 - 8:09 pm

      But unless you self-publish, you have no control over title. The publishing house reserves the right to change the title up to the day of the print run. And then you also have to start over with branding if you write more than one book. That is a lot of duplicated effort for anyone who desires to be a career author. Bob Mayer has 42 titles. Crichton had probably about the same. Also, titles cannot be copyrighted, so you cannot guarantee that your book will be the only one with that title. Using your name is still the best way, although you are free to do as you like😀.

  14. #19 by the sweater curse on November 27, 2010 - 8:26 pm

    very good points.
    I’m very fortunate that I have such a strong platform. When I search Leanne Dyck–I’m not only the first to appear but also occupy the entire google page out. That’s out of 35, 100 results.
    I noticed that your blog address is warrior writers–it’s a strange address for one who feels the way you do about monikers.

    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 27, 2010 - 9:11 pm

      Not really if you know this history, LOL. I learned a lot of things the hard way. I dedicate my book and my blog to teaching writers how to build a platform namely because I have made all the mistakes. I have tried things that the “social media gurus” taught at writing conferences…and they turned out to be tar babies. There are tactics that work great in Corporate America that do not translate into the world of publishing.

      This blog originally wasn’t mine. It was started for Bob Mayer who was launching the Warrior Writer Workshops. But my blogs grew in popularity so I blog primarily off this site. But, if you notice, the title is “Kristen Lamb’s Blog.” I had to do that so I wasn’t behind a warriorwriters moniker. I have field-tested all kinds of methods taught at writing workshops, and I can be the one raising my hand and saying, “Oh no! That is a HUGE time suck.”

      The point about using titles is this. Writers need time to write more books. If you have to begin with a new blog, a new Twitter handle and a new web page for every title, that takes a lot of time and energy. Platforms are hard to build and take time to grow. Writers often are working a day job while trying to write, which is a second job. So now we have to market, which is essentially a third part-time job. If you are spread all over the place and have to rebuild a platform every time you write a new book, you are unlikely to be effective.

      It is also about customer service. People generally do a search by the name of the author. You cannot copyright a title, so that can add confusion. “I want a copy of ‘The Rainmaker’.” Which one? Tony Hillerman or John Grisham? This blog is merely dedicated to making a writer’s life easier and to help you guys sell a hell of a lot of books. Branding everything under a name is the simplest way and allows your efforts to go deep. If the title changes, we don’t have to start over. If we write more than one book, no big deal. It is very contrary to traditional teachings in marketing and really why I took the time to write a book to teach specifically writers.

      I often joke that my book should have been called, “I Made All the Dumb Mistakes So You Don’t Have To.” I can see why you would use that moniker, it is very catchy. But I would recommend your name always be tied to it, which you must be doing if you are commanding the google search.

  15. #21 by the sweater curse on November 27, 2010 - 9:36 pm

    Thank you, Kristen, I do appreciate the service you are providing through this blog. I did start a wordpress blog under my name, but lost interest. I don’t know there’s something about blogging under my book titles that inspires me. I began to build my platform in 2002 when my knitwear design website went live. The website is http://www.oknitting.com and I have tied my entire web presence to it. The web site’s address is oknitting.com The web site’s title is Olavia’s hand knitting patterns (in memory of my mother). I guess your first word of advice would be to rename my web site Leanne Dyck. Yes? Thank you for your time.

    • #22 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 27, 2010 - 11:49 pm

      Nah, you don’t need to rename the website, but make sure you title the blog with your name. Search engines are weird that way. Like my name is at the top of this blog, so people see, “Kristen Lamb” every time they stop by. If you google my name, you will see that it really makes no difference that warriorwriters is in the URL. Because I put my name at the top and ALWAYS in the tags, I have mitigated the fact that the URL isn’t “Kristen Lamb.” If you just make sure your name is front and center, eventually your name will become synonymous with your content and you are on your way to becoming a brand😉.

      And I would just put your name as part of the “slogan.” Olavia’s Hand-Knitting Patterns by Leanne Dyck. This way you get credit. Think of it like a line of clothing but under the designers NAME. “Shabby Chic Couture” by Martha Stewart. Olavia’s Patterns are YOUR product so stick your name on there,😀. People will grow to trust YOU for the best content (patterns, blogs, etc.). I hope this helps. With just some slight “retooling” you will have to do far less work. Thanks for stopping by and I am really happy I could help you out!

  16. #23 by Amanda C. Davis on December 17, 2010 - 3:27 pm

    I use a shortened version of my name on Twitter (@davisac1) because it makes me easier to retweet. A retweet costs 13 characters; my full name would cost 16, and those 3 characters can make a difference. Also, someone else took my full name.

    I feel for the fashion designer guy upthread. Right now I’ve got a book award named after me, I’m a newscaster in Georgia, AND I’m in the cast of Football Wives.

  17. #24 by Angela Wallace on May 20, 2011 - 7:16 pm

    I really appreciate the advice in this post. I’m new to blogging, and couldn’t decide which name to use, but you made good points, and the decision was easy after that. Although, I’ve always liked the idea of a pen name; my real name just doesn’t seem very visually aesthetic.

  18. #25 by health on August 31, 2012 - 11:35 am

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

    • #26 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 31, 2012 - 11:54 am

      Share whatever you need😉.

  1. Fail to Plan & Plan to Fail (via Kristen Lamb’s Blog) « Marilag Lubag's Blog
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