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The Power of a Name

Photobucket [1]Therese here. Today’s guest is Kristen Lamb [2], author of the top-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. From her bio:

Kristen worked in international sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker. She takes her years of experience in sales & promotion and merges it with almost a decade as a writer to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing. Kristen has guided writers of all levels, from unpublished green peas to NY Times best-selling big fish, how to use social media to create a solid platform and brand. Most importantly, Kristen helps authors of all levels connect to their READERS and then maintain a relationship that grows into a long-term fan base.

Impressive, no? One of the best-selling big fish for whom Kristen built a platform was author Bob Mayer. I’m thrilled she’s here with us today to explain an oft-dismissed but key social-media strategy: using your real name. Enjoy!

The Power of a Name

We are now part of the Information Age. Social media is being hailed as the largest cultural shift since the Industrial Revolution, and publishing is scrambling to make itself relevant in this ever-changing paradigm. 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.

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. Nora Roberts, Stephenie Meyer, James Rollins, 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 Nike running shoes, 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. 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, cringe 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.

Plain truth is this. Great, we get published. 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 @FictionChik, @VampyreMistress, @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?

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.

Thanks for a fantastic post, Kristen!

Readers, do you blog/tweet/Facebook under your own name? Ever consider doing otherwise? Why or why not?

Learn more about Kristen on her website [2] or her blog [3], and be sure to check out her book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Write on!

Photo courtesy Flickr’s David Paul Ohmer [4].