Your name is not as boring as you think!

First Name Last Name -- that's all you need to build your online identity.

What’s in a name, anyway?

When it comes to our online identities, our name is everything. It is what we build our platform on. As writers, our name is how we sell our books. If you want to get published — whether you want to be traditionally published or self-published doesn’t matter — you have to start using your name.

For the longest time (about four years) my Twitter handle was @adorablyalice. Cute, no? My friends agreed that it summed me up nicely, and I have always loved that screen name. Guess what? @adorablyalice is not going to sell books. Alice McElwee, however, is. You’d think that being a public relations person, I would know to either change my Twitter name or open a new account. I didn’t. It wasn’t until I read this post by Kristen Lamb, that I finally got the wake up call. Now my Twitter handle is @AliceMcElwee.

Others might argue that if you’re not at the point where you are ready to query agents or publish your work, then it’s OK to hide behind your nickname. It’s OK that your blog’s name is “mycutenickname.wordpress/”.

It’s not.

Disagree if you’d like, but the fact remains — if your goal is publication, your name is all you have.

Think of all the authors who sell books based on their name. People don’t care about the cover art or even the back blurb..if the name of the author is on the book, they’re buying it. For me, it’s Ann Aguirre. The woman can write a book about cleaning horseshoes, and I’d buy because her name is on it. For others, it’s Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts…

And before you roll your eyes thinking, “There are exceptions to the rule!” Stop. I know there are exceptions. There are always exceptions.

About those exceptions…

Neil Gaiman is on Twitter as @neilhimself. Guess what? He doesn’t have to use his name. He’s Neil Gaiman and he can do that. His name sells his books.

Lynn Veihl has a blog listed under: Guess what? She’s Lynn Veihl and she can do that.

Those two are powerhouses. They are big names. In Veihl’s case, she doesn’t like to do a lot of online marketing for her stuff. Her blog exists to help writers, not to push her own sales. She’s at a point were her name sells her books.

The rest of us aren’t that lucky. If we want to get our foot in the door, we have to build our online identity on a platform. That platform is the name we’re going to put on our books.

Kristen Lamb says it best on her blog when she writes, “If you are worried others will “find out” about your writing…um *scratches head*…how did you expect to sell books? If you rocket to the top of the best-selling list, people will likely know who you are and what you write. GASP!

Also, most people don’t spend their free time googling people they know to make sure they are behaving and not getting funny ideas about writing.”

If your goal is publication — it’s going to come out sooner or later that you write. Your friends, your family, your former high school buddies that follow you on Facebook…they’re all going to know that you write. BIG FREAKING DEAL.

Remember, @CuteNickname doesn’t sell your books. @YourName does.

The names our parents give us aren’t boring. They’re our brands. They’re the platforms on which we will build our online identity. They’re how we will sell our books.

Pen names are another monster entirely. Kristen Lamb is against them, but I disagree. Properly executed, one can build a brand on a pen name. However, I think it’s much easier to build your online identity on your real name.

One last tip, again from Kristen Lamb, “When you leave here, put your name in your blog title. Then, go put your name in the tags on every post you have. Go read this blog if you want to know why. Tags are metadata (data about data). Search engines use tags to FIND you.

Go “spray paint” your digital turf and make it yours.”

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a reply!

7 responses

  1. Great blog and I am happy you are now using your name. This is becoming even more important now that social media is so huge. Agents now google names of writers they might be interested in repping. If you don’t come up under a google search for YOUR NAME…then your query could land in the slush pile even if your book idea was solid. Why? There are simply too many writers just as talented that come with a platform.

    And, I am not–per se–AGAINST pen names. Pen names work…but they are EXTRA work and most writers do not want one for the right reason. They want a pen name to hide, which is now practically impossible. My attitude is that we already have a lot of work on our plate, why volunteer for more?

    If writers want a pen name, go for it…but expect extra work. Make sure it is worth the time commitment.

    Thanks for the mention. Great blog post.

    April 4, 2011 at 10:04 am

    • If you don’t come up under a google search for YOUR NAME…then your query could land in the slush pile even if your book idea was solid. Why? There are simply too many writers just as talented that come with a platform.

      So true! Pen names are extra work, and I agree, most writers probably want them just to hide behind them. If you’re not passionate and proud of your work, why are you writing?

      Thanks for the compliment. I devour your blog posts. Suzan and Cid led me to you and I’m glad they did!!

      April 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

  2. Neil Gaiman is actually @neilhimself because some asshat had his name and was pretending to be him. He probably would have chosen his name originally if he’d had a choice in the matter.

    But totally agree with what you’re saying. Your name is all you’ve got. Flaunt that puppy.

    April 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

    • Did not know that! Regardless, using a nickname is still OK for him. He’s Neil freaking Gaiman. 😛

      But yes! Flaunt the name! I’ve also started using my name (first and last) when I comment on people’s blogs. :3

      April 4, 2011 at 10:15 am

  3. Cid

    I’m having to explain to my mom’s cycling club why their event facebook page must be the name of the even and NOT the acronym. It’s… frustrating. I still try to twitter you @adorablyalice – this has sooooo thrown me!

    April 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    • Acronyms are only good if the company/organization is super well known, like PETA or WWF — smaller organizations have to work to get noticed, which means using the full name. You have to let people know what you’re about!

      My @adorablyalice Twitter is no more. For awhile I had two accounts, @adorablyalice and @AliceMcElwee. Tweeting from two accounts plus the BA account was too much, so I consolidated to just @AliceMcElwee.

      I can barely manage two Twitter accounts without trying to use a third!

      April 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

  4. that’s another reason why i started using my as my “writing blog” now. I was like I CAN talk about writing on my mommyblog but googling tutus and converse is so not going to get a book deal. and neither is vampiresmitten.

    April 5, 2011 at 2:30 am

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