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