Pen Names, Screen Names, Networking & Building Your Brand

12 Aug

I was talking with a friend last week about branding. It could be the business background in me, but I love branding. One of the things I liked about the Twilight series is you can pick a Twilight book out from 100yards – yeah, sweet. It has A Look.


I’m sure if you’re here enough, you know that I’m one of the co-founders of Excerpt Monday. Mel and I have been talking over the last few months about where we want EM to go. There’s a lot to think about:

  • Who are our participants?
  • Who is our audience?
  • What do they need?
  • What do they NOT KNOW they need?
  • Can we give it to them?
  • How can we fix issues and be easy service wise (this one is huge and is what brought about all the questions in the first place)
  • How can we make our site memorable and easily recognizable.

That last one? That’s the easiest part of branding to identify. The look.


But what about branding for authors? Yeah, we’re to a point in technology where authors are expected to know more, do more, be more than just a writer. I have thoughts about this, but that’s a different blog. Part of this — to me — is branding and building your network.


I’m a HORRIBLE networker. I hate it. I hate it even when I’m not networking and honestly enjoy the person. There’s a lot of successful authors out there who have been burnt. I can tell you that we unpubbed writers have a lot of stories we can tell you about being burnt by those burnt-pubbed authors. I’ll admit that two of my favorite authors treated me horribly when I met them. I was embarrassed just for introducing myself in a networking forum and they looked bad to the people around us. (Before you start wondering, one actually went on the attack after “Hi, I’m Bria and I just want to tell you how much I love your books.” — I know, how dare I, right?)


And so, I don’t buy either of their books any more. I live 2 blocks from a library. I don’t HAVE to buy any books. I vote with my wallet, just like every other aspect of life. Now, to me, part of those authors’ brand is “rude to the reader” or “impatient with her audience” — Does anyone truly want that to be part of their brand?


Yeah, me neither.


Rounding the corner on this post… This is the what my friend and I were originally talking about: Pen Names.


She doesn’t have one. That’s fine. Except, she doesn’t have a “real name” up either.


She’s past her first book, has a blog, is in writer’s forums and goes by a screen name. I’m flabbergasted by this. How many people has she met that when her book comes out would have said “Oh, she was in such and such with me. I should pick that up?” How is she going to make the jump on her blog and site from a screen name to a pen name. Contest wins are posted in her real name, who will make the connection when she picks a pen name…does she even want them to make the connection?


And so, we’ve gone back and forth. Her saying that until she’s published it “doesn’t matter THAT much” and me saying “this is the stuff you need to think about now.”


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Branding? Names? Burnt-Authors and Burnt by Burnt-Authors? To me, it’s all part of the publishing world. To her, not so much… How about to you?

4 Responses to “Pen Names, Screen Names, Networking & Building Your Brand”

  1. Flicka Holt August 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    I’ve actually been thinking about this lately – I just decided to get a blog, my twitter and even forum identity all in one name. And I don’t even have a book to sell yet. But no matter that, it’s all basically a community and it just seems more practical to use one name than to constantly have to explain who you are (“I’m, *** you know, and there I’m ***”). Plus, my writer identity is sort of like my secret superhero identity – I keep it separate from the rest of my life. And using one name has the added benefit of keeping you on your toes – be nice, or you’re burnt. 😛

    With that said I suck at networking, because I can’t approach people with a Plan.

    And I suppose some people just feel that once they get big enough, they don’t have to be nice anymore. If they ever were.

  2. briaq August 13, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Good for you for organizing your own brand. The name is a great step! I’ve watch so many people struggle with (1) if they need a pen name and (2) if yes, what it should be…so go you!

    And, so true…but then I think about all the AMAZING people I’ve met and it’s easier to shrug of those who weren’t.

    They do warn all of us never to meet our heroes. Well, there’s definitely a YA writer I’ve bought since before anyone knew who she was who lost a buying reader.

  3. L. August 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    I am one of those people struggling with the whole pen name debacle. And regretfully, I couldn’t even use my full-name if I wanted to as there is already a NYT best selling author by the same name. Boooooo. :p

    I tried to use a pen name, once. I really did. But it was really hard to assume this identity that really hadn’t been me for the last 24 years. And I found that the newspapers and blogs I wanted to write for weren’t going to allow me to write under that name anyway.

    Admittedly my writing efforts haven’t been all that serious yet. So I feel like I’ve still got time. Which is why I’m taking a step back, and consigning myself to an internet screen name right now as my identifier. But you’re absolutely right about the problems that it presents. An internet handle is so different than a name real or assumed. L. is just vague enough that it will give me room to grow. If I eventually decide to go by either my real name or a pseudonym that is similar, I hope the transition won’t be too shocking. 🙂

  4. briaq August 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    Well, “L” is catchy 🙂 and definitely not “HotMama2418”

    I’ve also found it frustrating to watch my friends with multiple writing personas. I have no idea how they do it….sounds like you’re stuck in one of those loops. I’ve seen the same thing with contests. A lot of them won’t honor an authors desire to begin building her brand and/or protect her real name.

    Good luck – I’d love to hear how you handle it when you do get to that time.

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