Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Diagnosing the disorder of multiple author identities

Should you use a pen name, a nome de plume, or stick to your real self? Who are you? Whoooo are you? To quote The Who. (The who? say the young)
Anyone who really knows me (turn your backs now) knows that I am Ruby Barnes, Ger Mayes, John (the) Baptist, Turnip, Mark Turner, to name but a few. Clever, huh? No! Not clever at all. Very dim for an author.

I just finished reading Kristen Lamb's excellent book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Great stuff, a bit like riding a piebald bareback (no offence, Kristin, it’s an Irish expression, my wife's from Tallaght). Wild, exhilarating, keep hold and you feel like you’re flying. The bad news is that the old Turnip, erm, I mean Ruby, has been doing it all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

To quote Kristen ‘It is absolutely crucial for you to brand your name...A moniker can absolutely kill your platform.

It was definitely the best $9 I’ve spent recently (except for the Subway Meaty Italian foot long last Saturday, but that was a transitory joy). I do feel like I’ve been kicked in the author nuts. I feel like I’ve caught my tackle on the elbow of an expert. As my brother said after a scathing £100 professional review of an early novel draft, he would have kicked me in the nuts for nothing, just had to ask. And like a true friend, his offer still stands. But boy did I need Kristen’s dainty little stiletto where I kept my darlings. Multiple identities are for the asylum. Author name is brand is identity. End of story. Not quite, there’s more but that’s for another day when Ruby has got his, erm, her act together.

So, there’s gonna be some changes around here. Uhuh, yessir. And yes Ma’am. Big changes. Well, lots of little, rather complicated changes. And what about the bright idea of having an androgynous author name and then putting up an avatar of me in a cowboy hat? Kristen Lamb? Kristen?!


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  1. I haven't finished Kristen's book yet because I got bogged down in galleys for my upcoming memoir, but it's wonderful. Like you, I've learned scads of stuff I didn't know that's so helpful. I just read your comment on her current post and came over to see who you are. I love thrillers. I'd like to read Ger on my Nook. Is it only on Amazon? Yes, I can read it on the PC, so if it's really good--is it?! LOL--I'll get it. Your pen name BTW is intriguing! And I have always wanted to go to Ireland, land of the green, my disabled daughter's favorite color.

  2. Thanks for coming by, Ann. Yes, Kristen's book is proving helpful, there's a ton of ideas. Lots of work to do!
    I haven't put Ger onto Nook yet, must do that. If you go for the Kindle for PC app then hope you enjoy Ger, he's a rapscallion!
    I love Ireland although tell Jen there's a reason why it's forty shades of green - the incessant rain. Which has stopped today! Hooray!

  3. This post is from Mark Williams who sent his comment by email due to technical difficulties...

    Mark said:

    Kristen Lamb has much to answer for!

    The image of you and that piebald is one that is going to take some serious therapy to recover from!

    But yes, absolutely right, and now more than ever, branding is king.

    You, especially, know our story. Unknown author wannabes Mark and Sarah Nobody joining forces on youwriteon to write together under a newly invented, even less known pen-name, Saffina Desforges.

    The idea that a dark fantasy writer and a thriller writer might even read the same newspaper, let alone write a book together, was just too ridiculous for words.

    But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

    As I write these words our jointly written novel is the fourth best-selling e-book in the UK, selling 12000 copies so far this month alone. And we still don’t even have an agent, let alone a publishing contract.

    You couldn’t make it up...

    Saffina Desforges?

    Well, put Sarah’s or my name into google and a zillion hits come up, and one or two might actually be us, but who would know?

    Put Saffina Desforges into google and it’s literally page after page after page of our brand and our book...

    We took a lot of advice from Kristen about using social networking, etc, to promote our brand.

    At least Sarah did. Or Saffi, as she has now fully morphed into.

    And it seems to have paid off big time!

    Now we’re venturing beyond Kristen into a brave new world of second generation social networking by (see A Rose By Any Other Name on my blog) giving the fictional characters in our up and coming books their own blogs, facebook and twitter sites to let them do the marketing for us even before the book is written.

    Now that is a real identity crisis!

  4. Re. Mark's post above, I'd just like to point out that the piebald was bareback, not me!

  5. Thanks for the referral to Kristen's Book. Even as an erstwhile marketing profe4ssional plus fiction writer, I'm finding the world of marketing fiction has more surprises than the Hall of Mirrors down at the Carny. In addition, it's all evolving so fast it's hard to even watch the horses flash by, let alone hang ON! Putting together the RIGHT platform on my own is leaving me time-tied and bloodied, lying in a ditch. This should help me put some kind of organization to it. By the way -- I'm about 2/3 into The Baptist, so this stuff clearly works!

    1. Hey Richard, thanks for stopping by!
      Carny is about right. Just when you've shot all the ducks with your pellet gun the prize changes from a giant teddy to a goldfish.
      I was lucky to have a few weeks between jobs during which I set things up for my platform. It takes a while to reach critical mass but things do get a lot easier.
      Cool about The Baptist. Thanks and hope you enjoy it!

  6. Great post! I am working on a piece about writing a variety of genres and would love to steal the MAPD phrase and credit this post, if it's okay with you!

  7. The wonderful late and much lamented Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks managed the two identities for different genres very skilfully by almost making them the same one.

    I'm banana the poet and Michele Brenton but as I've only published poetry so far I think I've got away with it.