Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Your Name out There

Part 1 of 5

I'm by no means an expert, but I can tell you what I've done, and some of it might work for you. I'll also tell you what some people, who are much better known than me, have done.

I've given variations of this as presentations to my local Sisters in Crime chapter, April 2010, and again for the San Gabriel Writers' League in October, 2011. I had to do some revamping between those two. Things keep changing! Neither publishing nor social media are standing still and you have to on your toes to keep up.

Fred Millard - Selling His Wares (public domain)
This will address starting from the bottom, as if you've done nothing, so skip any parts you already have a handle on.


The first thing you need, in order to get your name out there, is--your name.

If you're thinking of using a pen name for any reason, that's your first decision. Pick a name and start using it. But first Google the name you want. Also look for that This might help you with your decision. (More on that later.)

Create an email address with the name you're going to use. The easiest way to do this is by using a free email service like gmail or yahoo.

You want your email to be your name, and to be obvious. Don't use Kevin's Mommy or Mystery Writer or Agatha Christie fan, stuff like that. It's good for everyone to be able to tell who the email is actually from.


Now that you have settled on a name, start to use it. If you belong to online writing groups, sign up with that name, using that email address. If you're already a member with another name, announce that you're changing your moniker, then join the list with the new name. Get people used to seeing it.


Next, you'll need a website if you don't already have one. If you can get the domain for, do it.

If your name is taken as a domain, you might think about using a different one, maybe just a variation. Or, you can tack writer on the end: or Don't tie yourself down to the name of the book or series you're currently working on, or your current main character. If you never get that book published, you might get a totally different one accepted.

When you have a domain, put up at least a temporary message that a webpage is coming soon.

When you get around to designing your site (or having it designed if that's not your thing), keep in mind what you want to accomplish, what you want people to see when they visit. What is the most important thing about you that you want visitors to know?

Here are some suggestions: before you're published, you can offer your bio, some facts about you if you'd like, pets, kids, family, some pictures, what kinds of projects you're working on, organizations you belong to and links to them, and links to other writers' sites and blogs (and to your own blog).

After you're published, you'll need, front and center, information on how to buy your books. Include where you'll be appearing, approximate release dates of upcoming books. Some readers like to visit their favorite authors' websites and they'll even dash out to buy the next book as soon as it's available. Make that easy for them.

Here's another tactic you can use. If you have a hobby or interest that's related to your writing, you might want to start a separate webpage for that, or maybe you can use part of your writing page with a separate tab. Maybe a gardening webpage if you write about a gardening sleuth--draw in people who love gardening; or a site devoted to Maine Coon cats if your mysteries feature them. You can gain a following, from these interests, of people who just may eventually buy your books. People like to buy books from writers they know something about.

That parallel interest ploy can work with blogs, too, in fact even more so there.

This has worked well for a horse racing fan whose book came out recently to rave reviews, Sasscer Hill. Her book is called FULL MORTALITY and was published in May by Wildside Press. Her publicity compares her to Dick Francis and Sue Grafton--high praise! Her blog has been devoted to the horses she breeds and to horseracing and she's used it to the utmost to promote her mystery.

Back to websites and getting started there. Look around at other people's websites and see what you like about them. Dark, bright, background colors, layout, etc.

Choose some that have the feel you want and try to imitate that in yours. You can even contact the designers of the websites you like to see if they're available to design yours. If the name of the designer isn't displayed at the bottom, you could contact the writer to ask for the web designer's name. Sometimes it's a husband or daughter, or the writer herself. But, if you're having someone design yours, you'll want to give them an idea of what you want and pointing to an existing webpage that you like is a good start.
Below are some that have very different looks to them..


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