What's in a name?

One of the things that taxes me most at the moment, as I look out at the no-doubt glittering career as an indie author ahead of me, is the marketing. I don’t think I’m alone there, since almost every message board and writing blog is about 50% people running around screaming ‘argghghggh’ and invoking the ghost of Bill Hicks to strike down whoever invented marketing, or at the very least, ship them an envelope full of glitter. As I sat down for my first marketing planning session of this year, it dawned on me that before I can do any of the nitty gritty platform building, I have a decision to make.

What the hell am I going to call myself?

Don’t get me wrong. I like my name well enough. It’s a good, functional name. I like the idea of identifying with my work, because I’m proud of it. I want the world to know it’s been done my me. Not only that, in order to launch with any semblance of success at all, I’m going to need basically everyone who knows me to buy it, which will most likely only really happen if it has my name on it.

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I have a fear, and not the usual one about a bathtub full of spider wasps, but  that ‘Paul Stephenson’ is not a great name to put on the front of a book. The two words are completely different lengths for one thing, and the surname is the longer, so if I were to double up I’d need to have the PAUL huge and the STEPHENSON in tiny writing. Just a bit weird. Of course, I hear you say, you could just do it on one line. You’d be right to point that out (if a bit of a pedant), but that means a small name, which is harder to read at speed. You need to stand out on your cover, and you’re unlikely to do that if people have to strain to see your name on the thumbnail of your book. It’s a fricking minefield, let me tell you.

So what are the options? Well I could go the initials route; PR Stephenson. But I’m not convinced on that, either. Seems a bit, I don’t know, wanky for me. I’ve toyed around with a few other options, but none of them feel entirely right. Since my good-lady-soon-to-be-wife is going to be taking my name in all probability, I quite like the idea of taking her surname in some kind of tit-for-tat name swap, but I’m not sure Paul Green is all that better than what I have already. Besides, there’s a few of them on Amazon already, which would make it a riskier proposition than my real name, which is so far unclaimed.

‘Why the hell are you worrying about this now’, you may be asking. ‘You’re not publishing for ages yet, and you haven’t even finished the first book yet. Concentrate on that.’ You may say that (although that sounds a lot harsher than I imagine my readers to be) but the truth is that I need to start doing things like building author platforms in the next few months. I need to decide on the name of my author platform, for one thing, in order to buy the domain and start building the website.

I need to get moving on the marketing now, so that there’s some vague hint of an audience out there when I launch. This is doubly important if I’m going under a nom de plume, since any vague cachet I’ve built up through the likes of this blog, DP or the Rolling Stone challenge will no longer count.

So I need a decision. I need help. I might need an exorcist. What do you, dear reader, think?

Report! Report!

The quest for reinvention is going pretty well so far. I’m aware that posting such a statement on the 13th day of the year is asking for trouble, not because of any specific fear of a random number, but because I’m less than two weeks into a full year reboot of my entire life and 13 days is conspicuously early to be calling anything. But it’s going ok so far. On the health front, I’ve been sticking pretty well to the meagre calorie amount afforded to me by my popular brand of calorie counting mobile application, and have even managed to rouse my carcass onto a fitness machine on a couple of occasions. The net result is that I’ve lost five pounds, even though I took ‘Saturday night is treat night’ a bit too literally this week and got fish and chips before emptying the drinks cabinet. No, we don’t actually have a drinks cabinet. Not any more, anyway. I even managed to resist free cakes being waved in front of my face today.

*fans face* I’m ok.

The wedding planning is now fully underway too, with weekly planning meetings in the diary (and you must respect the diary) and all sorts of things getting achieved. We’re wedding planning machines, albeit ones who cannot yet decide on whether to have a chocolate fountain.

I’m also really happy with the way the writing sessions are going. I’ve got scheduled sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for an hour each day. I’m not going to lie, some of those have been extremely hard to motivate myself for, but every time I’ve sat down and committed myself, I’ve gotten shit done. I’m focusing mainly on the third draft of Blood on the Motorway in January, and then it’ll be going out to beta readers. I’m on track at the moment, and increasingly feel like it’s not so dreadful that I’ll be embarrassing myself when I publish.

I had my first ‘non writing’ writing session last night, investigating some options for the promotional side of things. This mainly consisted of looking at the Bookbub website, picking a hosting service to set up a platform on, and biffling about on KBoards, the Kindle user message board that is chock full of indie authors giving each other advice and support. I posted a question there that’s been bugging me last night and already had over 30 responses, which is really pretty cool. I’ve not been a big forum user since the glory days of the Raw Nerve forum, bit I can see me getting pulled in by this one.

One of the big questions I need to answer, however, is what the hell to do with my blog. You may have noticed that my last post on here was a bit different to my usual waffle, in that it was probably the first blog post I’ve ever written that had an eye on trying to write copy that was ‘marketable.’ I figured it was a skill I need to pick up if I want to build an author platform that would drive potential readers to my books (when they’re out) or my mailing list (once I go ahead and set one up).

It was pretty dreadful, really. It took three times as long to write, and was noticed by precisely nobody. Not a single interaction, which is pretty poor. So rest assured I won’t be doing that again. What I will be doing is continuing to write whatever the bejeesus I want, whenever I bejeesusingly want to. I just need to try and work out how to apply that to the good advice I keep hearing about author platforms, most of which is ‘don’t write for writers.’

More on that, I’m sure, in due course.