Top Marketing Tip: Build a Brand Name

“List five things that tell me who you are?”

That’s the question one of my high school teachers asked my classmates and me on the first day of school. We struggled to come up with the most interesting facts we could.

When we read our lists, our teacher surprised us by saying, “Not one of you included the most important thing: your name.”

Talk about a palm-to-the-forehead V-8 moment. That lesson stuck with me. These days when I meet someone for the first time, I hold out my hand and say, “Hi. I’m Keli Gwyn.” Right away the person has the information that will enable them to remember who I am and tell others about me.

If you’re visiting this site for the first time, you didn’t have to wonder who I am because my name is right there in my blog’s title and sidebar. I didn’t make you guess.

For those of us who are writers aspiring to get our work before readers, the best way we can help ourselves is to get our names out there. Our names are our brands.

Try this experiment. Think of Stephen King, James Patterson, and Debbie Macomber.

What came to your mind? If you’re like me, you thought of the kind of books they write: horror, thrillers, and romance. That’s because their names are their brands.

Sure, there are some famous authors whose names are synonymous with their taglines. In the inspirational market, if we hear “Seatbelt Suspense,” many of us immediately think of Brandilyn Collins. However, most of us haven’t achieved her level of notoriety and haven’t coined a tagline as succinct and memorable as hers. Thus, we’re wise to use our names.

To establish our brand names, we need to use our names everywhere. The idea is for people, including those all-important readers, to be able to find us when they search for us online.

By using our names as often as possible online, we begin building up a bunch of Google hits. The more hits, the more chance we have of “owning” our names in cyberspace. The goal is to be the top hit when someone types your name in the search bar.

Places to Use Your Name

In your email address
In your website URL
In your blog title
In comments your leave on others’ blogs
On Facebook
On Twitter
On Google+
On Linked In

I’ve interviewed over 200 novelists on my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. At the end of each interview, I include contact info. When I see a guest’s name appear in each of the links, I know that writer has been working hard to build a brand.

As someone who receives emails from hundreds of people, I don’t have to guess who the person contacting me is when I receive an email that includes the sender’s name in the email address the way I do when I see something like onlychildmom or tacobelladdict.

Similarly, when I see a blog name in Google Reader that incorporates a writer’s name, I don’t have to struggle to remember which blogger uses Joy on the Journey or On the Path to Publication. (Those are two names my blog carried before I learned from Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, that our names are the best blog titles possible.)

For those who write using a pseudonym, my advice is to use it everywhere. Those bloggers who host you will thank you. Most of us have far more names to remember than we care to think about, so remembering that Ima Writer is really Awesome Author can be a challenge. Make it easy for blog hosts–and for readers, agents, and editors–to find your name, and we’ll thank you.

• • •

Is getting your name out there an exciting or somewhat scary prospect?

How often do you perform a Google search on your name to see the hits that come up?

What have been the most rewarding aspects of using your name to establish your brand?

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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28 Responses to Top Marketing Tip: Build a Brand Name

  1. Wendy says:

    Exciting and scary. I laugh at the pictures that come up sometimes when I search my name. You make a valid point here.

    Can’t wait to show up at your other place later today. Thank you for that!!!
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wendy, I’m soooo looking forward to your time at Romance Writers on the Journey. I’ve waited a long time to shine the spotlight on wonderful YOU. It’s not long now!!! =)

  2. I’m in the middle of reading Kristen Lamb’s book. It’s great. The most rewarding aspect of using my name to establish my brand was having my first book club reader find me on FB and leave an enthusiastic post about how much she enjoyed the book. That sure made my day! ~ Sandra

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sandra, how cool that a reader loved your book so much that she took time to find you and send you some fan email. I’m sure there will be many more accolades and encouraging messages to come. =)

  3. Erica Vetsch says:

    I gotta get that book. Excellent advice. I wish I’d known this when I first set up my blog.

  4. cynthiaherron says:

    Ohhh, Keli…getting my name out there…! A scary prospect at first. I don’t use a pen name–I use my real name when writing. Many of my friends call me by the shortened version of my name, but I’ve gotten in the habit of using the lengthier one because that is what I’m building my brand under.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Cynthia, using our names and getting them out there can be scary at first, but the rewards are many. I’ve met oodles of awesome people via the Internet and reconnected with others, so that helped offset my initial hesitation.

  5. VERY well said, Keli, and you practice what you preach. I don’t ever forget that Keli Gwyn is writing this blog because it’s up there for all to see and you place it where it’s supposed to be. I learned this in one of Kristen Lamb’s courses. Thank you for this.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Patti, it took me a while to get up the courage to boldly state my name as my blog title, but when I saw how much easier it was for me to recognize others who do so in Google Reader, that helped me overcome my hesitancy.

      In my case, I have a unique name. I’m the only Keli Gwyn in cyberspace. On one hand, that’s great. On the other, the uncommon spelling of both my names can be a bit of a challenge. I figured the more places people see my name spelled correctly, the more likely they’ll be to remember it. I’m the Keli with one L and two first names. Gwyn is Welsh, and I think it’s such a cool name. I’ve thanked my tall, thin Welshman hubby for it many times. =)

  6. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever googled myself. I’m getting the queasies just thinking of doing so.

    • You’ve done a great job of marketing yourself. You dominate google’s first page with both pen name and married name. Who needs a book?

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Eileen, since I don’t have the queasies about doing a Google search for you, I did one. I put your name in quotation marks–“Eileen Astels”–to rule out all the Eileens of the world and found 8,800 hits. Looks like everything on the first page is YOU. Your interview at Romance Writers on the Journey is even there. =)

      I like doing a Google search for my name from time to time so I can find people who’ve mentioned me in their blogs, etc. and thank them.

  7. Thanks, Keli. That’s good reasoning to do a search. I’ll have to keep that in mind!

  8. Great points here, Keli. This is the main reason I moved my blog to my website a while ago. The previous URL and title were under a generic name. Now you’ve got me curious to Google my name and see how I rank. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sarah, I performed a Google search for “Sarah Forgrave” and got over 10,000 hits. You’re not the only Sarah Forgrave mentioned, but your name is at the top of the first page and fills over half of it. Before you know it, yours will the only name shown on that all-important first page because you’re doing such a great job getting your name out there.

  9. I don’t fit in with my blogging friends, because most of them aren’t authors. So I’m the oddball with MARLA TAVIANO instead of Big Mama and Sorta Crunchy and Finding Him Bigger. Thanks for making me feel better. 🙂

    And, for what it’s worth, I LOVE your name. Short and sweet, easy to remember and say. K-E-L-I G-W-Y-N. Perfect.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Marla, I think you have a cool name. When I see your last name, I hear it spoken in Italian with all the rich emphasis that makes the language sing. (OK, your surname also makes me hungry for tortellini, but we won’t go there. =)

      Thanks for your kind words about my name. I love it, too.

  10. Katie Ganshert says:

    Such wise advice. I love Kristen Lamb. I love how much her books have taught me about social media. Funny and embarrassing fact: I first named my blog Brain Throw Up. Yep. Sure did. Talk about a hand to forehead V-8 moment. Not exactly the brand I want to establish for myself. It’s probably not good for readers to associate me with a gag reflex.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Katie, with a name like that your blog would have been memorable, though. LOL. Ah, the things we learn as we become more cyber savvy.

  11. Kathleen says:

    You affirm me in using my name. I always felt that it was a little “in your face,” and wished I had a catchier blog name. You have inspired me to start using my whole name, and not a combination of my name and my attempt at a blog title, in comments from here on out.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Kathleen, like you I felt presumptuous using my name as my blog title, kind of like “Who does she think she is? Someone famous?” But when I realized the reason for using one’s name is simply ease of recognition, I changed my thinking. These days I’m grateful to those who use their names in email addresses, in website URLs, and in blog titles because it takes the guesswork out of it, thus making my life easier.

  12. Keli, I loved this post! It cuts right to the heart of who we are as writers … because sometimes we really do forget.

  13. Keli,

    Great advice!

    I’m always amazed at the number of blogs I come across and have to dig and dig to find the owner/author’s name! It should be bold and apparent, and the brand should be evident.

  14. I read Kristen Lamb’s blog all the time; she makes good, valid points, as do you. I’m just trying to establish brand and the promotion is a tough ole bear, but with great posts to read and learn from, I’m getting there.

    thanks for a helpful post

  15. Jordyn Redwood says:

    Nice post, Keli. I’m hearing Kristen Lamb’s name mentioned a lot. I’m going to have to spend some time reading her material!

  16. Hello Keli: I am trying to catch up on my blog comments. This post is the fifth time in that many days that I have heard about Lamb’s book and her advise on social networking. Now I must find the time to read her and get some of her sage advice.

  17. KatherineBayless says:

    After reading this post and all the wonderful comments, I immediately purchased Kristen Lamb’s book for my kindle. I am a social media newb, so I need all the help I can get! At least my instinct to purchase my domain name (literally my first and last name) was a good one. Whew!

    Last November, shortly after I self-published my first book, a friend told me that it had been pirated. He had googled my name, trying to find where to purchase my book, and found it listed on several download sites. It came as a surprise, because I thought that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple had DRM that would protect my book. Now, I try to google my name at least once a month. If you find that your own work has been hijacked, check the offending website for a way to contact a moderator. Often, the site will have an electronic form you can fill out and submit to have your work deleted.

    Thanks for the post!

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