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How Much Does Your Name Matter?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by A. E. Lowan, Mar 9, 2016.

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  1. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    AndrewLowe and Russ like this.
  2. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Very good article. There was a great deal of discussion between my wife, myself, her agent, her editors and some of our writing friends about choosing the name my wife would publish under. Branding is a very big deal indeed.

    She is quite right about positioning on book shelves. Even Lee Child adopted his pen name partially for that reason.
     
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Now I feel lucky my last name starts with B. :D
     
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I love her blog posts. They're so helpful and pen names are a good thing to think about. After marinating on this very subject for some time, I finally decided to publish with a pen name because my real one is long, complicated, hard to fit on covers, and one you'll probably hear once in your life. I'm a private person and hardly anyone I know even knows that I have work up. However, I think in this digital age changing pen names with genres is less important. Readers will gravitate towards what they want to read anyway. So I'm keeping the same pen name for my fantasy and western romance books. I also don't want to run 2 different sites and social media accounts for the names, so one it is. I was reading the other day about Ella Casey and how she writes in several different genres with her same name.
     
  5. AndrewLowe

    AndrewLowe Troubadour

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    This is something I never, would have thought of. Thanks!
     
  6. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I agree with her, your name is your brand. You need to protect and preserve it. I disagree with her that you should use multiple brands for different genres. I understand where she's coming from, but even she admits she doesn't know how many readers she lost by not having them realise that one Rachael was also the other. And she acknowledges that it's a lot of work keeping two brands going.

    But more important than that, both brands are being diluted. Because if she writes two books a year one under brand A and one under brand B, then her readers only see one book as A and one by B. They forget her for six or nine months of the year between putting out the book they liked under brand A and the next one by Brand A.

    My advice as always is that unless the genres are mutually exclusive and bad for one another (eg children's sci fi and gay porn where you really don't want one lot of readers knowing so much about the other), stick to one name whatever it is.

    Positioning on shelves I hadn't considered, but in this day of ebooks your alphebtic order probably matters a lot less than before.

    One other thing I will suggest. Actually consider turning your name into a brand. There are issues with it relating to cover design etc. But if you can get readers to recognise your name at fifty feet without even being able to read it, that's a win. And you can trademark it as a word mark! That matters if there are other authors out there with similar names.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    While it is true that book positioning may be less important that it used to be, the number one way that a reader discovers a book they are going to buy for both branded and unbranded authors is "Discovered in Store."
     
  8. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I think the absolute most important thing is that your name is easy to remember and easy to say/spell. Because word of mouth is everything and you don't want to make it hard for your fans to spread the word.
     
  9. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Source, please?
     
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    ^ I think Russ means that the bookstore environment is still where the majority of folks go to get books. Last I saw the statistic was at 85% but this was about a year ago.
     
  11. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    A Codex study of 2300 genre fiction readers conducted in January of 2014 is the one I have sitting beside me.

    Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

    And to be as clear as I can, I am talking about book discovery, the first step in the current model of book sales.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Is there a link you can point to where I can look at the methodology and conclusions of the study? No offense, but believing something someone says just because they cited some study is naive. There are thousands of studies done all the time and most of them are crap. I find it very hard to believe that even in 2014 the primary way to discovery books was finding them on a store bookshelf. I've almost never in my life found a book that way.
     
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Just to weigh in, ten years ago that was the only way to find a book - or anything else - and there were thousands of studies made about shelf position etc. The big ones were usually about supermarket shelves and where you wanted to have your products placed on them to sell. Eye level was highly prized. And in fact there were entire court battles about which products could be displayed where on supermarket shelves. But the internet changes things a lot, and shelf position is far less important to both books and supermarket goods when everything is on a virtual shelf.

    Now we face a different "eye level". The one that will work will probably be the product placement adds where you go to search say a mystery and a convenient add about a mystery book by a publisher determined to sell it, appears on your screen by the list of books found. They have to pay for it of course, but they do. It's all about putting the book in front of people's faces and getting them to click it.

    And of course we face a different type of selection bias. Now when you push a search button what comes back first are the most popular books. So those are what viewers will see first,and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence (note no research available since marketing isn't my thing) that people will only scan through the first few pages / trieves of search results. Which means if you can get a book up there in the top ranks, it's got a better chance of selling and hence staying there, than one that hasn't. It's a victim of its own success.

    Cheers Greg.
     
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    You really need to keep your arguments consistent. Here you are choosing to say that your personal experience actually means something where you also recently said:

    Whether or not you choose to accept studies (from the top company in the field which you didn't even know existed until I told you) is your business. But it can be impossible to rationally communicate with someone who simply chooses to say "most studies are crap."

    If I thought you might read it and assess it honestly I normally would be happy to send you a copy of the study directly. But in this case I don't believe that.

    And more importantly it says across the bottom:

    Codex-Group © 2015 Proprietary and Confidential
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I agree with you that shelf position in a bookstore is less important that it used to be.

    But according to the data it is still the most common way for a book to be discovered for purchase for both branded and unbranded authors.
     
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    @Russ, I don't think you're being fair to pull an argument Mytho made in another thread on a completely different subject. Context matters.

    I've also long ago soured on the use of studies in these conversations. They get bandied about as authorities without any reference for the nuance of what they're actually saying. Then when people do get into it, there's so many details and unknown that it derails the discussion.

    For instance, "Discovered in Stores" doesn't mean "Discovered in Bookstores." It includes for instance thrillers and romance novels sold at Walmart and Costco. I would also be interested to know whether the study includes Children's Books.

    That is, frankly, the results may not be very relevant to self-published fantasy authors.
     
    Mythopoet likes this.
  17. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I disagree completely, but it is not worth wasting the time to go through the analysis to explain why.

    I am sorry to hear you have soured on studies. That really leaves us nowhere then doesn't it? Data, even when imperfect is better than no data. If there is no data, you are left with arguments from authority, or, quite often on this site, people who have no experience or knowledge of the publishing industry making opinionated comments based on nothing more than bias. That does not sound like a formula for useful discussion to me. Does it to you?

    And as I indicated above it was a study of genre fiction readers. It did not include children's books.

    But in this case the data dovetails nicely with the advice given in the article in the OP (argument from authority?):

    So that means the the industry pays for top placement in the SFF section in bookstores. Reason might suggest publishers do that because they know that those placements have value. So the study I cited is supported by the comments of the OP cited author. Or vice versa. Either way in this case the data and argument from authority match up quite nicely. A good position to be in.

    I am sorry, I didn't know this site was restricted to discussion of self-published people or people who only wish to self publish. Perhaps that should be made clear somewhere. I was under the impression that many people here were interested in being traditionally published or knowing more about the traditional publishing industry. If that is prohibited on this site, or irrelevant to its purpose you should let us know.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    When I was in college I studied Economics and Marketing at a leading business school, including courses in Market Research and Data Mining. When I say that I have soured on the use of studies, I say so after having looked at a great many good ones and from hearing people cite a large number of them incorrectly.

    Data, as anybody will tell you, is no substitute for logic. Data tells a story. If all somebody does is cite the data, without explaining the narrative it supports, then it means nothing. And if you can tell the logical narrative, you shouldn't really need the data.

    The purpose of data is to inform your brain, not dictate your conclusions. Using data correctly is itself a skill that requires education and experience, and I personally would refrain from using it than encourage others to use it poorly.
     
  19. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Logic is a great thing when applied properly, but it rarely is, and to do logic well to solve a real world problem you need data or facts.

    Let's say I run a law firm and I want to attract new clients. It's kind of a hard problem to "logic" from first princples my way through the problem without any data isn't it? The logic will likely end up being "This is how I would like to be attracted to a law firm" or maybe I will ask a few friends about what they would like to see in a law firm ad to attract them to come. Or maybe I would a) survey a thousand people with carefully worded questions asked by professionals to see what people want in a law firm or b) run a couple of different ads and see what the response rates were for each.

    So should I "logic" my way through the problem, or should I data gather and then logically analyse the data?

    And let's apply the example to this thread.

    I am writing thinking about marketing books and how to chose my pen name.

    I have advice from an expert that says "Don't underestimate the value of shelf placement in bookstores."

    I have data from 2300 genre book buyers, surveyed by professionals who are trying to help construct a way for authors to sell books, that says the number one way book buyers discover new books is in a book store, which is correlated with other studies that place this method as #1 or #2.

    And I have MP who says "I have almost never found a book that way."

    With that data, which approach does logic tell you to take? Do you ignore the voice of 2300 in favour of the one?

    The problem with trying to use logic to solve a real world problem is that people are far too reliant on their own experience. They make the error of believing that for some reason their experience represents the broader population or a larger trend, when quite often it doesn't.

    And for many questions, once you have good data I am not what narrative you need. If I test market a new T shirt and it turns out that 90% of the people who look at it like colour A best, do I really need to know why they like colour A? What is the narrative I need on that data?

    If I know a significant number of buyers first find out about the book they buy in a bookstore, what more narrative do I need then that when making my marketing decisions? The only thing I can think of is "whether or not that trend will continue", which can be very hard to determine.

    And since you bring logic to the question, do you think some logic suggests that shelf placement in bookstores is not a material factor in selling books? Because if you do it then begs a very important question does it not?
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I have a family member who works as an economist on one of the presidential campaigns, and according to him this methodology difference between the reliance on data and logic is one of the big unsolvable political divides. As people age, and learn first hand how unreliable and misleading the facts and data often are, that's one of the ways people shift from liberal to conservative as they age. It's kind of fascinating.


    In all seriousness, if somebody needs to run polls and gather data on how to open a law firm, then they don't understand the business well enough to open one.

    If they don't understand the logic behind consumer analysis and audience segmentation, the data will be impossible to understand. And response rates on a marketing campaign? That's, like, notoriously the most unreliable and misleading data there is. Marketing is all about generating synergies with your brand and "prepping" customers for the point of sale. Looking at response rates doesn't give you any kind of clarity towards the effectiveness of the campaign. Low response rates could mean any of the following, or more:

    - Your ad was ineffective for your audience.
    - Your ad didn't reach the right market.
    - You're not advertising enough to generate awareness.
    - You have problems in your sales channels, making you hard to reach.

    It would be very difficult to figure out the problem based on a survey of the data.


    Let me ask you this. When would you ignore the voice of 2300 in favor of the one?

    . . . . . .

    When the one matches your target audience, and the 2300 does not.

    Which brings me back to the narrative that the data tells. You still haven't presented that. You've thrown in a few facts. "Branded and unbranded." Sometimes you've said stores, sometimes you've said book stores, but I still don't know if "Walmart" counts as a bookstore here (very few authors get into those kinds of stores). You did say genre earlier, and I missed it because you were slinging your study around like a weapon instead of telling the narrative behind it. You've said it matters for "discovery," which is the first step of a model, but you haven't explained what that model is or what role discovery plays. You haven't talked about whether this applies for books across the board or if you can narrow down differences between subgenres or audience types. Does "number one" mean a majority or a plurality?

    For whom does book store placement matter most in discovery?

    Without that narrative, the data means nothing for anyone making an actual decision. Without that narrative, you're throwing around the data like it makes you right, and everyone else wrong, but without any practical or tangible relevance whatsoever. You've got the data without the logic.


    Mountain Dew did this. They surveyed tons of people and asked them what they thought of different drinks they were trying out. The majority of people preferred Drink A and did not like Drink B. Mountain Dew went with Drink B - Mountain Dew Code Red - and it was a huge success.

    So, I would go with yes, the reasoning matters.

    In this case, Drink A was a lot like everything else on the market, and the preference for it was weak. Drink B had a lot of people who kind of didn't like it, and a handful who said it was the absolute best thing ever. Among other things, it was an acquired taste, preferred by the types of adventurous people who already liked Mountain Dew, which made it the perfect fit for their branding.

    Does your data tell you that kind of detail?

    For what it's worth, I heard this anecdote in a presentation offered directly by the marketing team at Pepsi, which owns Mountain Dew. Which leads me to another point. You need a heavy dose of logic in designing good data. Most of the data that's widely available and that people use for any kind of marketing discussion happens to in fact be crap because good market research is typically proprietary material.


    This, right here, is why so many authors do a terrible job at marketing. I listed some of the questions I had about this particular narrative above in this post. I'm not going to repeat them here. But, there's a reason that marketing is a profession, and the rest use the logic of arm-chair professionals. The data told us nothing but generalities. The data informs a narrative, but without that narrative we know absolutely nothing.

    Just one more for instance, is the rate of discovery high enough to warrant the reduced royalties or other costs associated with working with somebody (say, a publisher, or a publicist) that will get you in a book store? How does that apply to any particular genre or target audience?

    Look, I'm not even saying that you're wrong. I'm saying that you have used your data instead of your logic, and by doing so you haven't provided enough information to work with.
     
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