By Christina Katz
Like most professionals, I spend quite a bit of time online these days. Perhaps this explains why I have less spare time than ever. The more time we spend spreading our "real" life out into our online life, the more important it becomes for writers to communicate concisely and precisely who we are and what we are all about.
If you strive, in all of your online communications, to save folks time, then they can learn all they need to know about you as they go clicking by. You might even gain someone's respect, admiration or strike up a conversation, by keeping what you need to get across short and to the point.
But if you your communications online are muddled, scattered (a little bit of info here and another little bit way over there with no links in between), and poorly composed, then you will repel folks rather than attract them. I can't tell you how many times I have become curious about someone online and then tried to follow their trail of links to learn a bit more...only to end up clicking and clicking and clicking without learning any of the key pieces of information I'm looking for.
In my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow Your Author Platform (Writer's Digest 2008), I outline what every writer needs to clarify in order to make smart choices about what to communicate and how.
Let's say, because it's such a popular name, that you name is Jennifer. This means that you have one of the most common names around (It's true, I can vouch that the most popular name of moms who take my classes is indeed Jennifer.) Are you going to go by Jennifer, Jen, Jenny, Jenni, or something else? You might think this is a minor consideration but not according to search engines like Google, who will find you a lot faster and more accurately if you pick one name as your "writer name," make it as original as possible (use a middle initial if necessary), and stick with it over time.
Remember that song by The Who: "Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?" I always think of that while I'm clicking links trying to figure out who the heck somebody is. And guess what? If I can't figure it out in just a few clicks, then I don't care anymore! What these mystery folks really need is an identity that they can spread around the Internet making it easy for someone like me to figure out quickly who they are and what they are all about.
Now some people like to substitute the word "branding" for identity, but I'm not partial to the former. Are you a writer or a pharmaceutical company? Are you a writer or a can of soda? Are you a writer...you get the idea. Be who YOU are and spread the word in a professional manner. This takes more thought than you might expect because it's part of the story that precedes you, goes with you, and lingers behind you, everywhere you go. For more on this topic, start reading on page 175 and don't stop until you figure out your Otherwise Known As.
My tagline is: Make the most of what you have...to author! A tagline's job is to communicate in one short line what you offer. As you can see, my tagline is even a play on the word "offer." Instead of the common phrase, "Make the most of what you have to offer," I use author instead. The substitution is intended to get your attention and spark your thinking about what you might author. Does it work?
[Continued next month...]
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer's Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.