SPQ 050: Author Name vs. Brand Name: Which is Better for Authors?

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The Question

Mark of FragthePlanet.com asks: Do you think it’s better to use your real name as your brand? My name is a bit difficult to spell. Is it better to use a pen name, or should I stick with another name, such as bookcompany.com?

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

A lot of authors don’t think of a book as part of their brand. They put books in the marketplace, but they don’t think long-term. Steve recommends thinking of each book you publish as part of your author platform. Episode 13 explains the importance of building a platform in detail.

My answer depends on what you want. You have two options:

  • Build YOU as a brand, beyond one specific expertise or topic.
  • Focus on one particular market, like Steve does with Self-Publishing Questions.

There are advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Building YOU as a brand is a good strategy for coaches and speakers. You’re writing books to build a larger coaching or speaking business. Chandler Bolt, for example, uses his books as a calling card. Doing so helps you teach people to think of you as an authority in a larger market.

Another advantage is that you can pivot when necessary. For example, Steve started SteveScottSite.com in 2010. He talked about personal development, exercise, running an Internet business, and so on. Then he pivoted into talking about self-publishing. Because he built the audience around his own name, he was able to pivot several times without losing many of his audience members.

If someone built their whole platform around being a MySpace expert, it would have been really hard to pivot and re-brand himself as an expert in other types of social media marketing. If he built himself as a brand, he could have pivoted from being a MySpace expert to being an expert in other platforms.

Your main benefit might not be really obvious if you build yourself as a brand. This might make it difficult to help people understand what you want to help them with.

There is also the potential to become a “jack of all trades.” It’s difficult to be a lot of things to a lot of people, plus it’s hard to scale or sell your business if your website has your own name in the domain. If Steve wants to sell Self-Publishing Questions, it will be easier to sell than if he had used his own name for the website and podcast.

Building a brand around a topic is a great strategy for dominating one niche. If you have a lot of books in your catalog and you just want to focus on books that have a relationship to one another, this is probably the way to go.

The first advantage is that you are helping people with one specific area, so you avoid brand confusion. Another advantage is that it’s easy to scale your business. Because SPQ focuses on self-publishing, it is an asset Steve might be able to sell in the future. SPQ has a team of people who write the show notes, handle the SpeakPipe questions, and edit the podcast files. All Steve has to do is record the episodes.

When you focus on one niche, you can build systems around the niche to build an asset that doesn’t necessarily require you to work on the business constantly. If you’re only willing to work a few hours of week on one particular project, you can do that. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income has several different businesses, but he’s not trying to be everything to everyone. Some projects are run by his teams, and some he does himself, allowing him to scale his business.

One of the disadvantages of building a brand is that it is hard to pivot. If you talk about one market, it’s hard to talk about a new market and get your audience to keep reading. Boredom is another potential disadvantage. If you talk about the same thing every day, you might lose your creative spark.

Mark mentioned using a pen name. Steve recommends thinking very carefully about using a pen name, as he discussed in episode 9. He urges you to use your own name or a brand name because the world is getting a lot more transparent. Don’t be afraid to put your name out there and build a brand around it.

Resources and Links

SPQ 013: Learn about the importance of building an author platform to market your books

SPQ 009: Should you use a pen name or your real name to publish your books?

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