When I signed the contract to write the Clock Shop Mystery series, I had to pick a pen name. I chose Julianne Holmes, which is a family name of sorts. I talked about choosing the name here. Two caveats helped with the name choice. The initials are the same (JH) as my real name, and the first name sounds like Julie. If I chose “Sally” or “Betty” I would never respond to folks when they called my name.
When I got the contract for my Theater Cop series, I went with my own name, J.A. Hennrikus. How thrilled am I that my folks are going to get to hold a book with my name on it?
Then I started to think about branding. I have a Facebook page that has both names. For the Clock Shop series, I got the twitter handle @ClaganClocks, since they use it in the book. But I’ve never hid the @JulieHennrikus twitter handle. I’ve got a number of followers from all parts of my life.
But when I got a second JH contract, and decided all of my pen names will be JH names, I thought about creating a second online persona, one for my writing life. @JHAuthors became that Twitter handle. I need to build up the followers, but follow me there for my writing life.
Do you like the picture of me? I saw a caricature service in a stationary store, but it was expensive to have the drawing done. (Note, artists should be paid for their work, it just wasn’t in my budget.) I have nieces, nephews, and god children who own my heart. One of my nieces just graduated from 8th grade, and is an amazing artist. I asked her to draw a picture of me, and told her what it was for. This is what she created. I love it–more timeless than a headshot, but it looks a lot like me. She signs her work RAS. Since she is young, I’m not going to share more details than that, but know that I am a very proud aunt.
The card (which some folks got at Malice) is trading card size. For the next three years I will have at least one book out, so I decided I am going to do a new trading card every year. Isn’t that a fun way to get the information out? I’m always open to new ideas on the marketing front, and do like that the JHAuthors brand could help me figure out some fun pieces.
Dear readers, tell me, what sort of marketing swag do you respond to? Do you think that JHAuthors makes sense, or should I keep all my personas separate?
I think it’s a great idea to unify your brands, Julie, and I love the trading cards. I look forward to what our readers say about marketing swag. As a reader myself, I like the really, really useful branded stuff: spatulas, chip clips. As an author I know those are the most expensive to get made and the most unwieldy to cart around.
I love what you do with your branding–your aprons are so great! I agree, I love (and use) the stuff that now, as an author, I think “wow, I need to carry that.”
Your niece is one talented artist! I’m always intrigued by gimmicky giveaways, but mostly they end up cluttering a drawer. But I cannot resist the classics: bookmarks, pens and pencils. All things I use, so I see them regularly and am reminded of the author each time. I’ve been known to buy a book based on a bookmark I’ve kept for years.
I’ve never figured out the logic of publicizing more than one name. Usually your multiple identities are an open secret among your readers, once you’ve published a few books. We all know Nora Roberts writes as J.D. Robb, right? The two names distinguish between the styles of her two series, but we know it’s her.
I guess I have a mixed response about partitioning your social media presence. I tend to pass over the posts that are all about “buy my new book.” I think (others may disagree) that readers want to know you. For my own, I try for a mix of personal anecdotes and promotional info.
You do well with your mix of social media and personal. Given my advocacy work, I think separation isn’t bad, though it is an open secret. I can’t imagine trying to keep up appearances with different names though–so much work!
I agree with you. Why do authors need more than one name. As a reader, I find it confusing and annoying. I flip out when I find an author whose books I enjoy, has written another series of books that I knew nothing about.
I hand out the bookmarks liberally–everywhere. At signings/book talks I give a map of Salem with each book. For small signings, the local library,etc. I give swag associated with each book. Caught Dead Handed gets hand sanitizer. Tails, You Lose gets a two headed coin. Look Both Ways gets a tiny magnifying glass. Murder Go Round gets a merry go round bead. Grave Errors will have a sugar skull shaped eraser. But the best swag ever is, I think, Nancy J. Cohen’s plastic comb with “Bad Hair Day Mysteries – NancyJCohen.com on it.
WOW, that is a lot of different, but well branded, swag. Is there anything folks love more than another thing? I’ll bet the hand sanitizer is a hit. Love the idea of the magnifying glass–I just bought one to really use on labels.
I love the card idea… I have a huge swag bag full of cover cards and bookmarks that I distribute to local library branches here in Brooklyn and Queens. I’d love to add you to the stack I drop off at each library every month or so.
Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll drop a stack in the mail! Thank you–I love the idea of giving bookmarks to libraries.
The cards are amazing! I realized I don’t keep most swag so I usually don’t pick it up. Unless it’s a pen — there isn’t such a thing as too many pens!
As an office supply “I may have a hoarding problem” person, I will say that you can, indeed, have too many pens. (Glad I have a day job where i can bring them in and be a hero). I agree, I do love pens and pencils. Even lobster erasers!
I LOVE it! Both the branding and the cards.
Thanks Barb. I aspire to be as put together as you are with your stationery and swag. It all works! Even your avatar!
That picture is wonderful. You have every reason to be a proud aunt.
Branding yourself is great. I have a co-worker who also reads cozy, and as I share that “this author is also that author” she always laments how hard it is to keep up with favorites who write under so many names. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem, too. Anything authors can do to help us readers out is appreciated.
Thank you for the compliment on the artwork, I will pass it along!
Interesting and useful feedback from your friend. It really is a decision that we have to make at some point. Not that long ago, you hid your identities. Now, they are part of who you are. One of the upsides of the changes in the business, I think.
The artwork is great (I can’t even draw stick people). I think your decision to go with JHAuthors is a good one. It allows you some flexibility. As far as swag goes, I like useful things like bookmarks and pens the most. I imagine it’s hard to find the right things to give away without breaking the bank!
I love it when folks give out candy, but then we always eat and throw away the wrappers. I will confess, SWAG shopping is fun.
I love the caricature. It’s every bit as good as the The New Yorker’s authors’. I understand authors writing under different names depending on the type of book they are writing, but I do find it frustrating like Mark says. As to swag, bookmarks are the only thing that I keep around and actually look at. I have bought books from that info. Other swag items are a lot of fun, but I wonder if they really help book sales. Having owned a business for many years, I learned to be very selective in the giveaways.
As authors we are our own small businesses as well. Great feedback on the swag. And I’m glad to be learning that one brand with all my worlds makes sense.
As a reader, I appreciate any swag I receive from an author, but the things I keep and use most are bookmarks. Even though I have a Kindle that’s stuffed to the gills, I still read a lot of physical books. Also, until recently, I had a cat who was a bookmark thief, so I’m forever looking for one (I suspect many now reside under my fridge). I like your idea of using JHAuthors as a social media ID. I’m much more inclined to try a new series if I know it comes from an author I’m already familiar with. Your niece’s caricature is wonderful. She’s very talented.
Thank you for the feedback! I love bookmarks, and sort of collect them as well. As Sheila said, they can also remind you to buy a book a lot later.
I must be old school because having an author’s bookmark is just fine with me. I collect them. Your nieces’ drawing is spot on.
Thank you Annette! Will confess, I’ve been known to go into bookstores and put Wicked bookmarks into our books.
Your new picture is lovely–your niece is very talented. Congrats on your new series! Going to follow you on Twitter now. 🙂
My favorites are sturdy tote bags (I know, they ARE expensive), but book marks with the titles of your books as well as author name are small and easy to take to the library (alas, book purchases are mostly out of my reach).
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