View Full Version : Selling my soul to the spiders

Anthony Ravenscroft
08-30-2006, 09:56 AM
I hack around on a few business-oriented sites, & the question of marketing is always lively. The big thing now is the arcana of search-engine placement, & I often try to answer errant entrepreneurs who're scrabbling for every penny yet idly wonder whether they should hock their children to spend a few thousand bucks a month on "improved placement."

In almost every case, they're terrible with using the company's name correctly in the first place, & then move on to various sins committed with META tags.

Presently, one site's off on a big evangelism about creating blogs & forums. This makes sense for Microsoft, but one poor guy is thoroughly believing that his struggling little inner-city fried-chicken shop needs a blog, & tries to write after working 14-hour days, six-day weeks, ever hoping that he's going to get rich from this.

Now, I'll admit that I've been hacking around on computer-net conversations since 1979. Almost never could we use any "fancy" characters in our lognames -- just the "lower 26." Okay, so I did figure out how to slip some ASCII in, & had names with bell-rings, backspaces, & screen-clears, until my buddies threatened to stop reading my messages.

When I started running wild on the Internet, I was glad to see more & more sites that allowed capital letters, then underlines, & finally actual spaces.

Most of the lognames I've launched in the past three years are exactly as you see here. As a writer, I felt that putting any other name out to public was dishonest; in that sense, I don't blame anyone who wants to protect their privacy.

But how come more writers don't do it? There's so much talk of setting up websites & pages that are All-Singing All-Dancing with tons of Flash animations & music tracks, & probably more discussion of SEO, yet the huge majority of people on sites like AWrite don't have an account that even resembles their writing name.

It seems such a simple thing to do that would provide at least the basis for a platform. Am I missing something as to peoples' reasoning?

08-30-2006, 10:31 AM
No you're not, but there's a collision of online cultures; the culture of discussion forums, like AW Water Cooler, and AOL, and MySpace and LiveJournal, where users/members are encouraged to use a nym/alias/screenname and the culture of the professional as him/herself with a real world identity.

It doesn't have to be an either / or. You'll note I use a nym here; medievalist. But I also have my .sig on every post, with a URL and my real name.

And you'll note that even Googling medievalist means you get to me pretty quickly.

In other words the key is to first have quality content; that's more use than all the meta tags in the world, and second, to link quality content to your ID, whatever that is.

08-30-2006, 10:50 AM
I think there are a bunch of reasons that can make pretty good sense--

One is that they want to ask questions that might be thought of as naive, so they don't want agents or editors to see that they had to ask, "What does stet mean?" or "How long should my YA novel be?" Or, worse still, "How do I get my book back from PublishAmerica?"

Another is that they want to participate in Office Party or the Take it Outside board, which can delve into politics, religion, etc., and they don't want that Google-tied to their real names.

A bunch of industry pros have possibly the silliest screen names on here.

A few are teenagers who've been advised not to use their real names online.

Some just want the freedom of not worrying about their audience, and being able to let their proverbial hair down here. There are things I'll hold back from writing because I write kids' books, among other things, and don't ever want parents to stumble across a post of mine that's too racy, for instance.

(I joined a pregnancy board a few months ago under a pseudonym because I knew I'd be sharing personal concerns and didn't want creepy people to use that as stalking fodder. Been there. Learned to share less. Sure, I could have interested a few people in buying my books if I had been posting there under my real name, but the trade-off wasn't worth it in my mind.)

There are probably other good reasons I'm not thinking of.

Anthony Ravenscroft
08-31-2006, 12:36 AM
Oh, there are certainly many good reasons for avoiding easy identification -- no argument there. Sometimes it's nice just to hang out & interact without getting hit up for specific advice, "little" favors, that stuff.

But riffle through this site & notice how many of the posters seem to be on the edge of spending thousands of bucks on publicists, jacket designers, webhosts... how many "will do anything" like an hour-by-hour blog or an 80-city signing tour...

...yet they present a fake name to the world, a name that's not even one of the score of pseudonyms they propose to be published under.

(Okay, admittedly, I can name more than a handful of bloggers & forum posters whose careers would have much better chance if their posts weren't attached to their realname -- it's so pitiable that I sometimes have to warn them that the Internet has a way of holding on to "erased" pages for a long, long time, & to consider carefully before putting up a strong statement.)

There's certainly a place for fake names. I've got older accounts where I'm some variant of "Raven" or "Wolf." If anyone asks, I'm generally pretty free with the list, & maybe someday my fan base will want to know how my political arguments or my musical-instrument reviews extend the context of my mystery novels... but until then it's superfluous ephemera, & retying those threads is a poor use of my time.

Now, if/when I start spending more time on AWrite talking about writing technique & self-marketing for self-pub, I'm gonna want Googlers to be able to find me, because I might want to sell 'em a book about those very topics.

Cathy C
08-31-2006, 01:07 AM
I too started in the long-ago time of BBS and such. I wasn't published then, so CathyC (now with a space) seemed a good compromise for me, since I wasn't really certain what name I eventually wanted to USE on the books. I considered lots of pen names, but insisted on keeping my first name.

Now, of course, you can Google Cathy C and find me in the first few replies, even though there are TONS of other Cathy Cs in the world. But there are even more Clamps (especially the Japanese graphic novelist by that name!)

But with the advent of built-in signatures and "Profile Pages", I don't know that the user name means much anymore.

It's an interesting point to ponder, though. So far, I'll keep my tag. :)

09-01-2006, 06:07 PM
Some people are just here to enjoy the conversation, too. They may have no interest at all in divulging their identity -- even if they LOVE writing.

For my own part, I'm an attention whore. Dclary: That's my name, just TRY to wear it out! :D