7 Tips to Win the Name Game in Branding

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A lot of people think the way to be memorable is to have an oddball a unique name for their online identity.Is this the right way to brand?

They use this name for their websites, social media, and to sign up for newsletters and such. That doesn't work out so well for branding. Sure, some may remember your name, but not in a positive way.

The best branding requires using your own name. Not the title of a book, not the name of your hero in a book, but your own name because that is what you want remembered in connection with the kind of story you write.

7 Tips to Win the Name Game

1. Use your own name for a domain, blog, or social media profile.

2. Use your imagination to come up with a logical variation of your name if someone already claimed it. Sure, you can go after .net or dot whatever--there are a lot to choose from now--but just about everyone thinks websites are dot com. So try to come up with a logical expression of your name if you want a dot com. John Smith Author or Author John Smith or John Smith Writes. All those work.

3. Don’t make your variation too long. Shorter is better in the domain naming world.

4. Don’t use symbols like the underscore to separate names i.e. Joan_Reeves.com that make it hard to read when it’s in a clickable link. When links get underlined, they obscure the underscore. Everyone who has ever used the Internet and email know that names and words run together. Your eye gets used to seeing joanreeves and knowing it says Joan Reeves.

5. Don't use more than 1 dash or hyphen.

6. Make it easy to spell and pronounce.

7. Try to be intuitive in titling. If someone is looking for you, what would they most likely put into a search engine? If you choose to pick a colorful name, be sure it lends itself to appropriate marketing in all kinds of venues. Try to get something that won’t offend more than it attracts.

Takeaway Truth

Choose your brand name carefully. Brand everything. Once you’ve settled on a name, extend the brand to email, blogs, social media, etc. Always put links in your signature line for email. Have cards printed with your brand on it. Use your web addresses anyway you can.

Reinventing Your Writing by Jo Ann Brown (Among Other Names)

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A while back, I emailed my friend JoAnn. I know her as JoAnn Ferguson, but you may know her as  -- or another pseudonym.


Jo Ann and I met long ago when we were both authors for Kensington Precious Gem Romance. She's a Past President of Romance Writers of America and a veteran of the publishing wars.

In my email, I asked her if she would allow me to publish an article she wrote years ago about how authors end up reinventing their careers with the changing vagaries of the publishing world. I found a tattered yellow copy of the carticle which prompted my email. She kindly agreed.

About JoAnn

Jo Ann Brown has been creating characters and stories for as long as she can remember. Her first stories were populated with her friends and sisters. She wrote her first novel in high school, and it happily resides in the very back of her file cabinet. Fast forward through college, serving in the Army as a quartermaster officer, getting married, and increasing her blessings with three children...and Jo Ann sold her first book in 1987. Since it was published in 1988, she has sold over 100 titles and has become a best-selling and award-winning author. Romantic Times called her "a truly talented author." She currently writes Amish romances for Harlequin Love Inspired as Jo Ann Brown.

Reinventing Your Writing
by Jo Ann Brown (among other names)

“When I fall in love, it will be forever...” That song was supposed to be the theme of my writing career. I was in love with historical romances, and I would write them forever. My characters’ once upon a time would mean my happily ever after.


I’ve reinvented myself several times in the 25+ years I’ve been writing, and I suspect I will again. Each time, I’ve done it with eyes wide open. Here’s what I’ve considered each time.

What is triggering my desire to reinvent myself?

• In the early 90's, I went from historical romance author to traditional Regency author because of market conditions. At that point, Regencies were doing great (hard to imagine now!) and slots for historicals had dried up.
• Subsequent reinventions happened when opportunities came my way – a publisher looking for a specific sort of book, a packager needing a ghostwriter, my editor moving from one house to another.
• Reading in a new genre/subgenre and wanting to write in that market.

Why do I want to reinvent myself?

• The need to reinvent oneself may be a story idea/characters you want to write, but you simply can’t fit it into your current genre/subgenre.
• You’re bored and want a new challenge.
• Your fans have been clamoring for a book from you that wouldn’t fit in with your current contracts/submissions.
• You are between contracts/houses.
• Your numbers tanked for your last book, and you need to start over to get the distributors to order more of your next title.

When should I reinvent myself?

• If you are an aspiring author, you need to be Kentucky Fried Chicken – do one thing and do it right. You shouldn’t jump genres...until you’ve published a few books and established yourself as “Paige Turner, who writes erotic Cinderella vampire inspirationals”. Then you can consider reinventing yourself. On the other hand, if you’re not yet with an agent/under contract and your current genre isn’t taking you where you want to go, you can reinvent yourself now. Stop submitting in Genre A while you write in Genre B and start submitting that. It doesn’t mean you’ll never go back to Genre A. It just means you’re making Genre B a priority...for now (as they sing in the Broadway play “Avenue Q”).
• For a published author, you need to look at your contract obligations and figure out when you’ll write what may need to be a complete ms. Just because you submit and sale on proposal now doesn’t mean you’ll be able to when you reinvent yourself. It’s not going back to square 1 (because you have knowledge and experience), but it’s like going back to square 1.5.

What should be considered when you want to reinvent yourself?

• Markets, of course. There’s no sense in writing that erotic Cinderella vampire inspirational if there isn’t a market. For published authors, does your current publisher have a line/program with books like the one you want to write? If so, discuss this change with your editor before you jump ship.
• Time. When will you write in another genre/subgenre with your writing/life obligations?
• How long do you want to stay with this reinvention? If you’re looking at a single book, it’s probably not worth the time/effort.
• Money. If you’re accustomed to million dollar advances (and aren’t we all????), are you willing to take a smaller advance to begin all over again? Even if you’re keeping the same name, you can’t always expect to receive the same advance in different genres. The bookstore sales simply don’t support it.
• Name. Will you take a pen name? Readers can be annoyed if they pick up a favorite author’s book and it isn’t what they expect. If you take a pen name, how do you know your current readers will go with you? You don’t. You can hope your loyal readers will follow us, but some won’t like your new genre. Some won’t get the news (even if you send out a newsletter and/or have a web site and/or a blog and/or Facebook and/or tweet...and/or whatever other social media you use or comes next).
• Renewing your brand. Should you have separate web sites, etc. for each version of yourself? Should you combine them? If you have two separate ones, should you link them? This becomes more of an issue if you’re reinventing yourself into children’s or YA (and possibly inspirational) markets.
• Balancing deadlines. Not only for submitting, but the subsequent work. Many writers when they’re reinventing themselves follow the wing-walker’s rule – don’t let go of one part of the airplane, until you can grab another! Or they simply want to write in multiple genres at the same time. If you’re working with editors at different houses, you have to make sure you don’t set unreasonable deadlines that will have a collapsing domino effect if copy edits come in late for one project and a deadline is shifted on another.

My best advice to you (and the advice I follow myself) is to take the long view and have a career plan before you try to reinvent yourself. Then go for it...

Find JoAnn Online


Buy Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown
Amazon Kindle * Amazon mass market * Barnes and Noble mass market * Nook * iBooks

Takeaway Truth

Authors, print this out and read it when you feel as if a publishing door is closing.

7 Websites Like Canva

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The Trouble With Love (Amazon Kindle & Other Sellers)
See the graphic at left? You can create teasers like this using programs like Canva or some of the other websites listed below.

These websites/apps help you turn ideas into designs, usually incorporating text and images.

You can create blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and just about anything for web or print designs.

Most, like Canva, are free or offer a level that's free. Some offer free memberships for a limited time then you switch to paid. Most of these work with multiple platforms.


Free 30 day trial offered for you to evaluate the ease of making graphic/text designs with PicMonkey.


Easily add retro effects to your photos and create images with the vintage look.


Create and share visual graphics. Their interactive layouts allow you to embed charts, photos, etc., or you can customize a prebuilt template or build it from scratch. Comes with a lot of icons, shapes, and objects that you can drag-and-drop into your editor.

Recite This

Take quotes to the next level by creating images from them. With Recite, enter your quote into the editor on the homepage, choose a layout from the list of templates, and click create.


Another website to create an image from text. Just as easy as Recite This.


Produce stunning photographs and captivating designs with fun, easy-to-use editing tools.


Create visual graphics using templates or from scratch.

Takeaway Truth

Try these free websites/apps to create stunning images. You might find a few you love.

Thursday3Some: Winter Madness by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Thursday3Some welcomes back award-winning author Pamela S. Thibodeaux. Pam is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Find Pamela S. Thibodeaux Online

Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter

About Winter Madness, A Short Story Romance

Sienna has survived what most succomb to - the death of a spouse and child and has maintained her faith despite her troubles. William has never met anyone who actually lived out what they say they believe. Is it true love between the faithful optimist and broody pessimist or simply winter madness?

When did you write Winter Madness?

Winter Madness was written and published in 2008 by White Rose Publishing, an imprint of Pelican Book Group.

What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

After a visit to Snoqualmie Falls in North Bend, Washington, I had this dream or vision of a woman standing on the edge where the falls converge into the swirling stream of water contemplating suicide. As one who has suffered from depression periodically, the emotions my heroine Sienna felt were very real to me, but I knew God wouldn’t want that of me, or her. As a writer the question WHY always follows after a thought or vision. The story evolved from there.

Why do readers buy Winter Madness?

All of my stories offer hope and healing through a relationship with God. Winter Madness shows that regardless of how hopeless you feel or horrific the circumstances, God has “plans for a hope and a future and an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11) for your life.

Add Winter Madness to Your Library

Amazon * Pelican Book Group

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for a different kind of inspirational romance, try Winter Madness by Pamela S. Thibodeaux.

6 Tips To Introduce Characters

Have you mastered the techniques of introducing characters in your book? In the September edition of Writing Hacks--just click to subscribe--I gave these tips in the Beginner's Corner.

Introducing Characters

I read a book recently that prompted this tip.Before I reached the end of the first chapter, I was flipping back in an effort to figure out who all the characters were. It was like an old movie advertisement: "A cast of thousands."

Always remember that simplest formula for a story: a compelling character strives against great odds to achieve a worthy goal. Your goal is to make your characters compelling.

Take care when introducing characters. Here are a few tips to help you.

1. Introduce your main characters one at a time and give enough "space" for the reader to acquaint himself with that character before moving to introduce another.

2. Give enough description to cement the character in the reader's head.

3. Make it apparent who your main character is. I've judged a lot of manuscripts in contests where I'm trying to guess who the story is about. Smart writers make it known from the get-go.

4. Beware of introducing a character, making that character compelling and fully realized--and then killing that character off to turn the story over to a different character. This seriously annoys readers.

5. Give your compelling character believable obstacles to overcome. See the simplest formula above.

6. Give your character a worthy goal and make it plain enough that the reader remembers what the character wants. Nebulous character wants equal an unremarkable, unmemorable character. (Also from the simplest formula above.)

Takeaway Truth

Master the art of making good character introductions, and readers will stick with your book to the end.

 Authors, learn from my mistakes. Subscribe to WritingHacks, my free email newsletter with tips and tricks of the trade, and receive a special report.

Readers, subscribe to WordPlay, my free email list/book chat newsletter, and receive a free book.

Review: WWII Spy School

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When World War II broke out in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt knew it was just a matter of time before the United States became involved.

He knew the U.S. needed special agents to gather intelligence about what was going on. There was only 1 problem. The United States had no spies or covert operatives or anyone to train any volunteers.

Britain Was Well-Versed in the Spy Trade

Roosevelt turned to Winston Churchill because the Brits were all too familiar with the need for spies and intelligence gathering. They faced a problem though. There could be no training facility or school for spies in the U.S. because our country wasn't officially at war. So the British experts in the spy world started Camp X, a school for spies located near Toronto, Canada, and America began sending likely candidates there for training.

The Mysterious Camp X

World War II Spy School is the story of Camp X and its graduates, Americans who learned how to do the dirty jobs sometimes necessary in defending their country and gathering intelligence against the enemy. The OSS, a top-secret spy agency hatched by Roosevelt and Churchill was the forerunner of the CIA.

With excerpts from the manual that served as its training bible, this documentary is riveting and makes no apologies about the brutality needed to succeed at modern espionage. As an example, they quote the passage on how to search someone. "First, kill the person then search them. If that is impractical, make him lie on the ground and hit him in the head with the butt of your gun."

Yes, this is what warfare is sometimes. Kill or so you have 1 less combatant to worry about. Through declassified information and firsthand accounts from those involved, the story of the covert war within World War II will captivate you.

Legacy of Camp X

It comes as no surprise that several early directors of the CIA were graduates of Camp X.

Check your local listings for air dates. I watched WWII Spy School on Netflix. The documentary was produced for the Smithsonian Channel so check your listings or visit the link above for local air dates.You can also purchase the documentary from the link above.

Takeaway Truth

For students of recent history, especially WWII and/or military history, this is a must-see documentary that will have you talking about it for days.

5 Tips: Writing & Publishing Children's Books

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I get a lot of mail from beginning writers. Just about all have the same general questions. Today's post is advice I gave recently to an aspiring children's book author.

Truths About Publishing Children's Books

1. It's harder to get published in children's books than any other kind of writing. Why? Because successful children's books last forever. That's why everything from Poky Little Puppy to Curious George, though many decades old, continues to be published. So the children's market is one of the most competitive niches of all.

2. Children's books are divided into specific groups based on the age of the reader. They begin with books for children aimed at the parent who will read the book to the child and end with books aimed at the teen market with many areas in between. Do you know where your book falls? If not, learn the various classifications of children's books so you'll know where your story fits.

3. Some writers are now self-publishing children's books as eBooks either through the Kindle platform or another platform. Most call self-publishing, indie publishing, akin to the indie film label used by independent film producers. Being an indie publisher and using an eBook format isn't especially lucrative yet because children don't usually use eReader devices like iPad and Kindle to do more than play games even though Kindle Fire and iPad support color illustrations. The number of children reading ebooks will continue to grow, albeit slowly.

4. The more successful way to publish for children, other than traditional publishing, would be to indie publish a print book using a publisher like CreateSpace. This allows you to more easily and economically incorporate color illustrations.

5. The bottom line? Seriously study how to write for children. Read some of the books on the market that are aimed at this genre. Writers Digest Books has published dozens. I think they still publish a market guide for writing children's books.

Takeaway Truth

Abandon the mistaken assumption that children's books are easier and quicker to write. Embrace the genre if that's where your heart leads you.