Friday, June 15, 2012

Writing: Name Recognition

I'm a member of a number of writers organizations, one of which is the International Thriller Writers. Each month I get a newsletter from ITW that lists the forthcoming releases from members. There's a long list, and as I always do, I scanned the most recent one, looking for a familiar name. I love to read thrillers, and like most readers I've identified writers whose previous work I have enjoyed. So, out of that sea of names and titles, I picked one book--just one--that I wanted to be sure to read. Because of name recognition.

Writers talk endlessly about platform and marketing, but I remain convinced that the best way to get our work purchased and read is by word-of-mouth. To put it another way, we seek name recognition. Sure, we can get that by making the New York Times best-seller list, or winning a major award, but it's also possible to get our name recognized because reader A tells his/her friends readers B and C, who then pass on their recommendations to D, E, F, and... You get the picture.

None of this is applicable if you're a celebrity, of course. A "tell all" book by the Pope's butler will probably hit the best-seller list (if it hasn't already--I don't care about those things). But for the writer of fiction, name recognition and word-of-mouth remain the tools that drive sales. At least, that's my opinion.

My friend, award-winning author Jim Rubart, says that an author's name and brand are a promise to the reader. What do you think? Do you ever buy a book because you've read something else by that author and liked it? And, if that's the case, have you ever been disappointed? Let me hear what you think.


Timothy Fish said...

I was in the Atlanta airport one time when storms had delayed everything. Knowing I had several hours of waiting ahead of me, I went looking for a book. I found one by an author I had liked reading before because her mysteries were comical. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations.

Cindy said...

There are several authors that I love to read and will always be on the lookout for their new books to come out. I would say that very seldom have I ever been disappointed but it does happen. Writing or plot may not be there for me but that doesn't mean I won't pick up their next book or keep recommending them. Everyone has an off day at some point or another.

Recently someone had posted about a book that they had started reading which happened to be the first in a series and it was going very slow for them. So happened that I had read the whole series so that I was able to encourage them that if they could make it through the first book, the remaining 4 in the series were much better.

Word of mouth works.

Richard Mabry said...

Timothy and Cindy, thanks for your comments. I think authors try to put out a reproducible product, but sometimes we fail. It can be related to publishing deadlines, sometimes to things in the author's personal life about which we have no idea, lots of factors.
To me, the important point as an author is that, as Jim Rubart reminds us, our brand is a promise to the reader. We need to do our best to keep it.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I definitely agree word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools. I've more than once bought a book because it was mentioned to me by someone else who'd read it - even if I wasn't familiar with that author.

I've also bought a book by an author I was already familiar with and been let down. I guess if you write one book readers like, you are competing with yourself for the next, and hopefully you can live up to the standards you've created for yourself :)

Richard Mabry said...

Cindy W.--never thought of it that way, but you're right. If readers like one of your books, you're competing with yourself (as well as all other authors) for their future attention.
Appreciate the comment.

Carol Garvin said...

There are too many titles available and not enough time to read them all, so I need some kind of criteria to help me choose. If I don't have a personal recommendation (I don't usually read reviews), then I look for a familiar author's name. When I find an author whose books I like, I'll read everything I can by that author.

The only times I've been disappointed have been (1.) when a commercial NYT acclaimed author began producing too many books too quickly (IMO) and the plots became predictable, and (2.) by one who is now collaborating and later stories are by the co-authors whose writing is unlike the original author's.

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, Couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for the comment. Promise me that you won't start pouring out "assembly line" books like some authors we could mention.

Julia Denton said...

I devour Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency books and can't wait for each new title. I eagerly tried his other series, but didn't like it nearly as much.

On the other hand, I've never read any of John Grisham's legal thrillers (!) but I read A Painted House specifically because I heard it was one he insisted on writing even though it was not his typical novel. I figured if he loved the story, that would come through in the writing. I was not disappointed!