You Are What You Drive

A rather well known author once wrote; "What's in a name?" If you paid $26,000 for a Chrysler mini-van, would it feel the same as driving a FireBird convertible? And what would have happened if Marion Morrison hadn't changed his name to John Wayne?

For those of you who have been reading my column since I began writing for the Amazing Authors Showcase, you've noticed my name changed from "Robin C. Westmiller" to Raven West. (For those of you who haven't noticed, you can skip ahead a few paragraphs.) I wanted to offer an explanation as to the circumstances which led me to create a new pen name and the subsequent results that decision has had on my professional and personal life.

Last May, I was visiting a friend of mine in Connecticut. We've known each other since Kindergarten and were reminiscing about an old 60's television show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. I came up with an idea for my next novel about two lifelong friends who accidently become involved with an espionage plot during their 30th high school reunion, which happens to be next year. The two of us went though our old yearbook and began sketching out characters we knew who would play different roles, with different names, in the story. Her character's name was going to be Kathleen, mine was going to be Raven.

The moment I wrote it out on the notebook, I felt a surge of energy. Instantly, I knew Raven wasn't going to be the name of my fictional character, it was going to be my new pen name. I shortened my last name and Raven West was born. When I returned home, I immediately called my publisher and told him to re-do the covers of both First Class Male and the re-issue of Red Wine For Breakfast. I ditched my bangs, cut my hair, had a new photo taken wearing a black leather jacket, re-did my web page and re-printed all my promotional material.

Within two weeks of the transformation, I was invited to three book events, two radio interviews, three on-line interviews, a live chat, and the Barnes and Nobel World's Largest Writers Workshop. I was also hired to teach a course at a local university, and two of my entries won first and second place at the Ventura County Fair.

But something else began to change along with the species of bird. The "Robin" persona of a small bird with a dull-red breast of "Rockin' Robin" fame took on an entirely new attitude under the wings of the Raven, described as "A large bird with lustrous black feathers and a straight, sharp beak." (thank you Webster's) which I was more than adept at using, especially to sell my books.

And nowhere was that more evident then at the last book festival I attended. Any author who has ever attended these massive book fairs knows how much of their time is spent "schmoozing" with a number of looki-loos who are more interested in telling you their own story then buying yours. "Robin" spent about an hour listening and sharing and not selling a single book. Then, "Raven" took over, with her straight, sharp beak and one simple sentence coming from that beak. "Buy my book!"

Raven West did not rent a booth to stand in the hot sun for seven hours to chat. Raven West was not there to give advice, listen to other author's woes or commensurate with unsuccessful writers. Raven West was there to sell books, and sell I did.

One man asked me what the story was about. I showed him the back cover, told him to read it and if he held it for more than ten seconds, he had to buy it. He wrote me a check. One woman started to chat about her writer's organization, then said she never read fiction. I told her that was too bad and walked away. Another would-be author wanted information on marketing and promotion. I handed him a copy of my printed columns and told him the information would cost him $5.00. He handed me the cash. I sold ten copies of First Class Male, six of the old version of Red Wine For Breakfast and five marketing packets for a one day total of over $200.00.

When I took a break, I walked around to a number of other author's displays, and not a single person asked me, or even suggested I buy their book. Everyone was so nice, almost apologetic. I, on the other hand practically threatened people. "Buy my book or get out of the way. Don't waste my time talking about your book, or another author's book. I'm not interested and I don't care. I'm not asking you to buy them, I'm telling you to buy them because they're THAT GOOD."

And if they don't like you, so what? At least they'll remember you and they'll tell other people what a B---- you are and the next time they're in a book store, guess whose name they'll remember? The first rule of publicity is that there is no such thing as "bad" ink!

Many authors I know are almost shy about their work, but if you don't believe you've written a best seller, why would anyone else? If you, the author, don't "crow" hard and long and proud, you'll never be heard over the noise of all the other author traffic on the highway. It's not bragging, as my children constantly accuse me of. It's promotion, marketing and getting noticed. It's about selling your books!

All the authors listed here, as well as the editors of this e-zine are "Amazing" It says so on the front of this magazine, but how many of you who are reading this right now, truly believe it? How many of you feel pride in what you've accomplished and not some kind of shame or guilt that you feel that way? Shout your accomplishments and do it proudly, because you deserve to be noticed in your own right. When someone tries to compare me to another author, I tell them right to their face that I'm notthe next somebody else, I'm the first Raven West, and let others follow me. Then, they buy my book, because if I believe I'm a successful, best-selling author, so will they. And success is contagious.

Writing is about talent, creativity, hard work and a good story. Marketing, promotion and successful selling is about attitude, self-confidence and putting your foot down hard on the gas. It's about getting out of the traffic jam of authors who have been driving on the same road the same way with stacks of unsold books in their trunk, gathering dust.

If you're afraid of making a bad first impression, you won't make any impression at all and then you'll be just another small bird with a little chirp, instead of what a fellow author recently wrote to me when I told him I was changing my name: "Raven... a darkly beautiful shadow that flies through the hearts and souls of human drama. In the soft light of dusk ..she carries off a story, a tale, to bedazzle the readers of her books..."

Robin drives a mini-van. Raven West drives a red Firebird convertible and I'm passing everyone on the road to riches! 

One more thing: Buy my books!



U-Turn to The Road To Riches