The @IQOkie Debate

By guest blogger Tricia Sutton

Politically correct for writers: Which Twitter handle do you vote for?

Rules, guidelines, and basic social media etiquette for aspiring authors do, for the most part, make a lot of sense. Like, why use a cat avatar if my book isn’t about cats? My future published book will not be written by IQOkie (which does represent my book), so why have it as my Twitter name? Good questions. But can my blog be the place for my real name and face? That’s where I form all my online friends anyway.

You are about to witness something I’ve never done before, anywhere. I’m going to sing on this post.

(Or, rather, you are.)

First, refresh your memory of this ’70s favorite: “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band.

I dedicate this song to all the writing and platform rules out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a rebel and I believe in a lot of these rules, even the ones we’ll sing about. I also believe in de-cluttering my office—but that doesn’t mean I like doing it.

Okay ready? Here we go. One, two, one two three four,

And the rules said, “Avatar that’s not your face, I will not friend.”
But I ruled that my cat is cuter and asked why should I blend in?
Rules said, “You could be a fine upstanding Twit, but I don’t like cats.”
So I hit reply and said, “First it’s cats, then it’s whack-haired freaky people who wear offending hats.”

Rules, rules, everywhere rules
Creating conformity with online robot schools
Do this, don’t do that, don’t cha know the rules?

And the rules said, “Monikers in place of names, I will not friend.
And if I can digress, they’re currently not what’s in.”
In my reply, I type, “Don’t care what’s in and I ain’t shy,
but an angry cat face and a catchy name will be easier to remember me by.”

Rules, rules, everywhere rules
Creating conformity with online robot schools
Do this, don’t do that, don’t cha know the rules?

The rules said, “Now, hey you, IQOkie, why, can’t you read?
You’ve got to have your face and real name for us to greet
You can’t even visit, no we can’t meet
Conform or pay the price
You got to be just like us to get inside.”


[Lead Guitar]

Rules, Rules, you sound really smart,
but my cat and my name will stand me apart.
Do this, don’t do that, you don’t make the rules?

Then the rules said, “IQOkie, I’ve really tried to be nice.
But if you want followers, conform or pay the price.”


Lame, I know. I bet the real—and better—song is stuck in your head. Admit it. And if you’re old enough, I bet it dusted off your inner hippie. But let’s put your hippies away for a minute because they will be my target audience for my book and, well, let’s face it, I’m going to need a bigger audience. I need to appeal to the masses. And to do that, I read advice on just how to accomplish it. And there’s no shortage of experts who’ve written the book on it, literally.

Where should we writers draw the line between carving our own path or walking the one everyone else is taking?

I happen to click on the websites of those Twitter avatars that catch my eye before I would a basic head shot—I’m also the type to buy a book for its cover.

I compromised and changed my Twitter name to my own. But my kitty face? I’ll change it only upon the advice of my future agent, or if every comment on this post convinces me I should.

What do you think? Do you, readers of this fine blog, get annoyed by the non-person avatars and catchy names that are not the author’s? Or does it spark an interest, an “OMG-who-is-this-freak?” reaction that compels you to click on their website link? Inquiring minds want to know.


Pictured is Tricia Sutton in her writing jacket—it’s called a robe in some parts—and one of her distractions, Spanky. She’s re-written the beginning of her novel over a hundred times, using at least 99 of the listed 100 Worst Novel Beginnings. By the time she’s finished, they’ll need to expand the list. To see what she’s been doing during The Great Novel-Writing Coma of 2009/10 (and the first month of 2011), visit her publication page.

26 Responses to The @IQOkie Debate
  1. Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    June 10, 2011 | 6:48 AM

    I am one who broke a platform rule, without even knowing it, choosing @wordsxo (loves words) for both my twitter handle and also my blog address. One of the reasons I did this was because my name Julia Martin is very common and not available, and if I used my writing name Julia Munroe Martin, it takes up too many twitter characters: 17 vs 7 for wordsxo. Still, I now regret the decision and wish I’d used my name….for both. And I may at some point change (at least my blog name). As for the avatar, I really do prefer a person’s face over an animal avatar — they don’t annoy me, just that it’s one more reality check for me that I’m communicating with a real person. Still I really don’t judge anyone by any of it, it’s just personal (and publishers’/agents’) choice.

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 10, 2011 | 9:30 AM

      Julia, more and more I think I like catchy names. I knew right off when you said wordsxo who you were. Otherwise it takes my brain a while to make the connections.

      Makes me wish I had an unusual name so I could be memorable and myself.

  2. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    June 10, 2011 | 7:23 AM

    Very good post Tricia,

    My first thought of people without a face is, “What are they hiding?” The name doesn’t matter all that much. An avatar doesn’t matter too much if it’s your logo or branding. Take the little dog on Fear of Writing. Milli can use that because it brands her place on the Internet. But general avatars (cats, hearts, butterflies, etc.) Unless it’s part of a logo, just makes me leery of why someone won’t show me who they are–especially if they’re a writer or marketer.

    I think the average Internet user has been terrified to believe that stalkers are everywhere. And while there may be stalkers out there, you’re just as likely to pick one up at the grocery store–and that one can actually follow you home. It’s highly unlikely that someone from Timbuktu is going to hop on a plane and come to Branson to find me. It’s also unlikely that would-be stalkers have the money to do that much travel anyway. Plus, I don’t actually live IN Branson, but I can see the lights from my windows. 😉

    As a writer, I do believe it’s very important to have a picture of yourself and use your pen name at least, or create a logo if you don’t want to show who you really are and brand yourself with that logo.

    My ex husband was the worlds worst about worrying with what I did and said online. Since I’ve remarried and have my name and face out there I’m easy to find online and people generally know what I’m all about. It seems to have made me a real writer too. LOL.

    Just my two cents worth. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your cute little song ditty.

  3. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    June 10, 2011 | 9:37 AM

    Patti, I was all set to jump on the next plane to Branson, but you intercepted with the “I don’t actually live IN Branson, but I can see the lights from my windows.” Smart move. 🙂

    My hope was to generate some curiosity for folks to come to my blog (where I can ensnare them with my real name and face and force them to become followers).

    But I don’t want to come off as a creepy person either. I guess I don’t think I’m charming enough on my own that I need asstistance from my cat to get followers. 🙁

    • Patti Stafford
      Twitter: pattistafford
      June 11, 2011 | 7:10 AM

      Well see, the Branson airport isn’t even in Branson. It’s ten miles out of town. LOL

  4. @fearofwriting
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    June 10, 2011 | 10:02 AM

    When I come across a witty or captivating Twitter handle, I take delight in being entertained or provoked to think about the layers of meaning that might be hidden there. I also add it to my “Bestest Twitter @ Names” list.

    Naturally, I don’t do this unless the person is followable, and there are several things I always check first. Absolutely uppermost is his or her Twitter style of self-expression. If I find enough worth reading in the Twitstream then I progress to clicking on their blog or website URL.

    With yours, I would be more suspicious about your URL because I don’t know what dfmil09 is. Have you considered getting a domain name? (or something containing your name, if that’s already taken) would instantly give your Twitter profile more credibility.

    In this society where we’re seemingly rewarded for being homogenized, I love anyone on Twitter who shows some zing. But I can understand why many writers seeking publication like to play it safe.

    However, I think your case is different from the average unpublished writer’s. Your comedic voice relies on the audacious – so would an agent or publisher considering your material really be afraid of @IQOkie and a fiesty cat icon? After considering the advice you receive here and on your own blog, I think you should go see what published writers in your genre are doing with their platforms. That should give you laser-specific food for thought.

    Plus, here’s an expert you can pose your dilemma to: Jane Friedman. (From her bio: “Jane Friedman is a recognized authority on the future of media and publishing.”) In a blog post on her Writer’s Digest blog, There Are No Rules, Jane answered a question from a writer who had posted her question on Jane’s Facebook page. Maybe you could try that.

    The question was about whether or not to start a blog, but I found this quote from Jane’s responses relevant to your situation:

    “If an agent/editor is turned off by your site/blog, they may not like your style or voice, regardless of content or professionalism. If your blog is a good representation of who you are as a writer (and most blogs are), then it would be like worrying about a potential mate who decides not to start a relationship with you because he/she doesn’t like your personality. Saves you both some trouble, right?”

    ~ Milli

    P.S. The link to the Should You Blog? post on Jane’s blog was via @on_creativity’s Creativity Tweets of the Week 6/10/11 at The Artist’s Road, posted today. Thanks, Patrick.

  5. […] a debate going on over at Fear of Writing on avatars and monikers. Of course I instigated. And of course I sang the post. Yes, there’s […]

  6. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    June 10, 2011 | 11:35 AM

    Milli, as for dfmil09, that was a big mistake on my part when starting my blog. I had no idea that it would be my URL(I’m not tech savvy and might be considered dumber than a stump in regards to anything computer). I thought it was just my username. I was told that to fix it, I would have to start a new blog and export my old blog to it and all that. It went over my head so I never did it.

    Then just the other day, I happened to be messing around on WordPress dashboard and saw a new feature where you can change your username without deleting your blog. Since there were boxes to check, I didn’t do it. I didn’t know which box to check and was afraid I’d do something tragically permanent.

    So if any of you know about that, let me know so I can change my URL thingy without much obiliteration and destruction and annihiiation and …

    FYI: dfmil09 stood for the initials of one of my earlier title versions of my book: Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost. The 09 stood for the year I would get published. Ambitious thinking. I still haven’t finished it. And if I found an agent today who found a publisher tomorrow, it would still be a few years before it was published. So naive, I was.

    Thank you so much, Milli for hosting me today. Love the music video you added.

  7. tmso
    June 10, 2011 | 12:25 PM

    Very interesting. I like your moniker and the cat picture, but, yes, I have to admit, it’s nice to see a picture of the real person and a real name helps to place a person in the real world. However, I use a moniker (tmso) and I use a picture of the sun as my avatar. Go figure.

    I suppose, ya just gotta be yoooouuu.

    (I sang that last bit.) 😉

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 10, 2011 | 3:48 PM

      Nila, I’m absolutely thrilled you sang that last bit. Now maybe that one will get stuck in my head instead of “Signs” going on its third day.

  8. purplekangaroos
    June 10, 2011 | 3:27 PM

    I think you got a lot of good advice comments here, this is just my own persistent habit of questioning authority 2 cents worth.

    Just because it’s available, I don’t see why a person has to put their own picture in. Maybe they don’t want anyone to know their age and that could go for all ages. Specifically to an author, do agents judge on age like they do in the workforce? (Too young, too old?)

    Maybe they are shy and it’s already a stretch to even venture into social media. If a person is paranoid, I think it’s better if they listen to their intuition and create an avatar so they can feel more safe.

    catherine 🙂

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 10, 2011 | 3:53 PM

      Catherine, part of me thinks I can get away with all sorts of madness since I write humor. The intuition part, that is. But I probably come across as looking like a nut cake.

  9. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    June 10, 2011 | 3:54 PM

    This post raises a lot of interesting questions, as do the comments. I’ve been wrestling with them myself, and haven’t shown much consistency.

    I started my social media outreach with Twitter, and somebody already had my name, so I created @on_creativity, because I intended to tweet about creativity (and still do). I’ve since been told using an underscore is amateurish, but I like that you can tell easily what I tweet about.

    I use a stylized version of my face. I have a standard head shot on LinkedIn but wanted something more artistic for Twitter. I have to say I find it off-putting when people don’t use their face; when you go to blogs where people launch attacks (something I tilt against at they never show their face, so I have trust issues there. I TOTALLY GET why some women would not want to list their location, however. If someone is self-conscious about their looks or doesn’t want to shout out an age, they could do something not completely revealing (shadow, odd angle).

    When I launched my blog about a month after the Twitter feed started, I added a new brand, The Artist’s Road. That is more descriptive of the blog, which among other things includes anecdotes from a road trip interviewing artists, and could be the name of a book if I get a publishing contract. But of course from a marketing standpoint there’s no logical connection to on_creativity, and NEITHER uses my name.

    I recently created a Facebook page. This time I went with “Patrick Ross On Creativity,” which at least associates my name with my Twitter account, but does NOT link with my blog.

    Finally, for my professional writing clients I have a separate site that uses my name. In other words, I’m throwing all sorts of brands all across the ‘Net. Oy vey.

  10. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    June 10, 2011 | 7:17 PM

    Patrick, I think the FB page where you join your name with your Twitter account was a smart move.

    It never occurred to me using an avatar not of your face could be considered creepy, paranoid, or hiding something I’m glad for all these comments to open my eyes.

    On the upside though, I’m so new at Twitter that by the time there’s a human face to go with the real name, I might actually know how to use it. All my blunders will have been under my cat and moniker.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      June 10, 2011 | 8:24 PM

      Patrick, you’ve got an agent representing your manuscript about the road trip interviewing artists, right? Is there a post on your blog that chronicles what you did to land an agent?

      ~ Milli

  11. Lois
    June 11, 2011 | 8:05 PM

    To each his own, I say. I use my first two initials and my last name almost everywhere, and I change my picture when it suits me. I don’t really think about whether or not I should use a picture of myself or not. Maybe someday I’ll put a lot more thought into it. Right now, I go with what I like. 🙂

    Oh, and I much prefer Mr. Big’s version of signs. Hair Metal rules! 😀

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 12, 2011 | 10:54 AM

      Lois, I hadn’t put much thought into it either. But now that I have, I’m realizing all the things I’ve been doing wrong. I liked it better when I didn’t know what I was doing.

  12. Lois
    June 12, 2011 | 1:20 PM

    I guess it’s true that ignorance is bliss! 😛

  13. Carol J. Garvin
    June 15, 2011 | 1:29 AM

    Tricia, no matter what you call yourself I think it’s to your advantage to make sure people instantly recognize you wherever they find you. Personally, I like to associate a real person’s face with a name, but I’ll learn to identify someone by whatever they post, as long as they’re consistent. Take agent Janet Reid, for instance. She uses her real name, for obvious professional reasons, but she likes to be known as a shark, and a shark graphic is what you’ll see as her avatar absolutely everywhere.

    However, whatever the image, I think it’s important for aspiring writers to establish a professional name — whether your own or a pseudonym — as early in the game as possible, and stay with it. The name you choose will become part of your brand.

  14. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    June 15, 2011 | 6:15 PM

    Carol~I love Janet Reid’s shark. Plus some of her faithful readers will send her links to various shark attacks, which she shares. Her avatar is fun for everyone.

    Since I’m not representing a cat or writing about cats in any way, I should probably go human.

    Alert: Feisty cat avatar to the highest bidder.

  15. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    June 16, 2011 | 1:24 PM

    Rules are meant to be broken. Writers should always, always follow their gut instincts when it comes to avatars. I went with a big black S on a yellow background because it’s supposed to represent my blog, rather than just me. Anybody who wants to see what I look like can find a picture on my About page.

    Like everyone else, I think I look terrible on pictures. I picked a self-portrait that I found acceptable. It wouldn’t work on Twitter, though. My current logo works at different sizes and that was a vital concern for me.

    I don’t think anybody’s frightened of my twitvatar (there, new word) or put off by it. One of my connections said it was ‘shrouded in mystique.’ 🙂
    Since I connect with people mostly through my writing voice, the S hasn’t been much of an issue.

    But I understand what you’re driving at. I believe the key is, show everybody you’ve got faith in your avatar — if you do, it can be anything. Even a screaming badger, a Tasmanian devil or one of the spaceships from Independence Day.

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 16, 2011 | 5:35 PM

      Well, well Mr. Bell, I went to your About page and you are a fine looking guy. You are much better looking than your avatar. If you aren’t using your face, can I have it? :-)(I’m sure Milli has some rule against flirting/harassing with her guests, so I’ll be good now.)

      I was hoping for the whole mystique thing on Twitter. My mug is everywhere else. People need a break from it. My cat is temporary, though, until I find just the right picture of me that makes me look better than my true self. Haven’t found it yet.

      • Bell
        Twitter: StartYourNovel
        July 1, 2011 | 1:22 PM

        I don’t feel harassed. No worries there.

        As for my face — I’ve been growing it for decades, and I’m not sure how to put it back on, if I let you borrow it 😉

        I see you’re sticking with the kitty. It dovetails with your twitter bio, I must say.

  16. j
    June 16, 2011 | 4:55 PM

    I’m so late to this party, Tricia. Sorry! Very behind on my bloggy rounds. What have you decided?
    the tweeter formerly known as jdistraction

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      June 16, 2011 | 6:22 PM

      J, formerly known as jdistraction, I haven’t decided. Perhaps when I devote more time to Twitter, I’ll scare the webosphere with my face. Enjoy my cat while I tinker around.

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