Monday, June 25, 2007

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But in today's fast-paced, multi-media world where we are exposed to hundreds of advertising messages every day, names do matter. The product, the title must stand out and catch the reader's or viewer's eye.

Which is why my literary agent says I need:
1) a new title for my novel in progress. I'm all for whatever she thinks will sell, and have been brainstorming with my sister and friends.
2) a pen name for my other manuscripts, which are a different genre. I'm working on coming up with a snazzy name I could get used to being called.

Side A of the pen name debate goes like this: An author's name is her brand. When you pick up a book, you want to know what you're getting, whether it's gritty science fiction or sweet romance. To meet readers' expectations, each subsequent novel must deliver. So if you change genres or styles, you need a different name to avoid disappointing or confusing readers.
Other reasons include:
--a publisher may require an author who sales have lagged to start over with a new name.
--some authors are considered "too prolific," which apparently readers think is bad. (example: Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman)
--you are the wrong gender perceived as appropriate for a genre; ie: only women should write romance novels
--your real name is hard to pronounce, spell or remember or too similar to another published author
--shelf positioning: the ends of the alphabet may be too high or too low on the shelf

Side B says: It's hard enough to build name recognition. Writing under two names can mean two Web sites and two publicity/marketing campaigns.
If a reader likes an author's writing, she'll follow that author anywhere in any genre.
Thanks to word of mouth, publicity and the Internet, many readers know that, for example, Nora Roberts is also J.D. Robb and Stephen King was also Richard why bother having two names?

What do you think?

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