Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Continuing with Questions.

In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.
~ Hubert H. Humphrey (1911 - 1978)

Amanda Borenstadt said,
Then again, here I am, building up my little blog following, using my real name, like I've heard I should, only to publish under a brand new unknown name? Do I quick, use the new name now and publish all future short stories under it?

That depends on the blog. Are we talking a million hits a month? A thousand? Is your blog aimed at general readership or at a niche? Edittorrent is a niche blog with great penetration to a very limited target audience. Despite many writers and authors knowing about us and regularly visiting here, a shocking number of plumbers and bus drivers and accountants have never even heard of us. Hard to imagine! So if we were to publish a line of study guides for the CPA exam, we probably wouldn't worry about leveraging the edittorrent name. You see? It's all in the audience.

You can use your existing blog to cross-market, too. I would be more concerned about finding ways to draw new readers to your existing blog. You want to make them loyal fans. Once you've got them, you can market and cross-market to them. You've just got to hook them first.

Leona said,
I find it an interesting prejudice that we associate the type of book with the name. Wonder if it's left over from the days of thinking that women shouldn't write anything, and women shouldn't write anything serious that's not for other women?

I don't know how to answer this. I have heard anecdotally of female authors being advised to assume male pen names because men don't read books by women. But then I watch my dad, a he-man if ever there was one, lap up Maeve Binchy books in the most unironic fashion. I think there's little doubt that gender bias still exists, but the exact contours of that might be hard to delineate.

Here's an example of the line of logic we run into--
* Women want to read romances penned by women, therefore male romance writers should adopt pen names.
* But Nicholas Sparks is a major bestseller.
* But his books aren't genre romances.
* But the reading masses -- the casual readers who propel a book into bestsellerdom -- think of it as a romance.
* Ergo...?

::shrug:: I'd recommend thinking about it from a branding standpoint. Try to reach your target readers first, and the non-target readers (like my dad, the Maeve Binchy fan) will find you if you fit into one of their reading exceptions. (For the record, he usually reads military thrillers and spy novels, but Binchy taps into his love of Ireland.)

Murphy said,
I forgot the most important part of choosing a name. Thinking from a business perspective - shouldn’t a writer be concerned about shelf placement?

There are two schools of thoughts on this. One says that you'll get more browsers to accidentally scan your title if you're shelved near a big name author. The other says that people will look right past your titles because they only want the other guy's books.

My personal feeling is that I'd rather be the BNA than the author shelved next to the BNA. Write a book that people seek rather than one they stumble upon. Ditto for other shelf-placement gimmicks, such as picking a name that starts with A or a name that starts with a little-used letter like Q.

Murphy also said,
I’m scarred! Ugh! Thanks for pointing this out, Theresa.

My pleasure. Heh.


Leona said...

:D Thanks Theresa!

Julie Harrington said...

Just a comment on the shelf-placement argument. I've had people say the same thing about picking a letter closer to the beginning to grab that top shelf yadda yadda but I've been in a ton of bookstores where the romance section's first row starts at the floor (the end of the preceeding section) or way high up because the shelves are super tall, making it just as difficult to see (not to mention reach) those books.

I think it boils down to this for me: If I'm interested in reading the author, it doesn't matter *where* they're placed. I will find them. I will reach that book. I will buy it. And hopefully read and love it and come back for me. :)

Plus, honestly, how many of us buy our books online these days so it doesn't matter *where* the book is on the shelf? I find I order more than I do go into an actual bookstore lately.

I just want a name that sounds "right" for me. It's funny because when I talk pen names with my friends, they always ask me the same question: Didn't you, as a kid, every wish your name was something else? Use that name.

It doesn't help because I never, ever did that as a kid. My name is Julie. I didn't know any other Julies. I still don't. It's the last name that's giving me trouble. It's used by at least 4 other romance writers so I figure that pool is crowded enough. Don't particularly want to use the maiden names in the family lines, though the one I could because it's already a "known" name for a different brand, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Grrrr! Who knew something so simple would cause so much angsting?!


Riley Murphy said... to shelf placement and possibly being situated next to a BNA who writes the same genre as I do – I’d have to disagree with discounting the idea totally. If that BNA is generating lots of loyal fans to buy her newest release - I can’t help thinking that those fans would be lingering at that shelf and ogling all the gorgeous nearby covers. I mean, how many people go into a bookstore and buy just one book. Add to this? If I were going to plan something so devious :D I’d get the BNA author to do a review on my book and I’d have that in bold lettering across the bottom of my HOT cover - so when all those fans were lingering they’d think - wow, if my BNA liked it - I will! Crapatola, you can’t start off as a BNA – it’s a process. *Sigh* There’s many layers to a good plan - and really, if you’re not set on one name in particular - what would you have to lose doing this - because in the end? It’s your writing and storytelling that will generate your readership and fan base. If you squeeze a little spotlight shine off one of the twinkling stars in the biz - cool. After all, you could, by sheer coincidence, wind up in this place without meaning to...and really how bad would that be? Seriously?

Murphy also said,
I’m scarred! Ugh! Thanks for pointing this out, Theresa.

Theresa says: My pleasure. Heh.

Murphy says: Theresa, you’re a cruel, cruel woman! ;)

Murphy (Sending the best and all good thoughts Wes’s way tonight)

em said...

Murph, someone has to keep a handle on you. :)

I agree with JT about the shelf placement. I've seen romance sections begin at the bottom of a case to.

I also agree with being near a big name author. the postion would give you more exposure and as Murph says, you could be put there anyway.

Julie Harrington said...

See, I never do that. If I'm looking for an author, I never pay attention to what's around them because they're not what I'm looking for and if I do happen to pick up a book by "accident" near them (thinking it's theirs), I get annoyed and instantly put it back so I can continue looking for the one I *am* looking for.

If I'm in the mood to browse because I don't know what I'm looking for, then I kind of wander the rows and look at titles and covers -- I find a lot of new authors that way, Gail Carriger's Soulless was such a discovery -- but usually I'm a girl with a mission and a list when I go into the bookstore.


Theresa Milstein said...

These are interesting questions and answers.

On the subject of name, I thought J.K. Rowling put that to rest. They told her to use her initials because boys wouldn't buy her book, but she did interviews right away, so everyone knew she's a woman. And the book became wildly popular.

I'm sure every letter of the alphabet has a famous author. Picking a pen name to be near a particular one is wouldn't mean much, I'm sure.