Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Talk - A Name By Any Other Name

If you choose to write erotica, you probably want to go with a pen name. Over the years I have received a number of submissions from aspiring writers, and on occasion I'm introduced to a pseudonym that makes me think of this scene from Orgazmo:

That is to say, the name you choose to represent your erotic work may look good to you on paper, but others will see only...Sancho.

I will admit, too, I've let a few eyebrow raisers slip under my radar, mainly because I am not a confrontational person. Perhaps part of me, too, wants an author to learn something about marketing in this recent eBook explosion. As an author, you not only sell your books but you sell yourself to readers - many things about a book draw people to click the buy button. A beautiful cover and compelling synopsis work wonders, but if they are attached to a Seymour Cox or Ivana Hump one might hesitate and think seriously about what they will find on the pages.

If I had to advise any author on what makes a good pen name, I would offer the following suggestions:

1) Make sure people can pronounce it. It's okay if you want to try something that sounds exotic, and use the first name you wished your mother had bestowed upon you, but bear in mind that people may go to a bookstore and ask the clerks for your book. If your pen name is spelled with six straight consonants and littered with umlauts you might have trouble getting readers to stick with you.

2) Google possible choices before you decide on one. Once I looked up an author to check her online presence and discovered she shared a non de plume with a porn star. Whether that was intentional I did not ask, but I see two problems with this practice. For one, people searching for your website or Facebook are more likely to find somebody else in search, thus diluting your SEO mojo. For two, especially if your name is similar or close to the spelling of another popular author, you risk being accused of trying to poach readers. Already we are seeing on Amazon some authors are trying to use other authors' names to promote their work by including "written in the tradition of John Doe" in the title. Not cool.

3) Seriously, if you do want to publish erotica consider another name. Unless you are self-employed and/or don't foresee any conflicts with your family, pastor, co-workers and boss, neighbors, etc., go ahead and put your real name on the book. Bear in mind, though, even with a pen name there remains the risk of being outed. Judy Mays' recent publicity comes to mind.

Once you've chosen, I'll be sure to look out for you.

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