Pick a Pack of Pseudonyms

On the topic of pseudonyms - what about us poor souls with unpronounceable names? Is it better to have an "exotic" name from a marketing point of view or is it time to think of a name Redneck Joe wouldn't have trouble saying?

Ya, I wonder how much better that poor Janet Evanovich would have done with an easier name.
And Oscar Hijuelos might have won prizes...if he'd had a pronounceable name. And that Rafael Yglesias...he could have really been someone if he'd changed his name.

It's best to write really well. No one has to be able to say your name to buy the book.


Anonymous said...

Chuck 'Fight Club' Palahniuk too. That's a name you show the bookseller on a piece of paper rather than ask where to find it.

Dave Kuzminski said...

All the reader needs to know how to pronounce is the title of your book. ;)

pinch said...

On agents and age: over the past couple of years, I have attended some very good and not so good writing classes and conferences where there is sharing of sample writing by the attendees. I have noticed that a great majority of those attending these classes are over the age of fifty- maybe even sixty - and I know they have finally retired or saved enough money to pursue their dream or hobby of writing. Some are wonderful writers, especially in that they are conveying their life experiences. After the classes, during breaks, there is a great division, as though the younger writers look down on the older writers...as happens I suppose in all areas of life...young and old not communicating - but here is writing. Anyway, do agents discriminate as to age? Say you get a wonderful manuscript, talk to the author by phone and then learn that he/she is, say, fifty-five or older. Does it change your opinion? One teacher I had said that agents and publishers do not want older writers...can't get many years out of them. How snarky is Miss Snark about this?

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Hey Pinch, I resemble that remark :-)

I am double nickels, and I've never had anyone ask how old I am when I've submitted something.

I know of many people who have gotten contracts without having met the participants.

So I don't see that kind of discrimination.

Bernita said...

Chicken Soup for the Soul guy.

Cornelia Read said...

On the other hand, John Lescroat has often commented that he wishes he'd used his mother's maiden name when starting out, as so few people seem to know how to pronounce his last name (lessKWAH).

He worries that someone recommending his books to a friend might say "John... John Le-*Something*... you know who I mean..."

"Le Carre?"

"Yeah, that's the guy. Great writer..."

I've heard Michael Chabon's last name pronounced 50 bazillion ways--from CHAYbun to shahBONE, but figure the proper spelling could be deduced from most variants. Ditto Hijuelos and Palahniuk.

I've had people ask if my last name is pronounced "red," which doesn't seem like a problem. Cornelia is a minefield, however: have even gotten paychecks made out to Camellia, Cornelius, and Cornwallis.

Whatever. Long as I don't have to deal with "Corny." Still hate that, after all those years of playground derision.

Mark said...

I'm not going to worry about it. If they can read their zip code they'll be fine with me.

Maria said...

I don't know if it makes a difference in sales, but I suppose it could. Working in the library I HATE it when patron comes in and says, "I'm looking for a book. It's about...well, horses, I think, but that's not the topic, not really, it's just that there is a horse in it. The cover is blue, I know that for sure."

"Yeah sure," I say, "aisle six, first book on the right..."

This happens more often than you might think. Patrons come in all the time with "my friend recommended this book to me. She said she got it here and it's about...oh...x. I don't know the author or the title."

Yes, these patrons really think we're going to be able to help them.

Where do they end up? Usually at the new book section or talking to a librarian about the latest releases. We can only hope the book in question was a new release and that the patron might find something that resembles what they are looking for. The new book section is also the smallest in the library...the closest to the front desk...and out of sight of our counter so they can't glare at us when they can't find the book that they know nothing about!

O said...

The people who can say your name will feel that much cooler

BorderMoon said...

What =I= just love is the patron who says: "I want this new book I heard about on the radio/TV/other, it sounded so interesting." Me: "What's the title?" Patron: "I don't remember the title. It was on the radio." Me: "Do you know the author?" Patron: "No, but it was on the radio." Me: "What was the book about?" Patron (irritated): "I don't remember, but it was mentioned on the radio."

I always long to say (but so far have refrained): "Look if you can't remember the title, author, or what it's is about, what makes the book so*$S*S& 'interesting'???"

Harry Connolly said...

The opposing problem some writers face is the generic, boring name that is easy to forget. George R. R. Martin includes those two initials so people will remember him. As he says, his name is his brand.