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Posts Tagged ‘How To Be A Writer’

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

It’s the start of the new calendar year. Are you going into it wondering if you are ready to publish? Convinced you are definitely ready? On the fence?

 

Wherever you are sitting on that question, moving from writing and editing to publishing is a big step. So, what if you are ready? What do you do now?

 

First, is to make sure you really are ready to take that next big leap.

 

 

 

If you are writing shorter projects: articles, short or flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, etc.; you will likely find the rules on readiness for publishing less strict for some publications. Check their requirements before sending your piece in. And if it does not say otherwise, assume they want articles that are complete and edited to perfection, although that does not mean they won’t ask for revisions. Fiction submissions usually need to be completed work.

 

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

If you are writing a full length book, it’s going to take more work to make it ready for publication.

 

Pitching to a publisher with a book idea in the expectation of getting an advance to then write the book is almost certainly going to leave you lying flat in the depths of rejection. Unless you are Paul Sheldon (author of the Misery series in Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery, made into a movie of the same name), or some other movie or book character, this is unlikely to result in a contract.  Big name authors with a track record of best sellers may score that advance based on an idea they haven’t written yet, but for the rest of us this is not how it’s going to work.

 

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your best option is to send that advance-seeking pitch to an agent, not a publisher. A small publisher may indulge you with a smile and nod, but they are unlikely to sign a contract for an unseen unwritten manuscript by an author whose work they don’t know. And, if you want to get in with the big publishers, you need an agent.

 

As an unknown or little known talent, your best option is to write the book first, perfect it, get it edited, and then pitch it. This way potential publishers and agents can see the quality of your writing.

 

 

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

You wrote a book, but is it ready to publish? The answer to that is the answer to this question: is it edited to perfection? It is not enough to write a book. It needs to be written well, to hook and pull the reader in, make them yearn for more with the ending of each page. Editing and developmental errors can ruin this and your chance of being signed on with the publisher.

 

The book market is rife with editing mistakes from the big name authors at biggest publishing houses down to the smallest self-published author. They happen. People edit and people are fallible and let’s be real here, writing and editing a book are huge undertakings. You also don’t really know how much that publisher is actually investing in paid editing, so you want your book as perfect as you can make it before you submit it. Heck, I was published with a small press who claimed to have a paid editor. I suspect their editor was more fictitious than my characters; at least they have some form of life breathed into them through the pages of the books.

 

What kind of editing do you need?  All of them.

 

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

The four main types of book editing are (in the order they should be done):

 

1) Developmental Editing: This is a structural and developmental edit of . . . everything; including a critique of the essential elements of the story: plot, story structure, setting, timeline, characterization, pacing, and of course, presentation and marketability. You may have already rewritten your manuscript in whole or parts before this, but be prepared to have it stripped down to basics. You may do so again after the beta readers have read it and given you feedback. This is where you might find yourself re-ordering or rewriting events and chapters, reimagining characters, tweaking your story arc, and other major revisions. This will include line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, but does not replace those necessary steps afterwards. With the revisions that will be done, you will still need the following editing steps.

 

Note: at this point you should have or be enlisting beta readers to give you feedback on your story. You may have to go back to the developmental editing on parts or all of your book after their input.

 

2) Line Editing: Line by line edit focusing on the flow, tone, and style of writing. The goal is to clean up unnecessary verbosity, tighten sentences, and fix awkward sentences and paragraphs for readability.

 

3) Copy Editing: Essentially it is text editing. This is a word by word edit to find and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, language, syntax, typos, etc. This should be done after you are satisfied with the story structure, plot, settings, characterization, and so forth, and have no further changes to the story.

 

4) Proofreading:  The final editing of the book ‘proof’. This is the last look at the print ready book proof before publication to catch any missed typos and formatting gaffes.

 

 

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Your book is perfect. Now what? Now that you have let beta readers at your book and have done further revisions and had all the forms of editing done and maybe done again, your book is ready to publish. Now you need to decide how you want to publish. For some, the old school large publishing house is the only way they want to go. Others prefer the total control of self-publishing. There are also the in-betweens; small publishers, Indy presses, and hybrid options.

 

1) Large publishers. These are the ‘you need an agent’ publishers. They typically do not take unsolicited manuscripts, and by solicited that means coming from an agent who has already vetted the author and their book as something that publisher might be interested in looking at. They also are more likely to expect an instant best seller and less likely to settle for anything less. You write the book, and they put in all the expenses to publish it and take the risks of whether or not it will make money.

 

2) Independent presses are publishing companies that operate solo. They are not part of or operating under the umbrella of a large multinational or conglomerate corporation. These can be large or small publishing companies.

 

3) Small press. The title basically describes what they are. These are smaller independent publishing businesses. They don’t have the large finances behind them, which also increases the risk of them going out of business in the tough world of book publishing. They are unlikely to offer an advance and that’s okay, because an advance is borrowing against future royalties you have not yet earned. It also means they don’t have the same corporate weight in getting your books into bookstores as the larger presses do. The good news is that you don’t generally need an agent to query them on your behalf. Small presses are usually quite happy to discuss publishing contracts directly with the author and are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author or book that does not fall neatly into the mainstream popular market. Like the bigger publishers, they pay the expenses and take the risks, but you are likely to sell fewer books.

 

4) Hybrid publishing occupies the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It runs in various models and is called by different names. Hybrid publishing is a newer variation on the publishing business and can involve a larger publisher, independent or not, or smaller publisher. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that it is a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing; a cooperative agreement between the author and publisher that involves some financial investment from the author. The author has to pay for some of the services to get their book published, generally in exchange for a higher percent of the royalties. The author will also have more control over their book than under a traditional publishing model. This should not be confused with a ‘vanity press’, a term for a predatory company preying on the author’s need to be published (considered ‘vanity’ long before modern marvels like computers and typewriters made being a writer easier).

 

5) Self-publishing is the do-it-yourself of publishing. This is all on you. The author is solely responsible for all the costs and risks of getting that book published. You are your own publisher. There are a lot of services out there available for everything from the four types of editing to typesetting and formatting your files for uploading both to print book and eBook. There are artists and stock photos, and the cover designers to make them into your book cover for you. You are also on your own to market your book or hire a company to market your book for you. Self-publishing authors often utilize POD (print on demand) tools and/or eBook publishing. Self-publishing is your most costly option as far as monetary investments go. It is also probably the hardest to find success at, since you don’t have the name of a known publishing house behind you.

 

 

Whatever publishing route you choose, make sure your manuscript is one hundred percent perfect and do your homework. Research the publisher or service you are planning to use. Look for reviews, Better Business Bureau complaints, and anything good or bad online. Check out the covers of their other books to make sure they look like professional quality covers. How easily found are their books? Are they professional in their dealings with you? And above all, never sign a contract without being one hundred and ten percent sure of it. If you are unsure of the publisher or the wording or a contract in general, the online writing community is an invaluable source of help. So is hiring a publishing contract lawyer.

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You’ve likely heard it, that you must build your platform. While a lot of us know what that is, not everyone does. In its simplest description, your platform is your (mainly digital now) imprint on the world. Don’t think of it as your ‘popularity points’. It is not you (and not literally, I hope) standing there waving your arms and shouting for attention. What it is, is what kind of a following you have.

 

Some will argue a platform simply is, but really it could also be argued that it takes multiple forms. Like weaving story threads together, all of these things and more come together to build your author platform. Each part of your author platform gives and takes support from each other.

 

When a potential agent or publisher looks at you, your platform is the likelihood of your book selling in the mass quantities that make it worth their while.

 

Your digital platform is your presence online and how likely new and existing readers are to come across your name or go out of their way to follow you. It is everything from your Facebook author page, Twitter, and Instagram, to your Amazon author page, Goodreads, your name appearing in Google searches, and your blog posts and website. Every like, share, and comment online is building your author brand.

 

Your product platform is the work itself that you do, your writing regardless of its form, or whatever services you are offering. This includes public speaking engagements.

 

Your professional platform is your level of professionalism and the quality of your work you put out there, and that doesn’t just mean your writing, editing, and book cover or the services you provide, although a high level of professionalism in those areas is a necessity. It is also the level of professionalism you show at every stage and in every face. It is how professional you come across online, in person, letters, socially, and, yes, in your actual work. This is also memberships in organizations.

 

Building a platform involves creating your author brand. It is what people think of you. Your contacts: who they are and how many. It is you connecting with your audience, both existing and building it larger.

 

Everything is an opportunity to build your brand and platform. If you are doing the circuit of craft markets and genre events (ie poetry slams, SciFi, fantasy, and other genre conventions … the list is endless), use every chance you have to schmooze. Meet people, talk business, be sociable and friendly, mention what you do, make connections both professionally and with your potential fan base. Have a stack of business cards with your social media author links that you can hand out to potential peers and fans so they can connect with and follow you. You can get cards made up for a very reasonable price with Vistaprint (they constantly have coupon codes for deals!) and other print on demand business product printers.

 

Hint: When you are making your own business cards, remember to increase the brightness and contrast if there is a picture. Like book covers, it will print darker than it shows on your computer screen.

 

 

Think before you post. One wrong rant can derail your reputation as a writer and a person. In social media groups and on your professional pages be courteous, kind, and respectful. The impression you give when you communicate in social media is your online brand.

 

 

 

Think about the ways you can build your author platform (this list is not inclusive of every means):

  • Figure out your target audience and cater to them
  • Blog
  • Build an email list and send out newsletters (but don’t SPAM them!)
  • Social networking / social media
  • Write articles or columns
  • Do guest contributions to others’ blogs and websites
  • Public speaking appearances and readings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Visit book clubs
  • Find places to do book signings (craft markets, conventions, libraries, stores, etc)
  • Schmooze and hand out your social media links business cards
  • Book readings
  • Put out more work. This is probably the most important. Keep working and putting it out there.

 

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Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash

For some reason, NaNoWriMo entirely aside, November seems to be the busiest month every year for me. It’s the season of winter craft sales for those doing that circuit. If anything goes sideways at work it is always November (for me, at least). At home it’s the beginning of Christmas planning, decorating, gift lists, baking, and trying to figure out how to make that Christmas budget stretch farther than humanly possible. Even notwithstanding that, November just seems busier at work, home, and everywhere.

 

And then, just to make a busy month more so, we have NaNoWriMo. I hope you fared better than me. With working Monday to Friday at the ‘pays the bills’ job, my commitments to the Manitoba Writer’s Guild, and working doing book events and playing catch-up on the weekends, my NaNo time amounted to a random hour or so, dwindling to that in a week if I’m lucky.

 

Yet we writers persevere and push on, counting those words and plugging in five minutes here and ten minutes there of writing. The stress builds as our word counts rise, perhaps falling above or below the curve of 1667 words per day of the NaNo arc.

 

By November 30th you feel like you need to decompress or your will implode, or maybe explode, with that self-imposed pressure. It can be hard to put it down after obsessing over that project for thirty straight days. So, how do you do that?

 

As a general rule, I don’t let myself look at or even think about that NaNo book for two months. (This year will be different since I split it between multiple works in progress and essentially had to give up the ghost mid-November and accept failure). But this does not mean I take a months long break from writing.

 

 

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

First, breath! It’s over. You did it! You survived National Novel Writing Month. Let yourself take a well-deserved breather. Take a bubble bath with a glass of wine or binge watch something cringe-worthy. Whatever your go to relaxation method is, you deserve it.

 

Focus on another writing project. Whether it is outlining a new project, editing a finished one, working on an existing one, poetry, short or flash fiction, articles, it does not matter. While you are backing off the manic pace of NaNovember, put some of that drive and habit you gained into keeping a writing routine going.

 

Accept that your NaNo project may be junk and move on. It’s okay to feel like you wrote trash and you won’t be alone in that feeling. Heck, a lot of first drafts will incite that even with meticulous time and care put into them. And that is exactly what it is, a first draft. Do not dwell on it (yet). It’s not a waste of time or of writing. Editing fixes all (usually).

 

Think on what you learned through NaNoWriMo. What did you discover about yourself and your writing strengths and weaknesses? What will make next year’s challenge more survivable? How can you use it to improve your daily life and writing?

 

Through December put that compulsive drive into family and the holidays. After all, it is the season and a very busy month too, and you probably neglected them just a little through NaNovember.

 

January is the month of … Exactly! You will have made your New Years resolutions and maybe even meant it when you said them. You are probably already thinking of how you will get out of them, am I right? Keep that writing routine going. Life marches on.

 

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

 

March is when I traditionally revisit my NaNoStory. This is when I finally let myself look at it. First with an editing savagery that would do my Celtic/Viking ancestors proud. No sentence is safe. Over time that will work into the more finely detailed edits of spiffing the story up all pretty and cultured from developmental and structural edits to copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. Whether March comes in and out like a lion or a lamb, it’s editing madness month! Why do I wait two full months? For the same reason I will put a manuscript aside for months or longer – to come at it with a fresh eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online articles for writers:

https://thewritepractice.com/after-nanowrimo/

https://prowritingaid.com/art/294/Life-After-NaNoWriMo%3a-Facing-the-Technical-Edit-Like-a-Pro.aspx

https://thewritepractice.com/nanowrimo-over/

https://justwriterlythings.com/blog/a-writers-guide-to-life-after-nanowrimo/

 

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Photo by Raphael Rychetsky on Unsplash

As an author one of your jobs is endless self-promotion.

 

I did my first ever book bog tour. I mean a real tour, not one where your publisher sends your book to all of two fellow authors in their stable to review it and calls it a tour (yeah, this did happen). This, despite having my first short story published in an in-print anthology in 2009. (I’m not counting the multiple E-zine flash fiction and short stories), and my first book published in 2014 by that same Indy publisher, followed by another. (Wow, it feels so much longer ago than that!) And, I’ve been writing for a lot longer than that.

 

It was kind of terrifying. Okay, a lot terrifying. 62 book bloggers over 30 days received complementary copies of my 4-book series to blog and/or review at their discretion.

 

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

 

To add to the, ‘will they hate it,’ fear, I’m not entirely a conventional writer. I’m not a follow the traditional rules write to the long established scripted standards kind of author. I don’t conform to the status quo, the norms; the overall expectations of, ‘This is how it has always been done, so this is how you have to do it,’ mindset. I don’t obey the, ‘This is the currently popular style/person so you must do it too.’ Literary art, to me, is not meant to be kept in a tidy box of expectations.  (And, those expectations are expanding with the volume of Indy and self-pubbed books.)

 

 

 

 

 

Book blog tours is only one of the ways to try to get the attention of the readers at large in the hopes they will be interested enough to buy your books.

It is important to note here that people who manage book blog tours do not generally do it purely out of the generosity and kindness of their own hearts. Book blog touring is a paid service. While the bloggers and book reviewers are not paid (their only compensation is the free book), the tour manager will charge you a fee, and the rates will vary.

 

 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My book blog tour was a fail and I’ll tell you why. Predominantly, in going through each blog or Facebook page after their scheduled posting date, almost every one was like skimming through those Facebook groups of endless self-promotion. You know the ones, where countless authors hopeful and desperate seeming plug themselves in a never-ending stream of self-promotion posts that nobody looks at. Few of the authors posting on these groups take the time to scroll through the other advertisements, fewer still with the goal of finding something to buy. I doubt anyone else even looks at them.

 

 

The other problem was the genre. You need to sing to your target audience. Can you imagine Alice Cooper or Ozzie Osborn stepping on to the stage and belting out lyrics to a crowd who bought tickets to Michael Bublé or Beyoncé? As Alice would croon, “Welcome to my nightmare…”

 

Photo by Katie Montgomery on Unsplash

The blogs that signed up for the tour were mostly populated by streams of “book tour” advertisements for romance. Yes, romance. I write dark fiction; thrillers, dark mystery, psychological thrillers, drama with dark twists, not so cozy mystery with an underlay of you guessed it – darkness. I have not to date tried writing a dark romance. Frankly, I don’t think I could write a romance. Romance and dark fiction tend to appeal to very different kinds of readers.

 

I did get some positive comments on my book covers, even a few on the books’ write-ups. And I got one review so far from the 62 blogs. Do I expect to see any sales from it? It’s possible. Just because there was no uptick in sales during the 30-day tour, doesn’t mean no one who saw or participated will buy. Some buy later. I don’t think it’s likely, though; romance and thriller being unlikely crossover genres.

 

The comments were also generally from the bloggers themselves posting on the blog tour operator’s blog. They already got complimentary copies, so they aren’t going to buy the books. If a book farts in the woods and nobody hears it, will they buy it? There seemed to be little, if any, traffic outside those bloggers to any of the blogs.

 

 

Photo by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash

Can a book blog tour be successful?  Yes. The question is, ‘How?’ It’s about following basic rules of marketing.

 

Find your audience. If these were blogs featuring thrillers, horrors, suspense, mystery, and other related genres, odds of sales would have been driven up exponentially, assuming anyone reads the blogs.

 

Traffic is necessary. I suspect blogs that feel like Facebook groups of endless self-promotion ads with nothing else to offer probably get just as much meaningful traffic: little to none. You need blogs that pull traffic in, that have meat and potatoes and lactose free/gluten free/vegan-loving poutine (if such a thing exists). What you need are blogs the people who might read your book are interested in what they have on the blog menu.

 

 

Incentives are helpful. People love to feel like they got a deal. Thus, the giveaway. I gave away a couple of small Amazon gift cards and a few free copies of an eBook I was not trying to drive sales on in the book tour. If it was a short tour, I might have offered a discounted sale on the books.

 

Be inclusive and try to make friends. You want people to want to buy your book, and to make it as easy for them to do it as you can. Remember, everyone who might buy is your friend.

 

Personal touch is important. Self-promotion is not just about immediate book sales. It is also about building your author platform and growing your hoard of followers, some of whom will buy your books – eventually. More followers can be gained by being personable and engaging with them than standing behind a smokescreen plugging ads at them.

 

Be seen.  If nobody knows you exist, you don’t, right? Kind of like that Schrödinger-styled tree that may or may not have made a sound when it fell in the forest. Your marketing needs to hit as many eyes as you can, but not literally. This is not A Christmas Story or the Addams Family.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

How the book blog tour works is that the tour operator puts out a call for bloggers to sign up. Once the signups are complete, the bloggers are scheduled to blog on certain dates. It could be a blog, Facebook blog page, or other online site.  The bloggers get a complimentary copy of your eBook(s).

 

You fill out an author Q&A interview and/or write up some short guest blog posts to be shared with the bloggers.

 

On their designated day, the blogger puts up the blog post. It could be a cut and paste of the book tour info (all but one did this on my tour), they could post the relevant information and pictures with their own personal narrative introducing it, or they can post a book review.

 

Ideally, you want each blog post to be unique. Pre-written author interview Q&As or guest posts from you are key here. So is regular active participation from the bloggers, rather than blogs filled with empty cut and paste advertisements.

 

You visit each blog and make comments thanking the blogger and responding to any comments left by anyone else. Again, be personable and try to make friends.

 

Sit back and hope for sales, and don’t forget to tip your waiter/waitress.

 

 

 

Other ways to self-promote your self and books include, but are not limited to:

– Book and/or author website/blog is discoverable on internet search engines

– Social media. Be social online and blog.

– Newsletter/email subscriptions (ie Mailchimp).

– Category choices and keywords for your book sales listings and Google searches.

– First appearances. Your cover needs to make them want to pick it up.

– Book promotion. Pay for some outside promotion help.

– Give it away FREE! Allow free download of the first 10%-20%, free short/flash fiction.

– Book events. Set up author signing tables and schmooze, sell, and sign.

– Have some swag. Give away business cards and bookmarks.

– Submit to eZines, magazines, and anthologies featuring short stories and flash fiction.

– Get mentioned in local newspapers and newsletters.

 

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.polar bear scream and poop

It’s one of those ugly little things in life.

Everybody’s poop stinks.

How many of us try to avoid using a public washroom when you have to go “number two”, fearing embarrassment that someone else might smell our stink.

How many of us have had the misfortune of walking into a bathroom to be encased in the stench of doom aka the odious odor of the sulfurous mushy mass of bacteria ravaged compounds (poop) that had been deposited and flushed just before?  Your automatic reaction is to cringe, gag, gasp for air only to suck in a mouthful of stink and gag again because oh for pity sake I can TASTE it.  You hold your breath in disgust and make a hasty retreat.

This is the universal kind of experience you know your readers can relate to.

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moodCreating mood is essential to good story telling.  Your readers will read your story, that’s the given obvious.  But will they just read it, or will the experience it?

How will you draw them into the story?  To make them feel what your characters feel?  To feel like they are really there?

In short, triggers.  Memory is a powerful tool.  Certain things can trigger memories, both latent and cognisant memories.

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stinkyOlfactory senses can trigger both of these.  We aren’t there yet to create books full of scents that tease your nose to match the scene on the page.  Maybe someday, but not yet.  And scratch and sniff is not feasible.  Besides, who would actually by a book that smells of poop?  So, it’s probably a good thing.

By adding in your characters’ reactions to their surroundings, the smells that are ever present but suddenly brought to your characters’ attention by what is happening in their world, you can trigger the memory of those smells in your reader.  That, my friend, pulls the reader inside the world on your pages.  The sudden assault on their senses of the sweet perfume of roses when they walk through the garden gate before they can see what the yard beyond holds, perhaps to find a contradictory scene of ruin beyond the remains of the first spoiled rose bushes laying tattered on the ground just inside the gate.

Whether the scents are pleasant or vile, expected or out of place, they can trigger in your reader an automatic response they don’t even realise they are having.  A subliminal affect that pulls them ever deeper into the drama unfolding for your characters.  And when they purposely draw on a memory the scent brings to their mind, it brings your story home to them, making both author and the story more memorable.

Anyone can write a mediocre/good story.  It takes work and attention to detail to write a great story.

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where the bodies areL.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

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Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon:  The McAllister Farm.  Take a step back into time to learn the secret behind the bodies.

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Garden Grove-title & bad bullet holeAlso coming soon:  Garden Grove.  Vandalism, altered blueprints, an entire work crew poisoned, and someone is planting old human remains, all apparently to stop the Garden Grove community development.  Who is trying to stop it and why?

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Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

WordPress

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How Not to Get Noticed by Other Writers, Agents, Other Publishing Types, and Book Junkies.

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name tagAs most writers have already figured out, names are an important tool in writing.

The name alone, on first impression, can make a character seem weak or strong, nasty or gentle, or even wise or foolish.

As an example, in the old television series Grizzly Adams (the younger generation of writers may never have heard of it), two of the main characters are Grizzly Adams and Gentle Ben.  As his name suggests, the woodsman Adams is a grizzled sort, a rough looking mountain man.  Contrary to his name, he was also kind hearted and ran around saving everybody.  His name also plays on his role as a mountain man and keeper of a pet grizzly bear.  His co-star’s name, Ben, itself seems gentle and calm, more so with adding the prefix Gentle to the name.  If you haven’t figured it out from the description of Adams, Ben is a gentle and peaceful grizzly bear.

The same first impression applies to the titles we give our works.

As the writer, you may agonize over the names of every character, searching for the perfect name.  You also may find yourself agonizing over the name of the story too.

The title of the story is the first thing a reader sees, aside from the cover art.  A bad title can be just as damaging to the image of the book as bad cover art.  That first impression is what will decide whether or not that potential reader will pick up that book to read the back cover blurb or skim the pages, or bypass it to pick up the book beside it instead.

Here are three books that are on Amazon.  You have only a title and cover art to decide.  Which one would you pick up?

Lobsters On The Rampage Cover

Listening to Voices book coverWhere The Bodies Are cover .

But what about the name of the author?

In the same way the book title is the first impression a reader gets of your story, your author name is the first impression they get of you.

For some, living in obscurity and safe from the prying eyes of their fans is preferable.  After all, not everyone is cut out for a life of being recognized, especially if he or she is shy.

For others, an assumed pen name is all about finding the perfect name for the author image they want to put out there with their books.

Some writers would not hear of using anything but their real name on their writing, after all it is their hard work and they deserve the credit.  Right?

Some may even see writing under an assumed name to be akin to hiding behind a mask, as if afraid to let their true identity be known.

Of course, secret identities are not always a bad thing.  Super heroes do it all the time.

Sometimes it is in an author’s best interest to don that mask of invisibility and watch the world through a pseudonym.

The reasons for using your real name vs. a pen name are as numerous and there are authors.

Good vs. Bad Names

Authors and actors alike work under assumed names for many reason.  For some it is because they do not think their real names will cut it.  Maybe they’ve been made fun of as kids and are embarrassed by their real names.  Or they are just looking for a name that pops.  One that stands out as memorable so it will help them get ahead in a business that is almost impossible to break into.

The many rejections of Stephen King

Even Stephen King wrote under a pen name for a while.  Like many other writers, Stephen King also faced his share of rejections before becoming a household name.  I’ve read repeatedly over the years that he turned to the pen name Richard Bachman after being unable to sell a single novel under the name Stephen King.  Mostly that was around the rumour mill.

However, this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bachman refutes that claim, which puts the former in the category of hearsay and gossip.  According to this article and others like it, writing under the pen name was more about getting more books published than the publishers would allow by one author for fear of saturating the market with a single author.  And, perhaps as the article suggests, it was in part an experiment.  After being outed as Richard Bachman and Stephen King being the same person, he went on to write exclusively as Stephen King.

Oh For the Love of Privacy

Of course, another reason for using a false name is to protect the privacy of the writer.  Some writers may be concerned that if they ever make it big their private lives will be put out there for the entire world to see.  Of course with technology and information sharing the way it is today, this will probably happen regardless of attempts to hide behind an assumed name.

However, there are some steps that can be taken to make it harder to find out who you are.  Such as is outlined here:  U.S. copyright office – pseudonyms

Genre Confusion

It may be advisable for any writer publishing in more than one genre to use pen names.

Readers like consistency and reliability.  When they pick up a book by a certain author, they expect that author to follow through on the promise implied by the quality and nature of their other books the reader has read.

It wouldn’t do for Suzy Homemaker to buy Sally Schoolgirl that new chapter book by her favourite author only to discover through the child’s look of horror and disgust that the book is actually an erotica novel.

And a horror novel lover probably won’t be buying your books ever again if that next one turns out to be a sappy 18th century romance.  The same goes for that romance fan who starts reading to discover to her disgust that the twists and turns are about what brutal way the heroine will be murdered instead of whether or not he will kiss her.

So, for the sake both of not alienating your readers, and for your own reputation, it is probably wise to use a different pen name for each genre you publish in.

Of course this does not apply to sub-genres.  Using a different pen name for your thriller mystery with a touch of romance than the one used for your thriller suspense would possibly push all your many pen name aliases into obscurity.

Picking a Pen Name

Picking a pen name can be as hard as picking that perfect baby name, the character name that gives the right impression, or the story title that sells.

Why do you think actors often choose the stage names they use?  Do you think Vin Diesel would have the career he does with his real name Mark Sinclair Vincent?  Not as catchy, huh?  Definitely not when his target audience tends to be teen boys and like-minded men who want to see boobs, guns, and car chases.  And considering the types of role he plays, the stage name gives the characters the right feel.

Your pen name is perhaps just as important as your character names. After all, the character is a fictitious person in a story and may never even be carried over into another story.  But your pen name is the fictitious YOU.  This is your alter ego, your alias.  This is you and the identity you will be known as for all of those stories.  Of course, pen names can be changed and stories can be reprinted under the new name, but if the book became popular under the assumed name, it may be best to keep it as is, especially if you’ve never succeeded in making a name for yourself as yourself.

The same resources that can help you find the right names for your characters can help you find the right name for your pen name.  Sources like online baby name finders and baby name books (helpful if you want something with certain origins or meaning).

Pen Names and Copyrights

While under both Canadian and U.S. intellectual property copyright law your writing is automatically copyright protected through the act of creating it, it’s still basically a big game of he said – she said when a copyright dispute goes to court.  Without any proof it boils down to who comes off as seeming more believable to the judge.

In Canada and the U.S. you cannot copyright a pen name any more than you can a book title.  But using a well-known name of another author might leave others thinking you are only trying to ride their coattails of fame.

It may be interesting to note that according to this U.S. copyright office – pseudonyms, in the U.S. at least, your work is actually copyrighted longer if you file under a pen name and do not let your real name be known than if you do list your real name.  Of course that will only matter to whoever gets your estate after you pass on, since it counts in years after your death.

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