Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Esoteric Rant on Writer Names

STATUS: Doing okay. I wish I had gotten a few more things completed today but… that’s life. Off to San Fran tomorrow for the Silicon Valley Conference. I will try and blog whilst traveling but Friday might be iffy.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? GOLD FEVER by Clint Eastwood (yes, he does sing—or should I say did at one time.) This is from the PAINT YOUR WAGON soundtrack. I’m in a musical kind of mood. I’ve got tickets for LES MISERABLES tonight!

I have to admit that this is a purely esoteric rant because ultimately, what author name you use isn’t that big of a deal. This is purely something that annoys me and really isn’t a huge issue in the grand scheme of things.

I want to talk about author names because ultimately, promoting your work and getting published is all part of one big package of professionalism.

And, I think writers are potentially too hung up on their formal names (as in using first, middle, maiden, and last name).

I wouldn’t blame you if you are scratching your head at this moment, so let me explain.

If you write literary fiction, I think using three names is fine as long as there is a memorable rhythm to it (Jonathan Safran Foer pops to mind).

Otherwise, three names is overkill and potentially not in your best interest (in terms of name recognition, ease of finding you in the bookstore, etc.) It can sound pretentious and if you are writing a big, bad thriller, it’s potentially defeatist. It’s James Patterson, Lisa Scottoline, Iris Johansen, John Grisham, Robert Crais, Lee Child. Boom, boom, boom.

Of course there is also Mary Higgins Clark… (always exceptions to the rules). I also love Orson Scott Card as a name and that’s SF. But notice, it’s got memorable rhythm. It works. The name itself mesmerizes.

And notice something else about these names. There are no middle initials used. I see a lot of signed queries/partials with “Jane P. Smith” or whatever. Personally, I don’t think that translates well to a front cover.

When BACHELORETTE #1 was getting published, my author originally wanted her name on the cover to read Jennifer L. O’Connell, and I talked her out of it. Why? Because Jennifer L. O’Connell doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well as just plain Jennifer O’Connell. The “L” just visually interrupts and looks out of place. Not as memorable. Discord in what could have rhythm.

I do like just first initials and a last name—especially for genre fiction. RL Stine, JK Rowling, JD Robb. It’s got a nice feel.

I know what you are thinking. Who cares? I’m not even published yet. My name is the last thing I’m worried about. I understand. Still, it’s all a part of showing a polished package in the business that is writing. Think like a professional writer and you’ll become one (well, as long as you have talent too). Now, I don’t want y’all getting hung up on all these silly details and neglect what is most important—your writing—but it’s still worth thinking about.

I’ve got more to rant on this subject so until tomorrow…