Brick and Mortar Magic: Choosing a Pseudonym

October 20, 2016

Courtesy of Kristin Nador on WANA Commons

Courtesy of Kristin Nador on WANA Commons

After I got my PhD, I went to work at a bookstore. This was partly because my brain was fried and I wanted to relax with the pretty books. It was also because, as I writer, I wanted to understand how the retail end of the book business actually functioned – and how real humans behave when choosing new books. It was revelatory – and now I share those revelations with you.

Choosing a Pseudonym

There are a number of reasons authors choose to publish under a name besides their own.  Perhaps a children’s writer has the same name as a queen of erotic romances.  Perhaps a business writer wishes to publish literary fiction, without compromising his previously established “brand.”  Perhaps an author’s novel, for whatever reason, would not meet with the approval of her loved ones.

There are as many ways to choose a pseudonym as there are reasons for having one.  From the perspective of improving your bookstore sales, however, consider the following strategies when designing your nom de plume.

1) The If You Like So-And-So, You’ll Love Me approach.   If you’ve been doing your marketing homework, you’ve already identified authors whose books appeal to the readers you’re trying to reach.  Consider a pseudonym alphabetically near theirs.  When customers are browsing for the latest title by an established author, they’re more likely to notice yours if it’s nearby (it helps if the cover art is comparable as well).

2) The Customers Are Easily Confused approach.  Why not choose a pseudonym alphabetically near someone truly famous?  I don’t have figures to prove it, of course, but I’m quite certain Dale Brown’s sales spiked like mad after Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code went global.

3) The Prime Real Estate approach.  Customers tend not to notice things that aren’t at eye-level, so it’s best to avoid the extremes.  If you have to choose between A and Z, however, go with A.  Unless people crouch, their view of the lowest shelf will be occluded by the one just above.

Whichever method you adopt, have as much fun choosing your own name as you do those of your characters!

Do you write under a pseudonym? As a book buyer, how do these tips correspond to your experience browsing the shelves?

Previous posts in this series

Five Ways a Book Becomes a Bestseller

Five MORE Ways a Book Becomes a Bestseller

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