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Should I change my name, for the purpose of eye-level purchasing science?

RG Worsey

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So, I have noticed that almost all bookshops display fiction in alphabetical order, according to the surname of the writer. As my surname begins with a W, this means that I am likely to be on the bottom shelf, should I get published and stocked in high st bookshops.

Retail Science says that people make impulse purchases at eye level, so being way down there could be an issue.

Is there any advantage to taking on a mid alphabet nom de plume? An L, N, M or O surname, perhaps? I considered SW Mersey instead (Worsey rhymes with Mersey), though it has limited Google Power compared to my real surname.

Is this an issue, or is it all in my head? Your thoughts??!
 

CageSage

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It might depend whether you go for trad publishing or go indie. If it's indie, how are you going to get the books into bookshops? the front-of-store gets the known names where the visibility space is paid for (lots of dosh to get no. 1 spot in the window/end aisle).
If you go indie, there's a lot of work to get known - maybe look at Andy Weir (if he's the guy who wrote The Martian? He started indie, no books in shops until he sold tons and tons and a trad house took him on. anyway ...) and once you're known, people look for you regardless of where your name sits on the shelf.
Therefore, to my way of thinking, those impulse purchases aren't going to happen unless they already know your name!
It's that circle thing that says the writer has to be a known entity before it's worth putting their books in prominent positions.
 
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RG Worsey

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It might depend whether you go for trad publishing or go indie. If it's indie, how are you going to get the books into bookshops? the front-of-store gets the known names where the visibility space is paid for (lots of dosh to get no. 1 spot in the window/end aisle).
If you go indie, there's a lot of work to get known - maybe look at Andy Weir (if he's the guy who wrote The Martian? He started indie, no books in shops until he sold tons and tons and a trad house took him on. anyway ...) and once you're known, people look for you regardless of where your name sits on the shelf.
Therefore, to my way of thinking, those impulse purchases aren't going to happen unless they already know your name!
It's that circle thing that says the writer has to be a known entity before it's worth putting their books in prominent positions.
Definitely not interested in going indie, as I dislike social media. I'd rather earn a fraction of the cover price of a book and have someone who knows what they are doing, do the marketing. I have self published my graphic novel, because I attend comics events, though for my novel, it's trad or nothing.
 
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Eva Ulian

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This reminds me of when I go into a grocery shop and search for a can of baked beans or the likes- the most famous or expensive or prestigious or popular are at eye level. The obscure, cheap or those that have nothing to recommend them for are either on the top highest shelf which I can never reach or I have to bend my back to go to the bottom shelf. And which ones do I buy? That depends what my priorities are: quality, economy, size, shape, popularity and so on. If I have no priorities, you're right I reach out my hand for those on the eye-level shelf.

However, as an author I would like to think they pick my book because of choice not because it is on the most accommodating shelf.

But I think you are juggling whether to use your real name or pen and looking for a justification to do so. The answer to that is simple. Using your real name makes life much easier and even if you don't, people will eventually find out anyway- Charlotte Bronte's pen name was Currer Bell which she chose because it was difficult to be published as a woman. But the "secret" didn't last long then, so you can imagine how you can remain anonymous in this day and age, even though Elena Ferrante has been the exception to the rule- at least for the moment.
 
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James Marinero

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I don't know what your given names are but maybe go counterpoint and use Worsey as your given name, to give you a sort on the M of your middle name. Half way down the shelves, depending on how big the bookstore is. You probably answered to Worsey in school, so it shouldn't be too confusing...
 
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RG Worsey

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I don't know what your given names are but maybe go counterpoint and use Worsey as your given name, to give you a sort on the M of your middle name. Half way down the shelves, depending on how big the bookstore is. You probably answered to Worsey in school, so it shouldn't be too confusing...
I did, usually accompanied by the thwack of a metre-long ruler on a desk.

This is an interesting idea.
 
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Hannah F

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Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm (both pen names for Margaret Ogden) did precisely that - to appear at eye level. Though I have quite often been found kneeling on the floor in a book store, reading the back cover and first couple of pages of a book.

Even with traditional publishing, I suspect most books are now bought, or at least chosen, by on-line perusal or word-of-mouth-recommendation. Delia Owens "Where the Crawdads Sing" (good book), for instance, was going nowhere until Rees Witherspoon featured it on her book club programme. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you write in different genres, you may wish to choose a genre-appealing pen name for each one. Some people choose pen names to distinguish them from their day job or partner's day job (especially if said partner is famous), such as Ariana Franklyn (real name Diana Norman, married to journalist and film critic, Barry Norman).

I don't think the book eye-level thing has a great impact on book sales anymore, nor does it matter if people find out your real name (unless you've anything recriminating to hide). Do whatever you want to - what feels right for you and your genre.
 
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RG Worsey

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Well, I have written copy and cookbooks (chapbooks, really), under my informal name, Ronny Worsey, so intended to use SM Worsey for fiction, though this has got me thinking about genre-specific pen names. Iain Banks and Iain M banks being the same guy, different genres, after all.

Only trouble with Worsey as a fist name is that, said aloud, it sounds like asking "where is he?"

I definitely want a gender-neutral name, hence the initials, so will keep giving this some thought.
 
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Ancora Imparo

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Definitely not interested in going indie, as I dislike social media. I'd rather earn a fraction of the cover price of a book and have someone who knows what they are doing, do the marketing.
Be aware that (hopefully) when you find a publisher, they will still expect YOU to do most of the social media marketing. The days of sitting back and letting the publisher do it all are long gone, sadly. If you're successful, they'll put some money behind you but most of the time, my understanding is that they still expect you to have a decent online presence and your own ideas on how to reach new readers etc etc. (So forgodsake don't tell them you dislike social media :) ) Pete will know more about this, of course...
 
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RG Worsey

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Be aware that (hopefully) when you find a publisher, they will still expect YOU to do most of the social media marketing. The days of sitting back and letting the publisher do it all are long gone, sadly. If you're successful, they'll put some money behind you but most of the time, my understanding is that they still expect you to have a decent online presence and your own ideas on how to reach new readers etc etc. (So forgodsake don't tell them you dislike social media :) ) Pete will know more about this, of course...
If they're paying me, I'll do it, in the same way as I used to wash dishes and mop floors in kitchens. Every job has a crap part that must be suffered. There's a difference between that and spending hundreds of pounds of my own money on self-publishing, and then trying to build an online media presence from scratch.
 
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E G Logan

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Is there any advantage to taking on a mid alphabet nom de plume? An L, N, M or O surname, perhaps? I considered SW Mersey instead (Worsey rhymes with Mersey), though it has limited Google Power compared to my real surname.

Is this an issue, or is it all in my head? Your thoughts??!
Lee Child, the Jack Reacher author, actually changed his name to what had been his pseudonym. His thinking, when he chose Lee Child, is interesting.

I'll let anyone who wants the long version search that out.

The bit that stuck with me was: the average reader, browsing, starts at A and gets bored and gives up by about D. Thus you need two simple, snappy names, of which the second has to come alphabetically between A and D.

Who knows if it works psychologically – but he has sold a shedload of books. And he thinks it works.
 
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RG Worsey

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Lee Child, the Jack Reacher author, actually changed his name to what had been his pseudonym. His thinking, when he chose Lee Child, is interesting.

I'll let anyone who wants the long version search that out.

The bit that stuck with me was: the average reader, browsing, starts at A and gets bored and gives up by about D. Thus you need two simple, snappy names, of which the second has to come alphabetically between A and D.

Who knows if it works psychologically – but he has sold a shedload of books. And he thinks it works.
I have Rogan Birch on my list...
 
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Hannah F

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J K Rowling doesn't have any trouble selling books. Nor does Sarah J Maas. Michelle Paver. Philip Pullman. Hilary Mantel. Terry Pratchett. Maggie O'Farrell. Jojo Moyes (M is popular). Jodi Picoult, Tom Wolfe, Zadie Smith, Brandon Sanderson, Irvine Welsh.

It really doesn't matter what surname you have as long as your writing and storytelling sings.
 
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James Marinero

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If they're paying me, I'll do it, in the same way as I used to wash dishes and mop floors in kitchens. Every job has a crap part that must be suffered. There's a difference between that and spending hundreds of pounds of my own money on self-publishing, and then trying to build an online media presence from scratch.
Not sure how you figure 'hundreds of pounds'. It costs 0 to have your book printed and distributed via Amazon (excluding your internet service). It costs $4.99 for Lulu, which puts it out in print and to Barnes & Noble and Apple devices. You may have to pay to have covers made (I've made all my own except the first). I've just gone to print today with Amazon and Lightning Source (Lightning has a cost) in less than a week. Yes printed proofs will cost, but they are optional and not expensive.
 
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RG Worsey

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Not sure how you figure 'hundreds of pounds'. It costs 0 to have your book printed and distributed via Amazon (excluding your internet service). It costs $4.99 for Lulu, which puts it out in print and to Barnes & Noble and Apple devices. You may have to pay to have covers made (I've made all my own except the first). I've just gone to print today with Amazon and Lightning Source (Lightning has a cost) in less than a week. Yes printed proofs will cost, but they are optional and not expensive.
Cover design, ISBNs, print run. Even if just going digital (not possible with the graphic novel that I self published on 1st Aug), there's costs. Every hour spent on social media is an hour of my life that I can't spend earning money or doing things I enjoy, so that is a cost to factor in, too. Hence me being OK with doing it if I had a publishing deal, but not if self publishing. I charge myself £9 per hour for time spent on Facebook. It's the only way to look at it, that makes sense.
 
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Hannah F

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Cover design, ISBNs, print run. Even if just going digital (not possible with the graphic novel that I self published on 1st Aug), there's costs. Every hour spent on social media is an hour of my life that I can't spend earning money or doing things I enjoy, so that is a cost to factor in, too. Hence me being OK with doing it if I had a publishing deal, but not if self publishing. I charge myself £9 per hour for time spent on Facebook. It's the only way to look at it, that makes sense.
+ professional copy-editing proofreading. You don't have to employ people to do that, but you may not produce as professional a book without it. And marketing enough to make good sales figures, as an unknown author, costs. I'm with you, S.M. I can't afford it. I'm going trad (with an advance) or nothing.
 
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RG Worsey

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I have decided on Rogan Birch as a pseudonym. I like the number 5, the sound of it, and the connection with birch trees. It is gender ambiguous, too.
 
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Steve C

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I have decided on Rogan Birch as a pseudonym.
Makes me think of Rogon Josh - yummy yummy
I guess if you write for young adults you should choose a name from the middle of the alphabet. Writers of children's books should probably choose a name beginning with W or something.
 
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Vagabond Heart

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Makes me think of Rogon Josh - yummy yummy
Sadly, yes, that’s what I immediately thought of too. Is a Brit thing, lol.

But it has good flow and a nice ring and is fairly gender neutral. (Logan, rather than Rogan, would stop all curry associations, and have the same snap to it, tho?)

To be fair, I can be pretty smug here, as I’m Bev Dalton, which makes me top shelf for the first time in my life!
 
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RG Worsey

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Makes me think of Rogon Josh - yummy yummy
I guess if you write for young adults you should choose a name from the middle of the alphabet. Writers of children's books should probably choose a name beginning with W or something.
Explain, please.

Also, Rogan is an Irish name as well as a curry name.
 
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Jonny

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it's an interesting question and I can see why you're considering it.

My 50p's worth is I think SM Worsey is a name that "sounds like somebody" if you know what I mean?

It straddles gender and genre and would look good in print on a book jacket.

It might be an SM Wosey Crime or Noir. Maybe a Suspense Thriller or a Historical Fiction title. All work with it as a name.

It has gravitas and clout and gives you a lot of options.
 
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