Day 5 Challenge: Pen Names: Why Hide Behind Aliases?

textI chanced upon a piece of cook book at the Amazon Kindle Store with the cover image of a delectable and highly enticing meal. It got my attention so I searched for similar titles under the same author.

I did find five to six more. Great work on the book covers. Same strong appeal. Same inviting effect.

As I scrolled down his Author Central page, I found more Kindle ebooks. They were erotica books featuring torrid, steamy and stimulating images of couples.

Okay, a chef who loves erotica. Why not?

Well, to some, this can be disturbing.

Pen Names: Should You Be Using One?

Let’s add a twist to this. What if, the author happened to be a prolific writer and did children’s books catering to the impressionable minds of 6-8 or 9-12 year-old kids? For sure, these age groups have the capability to search out books from the same author. Imagine how they’ll react to his erotica-themed book covers if they bumped on them in their searches. Would they say, “Mommy, I want to read this!” or “Mom, what the…”?

Then, what if he also carried religious types of books?

Who knows if he were a sex therapist and had books on that genre as well? Or he espoused ideas on same-sex marriage?

Let’s add more juice. What if the writer who’s using his real name is a pastor for a congregation of churches, university chancellor, professor of theology, guidance counselor for abused teenage kids or high-profile banker at the Bank of America?

The story can go on and on and on. And the horror?

But then, who told you that you can’t write and publish books on various competing and conflicting topics or genres? Or that you can’t use your real name for all of them?

You can, of course. Go ahead. As long as you don’t violate rules, rights or law that you’ll be held accountable for, why not? Most especially in this age of indie publishing where publishing a book every second is not far from possible, the sky is the limit as to what where you can take your writing.

But publishing your books under just one name or your real name can have serious implications on your career and personal life.

Why? How?

Pen Names: Why Use One?

Using pen names, fictitious names, aliases, pseudonyms, nom de guerre or nom de plume is legal, acceptable and an honored tradition that survived hundreds of years.

Why use one?

Here are reasons why you’d opt for a pen name instead of your real one:

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  • Privacy. Many authors just want to live normal lives, safe and free from the prying eyes of strangers who can get in the way of their personal and/or professional space. In the same way, they want to protect their family and relatives from the spotlight in anticipation of fame. Maintaining anonymity saves them from unnecessary distractions and allow them to focus on what they normally do. 
  • Integrity. Many authors want to uphold their integrity or their ability to remain honest and maintain strong moral principles. They want to keep their self-respect intact. Pen names can help them achieve that end.
  • Branding. Many authors want to build a personal brand or image or be known as an authority in their chosen field. A pen name can do that. Compare a meticulously crafted or well thought-out pen name with a funny or hilarious name. Unless their books are related to jokes or making people giggle or laugh,  a suitable pen name would help them be taken seriously. Also, a female writer who wants to influence the male population would benefit from a male pseudonym. It’s not uncommon to have a specific pen name for each genre or subgenre for the purpose of branding.
  • Marketability. Easy read, easy recall and quick sell. That’s power selling. That’s what using a highly marketable pen name is all about as practiced in Hollywood.

Pen Names: A Great Guide Before Using One

Here is a great resource that Adrienne DeWolfe of Writing World put together on 10 important questions to ask yourself when considering using a pen name:

  1. How comfortable are you with having your real name splashed all over the Internet, especially if your writing is being savaged in a blog post or book review?
  2. Are you likely to attract more readers in your fiction genre if you’re writing novels as a male or a female?
  3. Would your name be easier to remember, pronounce, or spell if it was more generic?
  4. Is your real name so common that it could be easily confused with the name of someone else (for instance, a highly publicized white-collar criminal or another author in your fiction genre?)
  5. Would you prefer to err on the side of caution, protecting your loved ones from your followers or from any future career fall-out that you may suffer?
  6. How comfortable are you with the idea that fans and detractors may be able to find you in the phone book and show up at your house or your place of business?
  7. Is your preferred pseudonym easy to spell and remember?
  8. Does your real name invoke a positive association with the fiction genre that you’re writing? (For instance, if your birth name is Cherry Clapp, you may face hurdles in the Romance genre.)
  9. Are you planning to write multiple fiction genres?
  10. Where is your preferred pseudonym likely to be shelved? (At the bottom of a book store’s stacks? Near the name of a bestselling author in your fiction genre?)

Pen Names: Ways to Find One

  • Think up of a random name that sounds great to your ears, something that pops out or has rhythm. It can be anything. Please consult your brain for this!
  • Use one that’s similar or close to your real name. If your name is Charles Dickens, why not use Dick Charles? John Andrews from Johnny Andrews. Charlie Chapman from Charlie Chaplin.
  • Find one that rings a bell to readers in your target genre like mystery, science fiction, paranormal or supernatural, business. You may visit bestseller sections at the Amazon Kindle Store for samples of fitting names.
  • Use a random name generator such as Name Generator, List of Random Names and Fake Name Generator. They are fun to use and can be handy when creating character names for your fiction stories. This is the easiest to use.
  • Search for popular names of babies born under a specific year based on the age group of your target readers. If you’re targeting women between 45 and 60 years of age, you may look for popular names of baby girls born between 1969 and 1954 here or here, which is a US government site.
  • Search for names of popular or bestselling authors and create one that sounds like or is similar to any of those names. J.K. Bowling, Stephen Queen, Stephen Coffey, Anthony Bobbins? Of course, I’m silly! But you get what I mean.
  • Mix and match or do a combo based on previous searches.

Have you picked a pen name yet?

What are you waiting for? Actually, when you need to or when you’re ready.

A Pen Name: What Is It to Your Book Cover?

file000388983772Whew! I got overly excited about discussing pen names that I almost lost sight of what’s behind writing this section.

Let’s get back on track: What’s the relevance of pen names to creating our book cover?

What are the highly visible elements of a book cover again?

  • Book title
  • Image or picture
  • Author’s name (or pen name).

These elements help to sell your book.

Very briefly, a relevant, striking and powerful pen name adds to the emotional appeal or affectivity and salability  or effectivity of your book cover.

Period.

Hope that helps.

Let me know what you think of this post. I’d really love to hear from you!


MARIA SILVO ~ Entrepreneur  Ι  Children’s Book Author  Ι  Blogger

Day 3 Challenge: What Makes a Great Book Cover?

When you look at book covers, what do you oftentimes see? Almost always, it’s the dominant elements – the title, author’s name and image.

This applies mostly with fiction books. With non-fiction, you’d see more.

These are the obvious or apparent elements – elements that are easily recognizable.

However, book covers are more complicated than that and graphic artists would tell you that there is more in there than meets the eye.

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince (1943)

If you look much further, there are other elements in there, too.

They are just not as obvious or as visible.

They work at the background, are subtle and can, at times, be subliminal.

They play with viewers’ minds and influence how they feel, think, decide or act in ways like

  • turn their head around or grab their attention;
  • make them curious or excited about what’s inside;
  • create a strong desire to explore your book some more;
  • compel them to browse your book’s table of content;
  • pique their interest to read sections of your book;
  • push them to search for customer reviews about your book;
  • nag them into buying your book even when already reviewing another one;
  • compel them to buy your book.

All those, just from viewing your book cover.

Insane, right? But that’s possible. And it always happens.

At both the conscious and subconscious planes.

What is in your book cover that creates these kinds of behavior?

Let’s take a peek into what make book covers stand out.

Attributes of Great Book Covers

What do great book covers have that set it apart from the rest? You’ll get a ton of responses on this and here’s my take.

A standout book cover has four attributes:

First, appeal. It grabs attention almost instantaneously. I can use an endless stream of powerful words to describe it: dazzling, captivating, charming, attractive, handsome, beautiful, stunning, striking, entrancing, professional, wow, dynamite, lovable, cute, delicious, delightful, pleasing, magnetizing, elegant, hypnotic, inviting, great, awesome, wonderful, engaging. And on and on

How the book cover elements were used or put together effectively contributes to engendering a positive feeling of excitement, curiosity and/or desire in your target reader. They may not even know it. They simply feel it.

Second, simplicity. It is simple, uncomplicated and spot on. It is devoid of clutter that may repel, mislead or confuse readers and take them away from the real message, theme or content of your book.

Third, uniqueness. It is different, uncommon and special. Its spot is all its own. No other book cover has that “X” factor or quality. In an ocean of romance novels,  for instance, or time management themed non-fiction books, yours is undoubtedly a cut above the rest.

Fourth, clarity. It is crystal clear what your book is all about simply by looking at its cover. It mirrors and/or hints at your book’s content, theme, genre or topic. At thumbnail size, your book cover is easily recognizable; its text – title and author, most especially – is highly readable.

Elements of Great Book Covers

The apparent or obvious elements of book covers are mostly these three:

  • Title and subtitle. The title is the name of your book. It is usually the dominant element of your book cover (although in many instances, the author’s name is). Many titles, most especially non-fiction, are straightforward. You get what the book is all about as soon as you read its title. It may be one, two, three or more words whose meaning may have to be deciphered.

Book titles are important and necessary. Your book has to have one. The subtitle, however, is not compulsory but optional. You may or may not have one.

What’s the value of having a subtitle? Your subtitle puts more meat on your title. It defines the slant of your book, explains its content further and provides more details. This is especially most helpful if you have a book title containing a word or two.

For instance, how would target readers know what your book “Hurry” is all about? If it’s fiction, your choice of image would most probably reveal more about it. For non-fiction, it may be more daunting and can be confusing. Attaching a subtitle that says “How to Do Things More Quickly in Your Own Terms and Succeed at What You Do” would most probably help clarify your book’s content.

  • Author’s name. This is the name of the book writer or, in some instances, the publisher. As author, you may use your real name or choose a literary pen name, fictitious name or pseudonym. (You’ll know more on this in the section: “The Power of Pen Names: Why Hide Behind an Alias?”)
  • Image. This may be a picture, image or symbol that would depict your book’s content or provide a clue or hint. It may be a single image or symbol, a collection or collage of images, or a composite image.

A composite image is what you get after combining various visual elements from separate sources to get a desired effect or picture. Graphic artists achieve this through compositing (using photo editing softwares like Adobe Photoshop) to create the illusion that all those elements belong to or are parts of the same scene.

So we’re done with the obvious elements.

Now, make a guess on the subtle elements of book covers. They are those that you may not even know or suspect exist but are positioned or placed there for some reasons. The impact that they create are more psychological or at the level of the unconscious or subconscious.

I can think of four:

  • Color
  • Typography
  • Space
  • Composition

In the next post, we will explore about these four in more detail.

For now, please let me know what you think so far.

Publish on Kindle: Indie Author Must Know

Publish on Kindle as an Indie Author

Publish on Kindle 2Anyone can write and publish on Kindle… and you’re no different!

True.

It can be intimidating at the onset but once you publish on Kindle continuously, you eventually get the hang of it. You learn the skills of the trade.

One day, you realize that what seemed a daunting task has become second nature. Once you develop the habit of self-publishing, it sticks with you. As the popular saying goes, “Practice makes perfect!”

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ~ Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Indeed, anyone can publish on Kindle or other book publishing platforms, for that matter.

Anyone can be an indie author. Including you.

But don’t get me wrong.

Publish on Kindle But Do the Work

Self-publishing does require a lot of work. I’ve proven that many times over and, sure, avid marketers would sell you into the idea of creating a product effortlessly… in 24 hours, even less.

Perhaps, that’s possible. Just because they’ve mastered the craft.

Or they know something I don’t.

Or they’ve got a magic wand in their hands!

However, if you look at the amount of work that goes into book publishing, 24 hours is just not enough. At least, for me – not only with my children’s books at Amazon but for other fiction and non-fiction books as well.

You may certainly work out a 5,000-word non-fiction book on how to make money or how to parent your kids successfully.

Or a short fiction story of 7,000 words.

Publish on Kindle: Challenges as Indie Author

But do the math. Self-publishing is not merely writing. A lot more goes into publishing on Kindle, as you may glean in this partial list:

  • niche and keyword research (talk about not being found in Amazon’s search engine!)
  • content research
  • outlining
  • formatting or layout
  • sourcing photos or images
  • editing and proofreading
  • outsourcing (if you must)
  • conceptualization and design of your book cover (that you should not take lightly!)
  • uploading at the Amazon Kindle Store or other similar publishing platforms
  • writing blurbs for your book description
  • plus other tasks behind the scenes that don’t seem apparent but you must do!

Unless you’re good enough with sloppy work… but if you want to survive long-term and succeed in the self-publishing industry, sloppy is sloppy no matter what you call it.

And many readers, whether paid or free, wouldn’t bat an eyelash at getting back at you for these failings. Even if all they spent for your book was a measly $0.99… or they got your KIndle book for free!

And get this: You won’t hear a word of gratitude. You may call them ingrates but that’s just how it is.

Capture -- Kindle Reviews

Beating? No doubt. And it can go on and on and on. It will tear you apart.

That’s no joke. Go through the customer reviews section of Kindle books at Amazon and you’ll get a crystal clear picture of what I’m saying.

Publish on Kindle and Reap Your Rewards for Excellence

At the flip side, you’ll enjoy boatloads of buyers and positive customer reviews, day in and day out, if you do an excellent job.

And that’s what you must aim for. Nothing less.

Despite all the challenges that indie authors face, self-publishing is fun, rewarding and worth pursuing.

So… go on and get yourself dirty with Amazon’s great publishing opportunity.

If you’ve already done so, publish some more. The more you publish on Kindle, the better you get. The better you get, the better it is for your pocket!

Indie Authors Go Gaga over Self-Publishing

The-best-time-to-plant-aPeople from all walks of life tread to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords and other publishing platforms to have their books published.

Reading this, I bet that you are an indie author or an aspiring one.

You have something to say… and want to say them in written words through your self-published books!

Now, you are an indie author (or someday soon, would be).

Who wouldn’t want to be one?

The advent of self-publishing has indeed opened vast opportunities for you as an independent author to not only

  • express your thoughts, feelings or insights
  • share your stories or discoveries that can possibly change the world
  • be heard.

It has made it easier for you to position yourself or create a personal brand that would advance your business and/or career.

To top it all, you can make money from self-publishing with little money or by “mining” only your diligence, talents, knowledge, skills and experiences, connections or relationships and other resources that were there all along but didn’t take notice of.

Self-publishing has truly empowered people to do on their own what used to be the domain of traditional publishing companies.

It has revolutionized the book publishing industry and leveled the playing field.

Now, indie authors are in the same league as the big ones.

It doesn’t matter if you have the backing of a big company or not, whether you have much capital to invest or not, whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting down the road to writing and publishing.

Whether you’re old and dying or just a 7-year old kid… black-skinned, brown or white; male, female or LGBT.

Who cares who you are?

What matters is what you have to tell and bottle up in your self-published book.

If you haven’t started writing your book yet, now is the perfect time!

What’s holding you?

You can do it.

Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you!