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Changing Your Name

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TonyHays
Reader
Location: Southwest Tennessee

Changing Your Name

Postby TonyHays » Fri September 10th, 2010, 1:06 pm

The first two books in my Arthurian series were recently picked up for UK publication by Corvus Books at Grove/Atlantic UK. They've been super to work with, but one of their first requests sort of surprised me. I was asked to allow them to use the name "Anthony Hays" rather than "Tony Hays." The rationale is that "Tony" is seen by British audiences as a contraction, rather informal and "blokey." "Anthony," on the other hand, has more "gravitas" and is more "authoritative."

I readily agreed for two reasons - one, I'm anxious to maintain good relations now that I have a UK publisher & two, legally my actual name is Thomas Anthony Hays, so I wasn't really using a pen name.

I wondered if others have had similar experiences, and if you think that the author's name really matters that much?

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boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Location: North Carolina
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Postby boswellbaxter » Fri September 10th, 2010, 1:33 pm

I know that Brandy Purdy was asked by her UK publisher to change her first name to "Emily" for the British edition of her book, as "Brandy" was considered too American-sounding.

I think that if an author had a really New Age-sounding name, or a really "romancey"-sounding name, it might negatively influence my buying decision, as it would make me think that goddess-worship or bodice-ripping was in store, but as I generally flip through a book in a bookstore before deciding whether to buy it, the author's name wouldn't solely dictate my buying decision.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

M.M. Bennetts

Postby M.M. Bennetts » Fri September 10th, 2010, 3:06 pm

It happens all the time, the requirement by agents or publisher to change one's name for print purposes. And it can be influenced by all sorts of reasons--the market, the market, the genre you're writing in, the perceptions readers have of either female or male novelists.

Here in the UK, (and no one jump all over me for this, it's true and several agents have remarked on it too) men won't buy books written by women. They suspect--possibly unfairly--that it may be about shoes. Whereas women will read freely regardless of an author's gender.

So, take P.D. James, for example. By the time it became known that she was a she--and a very polite and genteel she, her reputation as a serious crime novelist was already established. So her sales among male readers weren't at risk.

Historical romance novelists may often use an Oldey Englishey sounding name. Whereas chick-lit favours pert perky names.

However, another increasing reason for using a pseudonym in this day and age of the internet is privacy and family privacy. And that seems to me to be the best reason of the lot.

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Fri September 10th, 2010, 3:22 pm

"M.M. Bennetts" wrote:

Here in the UK, (and no one jump all over me for this, it's true and several agents have remarked on it too) men won't buy books written by women. They suspect--possibly unfairly--that it may be about shoes. Whereas women will read freely regardless of an author's gender.



I strongly suspect it is the same here in the States. Didn't we discuss this somewhere on another thread?

TonyHays
Reader
Location: Southwest Tennessee

More amused than anything ...

Postby TonyHays » Fri September 10th, 2010, 3:30 pm

While I was happy to comply with the request (and it helped that my US editor had no objections), I can say quite honestly that the gender and/or name of the author has never been a factor in my book-buying habits. That said, I am a confirmed mystery/suspense/thriller reader and many of the best authors are women. So, if you avoid women authors for fear that shoe-buying will figure too prominently, you severely restrict your potential reading matter.

I wasn't offended by the request at all. If anything, I was slightly amused. I know some male writers that were asked to change their names to something more gender neutral for fear that women wouldn't buy the books if they knew they were written by men. So, it works both ways, I suppose.

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Fri September 10th, 2010, 5:42 pm

Mine is middle name and maiden name because at the time I was first published, there was a cookery writer in the UK with my name. I was born Susan Elizabeth Chadwick, so I just dropped the Susan and my married name. My middle and maiden names suit the genre, so it was meant to be. Also the women of my family in the maternal line have somehow always ended up using their middle names as their main ones in the end, so again, I'm following tradition. :) Mind you, it was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire when I discovered there was an American Elizabeth Chadwick who wrote Western category romance. Her real name is Nancy Herndon (or something like). No idea how she came to be EC.

I have a friend who writes for Mills & Boon - she's one of their big stars and she changed her second name because it was difficult to spell and pronounce. Other friends have changed their name to reflect their genre and preserve anonymity. My former website designer writes erotic fiction as Portia Da Costa among other names, but it's nothing like her real one! The Mills and Boon author mentioned above also writes sagas for Harper Collins under another name, so she has separated out her genres.
One of the stories that makes me shake my head and sort of grimace/smile is someone I know who writes chic-lit. She's a grandma with an obviously older person's name. But not only has she changed her name to suit the genre, her website photo is of her when she was 30 years younger and the small children in the pic have been photoshopped out! The idea is to build her fanbase and then only later reveal that the author writing for the bright young market is not of that age group herself. So not only the sexism of the market needs to be taken into account, but ageism too!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

M.M. Bennetts

Postby M.M. Bennetts » Fri September 10th, 2010, 6:28 pm

You've completely nailed it. It's one of those things a friend and I used to love to do as undergrads--go to bookstores and look at the names and imagine the conversations during which said names had been thought up. It didn't require alcohol for us to be brilliant, I can tell you. (At least in our own minds...)

The market is very ageist, with the emphasis on youth, and Hollywood-looks. At least one agent who I know always requests photos of prospective clients to judge whether they have morning show couch appeal.

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Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Location: North London
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Postby Miss Moppet » Sat September 11th, 2010, 8:33 am

"EC2" wrote:One of the stories that makes me shake my head and sort of grimace/smile is someone I know who writes chic-lit. She's a grandma with an obviously older person's name. But not only has she changed her name to suit the genre, her website photo is of her when she was 30 years younger and the small children in the pic have been photoshopped out! The idea is to build her fanbase and then only later reveal that the author writing for the bright young market is not of that age group herself. So not only the sexism of the market needs to be taken into account, but ageism too!


Interesting story. I think chicklit must be the worst for this because it's about identification, so as an author ages, they lose credibility in a way that writers of other genres don't. I hope the plan works out but if I were a long-term reader and discovered the ploy, I'd feel a bit miffed. I think that an author has every right to use a pseudonym to suit the market or to protect their privacy, but somehow giving the impression they are of a different generation seems a step too far.

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Leo62
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Location: London
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Postby Leo62 » Sat September 11th, 2010, 11:47 am

"M.M. Bennetts" wrote:Here in the UK, (and no one jump all over me for this, it's true and several agents have remarked on it too) men won't buy books written by women. They suspect--possibly unfairly--that it may be about shoes. Whereas women will read freely regardless of an author's gender.

I didn't believe this when I first read it in an article, but I started looking at what all the men I saw on public transport reading, and all the men I knew. Been doing it for about four or five years now and in all that time, I've only *twice* seen a man reading a book by a woman - and one of those was a Harry Potter. It's quite depressing when you think about it.

"M.M. Bennetts" wrote:So, take P.D. James, for example. By the time it became known that she was a she--and a very polite and genteel she, her reputation as a serious crime novelist was already established. So her sales among male readers weren't at risk.



JK Rowling is another example.
listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go
ee cummings

TonyHays
Reader
Location: Southwest Tennessee

Drifting away a hair from my original post ...

Postby TonyHays » Sat September 11th, 2010, 11:48 am

Many moons ago, I was close to what I call the academic writers of fiction. I apologize in advance for my gross generalizations and to anyone on this board who fits into this category. I'm painting with broad strokes here so try not to tar and feather me. These are the folks who have studied or received degrees from the larger writer's programs like Iowa, Stanford, etc. I actually studied under two Iowa graduates, and we were told that writing a story from the POV of a person with a different gender or ethnic background than our own was forbidden. That was just unacceptable at the time. It was fake, false, and the reader would immediately know it. Then, just after that, Robert Olen Butler won the Pulitzer for his collection of short stories written in the voice of an elderly Vietnamese man. Suddenly, it became acceptable.

I have always believed that a writer should follow the path that seems most natural to them, that serves the story they are telling the best. Writing in the first person is very much like being an actor. If you do your research, remain true to the character, hone your skills, you will be okay, and you will do justice to your tale.


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