Andrew asked me what the single biggest mistake self-publishers make. A great question! I think the answer is they don't switch their mindset and "think" like a publisher. If you don't do this then you'll die from a thousand paper cuts as little mistakes will add up over time. The most notable area that are not taken into consideration are:
- Title of Book
- Name used by author
J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, K.W. Jeter, M.J. Rose, A.C. Crispin...many people use their initials instead of their names. In most cases this is used to "hide" the sex of the author (usually women who are writing characters or themes that seem more masculine). Another reason to do so would be because many authors with your first/last name already exist.
For me, I'm not a fan of this technique - it distances the author and reader - plus it makes it difficult for fans or reviewers to reference the person. I never know if it is a he or a she and calling someone K.W. when writing seems cold and impersonal. In general, think long and hard before you do this. Having good reasons, and still doing so is fine - just make sure you have that internal thought with yourself.
Using Pen Names
Again used to hide your identity. In many cases, it is for one of the following:
- Not wanting your friends/family to know you've written something: like Erotica
- People forced to because of non-compete clause in a traditional publishing contract
- People writing in multiple genres and don't wish to confuse their audience
- People already named someone very popular
- People trying to trick people into buying their book when actually looking for a more popular author, or to get their books "near" a popular author on bookstore shelves.
When Michael started writing, we searched on his name and were shocked. Did you know there are:
- My husband - author of the Riyria Revelations
- Author of Necessary Heartbreak
- Author of a ton of Academic Math Text books
- Author of books on Eastern Art
- Author of "Goosebumpish Books for boys"
- Author of International Relations
I happened to be on the phone yesterday, helping another indie author who needed advice on marketing of their books and she mentioned that she knows the Necessary Break guy. I laughed and told her that the next time they speak to tell him that Robin says, "He owes us money!!" That's because he's gotten a ton of sales through the name confusion. How do I know? Look at the cross-selling. My Michael is the #1 cross selling author with him and the first six books on his kindle "also bought list" are Michael's plus the other two show up later on, and most of the others are fantasy books that are in my Michael's genre. He's really benefited by the name confusion.
From a pure marketing perspective, we should have changed Michael's name before launching, but he REALLY wanted to use his own. The moral of the story is we thought long and hard before deciding what to do. We did our research, reasoned the alternatives and then made the decision. So think carefully about the name you use...it will be with you from a branding standpoint forever