Archive | July, 2014

What’s in a name?

23 Jul

I am not a sexist, although I’ve been a victim of it too many times in my life to be able to entirely overlook it, but there’s a reason why so many excellent women have taken men’s names in order to be published. Even today, there is  J. K. Rowling, a name that is totally androgynous, and not easily identifiable as either sex. It also, of course, depends on what you’re writing. Again, a woman faces an enormous amount of criticism if she wants to write hard-boiled crime novels or really explicit erotica. If she happens to live in a small town, where everyone knows her and her family, she might be very wise to use a pen-name.

Just this week, here in Cleveland, an author who calls herself D.M. Pulley won the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for her mystery, The Dead Key.  The author, an engineer and 38-year-old mother of two young children decided to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy. However, full-face photos of her have appeared in the newspaper, and I’m sure her family and friends know who she is, but I’m not sure anyone else really does. I’m also not sure anyone else really needs to!

When Secret Shores (my first book) was published in 1993, I thought it very sexy, but no one else thought so. I was asked, more than once “is this THAT kind of book?” nudge, nudge, wink, wink! And I had to say yes, because there were love scenes in it. But the h/h weren’t promiscuous, and were in love with each other. All the reviews called it a ‘sweet’ novel, which was the kiss of death, because it wasn’t sexy enough! And furthermore, there was a lot of history in it! Duh. It’s a ‘historical romance’. Same thing with Windsong.

At that time, in Romance Writers of America (to which I then belonged) the feeling was that if one wrote different kinds of romance novels, then perhaps a different name was in order. The idea being that a reader who likes one particular kind of book over all others, will go for the author’s name, and if it’s a totally different kind, and upsets the reader, it is always the author’s fault. So, when I sent out my Regency novel Bertie’s Golden Treasure to publishers in 2006, I created the pen name of Hetty St. James, which sounded British to me. I kept it entirely secret (only my publisher and a couple of friends knew the truth) until last year, when I finally ‘confessed’ on this blog.

A man wouldn’t usually face this kind of nonsense, although there was a man in RWA at that time, whose name was Harold something or other. He wrote wonderful romance novels, usually western-based, or southern. His pen name was the ambiguous Leigh Greenwood. If you didn’t know before reading any of his books that the author was male, nothing in the book would give you that notion, either. I know several other men who have written romances, using a pen name. I don’t blame them one bit, either. It’s very difficult to change the mind of the public.

If you intend to write in vastly different (from each other) genres, then maybe. Or there might be some other reason why a pen name might be useful. My current name is a great one for an author, I think. There are very few people in the world with my last name, thanks to my late husband’s forbears who came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and who didn’t speak English. Your name, on the other hand is probably not Ty Drago, for instance, which is another one of a kind. You might perhaps use at least a middle initial, or maybe put a y in the middle of James – to then be Jaymes.

One last thought. An editor friend read my first book before I submitted it. I had my name in the header as Ferjutz, Kelly and he really climbed all over me for it. “THAT is not your name!” he bellowed. (He was really good at that!) “That’s not how people speak to you! Your name is Kelly Ferjutz, and that’s the way it should always appear on any paperwork connected to your career. That’s your BRAND!” I decided he was right, and have never done it any other way since then.

After all, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet!

Comments or questions appreciated – write to me at bookmechanicATgmail.com

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Promotion possibilities — and how to mess up big-time!

8 Jul

I confess, I did just that last weekend. I can’t imagine where my brain was to have allowed such a monumental boo-boo! I’ve certainly known better for the last 25 years!

What did I do? I participated in a grand (50 plus authors!)Local Author Festival, and other than the books themselves that were there because of the bookstore manager, I was totally unprepared. Eeegads. I still can’t believe I really did such a dumb thing.

Of course, when I started in this business, in 1989, there were lots of local-type bookstores. Independents (as the above-referenced one was) but also branches of national chains. At that time, those stores loved to have book-signings, by local as well as nationally-known authors. It was a big deal to have people come to a bookstore to see the author and hopefully buy a personally-autographed copy. Generally speaking, one could have every Saturday for three months spent in a different area book-store. And I’m not referring to New York or Los Angeles, either. No, I’ve lived in Cleveland for 50+ years, and this is where I had lots of book-signings in 1993 and 94.

The situation is much different now – there aren’t so many indie-stores, and even fewer national chains that might be inclined to host such an event.

How I messed up was in not having any promotional material to hand out! I did at least have my business cards, and I did give out quite a few. And, a few copies of my books were sold. But still . . . there’s just no excuse for this lack on my part.

My first book came out in May, 1993, but it was the weekend of Thanksgiving six months earlier which brought me copies of my cover. For a romance author, there’s nothing better than having a cover to work with – for stickers or bookmarks or any other hand-out materials. Color copiers were brand new in the self-serve copy centers of the time, and I had planned on making some smaller copies to put on book marks and post cards that I would make for myself. (Once on a shoe-string budget, always on a shoe-string, it seems. Nothing much has changed in that part of my life.)

However, on my way to the copy shop, I made a quick stop at the camera store to pick up the photos for which I’d previously dropped off the film. (That’s certainly different these days, too!) Anyway, while waiting at the counter, I noticed a SALE basket of goodies, with, among other things, packets of adhesive-backed magnet stock – the kind to which you’d affix a business card or photo. Something clicked in my head, and I promptly bought all they had.

From there, I went to the copy shop and made hundreds of greatly-reduced-in-size copies of the front cover. (I’m probably the only person anywhere who didn’t like that cover, but that’s okay.) Then it was home again, and I spent the weekend cutting the little cover pix apart, and affixing them to the magnet stock. I think the entirety was 4” x 6” which made for four decent-sized magnets per sheet. I had already created the bookmark design, so I printed them in the colors used in the cover art.

I then mailed out a letter with 15 bookmarks and a magnet to some 400 carefully chosen bookstores and a few libraries. To the best of my knowledge I was the first romance author to make these magnets. Did they work? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that during the following years – until the bookstore world changed so drastically – I would see my magnet in bookstores in the area. And in fact, several friends still have them on their refrigerator – after 25 years! I think that’s awesome!

I won’t ever be so unprepared again, I can promise you that. And if you’re an author, please learn from my ineptness. Make bookmarks or postcards or something that you can hand out to anyone who even glances at your table or desk space.

In fact, the co-author of my most recent book – An Intensive Care Guide For the Family – suggested a brilliant idea, which he will implement – acquiring a QR code which when scanned will take the holder directly to an e-store, and thus make the purchase even easier! In fact, you could do the e-book on one side and the print book on the other. Whoda thought of that – 25 years ago? We barely knew anything about the internet back then. WOW!!! We’ve come a long way, baby!

But now, there’s almost no end to promotional ideas: I’ve seen pens and pencils, erasers, decks of cards (this works best for very prolific authors!), pre-paid phone or other gift cards, charms for bracelets, stickers for envelopes (remember them?) and even – digital memory sticks! Take a look around your world and see what might be a good match for you and/or your book(s)! The sky’s the limit!

If you have a really great promo idea that you’re willing to share, please tell us about it? Write to me at bookmechanicATgmail.com Thanks!