This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's In an Author's Name?

            When I put my mystery novel, The McHenry Inheritance, up on Amazon last summer, there were quite a few decisions I had to make about it. I now realize I messed up on one that should have been easy.
            That would be the decision about what name to use as the author of the book. My friends all know me as Mike Wallace, but since that name also belongs to the late longtime anchor of 60 Minutes and to an all-pro NFL wide receiver, I rejected it out of hand. I didn’t want to confuse anyone, or have anyone feel they’d bought my book based on false pretenses.
            So I went with my full first name, and put the book out under Michael Wallace. I’m pretty conversant with the mystery section of the bookstore and had never seen that name on anything, so figured it would be pretty safe. I now realize that I should have gone a step further and done an author search under that name on Amazon.

How Many Michaels Are There?

            Had I done so, I would have realized there were a number of Michael Wallaces with books on Amazon, writing in a number of different fields. I should not have added another Michael to the list, if only because it makes a search by author name a lot more work. And the more work you make the customer do, the less likely you are to get the sale.
            It would have been a relatively simple matter to use some other variation. I could have called myself M.E. Wallace, Michael E. Wallace, or used my middle name in some variation: Eugene Wallace, Eugene M. Wallace. As glaringly obvious as it seems to me now, I didn’t bother to do the check because I didn’t realize the ginormous number of authors on Amazon and how common a name Michael Wallace really is.
            Maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing. The flip side of being hard to find in that thicket of Michaels is that some people slogging through that thicket, in search of one of the other chaps, will find me and my book. I know that’s already happened at least once.

Best Thing He’s Written

            One of my eight reviews on Kindle is from a complete stranger who apparently bought my book on the assumption that it was written by one of the other Michael Wallaces. The stranger gave The McHenry Inheritance five stars, for which I am deeply appreciative, and wrote a short review along the lines of, “it’s not like his other books, but it’s one of the best things he’s written.”
            As an author, I am happy when anyone reads my book all the way through and likes it, and if someone finds the book by mistake but still likes it, so much the better. As we all know, it’s tough to sell a book these days.
            Still, I can’t help feeling I should have used a more distinctive author name, something that would stand out and be appropriate for the series of fly-fishing mysteries I hope to write. This week it came to me. Instead of my real first name, I should have used another that carries a resonance of the Old West; that is the name of one of my favorite trout streams; and that, when coupled with my last name, doesn’t show up on Amazon and would have been a unique author. The author name I should have gone with is Carson Wallace.