Friday, June 26, 2015

To Pen Name, or Not To Pen Name…

I recently had an interesting conversation with fellow authors in my area.  I was asked why I chose to go by a pen name: J. Lynn Else.  It’s a good question.  Why do we choose the names we do?  That is, if you do!

One of the authors said that when he sees initials in a name, he felt it looked very scholarly.  He felt initials gave off an air of knowledge.  That, of course, made me smile.  Of course it’s because I’m so smart!

I actually wanted to go by a pen name because, well, Jessica is not all that exciting a name.  As one of the 2 most popular first names in the 1970s, I’ve heard it a lot.  I was always surrounded by either Jennifers or Jessicas.  So I wanted to pick something that stood out, like I want my writing to stand out.

I actually called upon my friends on Facebook and asked their opinion on a number of possible pen names with various forms of initialed or non-initialed aliases.  There were J.L. possibilities, Jessica Lynn possibilities, and then choices of maiden or married name.  In the end, J. Lynn Else was one of the choices with most votes.  But most importantly, it was also the name I felt most drawn to.  It felt right – like the way I wanted to be represented.  Getting feedback certainly helped, but the end choice was mine. 

So what’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  While a true sentiment, Juliet, for your Romeo; however, as an author, its one of the few things your readers will see on your book’s cover.  You get the title, your name, and a pretty picture.  It’s just one piece of a larger puzzle in your efforts to build an audience.  

So what name represents YOU?  Perhaps you have an awesome first name as unique as the style of clothes you wear.  Perhaps not.  But whatever you decide, its just one way readers view your book. 

That person sounds well-educated by their name.
That name is so classy!    
That name is so very ordinary.
That person sounds they come from a rich family in the Hamptons!

Obviously, I’m not option #4.  But I would not mind options #1 or #2.  

So…  to be, or not to be pen named?  That is the question. And what dreams may come once you’ve decided!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Are you a hater and or a shaker?

Its always a thrill to get a positive review.  I just checked and found a new review posted which gave me 5 stars.  Wow.  Totally raised my spirits for the day.  The reviewer even left a brief positive comment.  I always appreciate when reviewers put into words what touched them. 

However, as an author, you are going to get the negative reviews too.  I now realize, after reading a few of my own, that when I review a book, I should not only be more sensitive but also more specific.  While negative reviews are hard to read, they can also be very helpful when the reviewer points out what did not work for them.  Was it a character choice?  Was it the editing (which usually is out of your control as an author)?  Was it the setting?  One reviewer of my book stated that they felt the internal dialogue was too mature for my characters.  I appreciate their honesty because I did actually struggle with that during the writing process.  I wanted to show the main character's maturity develop.  However, for that reader, some parts of it did not work.  Another reviewer wrote that I used the occasional American slang and specifically referenced in my writing that I called siblings "kids" instead of "children."  Much appreciation!  Now I know to watch for that as I develop book 2.

As an author of historical fiction, some dictation is obviously too modern to use.  However, words like "kids" is not one that would occur to me as being overtly American.  I remember looking up many different reference words to ensure they were probable ways for an ancient person to express themselves.  If I found words that originated in England during the middle ages, I looked for a synonym.  So again, there was another example of a review that was somewhat negative but also extremely helpful.  I could have taken that personally.  No one else has commented on that before.  But I knew it was not about me.  And the reviewer did give props to the research done. 

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate....

However, there have been some craptastic reviews.  One person stated how my writing was at the level of a junior high student's ability.  Ouch!  That one took a little time for me.  The comment was definitely directed at me as an author. 

So how does one overcome such words?  A cousin of mine put it well.  He told me that its very easy to write an anonymous review and criticize something.  And he's right about that.  There's no ownership or responsibility associated with it.  He also said that its much harder to write a book.  And that's what I remember when a low-star review is posted. 

Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake...

Say it a few times:

I wrote a book. 

I wrote a book! 

I wrote a 500+ page book, baby!!!! 

I feel good about that. 

You should feel good about your work too.  Realize that you're not going to please everyone.  Not even Harry Potter pleases everyone.  Are you happy?  Do you feel you did your best?  For me the answer is a definite: Hell yes!  So be proud.  You should be.  And as Taylor Swift would say (sorry, my son is a huge fan):  I shake it off, I shake it off!