I’m a titleist. By that I don’t mean I’m a brand of golf ball. I mean that I pay special attention to my titles for my stories and books. I know the saying goes you can’t judge a book by its cover, but a cover does catch the reader’s eye and so does a title. A catchy title might make someone pick up a book and the jacket blurb might just seal the deal. So, I’m a titleist.
Every time I come up with a book, I do my very best to come up with a unique and interesting title—the more unique the better. The reason I want a standout title is because I want people to find my book. I’m not a big name and if I’ve picked a title a dozen other authors have used, I’m potentially sunk and a reader could go home with a book I didn’t write, but thought I wrote. So before I name a book, I look for the title on Amazon and BN.com. If my proposed title pops up then I rename the book. I want to make it easy for people to find me. When someone calls out the title of my book, I want to make sure they can’t get it wrong and that they go home with a little bit of me under their arm.
But I never bothered to do that with my name. When I began writing, I debated going under a pseudonym, but when I made my first sale, my wife said, you shouldn’t hide. You should publish under your own name—and with a flush of pride, I did. What a mistake.
Much to my dismay, I am one of several Simon Woods out there writing. Thankfully, I’m the only one writing fiction, but I’m not the one who writes about wine, or woodwork or British social history. But it’s still a problem. To the reader, I seem to have a split personality.
The problem is that the book searches can’t make a distinction between the Simon Wood who writes about wine and me. This can make it real tricky for all the many Simon Woods writing out there. There’s still a chance of mistaken identity.
If I could do it all again, I would go with a pen name. I’d have chosen something like Tiger Smith (which was the name of my first pet and my mother’s maiden name). Now no writer goes under that name—and for good reason, probably—but that’s not the point. It’s all about being memorable—and a unique name and title is a good place to start.
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll just to have to make my writing unique. J
Simon Wood (the one who didn’t write a book about sneakers)
There are big advantages to a nom de plume, but no one who knows you realizes it’s you. So you don’t have to do all the extra work.Besides, you’re our Simon Wood, and that’s what counts.
Odd…back in college, some people would play the game “What’s your Porn Star Name.” First Pet’s Name + Mother’s Madien Name. Yours would have been a good one.
Boy, do I hear ya, Simon. Although I must admit, my favorite fan email ever came from a woman who wanted to know how I managed to write those funny mystery novels while also writing books about Jewish holidays and functioning as a full-time rabbi.
You think YOUR name is too common? Welcome to my life!
Jeff, you feel my pain. We have far too much in common.
I’m still trying to make it work for me. Did you know I’m Stuart Woods’ nephew–pass it on.