Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's in a name?

Can an author’s name make or break a novel? I’m not talking about the well known authors whose books we buy based on their reputation and our expectations. I’m talking about a first time or a relatively unknown author. Can the name of an unknown author really determine whether or not people would purchase their book?

I raise this question for a reason. A few weeks ago I saw an online review of my debut novel “A Marriage of Convenience”. It was a very detailed and favorable review. But one paragraph in the review caught my attention. I quote, “Before I began reading, I didn’t have high hopes for the story. The author’s name is Jewel Amethyst and I was just about snobby enough to turn up my nose at this. But she can call her name Ruby Sapphire next time and I’ll give her another read.”

It reminded me of a little discussion I had with my editor when she suggested I use a different name. The impression I got from her was that Jewel Amethyst didn’t sound realistic. In discussing it with one of my friends he confirmed it does sound a little exotic, like a stripper.

Several people have asked me how I came up with the name Jewel Amethyst. Well for starters I didn’t come up with it, it was given to me. There are several stories that I heard about how I got the name. The one I like best is the one told to me by a centenarian friend of my mother when I visited her in my late teens(by the way that lady lived to be 103). She said she visited my mother and saw me as a newborn and I was “Pretty as gold” so she said I should be named Jewel. That’s not exactly the story my mother tells me.

But I digress. The point is, contrary to what the reviewer thinks both Jewel and Amethyst are my given names. The only modification that could categorize Jewel Amethyst as a pseudonym is that I omitted my surname.

It still surprises me though, that the sound of an author’s name could determine whether one picks up a book from the book shelf. For me, most of my purchases are based on author’s reputation or recommendations from friends and family. In the case of an unknown author that comes with no recommendation, I simply read the synopsis or since I purchase most of my books online, I look for the customer reviews.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Never judge a book by the cover.” Can we now extend that to “Never judge a book by the sound of the author’s name”?


Genella deGrey said...

Interesting post, Jewel - I've seen some people wrinkle their nose at my pen name, then I've heard other's say it as if it were a prayer and tell me how lovely it is. Again, we can't please everyone.


Jewel Amethyst said...

That is true, we can't please everyone. I love the pen name Genella deGrey, by the way.

Maria Zannini said...

I think you have a lovely name, but I can see how someone might think it was a pen name.

I don't think it's inappropriate at all and it has enough flash to stick in my memory.

Every time I see your name I think: Hey, I know that author!

There's something to be said for name recognition and you got it.

Genella deGrey said...

Hehe! Thanks, Jewel!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks Maria. In that case it's a good thing I didn't change it. It would be great if everyone was openminded enough not to judge the content of a book by the sound of the name.

Genella, you are most welcome.

Liane Spicer said...

It does have the ring of a pen name, and it's memorable. Which is exactly what you want.

Katlynne LaSalle said...

Beautiful name, and there are many readers who wouldn't let a name affect their choice of novel to read. No, the cover would do that mostly on it's own, right?

I chose the pen name, ms. downlow, because I feature bi-sexual characters in my novel. I hoped that the name would intrigue potential readers. I get questions about it all the time, and with that, an added opportunity to sell my book.