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”?