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What’s in a name?

A pen name, pseudonym, nome de plume, or literary double is an assumed name used by a writer instead of their real or legal name.

Reasons to use a Pen Name

Writing in Multiple Genres – The most common use of pen names today is by established authors who don’t want to aggravate their base readership by producing novels outside their established genre. Examples include Nora Roberts who uses JD Robb to pen her suspense novels and Jessica Byrd who changed her name to JR Ward to publish her highly successful dark suspense The Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Switching Publishers– Perhaps you have an exclusivity deal with a publisher under your current name, but you have a project they aren’t as excited to publish as you are. Using a pen name would allow you to take that work to another publisher or even self-publish.

Anonymity– Maybe you just want some privacy or a strict separation between your personal and professional life. Much like in the past, many authors have day jobs or positions within their community that would be negatively impacted by their choice of writing. There have been several cases in the news about teachers who were fired or shut out of their community because it was found they wrote erotica or dark romance.

Name too common or complicated– Becoming an author has been made easier than ever with the rise of free self-publishing platforms. Standing out amongst the millions is even harder if you have a common name like John Smith or Mary Johnson. In this case, you want to choose a name that will help distinguish you from all the rest. On the flip side, if you have a long first or last name or a name with more consonants than vowels, you may stand out negatively. Hard to pronounce names mean less word of mouth recommendations and if your name is too long it might not fit neatly on your covers.

Things to consider when choosing a Pen Name

The similarity to famous Authors– You might think it a great idea to choose a pen name like JP Rawling or James Peterson, but it can actually hurt your ability to sell. The literary world is full of diehard fans who will gladly pan your work and spam your books with negative reviews in defense of their favorite authors.

Does the name you chose fit with your chosen genre– A name like Sly Nyx will be more widely accepted amongst Paranormal Romance, and Fantasy readers than Historical fiction.

Can be a variation of your real name– If you aren’t feeling particularly creative or have a name “issue” as mentioned above, it is perfectly okay to shorten your name how you see fit. It will also make filing your taxes easier since it is still technically your legal name.  Example, Elizabeth Marie Johnson could become Eliza Mar or E.M. Johns.

Position on Brick & Mortar Shelves- A much-overlooked factor in choosing a pen name. Depending on the number of items in stock a name towards the end of the alphabet like S-Z is more likely to fall on bottom shelves and away from the valuable eye-level shelf space key to grabbing reader’s attention.

Need a little help coming up with a name? Check out these fun pen name generators!

Pseudonym Generator

Reedsy Pen Name Generator

Kindlepreneur Pen Name Generator

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Stereo Goals Day 6

With all of my re-recording finished it was finally time to export my audio files! It was a very exciting moment but still a tedious one.  Part of working with my father is that he loves to teach as he goes. That meant while I would much rather be catching up on some market research I’m huddled over his computer screen listening to him go over every detailed step of his music editing software and how it processes my voice to be turned into my glorious audio book. No harm no foul considering one day I may need the knowledge to create a truly DIY audio book.

Finally with all my files edited and converted to the proper format it is time to upload it! I chose to use Audible.com to distribute my audio book.  I uploaded each file individually and once completed, clicked submit for their final review.  The website says it will take 10-14 business days to review my files to ensure their quality and that I will be notified immediately of any faults.  Let the waiting games begin!

Lessons Learned Day 6:

  • Listen and Learn- If your sound tech/engineer/whoever is recording is willing to teach you the tricks of the trade, GO FOR IT and be GRATEFUL!
  • Be prepared to wait- It seems I spent more time waiting than recording during this whole process.

 

Stereo Goals Day 5

In the beginning, when I gave myself two weeks to record my audio book I hadn’t given a thought to the long editing and publication process. I thought it would take the whole two weeks to finish getting one recording from the beginning to the end of my book. However, since Day 4 was so productive, Day 5 in the studio I finally read the last paragraph. At least I thought I had. Silly me!
Major setback, SNAFU, WTF moment. The version of my book I had recorded turned out not to be the final version of my book as published! I know you are probably thinking, “How in the world did you not know/notice that?!” Well to answer your question. This was my first book ever published and I self-published it with absolutely no clue what I was doing initially. So the book had undergone many, many updates the last and most polished of which only had a few changes, mostly formatting changes, made to it. So while the majority of the story is the same, I may have switched around a paragraph or two. On top of that, I had split my chapters up slightly different in the final version than the version I recorded.
Lucky me these changes could easily be made without too much additional recording since I had the forethought to record in paragraphs instead of long sections. The fix was just a matter of moving around a few audio files and adding a couple minutes more of narration. Still the process is time-consuming and currently ongoing.
Lessons Learned Day 5
Make sure you are recording what you meant to record- It’s seriously embarrassing and extremely costly both in time and money (if you are paying a producer/voice actor) to go through what I am going through now.

Stereo Goals Day 4

I stepped into the studio ready to go. I’d warmed up my vocal chords beforehand by singing while getting ready and was able to do most of my narration with only one or two repetitions of each paragraph. My deadline was still a heavy weight on my shoulder but not because I wasn’t sure I could get everything recorded in time. My worry at this point was mostly editing. After day 3 my father spent three more hours in the studio cutting out extra-long pauses and making sure there was enough air space at the beginning and end of each recording.
It’s important to note that I did let my Dad do this on his own without my input because he wasn’t actually cutting anything important and we had strict guidelines on just how much space was needed for chapters, sections, paragraphs etc. Depending on who you are working with you may want to be a little more hands-on with the editing process and if you are doing everything on your own maybe editing as you go so it’s not some monumental task at the end.
By the end of Day 4, I’d managed a big jump from 30% to 82% complete.
Lessons Learned Day 4

  • Warm Up- Sing a couple of songs and stretch your body out a little helps to minimize how many takes you do and keeps your body from getting too stiff from sitting or standing for too long.
  • Wear quiet clothing- Bulky sweaters and jogging pants might not be the best comfortable clothes for recording unless you want to stand like a statue while recording to minimize excess rustling noise.
  • Edit as you go- A few small tweaks while recording can save hours of time editing later.

Stereo Goals Day 3

The third day in the studio was a lot easier in some ways and harder in others. The pressure of having such a short time frame to complete my audiobook was getting to me. I rushed through my narration and it ended up taking longer than it should have because I kept getting tongue-tied. There were whole sections that had to be recorded over and over again because it sounded forced or rushed.
Day three was also the day I got to my first sex scene. It is infinitely easier to write a sex scene in the comfort of your own space. Publishing them is easy too because although you hope your readers enjoy them, you aren’t there to see their reactions to them. Reading them out loud was a bit embarrassing. Well, to be totally honest, it was extremely awkward and embarrassing, due greatly to the fact that my producer just happens to also be my Dad. I hadn’t thought about that part when I jumped at the opportunity to use his studio and expertise to record my audio book for free.
Despite everything, I still managed to get another 15% recorded which brought me to 30%. Not bad for all my setbacks.
Lessons Learned Day 3

  • Don’t wear earrings- the headphones crushed my studs into my ears and it was very uncomfortable.
  • Don’t rush- it doesn’t sound right in playback and you are more likely to make mistakes.

Stereo Goals- Day One

The first thing I needed to decide was how to produce my audio book. As I mentioned in my previous post, a professional producer and voice actor are pretty expensive. It’s one of the major factors in the high cost of audiobooks in comparison to their print and digital counterparts. Narrating my own work cuts out one cost but the cost of the equipment necessary to make a professional audio file can be just as expensive as hiring a producer. Not saying it can’t be done, it’s just a lot of upfront cost on top of my already meager budget as a self-published author. My saving grace, Big Swang Productions. A small, one man, basement operation with impressive credentials and very reasonable pricing.

 

With that figured out, my biggest issue was time. My whole audio book needed to be finished within a short two-week deadline and with only two-ish hours a day of recording time. Most would think that is plenty of time, to put it in perspective, it took me two hours just to get oriented with the recording space and record my opening credits and first paragraph. Once I caught on to how things worked the process sped up drastically. Overall, day one in the studio went okay. I was a little nervous and it took me a good ten minutes to relax and not sound too much like an automaton while recording. Who knew reading words could be so hard?

Lessons Learned Day One:

  • Have water or tea nearby- After take thirty your throat will feel like sand paper without it.
    Be prepared to repeat everything until its perfect
  • Pronunciation and Annunciation are key- Meaning to say Claude but hearing Cloud and/or Clot can and will happen
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes- The more comfortable and relaxed you are the easier it is to focus on your performance
  • Have a plan/goal- Record your book in sections just as you wrote the book. It’s easier to edit by paragraph or chapter than it is as one long audio track.

 

Stereo Goals

Whoever said, “writing is the easy part”… Well, I’ve said it a few times myself, but lately, I feel like it’s actually the hardest. So in order to keep my brain from shorting out with writer’s worry, I’ve decided to brush off a few projects I had sidelined in my quest to maintain my writing goals. Keeping up with my blog is one of them but also creating an audiobook for my already completed work. I will be documenting my DIY audio book journey in subsequent posts, thus checking both boxes on my “To Do” list.

There are a lot of things that go into creating an audio book that a novice like me hadn’t thought about. The cost of a producer and voice actor can be insane. Still, recording one with my laptop’s microphone and some random free software just wouldn’t be a very good product. Without any clue how to edit it properly my work wouldn’t be accepted on any major audio book site like Audible.com or Audiobooks.com.

So what exactly is needed to create a professional DIY audio book? Well, there is plenty of really good information readily available through google and audiophile blogs. Since I am an admitted Amazon junky; Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) blog is where I got all my information. They did it so well I highly suggest browsing here.

The short version.

You will need:

1.) A quiet place to record
2.) A decent microphone
3.) Audio editing software like Pro Tools
4.) A reliable computer
5.) Lots of time and patience

Shark Week Blues

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Shark Week is officially over and that means it’s time for me to get back to work. If only my brain would get on board. All my current story ideas are totally stuck in Shark territory. Sexy marine biologists in dangerously fishy situations here I come. I probably won’t be writing these to publish but hey sometimes its good just to write for yourself.

Snack Attack!

snacks

When I get in one of my writing moods nothing can tear me away from my laptop.  Which is why having a fully stocked snack section on my desk is a must, otherwise I’d probably starve to death on my longer writing binges (usual two to three days long).  Sleeping is generally optional and even bathroom breaks are few and far between when that masterful idea is flying from my brain to my fingers and onto the screen.  So what are the best snacks to have on hand? There isn’t really an answer to that question.  Everyone has their preference but here are a few criteria I use when stocking my stash:

  1. Grab and Go/ Typing Friendly – Can be eaten with one hand or less
  2. Mess Free/ Keyboard Friendly – Not super greasy, saucy or crumbly
  3. Packs a Punch/ Stamina Friendly – sugar and caffeine are your friend
  4. Mom Approved/ Body Friendly– Try to include at least one “healthy” snack
  5. Drinks are up to you. Water is always a good idea. I am a tea drinker but I know plenty of writers are team coffee all the way.

 I switch out one or two of my staple snacks each month. I have a few favorite snacks I like to keep on hand, like chocolate and dried cranberries, but its always a good idea to rotate snacks just so that you don’t get bored with them.  It defeats the purpose when you are in a writing binge and you are tired of the snacks you have on hand, most likely you won’t bother eating them. 

Mind Games

I don’t know about anyone else but my brain is one hell of a joker.  I don’t know how many times I get the most amazing ideas or have the most awesome days occur and it all turns out to be a dream.  A dream that my mean old brain won’t even let me grasp the most minor of details from.  Don’t get me wrong sometimes it likes to play nice and I get hit by the inspiration stick hardcore, hence a few of my earlier posts like Writing Dangerously and Handwritten, but for the most part it leaves me with a 20 second time frame.  20 seconds to do a mental sprint through my waning memory in order to pick out a few dusty old rocks that hopefully turn into the literary gems I imagined them to be.  I guess that’s just the nature of my creative process.

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