a rose by any other name

“For an author to sell books, he or she must do more than simply produce a good book: he or she needs to sell themselves.

Authors are, ultimately, commodities, and as their success grows, their name evolves into a recognizable brand which indicates, to a consumer, a particular genre and writing style. These consumer perceptions of an author and his or her related texts are referred to as authorial identity, and author names are one of the main contributors to the creation of said identity.

Author branding is perhaps most noticeable in commercial fiction, where it is the author—not the publisher—who dominates the title page. Yet, despite the heavy investment in other industries regarding brand names, in publishing, author names are rarely given the depth of consideration they deserve.”

Thus, I wrote my MA in Publishing dissertation, in order to lay out the groundwork necessary for fully understanding the sociolinguistic aspects of author names that influence consumer perception.

A rough overview of the results:

• There are hardly any authors who have not at least once in their careers resorted to pseudonymity or anonymity.

• Marketing and branding research shows that author names are perhaps the most important contributor to authorial identity (how customers perceive the book/author combined), above book price, appearance, blurb, and so on.

Other companies invent their brand names. Why should publishers just stick with whatever old name the author was born with, if a pseudonym could market the book better?

• Author names in different genres do show linguistic differences, particularly in terms of front and back vowel distribution. Genres which are male-dominated (such as crime) evidence author names with a high percentage of front vowels and a low percentage of back vowels; the reverse occurs with female-dominated genres such as romance.

• Online, with the newly emerging business models of e-retailers and the different shopping habits of e-shoppers, author names become even more paramount.

• It is still unclear how certain aspects of the online world, such as the ease of creating a pseudonym, will affect consumer perception of author names. This is something that should be examined further.

I’d like to thank all those who replied to and/or emailed me about my previous post on authors names and pseudonyms. Several of the comments I received ended up being used in my MA dissertation, so thanks again!

Lathia, A. (2009). A Rose By Any Other Name: The Impact of Author Names On Consumer Perception. MA in Publishing dissertation, University College London. [pdf].


About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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