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View Full Version : Nom de plume, alphabetic order and shelf space



Ton Lew Lepsnaci
09-16-2010, 01:30 AM
The quest for the golden letter is on. First letter of your surname... does it matter? "A"-names usually get the top shelf but can end up tucked in a corner. Any letters that offer better exposure? Bottom shelf books are out of sight while the middle ones and a few shelves above may catch the eye. Is there a strategy, can shelf space be influenced or does it matter at all? AW-ers working in bookstores post the golden letter here so we can fill up shelves and shelves with pseudonyms starting with "*". As for e-books... Darn.

Outdated question? Answered elsewhere?

kuwisdelu
09-16-2010, 03:40 AM
I wouldn't worry about it. It's really not likely to matter in the long run.

But personally, if I were choosing a pseudonym, I'd probably choose one that had my books shelved next to my favorite author's whose fans would be most likely to like my work.

Also, just 'cos I think it'd be cool.

NicoleMD
09-16-2010, 08:19 AM
The quest for the golden letter is on. First letter of your surname... does it matter? "A"-names usually get the top shelf but can end up tucked in a corner. Any letters that offer better exposure? Bottom shelf books are out of sight while the middle ones and a few shelves above may catch the eye. Is there a strategy, can shelf space be influenced or does it matter at all? AW-ers working in bookstores post the golden letter here so we can fill up shelves and shelves with pseudonyms starting with "*". As for e-books... Darn.

Outdated question? Answered elsewhere?

I don't know the answer, but it makes me wonder if A novelist have readers who are taller than average. I'm short, and I never look up there.

Nicole

Alan Yee
09-16-2010, 08:48 AM
I've sometimes wondered if people would bother bending down to look at the end of the alphabet unless they were looking for a book by a specific author whose surname started with Y or Z. I'm a Y, and most of the Ys in the SF/F sections of my local bookstores are down close to your feet. I don't have a publishable novel to sell yet, so it's not really important, but I do wonder if it helps improve visibility to choose a pseudonym with a different initial letter.

MissMacchiato
09-16-2010, 09:11 AM
ha, I'd go with M or N then, that must be about eye level, right? :D

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
09-16-2010, 09:36 AM
I just pondered it for fun, it crosses my mind sometimes in bookshops. Reader height ... interesting. Y or Z seem out :) Though would they always land at the bottom? That's assuming sections don't swap genres somewhere on a middle shelf. Maybe they don't. I only recall one case where they did. If so, L, M or N... Hmm I'll keep an eye out in bookstores next time.

aruna
09-16-2010, 10:52 AM
That's exactly what my publisher told me. My real name begins with W so at the very first meeting with them they suggested a nom de plume with a letter in the middle of the alphabet - I shortened it to Maas. (also, Maas is more memorable than my real name.)
In the meantime, I regret it. It seems to me that books get put on the shelf from left to right AND from top to bottom, along a wall. When they run out of one letter the next begins, and that could be at the top or the bottom. I like my real name; it's full of history, and next time I'm going back to it.

Becky Black
09-16-2010, 01:35 PM
Getting at eye level is useful - firms pay supermarkets to put their products on the eye level shelves!

But I'd think it's almost a matter of luck. Who can be sure what the shelf configuration and shelving policy of any given bookshop or library is going to be?

Kuwisdelu has a good answer, choosing a name that puts you in the vicinity of someone popular in the same genre (without trying to get people to mistake you for them - that's not cool.) Regency Romance writer Julia Quinn apparently chose "Quinn" to put herself near to Amanda Quick.

Shara
09-16-2010, 03:38 PM
I have heard that if you're picking a nom de plume, have a surname beginning with any letter between H and M, and you will end up on the 'best' shelves of the book shop.

I have also heard the story about authors picking a name to put them next to their biggest competitor on the shelf.

Whether or not this helps to sell more books, I have no idea.

As my book is an e-book, it's academic, at least for me.

Shara

shaldna
09-16-2010, 03:52 PM
I guess it depends what you write, a similar type of novel, within the same physical location on the shelf.

KathleenD
09-20-2010, 08:51 PM
I picked "D" because ebook authors are usually listed alphabetically on review sites, and I wanted my name to appear on lists early enough that people wouldn't yet have their eyes glazing over.

That, by the way, was classic overthinking on my part and probably not at all helpful.

aruna
09-20-2010, 09:03 PM
Today I checked at Waterstone's. There was a whole wall of mainstream books listed alphabetically. There were A's, M's, L's etc on bottom shelves, and W's on middle shelves.
The only letter that seems to be exclusively bottom-shelved is Y, or possibly Z.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
09-20-2010, 09:53 PM
Today I checked at Waterstone's. There was a whole wall of mainstream books listed alphabetically. There were A's, M's, L's etc on bottom shelves, and W's on middle shelves.
The only letter that seems to be exclusively bottom-shelved is Y, or possibly Z.

There goes a beautiful idea :) Ah well. I'll stick to the blinking fluorescent cover in that case.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
09-20-2010, 11:06 PM
Unless Aruna found a few exceptions and on average, it's still the case that say A starts from the top? Will check it out next time I'm at Waterstone's.

Maryn
09-21-2010, 12:21 AM
Where I buy my books, there are never empty shelves. So in the fiction section, which has a few specialty groupings, if the romance novels end with the Z-named authors at knee level, the mystery authors starting with A might be ankle-level.

Maryn, wondering why she bothered to get a pen name at all

Jamesaritchie
09-21-2010, 01:20 AM
The quest for the golden letter is on. First letter of your surname... does it matter? "A"-names usually get the top shelf but can end up tucked in a corner. Any letters that offer better exposure? Bottom shelf books are out of sight while the middle ones and a few shelves above may catch the eye. Is there a strategy, can shelf space be influenced or does it matter at all? AW-ers working in bookstores post the golden letter here so we can fill up shelves and shelves with pseudonyms starting with "*". As for e-books... Darn.

Outdated question? Answered elsewhere?

Yeah, Isaac Asimov and Roger Zelazny couldn't sell enough books to pay an electric bill.

Kyra Wright
09-21-2010, 05:19 AM
I have heard that if you're picking a nom de plume, have a surname beginning with any letter between H and M, and you will end up on the 'best' shelves of the book shop.
If that's true, I'll have a natural advantage if I get published.

Well, maybe not, but you have to find happiness in the little things.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
09-21-2010, 08:53 AM
Yeah, Isaac Asimov and Roger Zelazny couldn't sell enough books to pay an electric bill.

LOL

aruna
09-21-2010, 11:28 AM
Unless Aruna found a few exceptions and on average, it's still the case that say A starts from the top? Will check it out next time I'm at Waterstone's.


Yes, A would start at the top left and move down until all the A's have finished, and so on; so it all depends on how many books there are with each letter, and where they stop. The more Z authors there are, the better the chance of a Z author getting a mid-shelf space. At our Waterstones there was only one (bottom) shelf of Y's and Z's. Sarah Waters was mid-shelf.

KTC
09-21-2010, 01:18 PM
I'm going to go with ZZynthia ZZyrconia.

When people wander through the entire bookstore and get to the end without finding anything, they won't want to go through the shelves again...they'll just grab the one on the end. Mine!

Phaeal
09-21-2010, 04:16 PM
I wouldn't worry about it. It's really not likely to matter in the long run.

But personally, if I were choosing a pseudonym, I'd probably choose one that had my books shelved next to my favorite author's whose fans would be most likely to like my work.

Also, just 'cos I think it'd be cool.

Elizabeth Aston, who writes Jane Austen spin-offs, gets shelved close to her motherlode. Could be coincidence, but I'm thinking clever pen name, the "Aston" getting proximity to Jane, the "Elizabeth" a nod to the much loved Lizzie Bennet.