Should You Use a Pen Name to Write Your Non-Fiction Book?

Writing under a pen name is tricky business. There are good reasons to do it, but more and more, I think it’s better to write under your real name. Let me explain …

Do you have a favorite thought leader or writer? You know, that person whose content you consume hungrily no matter what they are talking about?

Before I quit my job and joined the ranks of entrepreneurship, my go to author and virtual mentor was a man named Michael Masterson. I read everything he wrote online and bought all his books. When he his company hosted a conference in Florida, I put money I was planning to use for a vacation into a ticket, got on a plane and attended that conference.

I wanted to learn everything he had to teach. And, I owe a lot of my early business-building success to what I learned from him.

But, when I had the opportunity to meet him, I got a bit of a shock.

His name wasn’t Michael Masterson. That was his pen name.

Now there was this awkward thing. Do I call him Michael, or do I call him Mark? I didn’t know what to call him anymore.

And even though I was deeply grateful for all I’d learned from him, there was this thing in my head now:

Why couldn’t he use his own name? What is he hiding? What else isn’t true?

Again, I’m super grateful for all I learned from him. But the fact that he had a pen name made things uncomfortable and weird for me, a fan and a client.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about whether it makes sense for you.

Good Reasons to Use a Pen Name

Number one, your privacy is important. Let’s say that you have insider information for your industry, and you don’t want people to know it’s coming from you. Or perhaps you’re well-respected in a Corporate America job, and you wanna write about erotica and you don’t want all your colleagues to know about your S&M fetish.

Those are solid reasons.

Perhaps you have a famous parent, or perhaps you’re famous for something else that’s unrelated, and you want to chart your own course without the burden or benefit of that name.

Perhaps you really need to have different brands. This is happening a lot in the traditionally published world. Some agents and book publishers are recommending authors with middle-of-the-road sales, come in and publish under a new name. Traditional publishing houses are looking for that breakout author, or their bread and butter that always sells really well. If you’re in the middle it can be difficult to land a deal.

For most nonfiction authors, I think this doesn’t really apply, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But, if you’re a fiction writer, it’s definitely an issue for some authors.

Finally, you may choose to use a pen name because you want a cooler or more marketable name. If you have a really long name, or it’s hard to pronounce those could be good reasons to use a pen name.

All that said, here’s the three reasons why almost all non-fiction authors should not use a pen name:

Number one is trust and credibility.

You are writing this book to grow your business or build your brand in most cases. That’s very difficult to do if people find out it’s not actually you.

So use your own name to establish that trust, build the credibility, and showcase who you are and what you know.

Number two is confusion.

When somebody knows you as your pen name, but they also know you personally as your real name, who do they introduce you as? What do they call you? It might seem small until you have the problem, but when you go to a conference, what do you put on your name tag? And, who do your friend’s introduce you as to others? They won’t know what to call you, or who to refer people to. It can be really tricky business. You’ll definitely miss out on some readers because some people will opt not to introduce you at all just to avoid the hassle.

Number three is marketability.

Even if you’re writing in different categories, there’s cross-promotion, and there are people who are going to read everything you write, no matter what category it falls into. In fact, here’s a fun fact for you. I am well known in Canada as a real estate investing expert. When I opened Book Launchers, and started helping people write, publish and sell a brand-boosting book, my first ten authors were people who knew me as a real estate expert. Why would they write and publish a book with me when they know me as a real estate expert? Because they know me, they trust me, they believe in me, Julie Broad. As a result, it creates massive credibility and trust, which you’ll lose if you go by a fake name.

It’s fun to be someone else for a minute, but when it comes to writing and publishing a brand-building and business-boosting book, you probably don’t want any confusion over whether somebody’s talking to Julie or Jane. You want them to know who they’re talking to, trust you, have credibility, and of course, be able to tell their friends about their friend, Julie.

Book Pricing Warning: Don’t Sell Your Book Too Cheap

There’s a lot of bad advice in the book publishing market. As I’ve shared before, there are also a lot of self-publishing scams to watch out for. One of the areas where I think there’s a lot of misguided advice is in the area of book pricing.

As a part of our book publishing and support services at Book Launchers, we do in depth research to help you determine the best price points for your book. Even with research, it’s not that straightforward.

Many people suggest that you price your book for .99 cents to $9.99. Generally, that’s being driven by the advantages of being in the KDP Select program (watch this video on the KDP select program and going exclusive with Amazon).

Generally, I don’t like to go exclusive with Amazon unless you have a really good reason. And, I’m certainly not going to give it away for free on Amazon when Amazon’s not telling you who’s ‘buying’ your book. If you’re giving it away for free (or really cheap), you need to be benefiting in some other way. To me, that’s in the form of an opt-in at a minimum.

You may think more downloads is better, but if you need people to read that download to then become a customer, you’re putting a lot of faith in your audience to read your book.

Have you ever downloaded a free book you didn’t read?

Yea, me too! All the time.

Even if you pay a lot for a book, it’s still not a guarantee you’ll read it. But if you download a free book, you’re even less motivated to read it unless there’s an amazing hook or a really killer promise.

When it comes to book pricing, that’s just one of the reasons I won’t sell my books really cheap. Here’s the three main reasons:

Number one is value.

You are putting years of expertise, education and experience into this book. It probably took you tens of thousands of dollars to gain that expertise. You likely invested thousands of hours to learn what you’ve learned.

You invested in something that your reader is going to use to save time or money. So there’s a lot of value in those pages. So why sell them for 99 cents and make nothing?

Number two is perceived value.

Depending on your industry, your clients probably spend a lot of money to work with you. Do you want your services to be perceived as cheap?

If you price a book at 99 cents, what do you think your clients are going to think not only about the book but potentially about your services?

Number three, book stores and wholesale opportunities.

If you want to do a lot more than break even on your book sales, this is really important.

You can move hundreds or thousands of copies of your books with the right kind of deal. If your book is too cheap those deals won’t be there.

For example, if you write a book on fitness, you may be able to strike deals with the distributors of equipment you recommend. This kinda deal can move thousands of copies of books. But, this is contingent on your book having true value to their clients and the people they give copies too.

There are plenty of reasons to price your book appropriately for your goals and your market, the challenge of course, is how to figure that price out.

So now, you might be wondering … how exactly do I price my book? You can find our one part science and one part art approach right here.

 

 

Are Print Books Dead?

“I won’t do print books. Everyone’s just buying the e-book versions anyway, right?”

I was chatting with a potential author client. He was trying to save money on book publishing. Unaware that there are little cost savings, he figured it was cheaper to only do an e-book version of his book. He also figured nobody would buy the print book.

In some fiction genres, you can get away with only doing a digital version of your book. When it comes to non-fiction print books are a must.

Here’s Seven Reasons Why Print Isn’t Dead and You Need Multiple Versions:

Number One: Marketing.

Your print book is the best marketing material you’ll ever create.

Whether you’re selling your services as a speaker, selling a product, or offer some other service, your book should be the most polished version of your message. It should look amazing. It should explain who you are and why they need you. And, most importantly, it should be so amazing that it lives for a really long time.

Number Two: Print Book Longevity

People don’t throw good books out. They’ll toss out your business cards before you leave the room. You’re brochure hits the bin before it’s read.

But, your book sits on someone’s desk, shelf, or coffee table for months. It will rarely be thrown out. It might be given away, but that’s kind of amazing because now somebody is going to learn about you or your product or your service that didn’t know about it before.

Number Three: A physical book has value

If you speak, you can sell copies to the event manager to give to everyone in the room or you can sell them at the back of the room. They may even promote your book as a value-add. Used smartly, a book can be used as currency. Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel to learn more about how to do just that!

Number Four: You can use it for a thank-you gifts and client gifts

PDFs get forgotten and they get lost. A book is a tangible item and, again, it has value. Even if it only cost you six dollars to print, it still has more value than a digital version.

Number five: Readers still want print books.

According to Author Earnings 2016 sales report, 76 percent of non-fiction book sales are in print. 24 percent to audio and e-book. Non-fiction book-buyers want that printed version.

Number Six: You can’t sign a digital book

Sure, there are services like authorgraph where you can request a signed digital copy of your book, but it’s just not the same for the author or the book holder.

Number seven: Try taking pictures with the Kindle-only version of a book

That’s gonna be awkward. Digital is still important. Links are live. You can send people to view your YouTube video, link to your website, and add resources that aren’t suitable for the print version, so there are great reasons to do a digital version of your book. It’s also pretty cool what you can do from a marketing perspective with an e-book, especially with Whispersync, which will connect your audiobook to your e-book, allowing someone to seamlessly switch from your e-book to your audio book.

That’s a pretty cool feature that can’t do with print books. And, audio is where the real growth is. Audiobooks are blowing up and if you’re a non-fiction author creating credibility, trying to build that know, like, and trust kind of feeling with your readers, there’s nothing better than getting your voice in someone’s head through audio.

Bottom line, digital is wonderful, but print books are still alive and well, especially in non-fiction.

 

 

Three Quick Tips to Make Your Non Fiction Book More Marketable

You already know you need a great front and back cover to sell your book. It’s obvious that your book needs a fantastic title. And, of course, you’ve written a compelling book people want to read right now. But, there are three other things that will help make your nonfiction book more marketable.

Number one, when you’re writing your book, create four to eight pieces of content that stand alone.

This is content that is inside your book, but could be pulled out of your book and people would still get value from it. Think sidebars or boxed content.

Check out this great example from thebookdesigner.com:

The content in these items could be used as blog posts, news articles or other stand alone content that promotes your book. So start thinking about the eight ways to make your biceps bulge, the five things you need to know about sex after 60, or how to sell your business for seven figures checklist. Those kind of lists make fantastic standalone content that media will eat up.

When you’re deciding what content you should put in a box or a sidebar of your book, just think about what will create intrigue and interest the most. Remember, the goal of this material is to be excellent stand alone content that will make people want to check out what else is in your book. Put some of your best tips in these boxes!

Plus, when people skim your book, they will often glance at this material to decide whether to buy your book so it can also sell your book to potential readers that way.

Number two, prepare a really compelling answer to these questions:

  1. What made you write your book?
  2. And, Who is this book for?

You will be asked these questions all the time. If you can get a really succinct answer that makes people wonder what’s inside that book then you’re going to have a fantastic promotional piece for your book.

Now, a little tip from my writing coach (who is the chief writing coach at Book Launchers). He says, if you can help people become more beautiful, lose weight, get rich or become famous then that’s going to sell. So if your book does one or all of those things, make sure you include it in your answer.

Number three, design your Table of Contents to sell your book.

Of course a great book title is important but each of your chapter titles acts as a salesman for your book.

Keep this in mind when you’re naming your chapters. Every single chapter title needs to sell your book and create curiosity. Spend a lot of time on these little salesmen. During 95%+ of the media interviews you’ll do to promote your book you’ll discover that the interviewer didn’t read your book. At most, they’ve opened your book to the table of contents and skimmed your chapters and subtitles. Expect questions about those if they are interesting enough!

My first book, More Than Cashflow, had one chapter called Where Are the Ladies? Who knew but a lot of media loved that chapter title.  My second book had a chapter called You Are Who Google Says You Are. That created so much interest I was asked to speak on the subject. I ended up creating a talk that I gave in multiple locations across Canada. That was great promotion for my book and my business!

So make sure those chapter titles sell your book for you.

Sell More Books with a Better Back Cover

The front cover needs to be the beacon that attracts attention to your book. It has to stand out in a sea of thumbnails or a shelf of books. When the front cover does gets the eyeball, the back cover has to sell the heart and mind.

The back cover of your book is essential to selling your book and building your credibility.

Think about it for a second. When the front cover of a book is interesting enough to get you to pick it up, what’s the second thing you do?

You flip the book over and look at the back cover, right?

If the back cover creates enough curiosity, you open it up and check the table of contents and maybe flip through a few pages. That’s a topic for another day … but something I’ve talked about a lot in media interviews.

If you’re shopping online, the back cover is often uploaded as an image (And should be … hint hint), and you’ll check it out as well take a look inside the book.

Then, when someone buys it, and displays it on their desk or book shelf, other people will pick it up and check out the back cover! It could be great marketing for your book and you if it’s done right.

Think of your book’s back cover as a sales page. Every word needs to be carefully selected to create curiosity and make someone want to read it right now.

So, what do you put on it? What’s most important? I cover that in this video.

The five most important elements for your book’s back cover:

1. It’s singular goal is to sell your book. Make sure every word and image supports that single goal.

A person who looks at the back cover needs to get so damn excited to read your book that they buy it, on the spot. You’ll need to craft two or three really fantastic sentences that reveal why your book is urgent and necessary. What does the reader need in their life right now, and why? And, what are you going to share with them that they haven’t heard before?

It is a sales page so treat it like that and carefully curate that copy. Many traditional publishers actually pay a professional copywriter to craft this copy it’s so important. And, they’ll spend about 250 to $500 just to write the back copy. That’s on top of design costs. It’s that important. [When you work with Book Launchers we have professional writers who will craft your copy … all included with your Platinum Membership]

2. Your picture may be best on the inside, not the back cover.

There’s some cases where you might want your picture on the back cover. You’re famous, you’re a celebrity, or as my husband says, “You’re really freakin’ hot”.

In all those cases putting your picture on the cover of your book might sell your book. However, most of us are not models, celebrities or famous CEO’s so our picture really doesn’t do anything to sell our book.

Instead, get a great professional headshot and put it on the inside with extended details about you, the author.

3. Curate really brilliant testimonials and endorsements.

Now, I shot another YouTube video on how to get great book blurbs for your book. That’s right here:

Ideally you get three different blurbs for your book.

  • First, you need an endorsement that says why you are the person to write this book. What makes you unique? What have you done? What’s a piece of your story that makes it clear that you are the person that should have written this book? That’s the first testimonial or endorsement you need to get. Ideally you want somebody with authority and credibility in your industry to be saying this about you.
  • Second, you need one that covers the benefit to the reader in reading this book. This is a testimonial that says, ‘I read this book and the tips helped me make $10,000, they helped me lose 50 pounds, they helped run the fastest race I’ve ever run’. Obviously, someone may not have had time to apply the tips in the book to get the result, so you can use a former client. Someone who has used what you’re teaching in working with you. That way they can say, ‘the tips in this book did x’. That’s accurate.It doesn’t matter how they have had the result as much as the fact that this testimonial or an endorsement showcases a key benefit a reader will get as a result of investing their time and a tiny bit of money into buying your book.
  • Third, you need an endorsement that creates curiosity. This is best from a big name celebrity or well known best selling author. Sometimes these are funny. Other times they say ’20 years and didn’t know this one secret that Julie covered in her book’. The big thing is that it should create curiosity.

4. Put your website in the bottom left hand spot of your back cover.

This is a smart idea that I didn’t do on either of my first two books. It’s going on book #3 though!

Why is this smart? Well, first of all, this is brilliant marketing for you because people who don’t buy your book might still go to your website and maybe get your free download. More importantly, this website allows people to learn more about you. If you have a solid website showcasing some of your expertise and success, this will establish more credibility cement that they need to read what you’ve written.

5. Get a logo and a bar code.

If you think you’ll sell your book in book stores you’ll need to include a price in that bar code as well. But, here’s why these two things matter. Every traditionally published book has a publishing logo as well as that barcode. By not putting it on there, you clearly highlight the fact that this is an amateur product. We are helping you look like the rock star expert that you. That means every detail like this matters in showcasing you as the expert you are.

Spend a few bucks, get a publishing house logo. We’ll talk about business names and what you should do around that in the future. Just know that it’s all fairly simple and you don’t need to stress about it. Pick a publishing company name, get a logo designed and trust me when I say, it’s simple from there (unless you prefer it to be complicated in which case I can tell you how to make a mess of it too!).

You’ll put the logo on the spine as well as on the back cover of your book. The barcode is created from your ISBN number (see the videos below on the ISBN numbers) and put the barcode on the bottom right. When you do this your book is going to look fantastic and nobody will even know it was self published unless you tell them.

Most importantly, remember, the back cover has one job and that is to sell your book.

If there is anything on the back cover that doesn’t make somebody rush to the counter or click the buy button, then you need to make some adjustments. Now, what goes in the book description on your Amazon page is a topic for another discussion. You could use the back cover copy, but that’s not actually the best idea. Make sure you’re subscribed to the Book Launchers Launch Letter[ Click here to subscribe] so you can find out what the best idea is!

What is an ISBN number?

How to Get a Free ISBN Number in Canada:

And … if you want your book in book stores where the back cover will really matter, you need to know this:

Checklist for Choosing a Fantastic Book Title

“This might sound like I’m critical of avid book readers … and I’m not. But, those people will read almost anything. The trick is getting it in front of them.”

I was chatting with a PR pro. She’s behind some pretty incredible success stories including a New York Times Bestseller, a paid professional speaker who is booked 172 days a year, and a book that became a movie. After working as a talent agent, a PR professional, and a talent manager, she had a lot of insights to offer.

One of the things we chatted about was this:

The best marketing plan in the world won’t help you if you have a terrible book title.

The title is what people will have to remember to find your book. It’s what people will share when they tell others about your book. And, ultimately it’s what will get readers attention (or, not).

An author with a book that isn’t selling contacted us for help. I walked him through some of the changes we’d need to make to market his book. One of those things was a title change. He refused and said he’d rather have us try to market the book as is. But, I knew that it would be a waste of his money.

There were eight other books with the same title! The title was great for his subject matter, so I understand why he chose it. The cover was well done. I liked the hook of the book. But, it’s tough to overcome a problem title.

And yes … you can have the same title as another book … I explain that right here:


So what does make a great title? A great book title will capture attention, create curiosity, and be easy to remember. So does your title check off all the boxes? Let’s make sure.

Run it through our five-point book title checklist to find out:

Number one. Is it short? Three words or less is ideal.

Now there are exceptions to this rule, of course. I am sure just as soon as I say this, you’ll think, “Well what about “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and other book titles that are long but very famous?

There are always exceptions, but the majority of best-selling books in the non-fiction categories, and even fiction tend to be three words or less. Just check out the top 20 best selling business books right now, as noted in this video:

The books we’re talking about are:

  • Outliers,
  • Start with Why,
  • Option B,and
  • Boomerang.

These books are all selling exceptionally well, and the titles are super short.

Number two. Is it easy to remember?

Tell your friends what you’re thinking of calling your book. A few hours later say, “Hey listen, do you remember my book title?”

Don’t tell them that this is a test because then they’ll make sure to remember. What you want to find out is, is your book title memorable? Because you want people to be able to tell others, and of course remember which book they want to look up when they go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to buy your book.

Number three. Is it easy to say?

Now you might be thinking, “Why does that matter, they’re reading?”

If you’re doing a great job of selling your book, you’re going to be talking about your book all the time. And, other people will be saying the title all the time.

If it’s a tongue twister, it will get messed up. The New Brand You, which is my second book, has a title that wouldn’t check off Box 2 or 3 on this list. If I’d had people try to remember it or say it over and over and over again, I would have discovered that there’s something about this title that people just can’t seem to get it right.

I did test the title in written format and used a focus group to come up with the title. But, I should have tested it with repetition. Now you won’t make my mistake.

Say your title over and over and over again. Do you still like it? Ask a few friends to do the same thing. Do they find that it is still easy to say after repeating it several times? Great, check off this box.

Number four. Is the URL for your book title available?

You’re probably writing your book to position yourself as the authority in your marketplace, right? Now, imagine a potential reader types your book title into Google and finds four other websites and not yours. That doesn’t position you as the leader in this category.

Or, maybe you’re thinking series, or brand extensions? If you are thinking a series of books, a workshop, products or an app to monetize your book in other ways,  owning your book’s URL makes all of that much easier.

If you love your book title, and it checks off the other boxes in this book title checklist, but you can’t get the URL, then hopefully you can at least get Your Title book.com, that’ll fill in a bit of a gap.

Number five. Does your title pop?

There’s a great book on this called Pop by Sam Horn. She talks about how to break out not blend in. The big thing is you want to make sure that your book title stands out and doesn’t sound like every other book in its category. Think about what will create curiosity. What will have people grabbing your book saying, “I need to know what’s inside?”

So, can you check off all five things? Even if you can, you should run a few tests just to be sure that your title will have people running to the store to buy your book.

So how can you test it?

If you’ve got an email newsletter, you could split it in half and send out one title to half of the list and the other title to the other half. See which one people click on more.

Ask people, “Would you wanna buy this book or this book?”, and just see which titles are making people feel like they will pull out their credit card and buy your book.

Like this article? You may also like:

P.S. If you’re wondering what a laughing baby seal has to do with any of this … the answer is, very little. It made me smile, and I thought I would share that. If something makes you smile and is memorable, you’re off to a great start!