Changing names to fool the computers

When I got my first contract in the mid-1990s, I started hearing about some authors who were changing their names to avoid a sales death spiral at Barnes & Noble or Borders. The thinking was that if they ordered 10 of your last book and sold 7 at each store, then with this book they would order 7 or fewer per store and pretty soon - poof! - there would go your career. So to escape the tyranny of the chain bookstore computers, authors sometimes switched names and start with a blank slate.

Now that publishers have Book Scan data, a similar thing is happening, although it covers more stores. The New York Times has a story about an author, Patricia O'Brien, whose last book hadn't done very well. Twelve publishers looked at her sales numbers and passed.

Then her agent resubmitted it under a pen name and it sold in three days, reportedly for "high five figures."

I've known several authors who have switched names. With some it's an open secret, with others it's closely guarded.

I wonder if there's a limit to how often you could do it?

Read more about the author getting a deal because she used a pseudonym.




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I have thought of using another name one day just for the heck of it... making the author also a character, like Lemony Snicket.
Or N.E. Body. Who has a book out under her own name that I'm reading right now. It's really good.