Mistaken identity and negative reviews

I recently discovered that a previous client, who published his first novel with an independent publishing company, had received a 1-star review on Amazon. As this was inconsistent with his other reviews, which were all 5-star, I had to investigate.

It became clear that the reviewer had mistaken my client with another author of the same name. He had written that, whilst the author’s first book was excellent, this one was disappointing. He then went on to post a sarcastic and unconstructive comment.

My client was understandably upset. Even though he realised that the reviewer had confused him with another author, it made him doubt his ability to complete his second novel, a sequel to the first. This got me thinking…

It seems obvious now, but one thing a new writer needs to think about is their nom de plume, especially if they plan to publish independently, and they happen to have a common name; although, not all may want to give themselves a fancy pseudonym. Most independent authors I have worked with use their actual name, so what can be done to differentiate them from another author whose name is the same?

Firstly, I suggest using their middle initial. That’s simple enough. Although, if this creates a negative acronym, I suggest choosing a random consonant instead. Just one initial following the first name is adequate. In my opinion, initialising both the first and middle name looks pretentious (sorry JK!), as does having more than one middle initial (sorry JRR!). If the pen name is decided upon at the outset, it will avoid the costly and time-consuming process of making alterations later on.

Secondly, on any website where the author’s book is marketed, I suggest they set up an author page. This should help the customer to find books written by the relevant author, as well as provide some publicity. Amazon use Author Central; Goodreads uses the Author Program…Other author pages are available.

The good news is that my client has now completed his sequel and has passed it to me for a beta-read, but I can tell that the negative review has shaken his confidence. Given the success of his first book, I am sure it will be fine. My advice to independent writers is to try and develop a thick skin; to focus on the doughnut, not the hole. If seven out of his eight reviews are all 5-star, then there can’t be much wrong with the story. Another positive is that, even though the reviewer mistook one author for another, he still paid to buy the book, providing my client with some royalties. Perhaps that’s what he was really sore about! 🙂