I've been thinking about names a lot lately.
Possibly because in just under two months, I'm going to be saying goodbye to, Kara Bonnevie, a name that I have enjoyed for 27 years and, admittedly, am very attached to, and saying hello to Kara Isaac, a name that, as much as I love the man it comes with, I'm still trying to get my head around.
I have even, after spending a quarter of a century of saying I would NEVER hyphenate, been doing the unthinkable and considering Kara Bonnevie-Isaac, but quickly realised that I would be dooming myself to spending the rest of my life with a last name too long for any official form.
I have to admit that there has been a bit of an identity crisis going on as part of all of this. Who is Kara Isaac? She sounds like she'd be a very different person from Kara Bonnevie. More respectable. Serious. Not as much fun. Kara Bonnevie sounds like the kind of person who writes romantic-comedy. Kara Isaac? I'm not so sure about her.
Let's face it, names mean a lot. For good, or bad, we automatically associate certain names with certain types of people or brands. Entire industries, billions of dollars a year, revolve around names. Of people, products and brands.
As a writer, our name is the primary leader of our brand. I was in a bookshop last weekend and I picked up the latest Karen Kingbury. The front cover was dominated by her name and, on the backcover, where the blurb usually is, all there was was a full page picture of her face. That was it. Opened the front cover, again no blurb, just rave reviews for her previous books. In fact, without actually starting the book, there was nothing that told you what the book was about.
For me, that lead to putting the book down. Not because I don't think she's a great writer, but because when I'm choosing a new book the back cover blurb is one of main ways that I decide what to buy. But obviously beyond me, there are thousands and thousands of dedicated Karen Kingsbury readers who don't need to know what the book is about, is she wrote it, they're buying it.
Like those fans, I have a (short) list of authors who I hold in that kind of esteem. Julie Lessman. Rachel Hauck. Erynn Mangum. Bonnie Grove. Jody Hedlund. Authors who have so wowed me with their writing that my selfish prayer is that they give up any semblance of a life to write faster so I don't have to wait a year, or more, for their next release.
As a finicky shallow reader, perusing the bookstore, contemplating leaving my comfort zone and splurging out on a previously inread author, I make snap judgements on names and covers. The colour of the spine attracts me first, then the name of the book, then the name of the author. On the basis on those three things, I decide whether to bother to even pick the book off the shelf.
Have I heard of this author before? Was what I heard good or bad? Have I heard of this book before? In what context? Some of my thinking is slightly self serving. I like to buy debut authors over well established authors. Not just because as an aspiring writer I have some idea of what it's taken them to get that book on that shelf, but also because, as an aspiring writer I want someone somewhere it the great land of publishing to take a chance on ME. Yes me, the precocious girl from New Zealand who dares to dream of one day seeing her name on a shelf.
So for arguments sake, say I was sitting on the shelf. My sole lonely debut novel, who are you more likely to pick up? Kara Bonnevie or Kara Isaac? Does it even matter? Would you pick me up regardless as long as my cover was pink? Or featured a pony or a dark meancing shadow or a meadow or a woman in a bonnet? When you are browsing those bookshelves, what takes you from glance, to pick up, to scan, to buy?