Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
  • Mood: calm
  • Music: Michael Jackson, "Thriller."

Pseudonyms, zombies, and a nice chainsaw: why Mira Grant?

We knew from the day we started shopping the Newsflesh trilogy that they would probably need to be published under an open pseudonym. There are a lot of reasons for that. The easiest to spot is "avoidance of over-saturating the market"—after all, as a relatively untried author, it's probably best if I not compete with myself.* Oddly, this isn't the biggest reason, just the first.

(*Before there's a general hue and cry of "but I'm planning to buy both," I should probably explain. I know that the readership of this journal is highly likely to buy both. This is one of the main reasons that I love you. The Internet readership I already have is a large portion of why we knew it would have to be an open pseudonym. It's the random bookstore browsers we're trying to avoid frightening away, the ones who won't know me from Adam until they get their hands on a copy of Rosemary and Rue or Feed.)

Genre separation is a much larger part of why I was happy to agree to writing under a pseudonym. Rosemary and Rue is fairy tale noir. It's dark, it's gritty, and it's occasionally brutal...but I would still hand it to a savvy teenager without fear that their parents would beat me to death with a baseball bat later. You could adapt the Toby books into PG-13 movies without gutting them. I won't cringe when I see high school students discussing them on my forums. Feed, on the other hand, is distopian political science fiction/horror. It has a high body count. There's gore, there's sex, there's bad language. I love it to death and consider it one of the best things I've ever written, but I so don't want you to buy it for your niece who loved Toby on the basis of my name alone. Putting a different author's name on the cover is a screaming neon sign that maybe the contents are also going to be different.

Do I expect the name to hurt sales? No. My publisher is savvy and good at what they do, and I'm really hoping this book will build a reasonable level of pre-release excitement, since it's going to be incredibly fun to do the viral marketing for. But I do expect it to make people pause and read the back cover before giving in to expectations.

So we knew I'd need a pseudonym, and after the trilogy sold to Orbit, they confirmed it. That meant we needed to pick one.

There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a good pseudonym. First off, it should be pronounceable (thus knocking my real name cheerfully from the running), and it should fall within the first half of the alphabet. That gets you a good spot on the shelf, which is important for catching the eye of the casual browser. People aren't tired of looking for something to read when they get to you. Who is Aaron Aardvark? Probably a best-seller. Your pseudonym shouldn't sound too much like the name of an author already working in your genre. We're not porn stars here. Calling myself "Maya Bone-hoff" or "Jane Hinds" isn't going to increase my sales, although it might get me slapped.

Your pseudonym should also be something you're willing to answer to in public, and don't hate. You should know what it means, since no one wants to choose "Variola Majors," thinking it's pretty, and discover later that they've just named themselves "smallpox." The Agent and I sat down and came up with a list of about twenty options, some mix-and-match, some not, all of which I was willing to live with (and all of which were somehow a complicated horror movie or television joke), and sent them to The Editor II. He gave us his preferences, we winnowed, we argued, and we settled on "Mira Grant."

"Mira" is an interesting name, in that it appears in a great many languages, always with a different meaning. The version I was looking at was from the Romany, meaning "little star." It isn't short for anything, despite its resemblance to "Miranda," and I will answer to it in public. Plus, since my real signature includes both a capital "M" and a capital "G", I shouldn't have issues during signings.

And that's why I am Mira Grant. First person to catch the horror movie in-joke in my pseudonym wins a prize (and if you already know, no hinting!).
Tags: business needs, feed, mira grant, publishing news, zombies
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  • 81 comments

ceosanna

July 20 2009, 14:38:44 UTC 5 years ago

The first thing that came to my mind was nod to SLiTHER.

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 14:42:23 UTC 5 years ago

But how?

twfarlan

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

twfarlan

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

spectralbovine

5 years ago

notalwaysweak

5 years ago

ceosanna

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

spiritdance

July 20 2009, 14:43:02 UTC 5 years ago

I can think of two reasons for Grant (one book and one movie).

But I'll leave the fun to others, for now :-)

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 15:05:57 UTC 5 years ago

You're a dear.

jacylrin

July 20 2009, 14:52:55 UTC 5 years ago

My younger spawnling is named Miriya, so I approve of your pseudonym :-D

jacylrin

July 20 2009, 14:53:34 UTC 5 years ago

(speaking of geek references not many people get, Miriya is a geek reference that my husband chose)

poelaramont

5 years ago

jacylrin

5 years ago

poelaramont

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

poelaramont

July 20 2009, 14:55:05 UTC 5 years ago

You should know what it means, since no one wants to choose "Variola Majors," thinking it's pretty, and discover later that they've just named themselves "smallpox."

...but we can still have cool names like that as long as we know what it means, right? Like Yersinia Pestis. That's gold, right there.

incandescens

July 20 2009, 15:14:27 UTC 5 years ago

I have a long-held ambition to name an evil fantasy spell Balanitis Xerotica Obliterans.

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

incandescens

5 years ago

poelaramont

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

poelaramont

5 years ago

bercilakslady

July 20 2009, 14:55:11 UTC 5 years ago

I should have known there was an in-joke in there somewhere. :) I'm glad you're happy with the pseudonym.

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 15:21:02 UTC 5 years ago

Some of the ones they didn't let me go with were even worse.

twfarlan

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

twfarlan

5 years ago

hsifyppah

July 20 2009, 14:57:49 UTC 5 years ago

So do you pronounce it My-ra or Mee-ra?

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 15:24:14 UTC 5 years ago

Closer to the latter; it's like the "mi" from "mirror" with a "rah" at the end.

the_s_guy

5 years ago

inkedcarrie

July 20 2009, 14:59:54 UTC 5 years ago

When you say Grant I also think of Grant's Pass which I know is dear to your apocalyptic heart.

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 21:28:40 UTC 5 years ago

Yes!

keristor

July 20 2009, 15:08:13 UTC 5 years ago

"Newsflesh". "Viral marketing". I do hope you aren't taking the latter literally *g*...

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 21:28:51 UTC 5 years ago

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe...

sdelmonte

July 20 2009, 15:17:41 UTC 5 years ago

I just love publishing and the necessity for pseudonyms. I had a lot of fun telling Batya about how many alternate names Donald Westlake used in the 60s to stop from competing endlessly with himself. And how utterly obvious it was to anyone reading a "Tucker Coe" novel now that the author was Westlake.

I do look forward to the day when the Feed novels have a blurb similar to those on the Richard Stark books: Richard Stark is also, at times, the mystery Grand Master Donald E. Westlake.

netpositive

July 20 2009, 18:15:08 UTC 5 years ago

Or how about the open-24x7x365 pseudonym for the "master of the locked room mystery", John Dickson Carr, started when he was producing 3-5 books a year during the 1930s: Carr Dickson.

To quote one of my favorite stooge heels, Jeffrey Cordova in _The Bandwagon_: "Let's not keep it a secret I'm in the show, here!" Eventually someone managed to get it modified to the slightly less obvious "Carter Dickson".

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

arielstarshadow

July 20 2009, 15:49:44 UTC 5 years ago

This was tremendously helpful! Thank you!

seanan_mcguire

July 20 2009, 21:29:35 UTC 5 years ago

You're welcome!

snowcoma

July 20 2009, 15:49:59 UTC 5 years ago

Mira, Mira, on the shelf
Note to reader: contains no elf

twfarlan

July 20 2009, 16:15:42 UTC 5 years ago

That's it. You win one Internet. Enjoy.

snowcoma

5 years ago

pbristow

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

You too!

snowcoma

5 years ago

gothicsparrow

5 years ago

jjloa

July 20 2009, 16:03:32 UTC 5 years ago

It may be a big or bad sign of my love of my career that the biggest squee came from me when I read the words 'viral marketing'. There may have been hand gestures of glee involved.

lostwind

July 20 2009, 16:15:03 UTC 5 years ago

I can picture it now; the promos at con are a bottle of hand sanitizer.

snowcoma

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

jjloa

5 years ago

aedifica

July 20 2009, 16:46:01 UTC 5 years ago

That's good to know! So I'll buy the books with your name on them, and avoid the ones labeled Mira Grant, and not have to guess. Thanks!

catnip13

July 20 2009, 17:37:10 UTC 5 years ago

You might consider trying the Mira Grants, at least from the library or some such. I'm one of the proofers. I literally could not put Feed down, even in an early draft. I couldn't even bring myself to slow down to take proofing notes the first time through. I do NOT like horror. I am a hardcore urban and high fantasy fan, my favorite authors other than our Seanan are Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, and Tanya Huff. I am squarely in the center of the target market for Toby. I like these better, and that's saying something because Toby rocks my world.

aedifica

5 years ago

spectralbovine

5 years ago

tibicina

5 years ago

tollers

5 years ago

seanan_mcguire

5 years ago

tigertoy

July 20 2009, 17:42:27 UTC 5 years ago

Thanks for explaining this. When you first announced that the Newsflesh books were going to be pseudonymous, my gut reaction was that you were getting screwed over by the publishing industry. I want to see you develop the reputation that will make future books successful, and it's hard to benefit from name recognition if it's spread over multiple names. But I really wasn't thinking about how different the books were going to be. If I picked up a book by an unfamiliar author and realized it was about zombies, I not only wouldn't buy it, I would probably form a negative association with the author that would make me less likely to subsequently pick up their other book about an elf detective. Zombies are not my thing. And the general public hasn't yet had the chance to learn that "by Seanan McGuire" translates to "this is going to be worth reading even if it's not a subject you like."

Oh, and by the way, I pour my virtual drink on your head and run from your presence holding my nose at the viral marketing pun. Ow ow ow.

seanan_mcguire

July 21 2009, 16:52:41 UTC 5 years ago

If I were getting screwed, my agent would be stopping it. There would be screwing-back. I trust her to do right by me, and she was with me on the pseudonym selection. :)

pbristow

July 20 2009, 18:33:12 UTC 5 years ago

And there was I thinking that someone in a movie must have been awarded a MIRA Grant for a project that ended up producing zombies. I guess that would have been too easy.

Looking forward to seeing these on the bookshelves. =:o}

seanan_mcguire

July 21 2009, 16:52:51 UTC 5 years ago

Me, too!

palmer_kun

July 21 2009, 01:22:31 UTC 5 years ago

Happy Pseudonym Day! Here's a present for you!

Swarms of carnivorous giant flying squid terrorize southern California coast!

(I am posting this from work, I am that dedicated to your cephalopod overlords)

seanan_mcguire

July 21 2009, 16:53:07 UTC 5 years ago

I really wish they sold that flavor of ice cream.

tezmilleroz

July 21 2009, 02:29:44 UTC 5 years ago

dystopian political science fiction/horror Ooh, that sounds totally my thing! Am I allowed to play favourites, and say that Mira's work suits me more than Seanan's? ;-) But Seanan is so awesome as a person! :-)

seanan_mcguire

July 21 2009, 16:53:27 UTC 5 years ago

You're absolutely allowed to play favorites. I do it all the time!

kidogirl

July 24 2009, 02:56:27 UTC 5 years ago

Mira's the pseudonym I've been using online for ages, and I, too, will answer to it, "in real life." I nabbed it from a lady named Miraphora who worked on the Harry Potter movies--friends and I have the habit of staying after the credits to look for interesting names and that one grabbed me and stuck, for some reason.

It's a great name! Can't wait to read both books, regardless of what name's on the cover. :)

seanan_mcguire

July 29 2009, 14:47:20 UTC 4 years ago

Hee! Awesome!

Thank you for being excited about these books. I totally am.

Deleted comment

Re: nice!

seanan_mcguire

January 3 2010, 22:20:30 UTC 4 years ago

I'm terribly sorry. I don't follow or read advertising blogs.

sheistheweather

March 23 2010, 17:16:36 UTC 4 years ago

I saw this and thought you might enjoy its existence if you haven't seen it already.

http://dalspace.library.dal.ca/dspace/handle/10222/12563

seanan_mcguire

April 5 2010, 21:14:54 UTC 4 years ago

The Mira Grant pleases me.

I already buy your book "feed"

ext_249451

September 6 2010, 13:00:54 UTC 3 years ago

it seems like I'm lucky enough to buy the last copy of your new book and I can say that you are my favorite author..

Re: I already buy your book "feed"

seanan_mcguire

September 14 2010, 16:46:48 UTC 3 years ago

Hooray!

Thank you. :)

"Feed" me soon

broiderqueen

December 6 2010, 09:54:00 UTC 3 years ago

I just finished reading "Feed". I consider this to be one of the best books I have ever read - ANY genre. I am astonished that I would feel that way about a zombie horror political journalist book. It is unique, over-the-top and I don't know how I am going to wait until book two of the trilogy. I am sending out a bunch of copies of this for Christmas gifts. Thanks.

Re: "Feed" me soon

seanan_mcguire

December 9 2010, 17:01:06 UTC 3 years ago

Oh, that's fantastic. Thank you so much!