You Call Me Al by Una Tiers

What’s in a Name?
In 1986, Paul Simon wrote You Can Call me Al. Writers often build a platform that includes a distinct name, known as Pen Names.
Pen names (nom de plume) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law. One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity and generate a little internet buzz.
Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender neutral or male names or an initial to disguise their first name, all for the sake of acceptability.
At least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he writes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.
Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen name to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.
Pointers on selecting a pen name include using the early letters of the alphabet to and getting close in spelling to a famous author. Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Derk Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.
Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website, social networking and book sites. You are working on a clean slate.
Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell) and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).
Discussion: If you are choosing a pen name, please tell us the two main reasons you did. Thank you.
A special thanks go out the authors in WriteMindsAuthors Group. They are a hardworking dedicated group.
Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago who writes about corruption in the courts. Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.



My first mystery, Judge vs Nuts, will celebrate its first birthday, in February.  Before the release, I conjured up images of reviews raving about the magnificence of my book, written by literary scholars who begged for more. My potential reviewers included authors who write wildly popular non-fiction books about the law or famous Chicago figures.  Of course the occasional celebrity author or librarian would stop me on the street and ask about doing a review.

At the Printers Row Lit Fest in 2011, I attended a panel discussion with three women authors who talked about the low numbers of women reviewers.  My list of hopefuls were all men.  Later I approached one of the authors to thank her and asked if she was interested in taking a look at my book. I’ll come back to this.

At the early stage “book review” was synonymous with “book report.”  Reading reviews daily I understand they are opinions.  Most are generous, with gentle notation of areas for improvement while others are petty.  Reviews can cover plot, characters, pace, grammar and more.  One review blamed the publisher for faulty editing.

My understanding continues to grow along with my confusion, skepticism and evaluation of the quality of a review.  Reviews come from many sources:  readers, friends, and professional reviewers.  If you look closely, some books are reviewed by one review reviewers.  “Book cover blurbs” are short, three or four sentences that would appear on the back cover or inside the book.  These are my favorite version of a review.  The author benefits and the reviewer benefits

Amazon uncovered “purchased” reviews and announced authors could not review books of other authors.  What?  Writers are prolific readers and well suited to review books.  The “exchange” book reviews are too often meaningless.  I don’t make these pacts.  If your friend has a book, read it before you give an opinion.  We know they are wonderful, that’s why you call them a friend.

Of the two categories, requested and spontaneous reviews, I think authors need to be specific when requesting a review.  Items to consider are:  receipt of manuscript; word count; time frame; how you will use the review and what you want.  Will the reviewer post the review on their blog or website?   Invite the reviewer to tell you if they can’t meet the time frame.  If your release date is pushed back, let them know.

My pet peeve of the requested reviews are the hiders.  Those folks make an agreement to review your book and then avoid you when you follow up.  Did they hate the book?  Want it for free?  Lose it?  Change their tiny minds about doing the review?  You won’t be able to get the answer, because the hiders, well, hide.

There are also people in the ambiguous category.  When you ask them to take a look at your book they tell you they give you a dozen reasons why they can’t read your book.  I’m a little naïve, so if you want me to print it out and drive it over please tell me.  If the answer is no…

One of my favorite reviews is from Author Barbara D’Amato.  I love her writing and her review was delightful.  Her review means more to me because Ms. D’Amato went out of her way to help a stranger who approached her at a book fair, showing me how authors help authors.

Every review thrills me.  When I send a sample, and get a note back saying they started the book and are laughing, even editing becomes less painful. Reviews from other authors are awesome and the reader reviews are very special.  Some reviews are written in a note to the author and others are posted on blogs, sales sites and book review sites I’ve never seen.

Thank you to those who took the time to help me.     Best, Una Tiers.


The review:

Judge vs Nuts is a hilariously funny take on judges, but also a scathing indictment of judicial politics.  Lawyer Fiona Gavelle narrates with a wonderful, self-deprecating wit, as she goes about unraveling the murder of a Cook County judge.

Barbara D’Amato

Author of Other Eyes

Buy the Book: Amazon:
B & N:

Judge vs Nuts, by Una Tiers was released in February of 2012 and posted on Ellis Vidler’s blog:

This blog has been updated.