Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Which I Come Out of the . . . What's Smaller Than A Closet? by E.J. Copperman

In Which I Come Out Of The... What's Smaller Than A Closet? 
by E.J. Copperman 

On the very last page of my extremely upcoming (June 1!) mystery novel NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED (Berkley Prime Crime, first in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series), there is an author biography that reads:

E.J. Copperman is a native New Jerseyan and an award-nominated screenwriter, mystery novelist and freelance journalist who has written for /The New York Times, Hollywood Scriptwriter, Writer's Digest, Entertainment Weekly /and many other publications.

All of which is true (and "award-nominated" means I didn't win, except, to be fair, I did once get a journalism award, but that was a very long time ago, and I didn't even know I'd been nominated until a week after the ceremony). But until now, the truth has never been known publicly.

E.J. Copperman is a pseudonym.

I know; you're shocked. As if the initials at the front of the name weren't signal enough, here I am telling flat out that I'm actually someone else pretending to be me. Or, someone else who actually is me, but doesn't say so, for fear of being associated with myself. Or, a writer you might or might not have heard about, but let's face it, probably didn't read, or else I'd still be me, and not someone pretending to be me.

My head hurts.

Here's how it works in the publishing biz: You start out as yourself (most of the time). You publish a novel or two. Or three. And either they take off with the public--that fickle lot--or they don't. Authors whose books have become popular will tell you it's the product of colossally hard work, endless promotion, sometimes great talent, and determination to rival that of the grittiest marathoner. Those whose books are now available as free downloads or taking up space in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant will tell you it's all a crapshoot, and those other writers are just lucky.

Whatever. The point is, your books sell, or they don't. If they don't sell a lot, but they sell close to enough, the publisher (or another publisher) might be willing to give you another shot. But in order to "wipe the slate clean" with booksellers, particularly extremely large ones with the initials, let's say B and N, you will be asked to put a different name on the cover of the book.

This is not the tiny issue a rational human being might believe: Authors generally are not paid a king's ransom (or, to be fair, even the ransom on a 1976 Dodge Dart) for their work. We usually subsist on a "day job," which pays at least some of the bills, and book advances, royalties and such are a sideline out of necessity, not intent. I can tell you truly, college tuition doesn't pay itself. So that name on the front cover of the book takes on more meaning; if we're not going to get rich at this, at least we can tell the world that this is our work.

And then, we're asked to change the name. Well, publishers ARE in the business to make lots of money, and while we'd like that, it's not always realistic. We do have to pay their bills in order to keep getting published, and that's fair. A new name? Hell, writers love to make up names (actually, I HATE making up names, but that's another whole blog in itself). Sure.

So in my case, I asked my daughter Eve, my son Joshua and our dog Copper for suggestions. They couldn't come up with much, but somehow, I was inspired. Not sure what did it.

I've been very careful (well... a tiny bit careful, sort of) about protecting my identity, in the belief that my publisher wanted it that way. I never refer to myself by my original name. I'm careful about how I describe myself (see attached photo). And I have been reluctant about booking personal appearances, although to be fair, the door's not exactly getting kicked in with offers. There are no photos of me on my web site (in case you were wondering).
Being scrupulous about such things has been sort of a kick; it's fun to pretend and to have a secret that you can keep to yourself and a select few. So E.J. Copperman will remain E.J. Copperman in my eyes. It's a different kind of writing anyway--a twist on paranormal that recalls Topper in the era of Twilight. I hope you'll take a look; it's a fun read. But who I am? Nope, you'll be getting no hints from me.

Except here:


Mary Jane Maffini said...

Actually, E. J. I have a pretty good idea that you are a very funny guy whose books I really enjoy. I am looking forward to this one too and your secret is safe with me. E.J.'s is too.

Anonymous said...

I know who you are, and I'd try extortion, but you might make me pay you -- and I haven't got any money, either. Okay, I do have a couple grand, but I've been saving that for some cutting-edge teeth--and even that ain't enough.

So, I'll buy your book and maybe that 54 cents toward your kids' college education will be good karma and I'll get my new teeth, too.

Peg Brantley said...

I really, really, really hate secrets.

Unless I'm in on them.

Mary Jane? Lorraine? Do you like chocolate? Or just cash?

Deb Baker or Hannah Reed or... said...

I'll tell for chocolate!!!
Personally, I don't care what they call me as long as they publish me.
(p.s. I love white chocolate)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Cute baby pic...E.J. :) Looking forward to your new book!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Dru said...

I know who you really are ;) but that will remain a secret between you and me.

Eagerly waiting for B&N to ship my book.

Heather Webber said...

E.J., you're a cutie! I'm looking forward to the new book.

Bo Parker said...

Well, " Mr. Copperman," maybe you will become known as the "Knight of the unforgettable read." Uh, no pun intended.

Peg Brantley said...

Hmmm . . . Deb, white chocolate is on its way. (There's a really great restaurant here called White Chocolate Grill, just in case you stop by.)

But now, Bo . . . should I be looking toward an agent?

*shaking head*

jbstanley said...

I know who you are - one helluva talented writer! I'll buy your book and help put the name E.J. Copperman on the "lucky" author list.

Peg Brantley said...

Just in case you can't tell, my lower lip is jutting out in the same position where my mother used to tell me a bird would perch . . . and poop.

Feeling like the last kid chosen for Red Rover.

Which isn't all that new for me . . .

Patricia Stoltey said...

Kaye -- I passed on an award to you at my blog post today (Wednesday the 19th) -- you can blame Sissyfriss and Lou Lou

Patricia Stoltey said...

I think having a pseudonym is romantic and mysterious. I'm going to come up one for myself that sounds French. :)

Maryann said...

E.J. I have no idea "who" you are, but I'm glad to have found your blog. I'm trying one of my own with some success in remembering to write in it LOL I'm also glad to know there's a new mystery series on the horizon...I can read and staff rec at B&N! As an unpublished writer, I admire anyone who can make the word "published" appear in these rather unsettling times. And since I loved Topper, I think I've found a new 'favorite'.

Terri P said...

So what if the pseudonym comes to life a la The Dark Half? The trouble that could arise...


E.J. Copperman said...

Anyone who doesn't know the "secret" now simply didn't click on that last link, did they????? It's sort of fun to be someone else when you're writing, but like most untruths, it gets to be a drag when you can't remember who you told what. And when you sign in on Facebook and can't remember if you're you or the other you...