Several years ago, a friend and colleague was given the opportunity to have her own book imprint with a major publishing house. She decided that she wanted to name it after her father. This was a lovely gesture, but my first response was, “I would never do that. What if it doesn’t work out?” It seemed to me that if you named an enterprise after someone you loved and then that enterprise failed, you’d stained the person with the failure.
As it turned out, though I didn’t think of this at the time, I felt the same way about using my own name. The first time I truly needed to consider this was when I moved from the business side of the book publishing world (where I’d worked for twenty years, most recently as Publisher of Avon Books) to the creative side. When I made a deal for my first novel, The Forever Year, I didn’t consider for a second the idea of putting my name on the book. What if things didn’t work out? Instead, I chose “Ronald Anthony,” a derivation of “Aronica” (Ronald) and my father’s first name, Anthony. Yes, I realize that using my father’s name contradicts what I’ve been saying here, but he’d died recently and I felt a strong urge to pay him tribute in spite of my overall skittishness. Not long after The Forever Year, I made my first deal for a nonfiction book. In that case, I chose the name “L.A. Stamford” (Lou Aronica from Stamford, CT) and maintained that as my “nom de nonfiction” for several books.
Things went along this way for some time, and I continued to be convinced that it was best for me to leave my name out of my business. Then, with my eighth book, Miraculous Health, which I coauthored with Dr. Rick Levy, things changed abruptly.
“I want you to put your name on this,” Rick said as we were wrapping up the manuscript.
“I am putting my name on it – L.A. Stamford. That’s the name I use for nonfiction.”
“I want you to put your name on it. It’ll make a difference.”
I felt a bit of a chill at that moment. What I realized right then was that it was no longer about “what if things didn’t work out” – I had absolute faith in this book – but about something else entirely. I was nervous about how the publishing world was going to regard me as a writer. Would former colleagues and associates snicker over my writing ambitions? Would writers I’d edited and, worse, writers I rejected savage me online in some form of payback? I wasn’t sure I was ready for this or that I would ever be. Still, Rick was persuasive and I gave in.
Amazingly, the sky didn’t crumble around me. The book received many nice reviews and no spurned writers chose to flail me in public. I decided to put my name on my next nonfiction book, The Element (which I coauthored with Sir Ken Robinson), and when that book became a New York Times bestseller, I decided to retire “L.A. Stamford” for good.
Still, when it came time to publish my next novel, Blue, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take this final step. Blue is a novel that means a huge amount to me, perhaps more than anything I’ve ever written. Meanwhile, there was no coauthor the hide behind here. If I put my name on the book, it would be the only name on the book. For a long time I resisted, even deciding on a new fiction pseudonym (a very clever one, if I say so myself).
In the end, though, I decided it was wrong to publish this novel without my real name on it. If I were truly committed to this novel – and I’d never been more committed to something I’d written – didn’t I need to avoid erecting false barriers?
Once again, the sky didn’t crumble. In fact, the book sold well and the reviews were mostly positive (though I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the nasty ones was from a writer I rejected four times in a year). I recently published The Forever Year under my name and it went on to be a USA Today bestseller, and my other pseudonymous novel, Flash and Dazzle, comes out with my name on it in November.
There are still moments of discomfort. My novels are now being published by The Story Plant, the publishing house I’ve been running for the past five years, and pitching our distributor on my own book was an exercise in awkwardness. For the most part, though, things have “worked out.”
Lou Aronica, in addition to successfully running The Story Plant, is a nationally bestselling author in his own right. Flash and Dazzle is currently on sale name. You can learn more about Lou and his fiction books at our website.