This week, I received an email from a writer who is thinking about releasing her children’s book as an ebook. She had quite a few questions based on “Americanising” a book (spelling, usage) and on the use of a pseudonym.
Since there are likely to be other Indies who have the same questions in mind, I thought it best to put my answers in a blog post.
Writing for an Overseas Audience
“Do I need to Americanise my children’s fiction book? And if ‘yes’, is it only in terms of spelling and word choice, or does the content need to change too, as if the story took place in the US with the school year etc?”
The short answer: where is your main readership? I’m not going to start debating the topic here (“surely people realise that UK and Canadian spelling is different to American spelling?”) because it SHOULD be obvious… but if you use non-US spelling, there will always be a segment of the book-buying public based in the USA who will simply assume you can’t spell. Sometimes, book reviews have unfairly stated that the book has “too many spelling mistakes” when it has simply been written in UK English. (Or Canadian, or Australian, etc; depending on where you live.)
You can safely assume that most of your readers will come from the USA (unless you do a heavy marketing campaign in a different country). Keep in mind that even the Harry Potter books adopted US spelling for the US market.
Should you change the content too? If the changes (like the timing of the school year) are relatively easy to make, and the story can be set anywhere, then why not? If you find yourself having to make extensive changes then you might do better to stick to spelling/usage only. Or just forget the whole thing and use the spelling accepted in your country.
Whatever you decide, be consistent – otherwise it really will look as though you can’t spell.
“If using non-US spelling, in the process of uploading the file will it spell check my MS and report errors?”
I have found that the spelling is checked when I upload, but it would be simpler to set your default dictionary to US spelling in your word processor.
“If using a pseudonym, is the author bio still written based on my own life? If not, what type of changes are generally permitted/acceptable in the bio?”
The rule of thumb I use (and that I know quite a few other authors use) is to keep the author bio for a pen-name very general – don’t mention where you live or went to school, etc, but you can mention various activities or hobbies and talk in general terms about your husband/kids etc.
I feel that it can get far too complicated to invent a completely different identity.
“Similarly, how does one blog and use social media etc., if using a pseudonym?”
You can create a blog, a Facebook author page and a Twitter account under your pseudonym. Facebook TOS forbid personal accounts under a pseudonym, but a good many authors ignore that and do it anyway. Just keep in mind that if someone reports you then FB can close down your account (including your author page) and you’ll lose all the work you’ve done.
“Is it better to set up an email address with the pen name or have a generic email address?”
It’s quick and easy to set up a new gmail address for your pseudonym. You might have to use something like janebrown.author @ gmail.com because it’s unlikely that any name you choose will be available. If you set up a website / blog for your author name you can set up an email address based on your domain name, too… e.g. janebrown @ JaneBrownBooks.com
“Does one have to ‘register’ the pseudonym, or just select a name and use it?”
Just use it. Have a list of possible pseudonyms ready and try to choose one that is not already ‘in use’ by an author!