The Power of a Pen Name; Selling Hemingway's Boyhood Home

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Today in publishing and literature: The Oak Park, Illinois house Ernest Hemingway grew up in can be yours for $525,000, Amazon is starting to get the hang of this villain role, and how a good pen name can rejuvenate a writer's career

Writing a book under a pen name can stimulate reader interest in a project and give authors the chance to work in genres they're not readily identified with. That makes a nom de plume seem like nothing more than an advanced marketing gimmick or a piece of armor bestselling authors strap on in order to protect their brand. But there are practical reasons to use a pseudonym as well. Take the case of Patricia O'Brien, who has written five works of historical fiction under her own name. When it came time to submit number six -- The Dressmaker -- her long-time editor at Simon & Schuster passed on it, on the grounds her last novel hadn't sold well enough. Rather than consigning the manuscript the junk drawer, O'Brien and her agent tried selling it under the pen name Kate Alcott. It sold in three days. Sales of the book were strong -- translation rights have been sold in five countries, which never happened to the books O'Brien wrote under her own name, and the first print run is 35,000 copies. More importantly, O'Brien and her agent have found a simple, easily replicable way of "cannily circumvent[ing] what many authors see as a modern publishing scourge — Nielsen BookScan, the subscription service that tracks book sales and is at the fingertips of every agent, editor and publisher." For the mid-level author in middle-age, a pen name allows them to start over as an unknown quantity without a paper trail of their modest sales numbers dogging every new project.   [The New York Times]

Today, in childhood homes of great author that are up for sale: Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park, Illinois can be yours for $525,000. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park has owned the house since 2002, and "put it up for sale with hopes that it can find a buyer who appreciates its literary legacy." Here's what it looked like when Papa was just a lad:

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And here, courtesy of the Oak Park Cycle Club, is how it looks today.

We've mentioned that it's tough to accept Amazon as a villain the e-books pricing arms race. It's getting easier now that they've  diabled the 'buy' button on 5,000 Kindle titles. The spat was over contract terms between Amazon and Independent Publishers Group, which distributes books from 400 smaller companies. Amazon is certainly allowed to push for the best deal they can get, but IPG President Mark Suchomel says the terms Amazon now objects to are the same as "we offered last week, and somehow they think it’s not quite good enough." Amazon's turned off the 'Buy' button once before, during a similar pricing dispute with Macmillan. That standoff ended in January 2010 with Amazon announcing it was "capitulating" to MacMillan's demands and setting the price of their new e-books at $14.99 rather than $9.99. [TeleRead]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.