The Name Game

September 17, 2007 at 8:50 am | Posted in Jessica, names, writing | 2 Comments
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If you’ve been with us Purple Hearts for any length of time, you’ll know that the three of us are working our way through the writing ups and downs on the quest for publication. I have to say, since I’ve met and started this project with Meg and Bria, I am more determined than before and have found my enthusiasm for the game again. For a while, I do admit to losing it.

And while we’re going to be talking about names during this week’s blog I’m going to take a slightly different turn on the subject. Because when I get published – using the power of positive thinking I dare to say WHEN, not ‘if’ – I plan on using a pen name. And although it may sound silly, I am having a devil of a time deciding on what to call myself.

And I thought I struggled in coming up with just the right character names for each of the people inhabiting my projects!

Here are some of the factors coming into consideration as I mull over the possibilities:

Where would I ideally like my book to reside on the book store shelves?
Well, if my cozy mystery is the book that gets me published, I may consider conjuring up a pen name that would put my book next to those of one of my idols, Nancy Martin. My series tries to emulate hers in having a smart and funny heroine caught up in circumstances beyond her control. A like-minded reader may easily graze from her books to mine if my book is in close enough proximity.

Same consideration goes for whether my YA series idea breaks me in. Or perhaps it will be my romantic comedies that put me on the map? Sigh. How many identities can one woman have?!

At book signings, are there certain authors I’d rather/not sign next to?
What a petty thing to say, I know! But this writing world is a small one and not everyone is as nice or supportive. Once bitten, twice shy. And I don’t want to get close enough to get bitten again.

Even better, how much more fun would the experience be to spend that time near someone whose work you like or personality you enjoy?

Does someone else already have dibs on mypenname.com?
When it comes to promotion and branding, do I want to have to worry that all my web traffic is going to stall at someone else’s web site? Most people look for intuitive web sites when out surfing the WWW. So if I choose a pen name for a name already claimed in its dot-com form, I may lose potential visitors. I believe that a determined reader will eventually find me, but why make ’em work so hard for the outcome?

Is the name fun to sign?
I have decent penmanship, but I don’t have the most stunning looking capital W’s or E’s in my repertoire of signature flourishes. Plus – and dreaming really big here – if I get a long line of people waiting for signed copies of my books, do I really want to have to continuously pen strings containing lots and lots of letters?

And is the name something I will respond to?
I sometimes have this dream where I am at a conference and someone is trailing behind me, calling and calling name X and me not turning around because my given name is name Y and I haven’t ingrained being called or calling myself name X yet. How embarrassing!

Have I done the due diligence to make sure I haven’t named myself after a mass murderer, renowned madam, cursed traitor, or any other famous or infamous person that will cause me more hassle than not?

I know this post gives you all ammunition to say that I must have much too much time on my hands if I’m giving my fake name all this careful study. So I will take those imagined scoldings and head back to the computer to work on that cozy . . . or that YA . . . or that romantic comedy. It’s the only way I’ll ever have the opportunity to put that fake name on my book’s spine!

Hope you will get back to the writing, too!

-Jessica

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  1. Yes, we should be writing [does this count at all?] but i have to say I sort of understand your dilemma… I am actually struggling with the question of whether I should use my maiden name or my married name or some weird combination of both which obviously a lot of female writers have done… i dont want to insult my hubby but I think my birth [real?] name sounds better, but there is alos some sort of safety in using this new name…yadayada…. maybe i should worry about it more when i actually get a contract! 😉

  2. It’s not easy to choose a pen name. There are all sort of things to consider. One is that it should stand out yet it should be easy to remember. You don’t want a name that’s so complicated that people go, “You know the…er… what’s”-her-name romance novelist?” If you’re considering getting published in print format, then you should consider the last name carefully because it’ll be set where your book will be shelved – and next to whom. Although I’ve noticed some letters of the alphabet are less commonly used than others. That’s another thing to consider.

    But most important, remember that your pen name is your trademark. You must feel comfortable with whatever pen name you pick. So have fun testing different names, seeing which sticks the most. 🙂


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