When I first started out in publishing, one of the first things I learned was to choose your ‘name’ carefully. It was drilled into us at the RWA to ALWAYS, ALWAYS do a search for a name (that includes your birth name) before slapping it on the cover of a book. There are many reasons for doing this: One, you don’t want a name that’s already been taken. You’re trying to build your own work up. That’s hard to do if readers are getting you confused with another author. Two, you don’t want a name that might prove embarrassing down the road (i.e. Sparkle Princess). No one will take you seriously in an interview if you sound like a child’s toy or a stripper (no offense to strippers), but it’s true. Three, it’s just plain rude to use a name that’s already taken by another author. I know that rudeness doesn’t count for much in today’s society, but it needed to be stated.
I’m sure some of you are saying, but it’s my real name. I should be able to use it, if it’s my real name. This is true. Absolutely. But I refer back to my first point. If you want to be a writer and you want your work to stand out, then it makes no sense to start your career off by confusing your readers. There is only one NORA ROBERTS. If you as a writer try to slap that name on the cover of a book, even if it’s your birth name, be prepared for the backlash you will undoubtedly receive.
There is a fourth reason that writers choose the same name (or similar) as other writers. It’s so they can cash in on the other authors’ readership. Years ago this happened to me and several other Ellora’s Cave writers. A ‘rival’ publisher encouraged their authors to take on similar pen names. Sure, they changed the spelling, but it was blatantly obvious what they were doing. And frankly, it hurt. Anyone who takes their writing and this business seriously knows how much work goes into building a name. So when someone comes in and tries to swipe/confuse your readership, it’s painful…and infuriating. They’re basically saying to you, “You do all the work. I’ll reap the benefits.” All that’s missing is the middle finger.
With the rise of Indie publishing comes another problem–inexperience and lack of knowledge. As you all know, I’m all for Indie publishing, but that doesn’t mean you’re excused from educating yourself about the publishing business. Every writer still has to put in the work (i.e. editing, writing classes to improve craft, professional covers, copyrights, and yes, name checks).
I’ve recently discovered that there are now THREE ‘Jordan Summers’ publishing books. One came on the scene shortly after I did, but we don’t publish the same types of books, so it’s not a big deal. The latest Jordan is publishing short fiction, which is their right. Just like it’s might right to be concerned that MY readers will mistake their books for MY work. I’ve worked too hard for that to happen, so I’m trying to figure out how to let my readers know that I’m not the one behind these new stories. Friends have given me a few ideas. The first was to put up this blog post. The next will be to add a bio to the front of my new releases, so readers will know who’s who. I have a few other ideas, which I plan to act on, but until then I ask that authors Please, PLEASE Google your name before you slap it on the cover of a book. Thanks!