March 26th, 2012
Names And Publishing

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!

8 comments to “Names And Publishing”

  1. I remember when that one romance writer came up with Summer Jordan. That’s a good idea about putting a bio in the front because it would show up in a sampling each time on Kindle. Boy, that kind of thing can really hurt you with all the unedited stuff being launched out there.

  2. Bernard, Yeah, she’s still writing. There was also Jordan Winters. (shakes head) I think I’m going to have to put the bio in front for readers to see.

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m worried about. 🙁

  3. It’s a tough situation to be in. I honestly hope I never get caught in it, but I think you’re doing some smart things, and readers will soon learn to look for that Bio, to know it’s you when they want you.

  4. Oh hey, another thing maybe you could do is have a logo. SHiloh Walker uses a specific logo on her self pub stories. the heart with a dagger through it. It’s on her website, and clearly on her covers…might be a good way to identify yourself at a glance.

  5. Sasha, It’s weird. I know a lot of authors have never had to contend with this type of thing. Cheyenne McCray had the same thing happen to her at EC. So did Jaid Black.

    Guess I’m just lucky that it happens so frequently. LOL! Head hits desk.

  6. Sasha, Way ahead of you. I’ve been thinking about designs. Trying to come up with something small, but highly visible.

  7. That sucks.

    You will always be THE one and only Jordan Summers to me.

    A logo is a great idea….

  8. Thanks V. (((Hugs)))

    Yeah, I’m going to hire someone to create one for me.