Just Exactly What IS In a Name?

I ran into one of THOSE names the other day. You know the kind. Close enough to a New York Times Bestselling Author that Google just goes right ahead and corrects it, when you type it in the box. Close enough that the proud owner of said name will probably never be able to dig out from under all the mentions for the other author.

Well, you’ve gotta cringe.

I have a name that makes Booksellers ask, “So, what are you using for your pen name?” and it’s still not as close as that. You type my real, what-grade-school-teachers called me name into Google, and you get a sex therapist, but if you go into a bookstore, and say the same name, you probably walk out the door with a lesser NYT Bestsellers’ paranormal romance du jour.

I am not a sex therapist. I care deeply about your pelvic floor muscles, but… well, you know… no offense…  from a distance.

I can’t afford the dot.com, the dot.net is the sex therapist. There’s an herbalist a couple slots down, and even if I could… I’d still have to fight my way to the forefront of Booksellers’ minds.

A pen name is in order. And I may or may not have settled on the one I’m using. I don’t have that domain name, either.

Names are strange and complicated things. There’s the friend who registered his domain name years ago, decades ago… and you wind up with a picture of David Tennant when you google his name.

I don’t know how much that matters, if you’re not dealing directly with the public. I’m sure the correct link is on all of his literature. It is a really nice picture of David Tennant.

Naming yourself isn’t all that easy. I’m still running around thinking about well… what if I used initials. What if I… And I’ve heard it should be something somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Preferably close–but not too close–not close enough to be easily be mistaken–to someone who writes similar things. And I’d like it to be a name I might–plausibly–turn around to, if someone said it in public. gee, I hope somebody says my pen name in public, someday.

In an I don’t have to make up my mind if I don’t want to move, I wound up deciding that the domain name I wanted–at least for the time being–was ReprobateTypewriter.com and that it could be promoted more or less like a magazine, until I do come up with a pen name I like and am willing to stick with. It also leaves room to bring other people into the picture, which doesn’t sound entirely like a bad idea, although honestly, I’m not sure where I would put them.

And you? If you’re writing under a pen name, how did you choose it? If you’re not… why not?


  1. Delia


    I used my whole name (including middle name) because there was another SF author with the same first name. However, that made my name way too long and made me feel sort of funny because my middle name is my mother’s maiden name and there were two other relatives with my (moderately unusual) first name in the family who had that name as their last name. It was a snap decision because I got published sort of by accident, and I have often wondered what I would have done if I had had time. Probably the same thing.

    • Reply

      Oh! Family!?! With divorced parents, I’m sure that’s going to be a nightmare. And then, for added fun and excitement, I have a cousin who also writes, and her pen names are always a combination 2 or more of her first cousins’ names. Which may complicate things even a little more, although I’m not sure how much traction she actually has on any of them.

      • Delia


        Family is complicated by definition. Some of my family has been annoyed by my writing; my uncle hated my first novel and my sister told me never to write about her (after assuming that my fiction was about my own childhood).

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