This was a great question that came our way:
Although I have been cultivating my online presence as a writer, I have found that someone who shares my name already has a significant online presence. This person does not live a Christian lifestyle: in fact, I would be terribly embarrassed and my professional integrity could be harmed if anyone mistook me for this individual. Perhaps other authors may face the same dilemma.
Are there any suggestions for a new author who has to overcome the presence of another online? Would it be necessary to write under a pseudonym?
That is a tough one.
Our own Karen Ball had someone by the same name who was a practicing psychic. So when she created her web site she used karenballbooks.com since karenball.com was taken at the time. (Recently Karen dropped that site and moved to her wonderful new site for writers called WriteFromTheDeep.com.)
But if the other person is well known, or their site is terribly “flagrant” (If you know what I mean) you could decide to use a pen name. But if you’ve already gone far down the path under your real name, then it’s too late.
If you only just started blogging or only have abandoned your online presence, website-wise, then you have an opportunity to reboot.
One caution about pen names and Facebook. They can be miserable with “fake IDs.” If they find out they will shut down your site in a heartbeat (read this article for an author’s horror story with Facebook). I would google something like “authors pen names Facebook” and read about how to handle that (Here is one article about “Pen Names and Social Media.”. They have good reasons because of predators who use Facebook for evil. But that security splashes over onto those who are trying to use a professional pen name.
I have a half dozen clients who write under their maiden name. One was because her married name is unspellable…. Another was for protection. Another because she published before she got married. They started their careers and social media presence under that name and have had no trouble since. One who got married set up a separate site for her family’s use under her real name…without trouble.
Ultimately it is your decision. But once you make it, stick with it.
And one little reminder to everyone? If you have a domain name make sure that the email associated with your registration is up to date. We had a client whose domain name was his real name (like stevelaube.com), but the registration expired. He had changed his email address a couple years earlier but did not update his domain registration. The registrar sent him a notice saying it was time to renew his site, but he never got it. The day his domain name became available a “Date Older Women” site took it and redirected all the traffic intended for his author website to something very unseemly. It took two years for him to get the domain name back again.
Don’t let that happen to you!
Great post…and a bit scary! 😉
I have yet to find someone with my name big on social media. But ever since I got married, I have had to hear the joke over and over again, “Oh, Angie Dickinson??”
This past summer I stepped up my social media game and began blogging regularly…one of my biggest accomplishments is when I type my name in Google now, I no longer find a bunch of links to the actress, but my blog is the first thing that pops up in the search! Small wins, huh? 🙂
I do have a question though, would a pen name give an author the opportunity to write in two different genres…using two different names? Is that even done, or does that just complicate an author’s career?;)
I have the “someone else has my name” problem. I’m a Christian writer and she is a consumer affairs reporter for a TV station in Houston, TX. If you google “Emily Akin,” It’s all her. My site shows up on the second page of results. I’ve tried using my middle initial thus: Emily M. Akin. If I search “Emily M. Akin,” my site comes up first in search results. Most people who know me do not know my middle initial. Frustrating.
I had to take down the contact page for my site because I kept getting pleas from people in Houston for me to help them with their derelict landlord or a used car warranty situation.
I’ve considered starting over with a pen name, but it’s very hard to find a pen name that no one is using. Then you have the difficulty with false identity rules as mentioned in the article.
Quite a dilemma.
Oh, this comes at a perfect time! I have been contemplating making a pen name for myself but not sure if it’s a dumb move on my part. I’ve already begun to “make myself known” on social media, I don’t have any major people completing with my name, and when you Google me, I’m the first Deanna Fugett to show up.
My dilemma is that I write YA and may have to pursue secular publishing, since the Christian YA market is so sparce right now. I just had a phone call with an agent this last week and she told me that my social platform would need to not look glaringly obvious as Christian, which currently it does. If I go the YA secular route would it be beneficial to switch over to a pen name, and risk loosing what I’ve already accomplished?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I Googled my name once.
My full name is Jennifer Lynn Zarifeh Major.
There’s a *lovely* woman named Jennifer Lynne Major…in jail for drug trafficking.
The Zarifeh part of my name comes by way of adoption. Its an Arab name.
So…what’s a passport applicant to do?
On the advice of the passport office, I went with Jennifer Lynn Major. It’s easier to deal with drugs than very real politics.
That’s precisely why I inserted my maiden name into my author name. No trouble has reared its head so far.
Steve, if I already own the .com versions, how important is it to register the authorname.net and authorname.org domain names if they are available? What about the author-name.net and .org?
I contemplated using a variation of my maiden name as a pseudonym for my romance novels, but I decided (actually while posting a comment on Tamela’s blog about being forthright) to use my regular name. Although my short-form initials are CIA, I have no experience creating an alternate identity. Besides, to do so would run counter to the need to provide a place where readers can relate to me as an author in an authentic, personal way. Contemplating the effort to be “real me” and “novelist me” was just too much as well!
I was going to use the pen name to deal with an extreme “genre mismatch” problem. The use of part of my maiden name as a pen name for my Christian romance novels would sidestep ad hominem rejection of my scientific arguments for God on a web site that I am now designing that is aimed at scientists, engineers, homeschooling parents, and anyone else who enjoys science. It will be a place where readers can consider both scientific evidence for God and His personal interest in a relationship with each of them. I’m planning to provide factual information, a venue for open dialog via a moderated blog, and a private conversation-by-email option for people who don’t feel comfortable asking questions of colleagues in their offline world or in a public online forum.
Now that I’ve determined (again thanks to Tamela) that I actually write romantic historicals and not romances, the risk of ad hominem rejection because of my fiction works is less. I’ve heard more than enough jokes about romance novels from male colleagues who are friends to know the relative risks.
I frequently tell people they can find all my books, both traditionally and independently published, by searching for “Lee Carver” on Amazon. I have to add the warning, though, that all the books by Rhonda Lee Carver will also come up. The book covers with a bare-chested cowboy in a lust-inducing pose aren’t mine. We chuckle and pass it off. And if someone leaves off the “2” in my email address, they get a crazed-looking young man with bad hair. If this has caused a problem, I don’t know about it yet. Thanks for the warning about keeping up the website ownership. I need to check on that.