Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Chose a Pen Name

Pen Name, Pseudonym, Nom de Plume. Whatever you call it, I have one.

There are many reasons to use a pen name, and you can find good information online that explains the pros-and-cons. For this post, I'm going to explain the reasons I decided to use one.

Online marketing is becoming more and more important. The internet is a wonderful way of leveraging a writer's time and money. You can promote your works to hundreds and thousands of people without leaving your home. You can listen to and interact with many great writers, publishers, editors, and agents without getting off the couch. It's awesome. That's why we always hear about building your brand.

That's where I ran into trouble.

I like my "real" name. I have a family name with generations of history behind it. If I could, I would choose to use the name my parents gave me. I debated a long time with myself and others before finally decided to take on a different one.

My last name isn't very common, but the problem comes with my first name. Of all the names in my family, my first name is, by far, the most common. During my research, I learned that my first name has been a family name for many generations and in many different lines. When I went online to search for my name (I know you all do it, and it's a good thing to do), I found over 2 million hits. Even using my middle initial and quotes turned up over half-a-million pages.

Doing a quick Google search turned up a high school, a Canadian politician, a professional hockey player, a lawyer, and a musician. Argh! It got even worse when I searched Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger. In order to come up with anything consistent, I would have to use "MyNameAuthor1". I guess there's another budding author out there with the same problem, because "MyNameAuthor" was taken on one of the networks. Sigh.

I didn't want to compete with all these other people, so I decided to use a different name. It took weeks  of searching to find a name that was available. I tried searching on lists of last names, but in the end my name came from somewhere much closer.

Why I chose John Waverly:
  • It's unique. It's available on all the different platforms I wanted.
  • It resonates with my audience. "John" is very common and "Waverly" appears in many places: towns, streets, TV shows, companies, etc. So, while John Waverly is unique it is also familiar.
  • It's easy to spell. Online searches will find me. I can't tell you how many times I've searched for a common-sounding name only to find out the person uses a strange spelling of the name. That's great once people find you, but it's frustrating the first time (or even the first few times) you search for them.
  • The clincher is that "Waverly" was my grandfather's name. How awesome is that?
I'm happy with my decision, but it has come with a lot of extra work. I'll talk about the challenges in another post. In the end, I feel the challenges will be worth it.

Question: Do you use a pen name? Have you considered it? Do you think I've made a good decision?

* Name tag picture by Alan O'Rourke can be found on Flickr.


Danyelle Ferguson said...

I currently don't use a pen name, but I do plan to use one in the future. Right now, my published books are in the christian non-fiction genre. But I'm going back to my love of writing sweet romances. So to separate the two, I plan to use a pen name.

I really like the name John Waverly and yes, I think you made a good decision to use a pen name. I hate Googling for an author, business, or whatever - then not being able to find them because there are so many other people or places with similar names. Totally frustrating! So yeah for unique pen names!

Christine said...

How exciting! Welcome to BLOGLAND!!!

Daron D. Fraley said...

Great pen name, and even better explanation. I look forward to you being famous.

Darvell Hunt said...

Awesome name. Nice to meet you, Mr. Waverly!

D.D. Hunt

John Waverly said...

Thanks everyone. I'm looking forward to this new adventure.

Joyce DiPastena said...

I lucked out with my last name. So far, I haven't encountered any other Joyce DiPastena's running around on the internet.

Good luck, John! I love your new pen name. (It would work very well for a hero in a historical romance. Oooo, don't tell Danyelle I said that!)

Matthew Tandy said...

I think you chose excellently John!

Darvell Hunt said...

Well, Joyce, my last name gets me everything from ketchup to sporting goods, but combine that with my first name, and Googling generally finds just me.

I had no difficulty getting or using my name as ID's, although most of the time, just Darvell is taken. There's a college in England by that name and it's a last name used in eastern Canada.

John Waverly said...

Joyce, I've been humorously lobbying all my writer friends for awhile to be a character in their books. I've been aiming for the walk-on character who gets killed in the first or second act and ratchets up the suspense. So far, no one has killed me off yet. Maybe I need to change my tactics and try for the romantic hero instead. Hmmmm.

Joyce DiPastena said...

Cool, John! I'm sure I can figure out a way to kill off a John Waverly in a future novel. I love killing off secondary characters. LOL! Thanks for the permission. ;-)

Darvell Hunt said...

Oh, you're dead now, John. You're totally dead. Just you wait....

ali cross said...

I think the name you chose is a fantastic one. It rolls off the tongue and has a great feel to it.

I also think your reasons for choosing one are exactly the right ones. So glad you were able to find a great name that not only still retains some sentimental value for you and suits you, but will work in your favor as you build your brand.

As for me; I've considered a pen name, but have decided to go with my own for now. I won't balk at the suggestion that I get one, though, should an agent/editor make it. Guess we'll see!

Elana Johnson said...

I like reading this process! And I so think that every parent should name their child something that is easy to spell. I curse my parents daily. :)

nephite blood spartan heart said...

OK gotcha-I was wondering.

kbrebes said...

I'm glad I wasn't going nuts. I thought that was you!!
G R E A T name! And, yes, I've considered it and enjoyed your post. : )

John Waverly said...

Kathlene - I'm glad I could make your life a little more surreal.

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